Monse’s Favorites of the 2010s

Album Covers

Picking my top 15 songs, top 10 albums, and top 5 artists of the decade has got to be one of the hardest things I’ve done in all 19 years of my life.   Coming from someone who should NOT be given the aux cord because my music taste is all over the place - this was definitely an experience. Besides that point, it has been a total blast going back and listening to songs I have forgotten about over the years. What you’re about to read is another addition to a series of  2010s favs from UIC Radio’s executive board.

So before you start, know that these are MY FAVORITES. Trust me, I’ve had enough questionable looks from the people I’ve shared this list for feedback. “Why did you remove Dancing On My Own by Robyn?” GIRL, I DON’T KNOW! THIS IS TOO MUCH. So please, read and enjoy my list, but know this reflects me.

Top 15 Songs of the Decade:

15. Melancholia – Aidan Alexander (2018) 

The amount of TIMES I’ve said “Melancholia by Aidan Alexander” when I’m asked to list songs that define me – aka every meeting ice breaker ever – are too many to count. I don’t know how Aidan managed to describe every single thought and feeling I’ve had since I’ve graduated high school but I’m not even going to question it at this point. Melancholia tells the story about coming to terms with the concept of growing up. Coming from someone who overthinks about adulthood just enough for it to be unhealthy, this song is just a slap in the face. With lyrics like / My mom sounds older on the phone / I’m the age I used to call old / My friends from school are leaving home / I’ve never felt more alone. I can’t help but come across this feeling of vulnerability. It’s a good thing I don’t mind crying.

14. Somebody Else – VÉRITÉ (2016)

If you weren’t blasting this song all year, then I’m sorry to break it to you but you did 2016 all wrong. Don’t ask me why but VÉRITÉ’s cover of The 1975’s Somebody Else just… hits different. I’m usually one to prefers the slower version of songs, which in this case would be the original. However, VÉRITÉ’s interpretation adds a bit more of a vocal focus followed by a sped-up rhythm in contrast to the 1975’s soft ballad. It’s the perfect combination of sad lyrics about having the love of your life go with somebody else and a danceable beat.

13. For the Last Time – Dean Lewis (2019)

As beautiful and soft as this song sounds to your ears, don’t let it fool you. This song tells the story about a failed relationship based on miscommunication and not knowing what you want. Although the instrumentation and faint lyrics make you believe the song is about falling in love, Dean sings lyrics that tell you otherwise. / I told you to go left, then I went right / Though I told you that I loved you, you couldn’t tell I was lying. Why are all the heartbreaking songs SO GOOD?

12. Nunca Es Suficiente – Natalia Lafourcade (2015) 

PARA LA CULTURA! / FOR THE CULTURE! For as long as I’ve gone to family social events, Nunca Es Suficiente by the multi-grammy award winner and nominee is a MUST PLAY. I would consider this song to be one of my favorites from the decade because of its creative flexibility. As one of Natalia’s most popular tracks, it’s no shock that it later evolved into a collaboration between Natalia and well-known cumbia sonidera group, Los Ángeles Azules. If you sing along to this song when it shuffles from my playlist, you automatically pass the vibe check.

11. Tell Me The Same – Michl (2016)

Coming from someone who values reassurance so much, I can’t help but connect with this track that centers around asking the person you want to tell you they feel the same way. In addition to the relatable storyline, the fact that he wrote and produced this song on his own truly shows in the way the lyrics and instrumentation seem to compliment each other perfectly.

10. Evergreen – August Kamp ft. Joshua Bassett (2019) 

August Kamp is probably a name you haven’t heard yet considering how recently he took an interest in the music industry. With as recently as 2018, Gus took a chance on writing and producing his music using his own limited resources. Evergreen was one of the first songs I heard from his sophomore album – 19: The Musical – that he released on his 20th birthday. His voice mixed in with newcomer Joshua Bassett is literally magic to my ears.

9. Lovers – Anna of the North (2017)

I first heart Lovers live in concert when Anna of the North opened up for LANY on November 1st, 2018. Maybe it was Anna’s energy, maybe it was the crowd, but I fell in love with this song that night. I went home and saved all of her music but Lovers – which is also the name of her debut album – still holds a place in my heart. This song’s story comes from the concept of heartbreak, yet what I enjoy is that Anna adds a tone to the song that almost makes you miss that.

8. DNA – Lia Marie Johnson (2016)

If you don’t know who Lia Marie Johnson is, I fail to believe that you were ever in the year 2016. Lia was one of the prime YouTubers turned actress and singer from that era that actually… had talent. With DNA as her debut single, this was the world’s first look at Lia from a musical lense and I can honestly say she made the best first impression. The heart wrenching and raw music video that comes along with the song about a generation’s experience with toxic and abusive relationships is a complete eye-opener. With lyrics like / I’m just so scared you’re who I’ll be / When I erupt just like you do / They look at me like I look at you / you can clearly get the story, Lia was trying to tell.

7. The King – Conan Gray (2019)

Conan Gray has very easily become one of my favorite artists of the year and decade. At just 20 years old, his music has become fairly popular among my friends and I. With songs like “The King” that tells the story about having this person that clearly has feelings for you and those feelings are reciprocated but neither of you are doing anything about it. Those relationships are definitely common among today’s generation so why not have a song that captures every exact feeling that comes along with it?

6. Coke & Henny Pt.1 – Pink Sweat$ (2019) 

I don’t know what it is about this song but it automatically puts me in a good mood. Pink Sweat$ is someone I have come across recently and with this song, I was completely hooked. You wouldn’t think a song about drinking with your partner on a beach would make it to some of my favorites from the decade but here we are. Pink Sweat$ voice with this captivating beat and instrumental is something I hope I hear a lot more of in the future.

5. Hurts So Good – Astrid S (2016)

As the leading single from her official debut EP, Hurts So Good tells the story of the singer and her partner having an on and off relationship that is not particularly healthy, but “good” nevertheless. Co-written by Julia Michaels and a couple of other writers, Hurts So Good has easily become one of my Astrid S and decade favorites.

4. Tell Em – Sabrina Carpenter (2019) 

One of the many things that I admire about miss Sabrina Carpenter is that she doesn’t need large notes to showcase her vocal ability. Tell Em carries a soft tone and instrumentation that tells the story of a private relationship. Using a sort of call and response technique as the backup vocalists sing back to her, Sabrina is able to add a special detail to one of her newest tracks this year.

3. Si Me Dices Que Me Quieres – Joaquin Bondoni (2019) 

There was no doubt in my mind that “Si Me Dices Que Me Quieres was going to make this list. This track by newcomer Joaquin Bondoni has easily made its way into my heart for more than one reason. From the artist to the tone, to the way the song came about, I’m sure this track will be an all-time favorite for me. It tells the story of making it clear to your lover that you’d drop anything for them as long as they tell you they love you back. Sure, that doesn’t sound exactly “healthy” but for a 16-year-old kid, is that so strange?

2. Thinkin Bout You – Frank Ocean (2012) 

This song being on my list should not be a shock to ANY OF YOU. “Thinkin Bout You by Frank Ocean was the song to start one of my favorite eras in music -, particularly Frank’s music. From the memes based on lyrics to the entirety of the iconic Channel ORANGE, this song signified an entire generation. Frank’s deep yet soothing voice carried over 3 minutes and 21 seconds is truly a religious experience.

1. Wondering – Julia Lester & Olivia Rodrigo (2019) 

I could already feel all of you judging me – particularly the friends who I keep nagging about watching High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney. But can you blame me? The cast of this series has some of the most talented kids I have ever seen. Newcomers Julia Lester & Olivia Rodrigo sing Wondering which tells the story from Ms.Darbus’ (yes, the iconic theater teacher from HSM) perspective. The thing about wondering though is that you could really take it for your own interpretation. It sings about the “what if’s” we always try to stop ourselves from thinking about. From the piano to Julia’s note changes in between verses, I swear I got goosebumps the first time I heard it at like 3 am. Seriously. GIVE IT A LISTEN. Julia and the rest of the cast are ready to show the world what they’re made of and I could not be more excited.

Top 10 Albums of the Decade

10. Emilio – Emilio (2019) 

At just 16 years old (he turns 17 tomorrow), Mexico based Emilio Osorio Marcos has taken his country by storm. Sure, maybe you haven’t heard of him. However, if you grew up in a Latinx household like I did, you might have heard of his parents. Emilio chooses to go by just “Emilio” to avoid being associated with his famous parents – tv producer Juan Osorio & singer/dancer/actress Niurkia Marcos. It’s not that he’s embarrassed. It’s more of wanting to be recognized for his own work, as opposed to just getting lucky because of who his parents are. Emilio’s debut album includes songs used in novelas he’s acted in and songs of his own that tell the story of an average 16-year-old boy. Yes, it’s mainly about love but what else do you expect from a teenager. Point is, this is an album I’ve watched grow since it’s initial release and I hold it very close to my heart. The only reason it’s at the bottom of my list is that I KNOW he could do better. Don’t get me wrong, this album is full of bops on top of bops but he’s a growing kid. I know there’s more to him and I can’t wait to see it.

Honorable tracks: Perfecto, Si Al Final Tengo Tu Amor, Amor Valiente. 

9. Malibu Nights – LANY (2018)

The way LANY manages to make me want to cry and dance at the same time is beyond me. Their music is creatively diverse enough to give us strong ballads and dance beat-based songs in the same album. Although their style changes a bit every now and then, any song they put out has the same vibe that makes them LANY. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live 3 separate times and I don’t know how they manage to top each show every single time. Malibu Nights is primarily a sad and sassy album and maybe that’s why it’s one of my favorite of theirs. Paul’s way with words is something I have admired since I first saw them back in 2016 when they were only the openers for pop singer Troye Sivan.

Honorable tracks: If You See Her, Thru These Tears, Malibu Nights

8. Strange Desire – Bleachers (2014)

Jack Antonoff. That’s it. That’s the tweet. Singer, songwriter, and record producer Jack Antonoff (who goes by the stage name Bleachers) has been someone whose work I’ve admired for so long. He’s worked with some of my favorite artists but his songwriting and producing credits range farther than that. He’s worked with pop icons like Taylor Swift and Troye Sivan along with sensations like Lorde and Sia. Although he’s worked with other artists, Strange Desire is Bleacher’s own. The 2014 debut album ranges from summer tracks like Rollercoaster and Wild Heart along with soft tracks like Take Me Away and Who I Want You To Love. Because my music taste ranges between tones all the time, this album to me, is completely ideal.

Honorable tracks: I Wanna Get Better, Rollercoaster, Like a River Runs

7. It’s About Us – Alex & Sierra (2014)

The amount of respect I hold for Alex & Sierra as a duo and independent artists is completely unmatched. This duo competed and won X Factor US’ third season, and eventually grew to be one of my favorites acts in music. Although they broke up in 2016, they didn’t make the announcement until a year later. They continued to work together until they decided it was best for them to move on from each other. Their debut album It’s About Us contains some of the saddest yet most beautiful songs I have ever heard coming from a non-solo act. I was introduced to this album and to this duo from a friend back in elementary school and even then, I still manage to give it a listen every now and then years later. It’s a timeless piece.

Honorable tracks: Bumper Cars, Just Kids, I Love You. 

6. Nothing Happens – Wallows (2019)

I don’t know how they did it but Wallows managed to completely capture my entire essence into an album. Nothing Happens – their debut album besides a past EP – is a full 39 minutes of teenage vibes and emotions. Considering I majored in broadcast technology in high school, I base a lot of my music taste on how songs would match a certain video clip – tv/movie scenes in particular. Don’t ask me why because I literally don’t know. I listen to songs and my mind can’t help but think “this song would go so well as an ending credits song” or “this song is absolutely perfect for a montage between friends.” It’s just how I AM. Point is, this album somehow completely symbolizes an entire coming-of-age film in my mind. Each song gives me a different story and emotion which is perfect for someone who’s music taste is not so consistent – aka me.

Honorable tracks: Are You Bored Yet?, Sidelines, Scrawny. 

5. Channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean (2012)

It’s not a list of the best albums of the decade if a Frank Ocean album is not mentioned. Sorry but I don’t make the rules. I simply enforce them. Frank’s debut album Channel ORANGE is a timeless album that manages to capture a narrative that I might not be able to relate to yet I still feel gravitated towards. You could find a level of inclusivity in its lyrics and that’s honestly rare to find in albums made by artists that are completely different than you. I mean, Frank is a 32-year-old black man and I am a 19-year-old Latina. You could set us side to side and not think we share anything in common. I’d think the same. However, through his music and through this album, in particular, I find similarities in our emotions. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Frank Ocean has become an artist that I respect and admire for many reasons and this album was the start of it all for me.

Honorable tracks: Super Rich Kids, Forrest Gump, Bad Religion. 

4. Narrated for You – Alex Benjamin (2018) 

Alec Benjamin’s Narrated for You is truly a narrative masterpiece. Although it is only his debut album, Alec has already managed to get a lot of recognition for the way each of his songs carries a story and concept. His heart wrenching and imaginative lyrics provide a visual for listeners who are taking in his music for the first time. From the tender guitar-plucking to the soft vocals, Alec manages to sing about various emotions that are felt worldwide. In songs like “Annabelle’s Homework,” he sings about his experience doing a girl’s homework just to get her attention and appreciation. In other songs like “1994,” he sings about coming to terms with growing up. I usually gravitate towards music that I feel connected to and Alec manages to make me feel connected every time. He refers to himself as “the narrator” and there’s no question why.

Honorable tracks: If We Have Each Other, Death of a Hero, Outrunning Karma. 

3. Singular Act 2 – Sabrina Carpenter (2019) 

Sabrina Carpenter’s Singular Act 2 is the second album meant to follow her previous release, Singular Act 1. She says that she released them separately because she believes they both tell a different story. She also says she named the albums Singular but although the songs are separated by two different stories, each song is singularly it’s own. Before she released both albums, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. However, after listening back and forth between album 1 and 2, there is no other way I could have phrased it. Singular Act 2 focuses a lot on singing from the heart and becoming more confident in yourself. As a 20-year-old girl who has been involved in Hollywood since before 2014, it’s clear that Sabrina has had a little bit of difficulty figuring herself out. Singular Act 2 is a new voice for her and that’s why it’s made it into my top albums of the decade regardless of its recent release earlier this year.

Honorable tracks: Exhale, I’m Fakin, Take Off All Your Cool. 

2. Sucker Punch – Sigrid (2019)

Remember what I said about basing my music taste on how songs could fit tv/movie scenes? Sucker Punch by Sigrid is basically the film of my life. Throughout all 12 songs, Sigrid manages to perfectly capture the essence of a young female in today’s day and time. Switching between power ballads and electrifying pop songs, Sucker Punch is the perfect first impression. I came across this no skip album by complete accident – and I’m so glad I did. I have the habit of not keeping up with artist’s releases unless I have been listening to them for a long period of time. Only having discovered Sigrid in 2018, I didn’t realize she had released an album. Taking the time to listen to Sucker Punch from beginning to end has got to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Honorable tracks: Don’t Kill My Vibe, Strangers, Sucker Punch. 

1. Portraits – Greyson Chance (2019)

You’ve probably heard the name Greyson Chance before but you don’t know from where. Maybe it’s from my past blog. Maybe it’s from his viral cover of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi. Whatever it is, I can assure you his sophomore album Portaits is enough for you to remember him from here on forward. Although Portraits is technically his second album, I like to refer to it as his debut album because it was truly the start of a completely new era. Unlike his album from 2011, Hold On ‘Til the Night, this album is entirely Greyson Chance. His personal stories about love, heartbreak, and growing up are clear in the lyrics of every single song which makes this a pretty intimate album. With songs like “West Texas” that tells the story of growing up to realize the world wasn’t what you expected it to be, it’s easy to find a connection within the lyrics. Similarly to Alex Benjamin’s narrative tracks, Portraits is the story of Greyson and I think it’s beautiful.

Honorable tracks: Shut Up, Black on Black, Seasons Nineteen. 

Top 5 Artists of the Decade:

5. Conan Gray

Believe it or not, I didn’t discover Conan Gray through his music. I would’ve loved to say I heard his debut single, fell in love and kept up with his releases since then but that would just be a lie. I encountered Conan through a variety of his tweets and that’s really all I knew him for. His personality and way of being are what drew me to him in the first place. It was only then that I discovered he was actually a talented singer and musician. Because he is only 20 years old, he resonated a lot with my friends and me through his music. As I previously mentioned in my top 15 songs of the decade, songs like “The King” provide stories that are common among today’s generation. Sad boy pop, if you will. Creating relatable music that is still true to his own story is something that I have really come to love. It provides him with his own sound and brand that even members of BTS have taken notice of. Although he is – as of now – a somewhat small artist, I wouldn’t be shocked to find him blowing up, even more, any time soon.

4. Alec Benjamin

You’ve heard me mention him in my top 10 albums of the decade. Alec Benjamin: The Narrator. I’ve grown a lot of respect for Alec throughout the time that I’ve known of him considering everything he’s done to get to this point in his life. Unlike artists that get their lucky head start in the industry right away, Alec worked his way up. He went from singing acoustic covers and original songs outside of Shawn Mendes & Troye Sivan concerts, to having concerts and fans of his own. Despite the recent fame thanks to his single “Let Me Down Slowly” (which got a TON of radio play), he has still managed to keep the same energy that made him well-liked in the first place. The stories in his songs have only changed because his life has – and not in a bad way. He consistently writes songs that are true to him and they just so happen to be creatively inclusive enough to be relatable to common listeners. With Narrated for You being his debut album, I am extremely thrilled to hear what else is going on in his life.

3. Sabrina Carpenter 

Ex-Disney act Sabrina Carpenter is an artist that I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow since before her debut album in 2015. Considering she’s only a year older than I am, most of her music has resonated with me because we have been going through the same stages of life at a similar pace. Her debut album came from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl trying to deal with her overwhelming feelings of teenagehood. Taking her entire discography into consideration, you could actually hear the growth in her music. The stories in her songs are changing along with her and I think that’s important. As an artist – especially one starting so young – it’s not uncommon for your voice to change. I’m not talking about how deep or how high your voice is. I’m talking about the concept of living through your adolescence and later transitioning into a young adult. Your perspective is changing, therefore your creative voice will too. Sabrina has shown that she’s embraced that change.

2. Billie Eilish

You’ve heard the name. I know you have. At just 17 years old, Billie Eilish has managed to take the world into her own hands. I first discovered Billie through her song “Ocean Eyes” back in 2016 because of Connor Franta’s Common Culture Volume 5 album compilation. Between her soothing vocals and Finneas’ (her brother) sound production, I knew it was a sweet track but I didn’t think anything else of it. She was only 15 at the time. With my knowledge about the music industry, I knew it was only through a miracle that they would give a 15-year-old singer the time of day. It wasn’t until the music video release of her song “Bellyache” in 2017 that I heard her name again. This time, with a more upbeat sound, Billie Eilish had managed to get the world’s attention. From there on forward, Billie and her brother came forward with a new style, brand, and sound that people hadn’t heard in a girl as young as her before. This intrigued them. As of today, Billie has managed to become one of the biggest named artists in the world. I went from watching her perform at a venue that only held 500 in 2018, to not being fast enough to buy tickets to a venue that held 23.5k in 2019. And although I do miss her 15-year-old sound from time to time, it’s been an exciting time watching Billie grow into the artist that she is today.

1. Frank Ocean

The icon of all icons. The man of the decade. Quite possibly the only man ever: Frank Ocean. As a bisexual black man in the industry, Frank has changed society’s expectations of what a Hip-Hop and R&B artist is supposed to be like. Before his coming out, Frank was already on his way to becoming a well-respected and situated artist. Coming out could’ve changed things and he knew it. Even then, he made the decision to release Channel ORANGE which included the hit Thinkin Bout You in which he spoke to his partner using he/him pronouns. An R&B love song for a man written by a man was definitely not something that 2012 had seen a lot of before – or at all. With Channel ORANGE, Frank paved the way for other queer artists to make their mark in the entertainment industry whether he meant to or not. And it didn’t just stop there. Years later, he released his sophomore album Blonde, which left millions of fans craving for more. After Blonde, he released what is personally one of my favorite bisexual anthems “Chanel.” Paving the way for other artists to be their authentic creative selves is something that started with Frank Ocean which is why he’s one of my favorite artists of the decade.

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