Hey gang! It’s Andy Larson, back again for another one of these great multi day debates that we are holding around the GotS offices, where we all battle tooth and nail for your twitter votes by delivering what we hope with the best pop culture lists that three middle aged white dudes might be able to cobble together.
And speaking of that, if there’s one thing that middle aged white dudes have been historically hip about, it’s definitely music! Although I really do try to fight against that stereotype with all my being. As a former college radio DJ, I vowed years ago that the moment I stopped exploring and discovering new music would be the day I’d officially give up on life and start picking out my headstone.
In short, new music keeps me young, and that’s important as a way to connect with my kids!
So I want to say that I try to keep my ear to that music grindstone, searching out new talent and artists constantly. Sure most of them end up in the alt country/Americana music genre, but you’d be surprised over some of the other gems I’ve found over the years. In fact one of the major factors in making my list is whether you were a musician or band that upon discovering, you actually made me search out more of your music. Many of the bands on this list I’ve seen in concert, and with most of these entries I’ll try to include another song by that same artist that I loved.
However, if these top 10 contest lists have taught me anything thus far its that you need to balance the obscure with the well known in just the right balance to attract voters yet still keep your street cred.
So although this list might contain some less than mainstream types, there are definitely some Top 40 hits here as well. So without further ado, here are my Top 10 Songs of the past 10 years!
(BTW, I have a playlist with all the songs included here, but you can also listen as to each as you read each entry.)
10.) Gotye featuring Kimbra “Somebody That I Used To Know”
Ladies and Gentlemen! The greatest Sting song that was never written or sang by Sting! But oh boy when that chorus hit, did that not invoke those glorious golden tones of early 80s Police in such an infectious way that this was easily the song I listened to the most for like 6 months in 2012.
I’m not going to front that this is the only song on my list that breaks my rule of not seeing the artist in concert or having any other tunes that I can specifically recommend, but I don’t care. This is my “one hit wonder” entry for this list. I feel like every good music list has to have one and it definitely has the chops as one of the best of the decade given Billboard still lists it as the number 8 top selling song of the 2010s.
On a personal note, this was also a song I heard so many times during trips to and from those long days at the NICU when my son, Jakob, was born 12 weeks premature. I can remember even humming it to him on those nights of uncertainty. It helped me keep my mind still and soothed my worried heart a bit.
For the record as those that listen to the podcast know, Jakob is doing just fine nowadays as a rambunctious 7 year old.
And people still don’t know how to pronounce Gotye…
9.) Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”
The 2010s. The decade I got over my beef with Justin Timberlake.
Don’t get me wrong. I was an enormous fan of his earlier song “Cry me a River” and I’d be totally lying if I said I didn’t shake a tail feather at the club when “Sexy Back” or “Senorita” came on. But I didn’t really take JT seriously as a musician. He was a boy toy. A successful off shoot of N*Sync who appealed to the masses because of his good looks and overproduced tunes. That’s not real music, right? I’m “justified” in thinking that, right?
Nope. I was completely wrong. Justin Timberlake is the real deal. A modern day Frank Sinatra. An incredible singer, performer, actor, and from everything I’ve heard, a pretty decent guy too. And from the moment I saw him on stage with another performer on this list, Chris Stapleton, live in concert, I said yeah, I’m a fan too. This kind of professional charisma and talent is hard to deny, and I’m going to stop doing it.
I will say in my defense, his two more recent albums in 20/20 Experience and Cabin in the Woods are much more mature works than his earlier endeavors showing some real growth as an artist with their complex arrangements and stylistic choices.
As for why I picked “Mirrors”, it was one of his bigger well known hits. However I could have easily picked “Drink You Away” or “Say Something” as I like those songs just as much.
8.) The Avett Brothers “Head Full Of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise”
I still remember hearing this song for the first time on a cold winter day in early January several years ago. It was mainly thanks to Sirius XM’s the Spectrum, which was my haven for good up and coming adult alternative music back in the day. And as I laid there and let the complex interweaving the piano and cello wash over me, suddenly that chorus hit me.
That “There was a dream…and one day I could see it” and that powerful mix of defiance and humble clarity. It’s a song about someone that seems to have been a walking sleep for most of their lives and has for the first time woken up to the world around them, and despite self doubt in their heart, has decided to do something better with this new found power of self actualization.
And as a young father at the time, this song resonated with me so strongly, that I immediately when out and bought their record. Since then the Avett Brothers have become one of the most listened to bands around the Larson house over the past decade, with my wife and I buying many of their follow up albums and seeing them in concert 5 or 6 times.
They aren’t higher on my list because they have somewhat fallen out of favor a bit in the last year as they are no longer the “fresh new” thing. But I’d be lying if I didn’t highly recommend you pick up this song or “Once and Future Carpenter” or “Smithsonian” or “Go to Sleep” or any other number of great tunes the band as put out over the years.
7.) Gary Clark Jr. “Bright Lights”
I’m sorry, and maybe you missed it, but do you know that we actually have a Jimi Hendrix nowadays? And you can go see him in concert playing a guitar better than I’ve seen anyone play one in a long time. A very long time.
In fact, you will go to that concert and you might not know any of his music, and his songs might contain 10 minute long jam sessions of just him and his axe, but you will not care. He will hypnotize you with the power of his playing ability and the genius of his unique mix of rock, rhythm, and blues that seems to invoke a feeling that he is the current inheritor of all those great guitar players of the past. Not just Jimi, but BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Johnson, Duane Allman, and a host of others.
Yes, Gary Clark Jr. is a friggin’ national treasure in terms of what that man can do with his instrument. Plus he’s a pretty fantastic singer and song writer to boot. If you don’t believe me, pick up this tune or “Low Down Rolling Stone” or “Our Love” or better yet, just buy a ticket and see him live. Seriously, these kind of talents only come around once a generation and you owe it to yourself.
6.) Chris Stapleton “Tennessee Whiskey”
If there’s one thing I’ve been super critical over the years about its that modern country music just doesn’t really get it. As they say in the Blues Brothers, “That ain’t no Hank Williams song” and boy o boy, for a business supposedly built around embracing it’s roots and that old timey sound, everything that comes out of modern day Nashville sure sounds awfully like anything else you might hear on any Top 40 station.
However, that’s not true with Chris Stapleton. This guy is truly a country artist. One that comes from modest journeyman roots as he worked his way up from meager musical beginnings writing hit songs for other country artists like George Strait and Kenny Chesney. One with an authentic country sound that’s not overproduced or fake. And most of all, a pleasant humble demeanor that is not what you’d expect from a star of his current caliber.
And for me to see him having the amount of mainstream success that he’s currently having without having the change his sound or the way he conducts his business, it does fill me with hope that in this world, real talent does have an opportunity to be acknowledged and shine just as much as any of the posers they try to shove in our faces instead.
Tennessee Whiskey wasn’t going to be my choice for the song on this list, mainly because it’s actually a cover of an older 70s tune written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove for David Allen Coe. For my money, I prefer “Broken Halos”. However, my wife really loves this song, and I really love my wife, so I’m including it.
5.) Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg “California Gurls”
If the 80s belonged to Madonna and the late 90s/2000s belonged to Brittney, then this past decade belonged to Katy my Lady. Sure, some might argue with me that it was Lady Gaga or Rihanna, and with that Rihanna pull they might have somewhat of an argument given she technically had more number 1 singles than Katy beating her out by one.
However, all of that is purely academic. Music is about how it makes you feel. And in the words of Garth from Wayne’s World, Katy makes me feel “all kinda funny…like when we used to climb the rope in gym class”. Call me crass, call me crude, but yeah, she’s on my list because she’s absolutely the hottest woman in show business over the past decade for my money. She could sing “Greater Allegheny County Public Phone book” and I’d still shell out those clams to see her.
A powerhouse of a talent though with 5 number one singles that came off her album “Teenage Dream” including this candy coated pop masterpiece which also benefits from Snoop Dogg’s presence to give it that extra bit of “funk”. In fact, it’s actually what pushed this song on to my list over “Last Friday Night” which is another of my favs from this album. That and every time I watch the video I’m hoping those clouds would move just slightly enough to give me just a little more peak of some cheek.
Never happens though…
4.) Imagine Dragons “Radioactive”
Some people might give me crap for including this band and for putting them so high on the list. In fact, my fellow Ghostie, Rob Stewart, even went as far as thanking me for “letting” him win this month’s poll challenge by my inclusion of “Nickleback 2.0”. So you heard it hear first folks, if we have any Imagine Dragon fans out there voting on Twitter, Stew hates this band. He hates your tastes in music. He spits on your mothers.
Okay that last one is going a bit too far, but whatever.
Anyways, I’ll admit that this band has become the mainstream white bread choice as the “alternative rock” band to play during hockey games or other sporting events where you have to attempt to pump up the crowd. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t accomplish the exact thing that it was created to do. It does indeed “pump you up”! That insanely strong bass back-beat, the power riffs, the melodic sing/screaming, everything in this song is there to deliver a feeling of intense testosterone. Music that makes you want to dead lift a car, chug a 12 pack of beer, and have nasty relations with that secretly kinky high school librarian in the plaid pencil skirt.
And pretty much all of the Imagine Dragons songs. They are instantly likeable, appeal to a wide variety of music tastes, and most of all they all have that bass beat hook. Heck my kids are huge fans of that “Whatever it Takes” song now, and I’m the “hip” Dad that introduced them to it.
This song edges some of their others because it features a pretty fantastic video. A dark story of a underground muppet/teddy bear death match circuit. It’s all sleezy and drips of sweaty nightmares. Plus it’s got Lou Diamond Phillips. Young Guns, baby!
3.) The Lumineers “Ho Hey”
A good old folk sing along. That makes everyone super happy. One with a easily remembered chorus that’s often just a couple words, places for people to clap or stomp their feet, and often speaks to the nicer things in life like puppies, family, or love. I mean it’s the reason why people are still singing the song “Bingo was his Name-o” and that was written in 1780.
That’s all this song is. It’s a reason for someone to look at the people that are special to them in life, whether that’s a spouse, lover, child, friend, brother, pet and say “I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart!” and then sigh contented in the fact that they just just temporarily brushed away the dark clouds for a moment by connecting with someone they adore. It’s a simple song that reminds us that we aren’t alone, and in this day and age where people are feeling more disconnected from each other every day, that’s powerful.
For the record, I could have also put the song “Home” from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in this spot as it has a similar effect. But I picked this one because I do like more Lumineer songs outside this one (my favorite being Cleopatra). Plus, someone might say I was cheating because “Home” although releases as a single came out in January of 2010, the album it was on was originally released in 2009.
2.) Sturgill Simpson “Turtles All The Way Down”
Alright. If this list wasn’t being judged by the masses, many of whom have never heard of this gentleman, I probably would have said “screw it!” and listed this song as number 1. However, because this is a public list and some out there are going to scoff at the idea of a former dishwasher from IHOP with the most authentic country voice I’ve heard in decades being out Bruno Mars, unfortunately Mr. Simpson is going to have to settle for that number 2 spot.
But, truly, Sturgill Simpson is the real deal. The second coming of Waylon Jennings who can win the Grammy for Album of the Year by covering Nirvana’s “In Bloom” so beautifully and so sublimely that even people I know that claim they hate country music in all its forms had to sit up and say “Okay…I like that”.
I mean this guy should be the hottest act in all of Nashville and beyond for the way he delivers the goods song in and song out, but I hear because of his rebellious nature, he just doesn’t fit in politically down there. Still though, he’s the only one on this list that I’ve bought pretty much all of his albums and it does seems like with every passing go, they get better and better (Sound & Fury which he just released in the past month is excellent by the way).
As for including this particular song on this list, I didn’t really do it because I consider it the best or my favorite one. Honestly, that award would go to “You Can Have the Crown” which is still the bees knees in my opinion. But, this is the song that first really captured my attention with his music with it’s strange mix of metaphysical spirituality and backwoods twang.
Plus it recently appeared in an episode of the Watchmen TV show, so fans of our particular website reading this article will probably find it familiar.
1.) Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk”
Okay. We’ve now done three of these Twitter “Best of” Polls. I’m not stupid, folks.
Uptown Funk is the best song of the past 10 years.
Just in case, you forgot the why, here’s a reminder:
- 14 weeks at Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
- Certified 11 times platinum by the RIAA.
- Broke its own streaming record three times Worldwide.
- Number 1 song of the Decade according to Billboards Hot 100.
- Number 4 song of ALL TIME according to Billboards Hot 100.
- My 73 year old mother knows all the words to it.
And regardless of how much it’s been parodied, overplayed at weddings, and made into annoying Kidz Bop verisons (Fill my cup…put some water in it!?!), it’s still a great tune that makes you want to get up and dance.
Like a lot.
Dance like nobody is watching a lot.
Plus it introduced me to Bruno Mars, who like Justine Timberlake is much more than just a pop icon, but a genuinely rare talent that should be making great songs for years to come.
So put that in your pipe and smoke it Gangnam Style. For the record, that song is a novelty at best.