Sam’s Favorites of the 2010s
Welcome to the fifth installment of the UIC Radio E-Board's major list of the best music released this decade! As you may have seen, for the past four days, my fellow executive board members have been releasing their lists that document what they think are the best releases from 2010-2019. Now, it's my turn to put out the fifth list of the best music. However, before you continue reading, I would just like to reiterate that these are my personal favorites that correlate with my personal music taste. As much I try not to be biased, I don't listen to every single genre of music and I can't listen to every album ever released, so this list is in no way complete. I do hope that you enjoy my picks, and hopefully, you agree with at least one of my picks! So without further ado, here's my top music of the 2010s.
Top 15 Songs of the 2010s
15. The Cure- Lady Gaga (2017)
Everything I’ve ever wanted from Gaga comes out in this song. This is the Gaga that I wanted for about a decade. I can clearly remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard this song, and to have that etched into my memory just shows how impactful this was. “The Cure” is also probably in Gaga’s top ten biggest hits, and as a stand-alone single at that, so clearly the world agrees this song is a hard-hitting track.
14. Sick Like Me- In This Moment (2014)
The opening riff of this song is honestly one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. The way instrumentation in this song is top-tier from beginning to end, the production is flawless, and Maria Brink’s haunting voice carries the 5-minute song all the way to being one of the top songs of the decade.
13. Identity Disorder- Of Mice & Men (2014)
The lyrics in the chorus and bridge just made me want to start sobbing when I first heard this song at 15 years old. They made me feel something so different and so real, and it’s a feeling that always seems to return when I listen to this song. My conscience told me that this song needed to be included on the list, so here we are.
12. Set Fire to the Rain- Adele (2011)
This was a last-minute addition to the list. Believe it or not, I almost forgot about Adele’s impact on music in this decade. Her 2011 album 21 was an absolute game-changer, and “Set Fire to the Rain” is truly a piece of art. Adele paints a picture and tells a story with her lyrics, and the way it flows with the orchestral music accompanying her is flawless.
11. Warhol- Palaye Royale (2016)
“Warhol” is just such a fun song to listen to. The guitar/bass line throughout most of the song is so simple (literally 3 notes) but is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard. On top of that, the lyrics are so fun and fit really well with vocalist Remington Leith’s unique voice. This has truly been one of my favorite songs since 2016.
10. I Can’t Swim- Elliot Moss (2015)
I feel like this may be the most underrated artist on this list, which therefore makes this potentially the most underrated song on this list. For those of you who like electronic-indie music, this is for you. Elliot Moss brings out all the stops for this song: the quirky synth background, deep lyrics, and a catchy melody.
9. Tiny Glowing Screens, Pt. 2.- Watsky (2013)
Hands down the best lyrics I have ever heard in my entire life. No contest. Please, I beg you, just go look up the lyrics online. George Watsky talks about how the world is always growing and how the people in the world live their lives. It tackles subjects like consumerism and materialism, and overall is just insanely deep and eloquently spoken. The only reason this isn’t higher on my list is because it’s really just a spoken word poem set to a piano-playing some chords in the background. Regardless, this is a song that really makes you think, and I love it.
8. Novocaine- Fall Out Boy (2015)
I tried so, so hard to not put Fall Out Boy on this list for a couple of reasons. First, I haven’t liked a lot of their stuff they’ve released this decade. Second, they’re my favorite band of all time and if this was all FOB, I’d be insanely biased. But I couldn’t include this song. Patrick Stump’s vocals in the chorus (and really the whole song) are absolutely ridiculous, and Pete Wentz’s lyrics along with it just make the song that much better. It’s hands down my favorite Fall Out Boy song of the decade, and it’s in my top 5 FOB songs of all time.
7. Youth- Daughter (2013)
My love for this song began when I first heard it in my high school dance class in 2014. I typically hate songs that I dance to, solely because I’ve heard them so much. However, this song is the only song I’ve ever had to dance to that I still love with my whole heart and soul. The instrumentation is so unique and incredible, and the lyrics are so beautifully and creatively written with so much depth and meaning behind them.
6. Pray You Catch Me- Beyoncé (2016)
The world’s queen Beyoncé sings in detail about being suspicious of your significant other, and she does it so eloquently. With her carefully picked words guiding the piano and strings backing her voice, it would have been just wrong to not include this as one of the best songs of the 2010s.
5. Mansion- NF, Fleurie (2015)
If you’ve ever wanted to know what’s going on in my head, this is the song that writes it out in plain English, nailing down what I’m feeling almost to a T. I’ve never been good at expressing my feelings/what I’m thinking, so to have a song that does it for me is something that just makes me melt inside. The eerie music behind NF’s lyrics just ties the entire song together and makes it a masterpiece.
4. Chemical Prisoner- Falling in Reverse (2015)
This opening track from Falling in Reverse’s 2015 album Just Like You really speaks to me in a way that not many others can. The lyrics are insanely personal and beautiful, and the instrumental part is just as amazing. I even remember wanting to learn this riff on guitar since the song came out (still haven’t done it, but we’ll get there). While I personally am not the biggest fan of Falling in Reverse, I can recognize that this song is insanely good; it’s well-written, catchy, and a major hit in my book.
3. 1-800-273-8255- Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid (2017)
I feel like most of the explanation for this has already been covered by every music critic in the past two years. 1-800 really reached out to me and spoke to me (and millions of others) in a way that no other song could, in a similar fashion to the previous song mentioned. Solely based on the meaning behind the song and how it impacted me personally, this song is definitely one of the best songs of the decade.
2. La La La- Naughty Boy, Sam Smith (2014)
I forgot this song existed until trying to make this list. I think this was the first song I can remember that made me want to be a serious singer/musician. I used to record myself singing this and actually would perform in my room to this song as if I was on stage. It’s such a catchy (and well-written!!) song that has had such an impact on me, and it would be a shame if I didn’t include it on the list.
1. Fatal- Motionless in White (2013)
This song was probably one of like three songs on this list I knew I had to include. This has been my favorite song by this band since it came out, and it’s in my top 10 songs of all time. The lyrics are some of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard in my life and when you mix that with the beautifully-written heavy riff, well-executed drums, and fantastic production, it becomes what I believe is the best song of the decade.
Top 10 Albums of the 2010s
10. Graveyard Shift- Motionless in White (2017)
This was a highly debated album. I wasn’t sure what to put as the last (or as you’re reading, first) album on the list, and I threw in a couple of albums just as fillers. Eventually, this is what I settled on. Graveyard Shift basically just shows the evolution and maturity of Motionless in White over the decade they had been around (at the time). From hardcore metal to a more industrial sound, the band had experimented with a large variety of sounds before ultimately solidifying their sound with their 2014 record Reincarnate. Graveyard Shift is just a more mature, better written Reincarnate, and I love everything about it. The production is great, the lyrics are great, the opening track is so great that I’ve had it as my alarm for over two years so it can bother me every morning. Another really cool thing about this record is that the band held a contest online for a fan to design their album cover, so the album cover is fan art! Overall, I highly suggest this record!
Top Tracks: “Queen For Queen,” “Hourglass,” “570”
9. V- Maroon 5 (2014)
I know, I can hear it now. “yOu’Re PuTtInG mArOoN 5 oN tHiS LiSt??” Yes, yes I am. Deal with it. But in all honesty, I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this because there’s a lot of hate thrown their way in general, but I absolutely LOVE this album. I remember that I knew from the second that “Maps” came out in June of 2014 that this album was going to be a special one. When the whole album came out two months later, I fell in love right away. All 15 tracks take you on a musical journey that I feel so many don’t appreciate. While most people only know “Sugar,” “Animals,” and “Maps,” I challenge everyone reading this to listen to the whole album before criticizing my opinion (because yes, this is an opinion).
Top Tracks: “New Love,” “Feelings,” “Maps”
8. Midnight- Set It Off (2019)
Hello first-of-a-couple-2019-albums-on-this-list! I have to say, maybe it’s because 2019 is fresh in my brain, maybe not, but I really think 2019 was a fantastic year for music. This album is no exception. Set It Off’s fourth full-length album really showed a lot of maturity for a band that has seemed to be trying out different sounds. With the hardcore influenced Cinematics (2012), pop-punk influenced Duality (2014), and pop-influenced Upside Down (2016), it seemed SIO hasn’t been able to nail down their sound. Midnight truly takes the best parts of each of their previous releases and combines them for this masterpiece of an album.
Top Tracks: “Criminal Minds,” “Midnight Thoughts,” “Raise No Fool”
7. Ungrateful- Escape the Fate (2013)
I very distinctly remember when this album came out and I thought it was the most amazing thing (to the point where I bought the album on iTunes, because yes, that used to be the thing you did). To this day, I still go and listen to the album I spent literal money on. Granted, I don’t like this album because I feel I have to. Ungrateful legitimately is a brilliant record. The band’s fourth full length, and third with the current vocalist, was a follow-up to a self-titled record released three years prior. The album has crazy good guitar solos, heavy riffs, catchy vocal melodies, and well-written lyrics… what more could you want??
Top Tracks: “Live Fast, Die Beautiful,” “Picture Perfect,” “Forget About Me”
6. Vices & Virtues- Panic! At The Disco (2011)
Before we had the songs “Miss Jackson,” “Death of a Bachelor,” and the beloved “High Hopes,” we had this really cool song called “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” which is the opening track on Panic!’s third full-length Vices & Virtues. This was the first album without long-time members Ryan Ross, who was also the primary songwriter, and Jon Walker. Remaining members Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith had to step up and figure out quickly what direction they were going to go for this album. The result of the first album with new songwriters was something magical. V&V ended up being a record with 10 fantastic songs (and tons of great bonus tracks) that departed pretty greatly from lots of the band’s previous material, and really foreshadowed the direction that Panic! was going in. Impactful and an actually good record – the perfect mix for being one of the best albums of the 2010s.
Top Tracks: “The Calendar,” “Hurricane,” “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)”
5. Love is Dead and We Killed Her- Doll Skin (2019)
WE STAN FEMALES IN ROCK!! This ranking may sound slightly biased because I absolutely love Doll Skin so much, but I promise it’s not. Doll Skin is an all-female rock band with some members even younger than I am, and they play some fantastic hard rock music. LIDAWKH, the band’s second studio album and their debut album on a major label (Hopeless Records) showed the world what these four incredibly talented females in rock can do. The opening track “Don’t Cross My Path” sets the tone for the whole album, and really puts the bar high in terms of song quality. Yet the bar keeps getting raised, as the entire album just gets better as you listen to each song. Encapsulating everything you could ever want from a hard rock album, LIDAWKH is a top pick for one of the best albums this decade.
Top Tracks: “When They Show Their Teeth,” “Empty House,” “Outta My Mind”
4. Double Dare- Waterparks (2016)
If I really wanted to go super in-depth to this, I would need a whole separate blog. Waterparks released their debut record Double Dare in 2016, and it completely changed their career. With the release of the first single off the album “Stupid For You,” the band was starting to be launched into stardom within the alternative community, garnering them a whole new spectrum of fans. All 13 tracks catalog vocalist and primary songwriter Awsten Knight’s life and mindset, from relationships, mental health issues, the reality of the music industry, and so much more. Knight’s witty lyrics and catchy blend of pop-punk instrumentation and synths mix beautifully on all the tracks to create the art that is Double Dare.
Top Tracks: “Take Her To The Moon,” “Dizzy,” “It Follows”
3. amo- Bring Me The Horizon (2019)
This is the album I always wanted to make! And Bring Me The Horizon just happened to do it first. To explain a little more, amo really is an album of genre whiplash. With heavy songs like “wonderful life (feat. Dani Filth),” the band still holds on tightly to their metal/deathcore roots, but they also draw influences from alternative rock (“medicine” and “mother tongue”), electronic music (“nihilist blues (feat. Grimes)” and “i apologise if you feel something”), and even pop (“in the dark”). By saying this is the album I always wanted to make, I mean that BMTH broke boundaries by putting a million different music genres into one groundbreaking album, and hopefully they continue to do so in future releases.
Top Tracks: “nihilist blues (feat. Grimes),” “mother tongue,” “in the dark”
2. White Noise- PVRIS (2014)
PVRIS’s debut full-length album transports you into some other place in time that I really can’t describe. Every time I listen to this album, I feel like I’m in some kind of trance with vocalist Lynn Gunn singing me to sleep. Her beautiful, calming voice mixes so well with the fun blend of rock and electropop music. Songs like “My House” and “Fire” have more of a rock and roll vibe, while other songs like “Eyelids” and “You and I” test the waters of alternative pop, and all the other songs are somewhere in between, with each song being completely unique. There is legitimately no bad song on this album, and I suggest you all go on the White Noise journey with PVRIS if you get a chance.
Top Tracks: “Smoke,” “Ghosts,” “Eyelids”
1. Nothing More- Nothing More (2014)
My favorite album of all time. There’s no competition. Nothing More really gave it their all on their 2014 self-titled, and second full length with vocalist Jonny Hawkins after switching from drums to vocals. This album is what launched Nothing More into the spotlight in the world of rock music, being the breakthrough that they needed. All 17 tracks, including the two instrumental/spoken word interludes, captivate you from the second the 1-minute opener “Ocean Floor” starts playing. Every song is different from the next, and every song was ripped straight from the heart of the band, making it an incredibly personal record. Musically and lyrically, I feel like this is the strongest release by the band, and the strongest release in all of the music from this decade.
Top Tracks: “God Went North,” “The Matthew Effect,” “Take a Bullet”
Top 5 New Artists of the 2010s
5. I Prevail
The maturity of this band. The GROWTH. Warning: you’ll see the “growth” argument in almost all five of these artists, but I’m starting with I Prevail. They started out as this small rock band with dreams in 2014, gaining attention after releasing a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” From there, this band has blown up in popularity with each record that they release. Heart vs. Mind (2014) was released only two weeks after the Taylor Swift cover, but the cover allowed this album to get lots of attention, which ultimately helped the band. Lifelines (2016) spawned the hit singles “Scars” and “Stuck In Your Head,” which just gave the band even more attention than they already had. With the release of their most recent effort Trauma (2019), the band has had the opportunity to be an opener for arena tours, and the album just got nominated for two Grammy’s. The amazing amount of growth for a METALCORE band in only five years is something that really only happens in dreams or movies. Or if you’re in I Prevail.
4. Ariana Grande
Talk about taking over the world, right? Ari has been SOARING to the top over the past decade, and specifically in the past five years or so. Technically debuting as a Broadway star in the musical 13 in 2008 and then starring as Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon show Victorious for a number of years, Ariana didn’t start releasing stuff on her own until 2011 with the stand-alone single “Put Your Hearts Up.” After putting the acting gig to the side, Ariana released the albums Yours Truly (2013), My Everything (2014), Dangerous Woman (2016), and Sweetener (2018). Almost immediately following the release of Sweetener, Grande’s most well-known ex-boyfriend Mac Miller was found dead, and not too long after Grande announced that her controversial engagement to comedian Pete Davidson had been broken off, and thus started the major takeover. The heartbreak leads to a spark of creativity that spawned her latest release thank u, next (2019), which has garnered hundreds of millions of streams and millions of sales. With everything, this girl has been through, and with the way she still continues to persevere through everything thrown at her, she has been one of the most influential artists of this decade.
3. Doll Skin
As I stated earlier, WE STAN FEMALE ROCK MUSICIANS!! I’ve been following Doll Skin for a very long time. Like I remember when they were playing local shows in Phoenix years ago. And to see the evolution from that to their first EP in 2015 to now being on a major label releasing albums in 2019 is just phenomenal. They also are fantastic role models to young girls that want to be in a rock band – I mean it’s an entire band full of female rock musicians… I don’t think you can get much cooler than that! The growth has really been amazing to witness, and I’m excited to see it continue in the next decade.
2. Billie Eilish
I feel Billie doesn’t need much of an explanation. This 17-year-old girl is single-handedly (kind of… her brother helps her write songs, but that’s beside the point) reinventing electropop music, and creating a legacy that so many new artists are influenced by. Debuting in 2016 with her song “Six Feet Under,” (or “Ocean Eyes,” if you count that being posted on Soundcloud in 2015, but it was rerecorded and released professionally later) at the age of 14, Billie became big fairly quickly, garnering the attention of big names in the music industry almost instantly. Her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was released earlier this year and was extremely successful. To not put Billie on here would be just plain wrong because of her massive impact in just the short time she has been around.
My number ones, always and forever. Similar to my experience with Doll Skin, I have seen these three talented men that makeup Waterparks blossom into the band they are today. I have followed this band since 2016 when vocalist Awsten Knight had pink hair and was only on the letter C (explanation to come later). I saw them at Warped Tour in 2016 when they were playing on one of the baby stages to 100 people. Now, they have millions of streams, thousands of album sales, are being played on the radio, and they HEADLINE shows that have somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people. THE GROWTH! Now anyways, back to the explanation, I owe y’all. This ties into why I love this band so much in the first place: the creativity. Everything this band does is for a reason. From their first release back in 2012, they knew that every EP/album was going to be in alphabetical order (Airplane Conversations (2012), Black Light (2014), Cluster (2016), Double Dare (2016), Entertainment (2018), Fandom (2019)). Knight, being the frontman, also dyes his hair the main color of each album for the album cycle (Cluster – pink, Double Dare – blue, Entertainment – purple, Fandom – green). Even the music interacts with each other. Albums released years apart flow into each other if you listen to them back to back, little Easter eggs in almost every song, major significance in the most minor lyrics – it all just FITS. This may have been a rant, but I really needed to justify why Waterparks is the best new band of the decade.
And that’s it! It’s all I got. Remember, it’s my opinion, and you can either love it or hate it – both are okay! At the end of the day, I hope you just enjoyed hearing my arguments for my choices. If you want to listen to the accompanying playlist to this blog, click here!