The 60 Best Songs of 2010

by PopMatters Staff

23 December 2010

Sixty slices of musical greatness highlighted by one of the most delightful expletive-ridden hits in pop music history.


Mutiny Within

To define the rapid evolution of metalcore over the past two years, one only needs to listen to this song. “Awake” is easily the most memorable metalcore song since Killswitch Engage’s Grammy-nominated “The End of Heartache”. Replete with Chris Clancy’s soaring vocal lines, Bill Fore’s razor-sharp technical drums, and an unbelievable guitar solo from Brandon Jacobs, “Awake” is the epitome of progressive metalcore, and the defining standard for all songs to come within their scene. Chris Colgan

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“White Knuckles”

“White Knuckles” is one of the most danceable tracks of the year. It’s also one of the funnest, funkiest, Prince-iest songs this side of Purple Rain. OK Go is more amusement park than Paisley Park, though. The opening beats signal the heart-pounding, adrenaline-rushing roller-coaster ride to come. The melody begins to ascend, banking off the bass line, looping and lifting, diving and dipping, before swooping into the first drop with a spinning, spiraling, corkscrew of a solo, complete with soulful, life-affirming screams. The acceleration doesn’t stop there, everything continues to escalate until a pause at the peak of the song’s final climb as a clap sends all that energy over the top. “White Knuckles” is a little like leaving the loading platform and realizing this ride has no restraints. It’s overwhelming and exhilarating all at once. Life has no lap-bar; is it terrifying or thrilling? “Maybe it’s not so bad / Let your hair down now”. So have fun… but hang on! Christel Loar




Darren Hanlon
“All These Things”

Wit is one gift of Australian troubadour Darren Hanlon, who released his best album in 2010. “All These Things” has wit and an infectious melody. It’s a litany of meaningful images: things that “follow you” through life, minor (fondue) or major (war). What kids hear adults say, what adults regret, dreams, heartbreak: all are woven together. It’s a calling card for a songwriter who specializes in human studies. It also contains truths, minor and major. That makes it stand out, among even the wittiest pop songs. Dave Heaton




Mark Ronson and the Business International
“Somebody to Love Me”

Like many an ‘80s pop casualty, Boy George’s career has been besmirched by infamy of late. So, leave it to Mark Ronson to pull a reverse Winehouse and remind us of Boy’s qualities rather than foibles, employing his vocal skills to such delightful effect on “Somebody to Love Me”. Standing in weathered contrast to Miike Snow frontman Andrew Wyatt’s falsetto, Boy imbues his lines with more longing and poignancy than any pop song this year. Maria Schurr



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Mama’s Gun


Mama’s Gun
“Let’s Find a Way”

If you reside in the United States, you probably didn’t become acquainted with Mamas Gun in 2010. They’re a UK-based band that made the past 365 days a little funkier across Europe and as far-reaching as Japan. Comprised of Andy Platts, Rex Horan, Jack Pollitt, Terry Lewis, and Dave Burnell Oliver, the group specializes in crafting contagious rhythms and melodies of exquisite, soulful beauty. The latter is especially evident on “Let’s Find a Way”. Platts’ searing performance places him in an echelon of male vocalists who possess natural vocal charisma and actually sing in tune, a rarity among the Autotuned caricatures that have come to dominate modern pop music. 2011 will hopefully be North America’s turn to behold the brilliance of Mama’s Gun. For now, find a way to hear “Let’s Find a Way”. Christian John Wikane




Here We Go Magic

A chugging stomper for the indie-inclined, “Collector” shows the potential power of Here We Go Magic when the quintet is firing on all cylinders. Fusing some fast paced, repetitive guitar interplay with a lean, funky rhythm and some vocal harmonies that reach to the skies, “Collector” is propelled by a mixture of persistent minimalism and frenetic energy. It has the light, airy indie-pop quality often associated with Brooklyn, yet buoyed by a carefree catharsis that’s both remarkable and irresistible. Leor Galil




Daddy Yankee
“Vida en la Noche”

The sleekest electro-rock of the year comes from a reggaeton star. No necesitas hablar español to guess that “Vida en la Noche” depicts hardcore nocturnal clubbing with pretty ladies and fast cars—it’s all right there in huge mechanized backbeat and scuzzy guitars and Loverboy synths. When Daddy Yankee shouts out, “Welcome to the Jungle!”, he leaves no room for doubt. When he namechecks Hillary Clinton a little later, he leaves some room for doubt. But then the song just keeps kicking everyone’s ass. Josh Langhoff




Josh Ritter
“The Curse”

Like the best Ritter songs, “The Curse” is a poem, short story, and song all rolled into one. Ritter’s lyrics let a stately piano waltz take a graceful lead as they track the lifespan of a romance between a mummy and an archaologist, from its unlikely birth to its bittersweet conclusion. “The Curse” is expertly crafted and moving, striking the perfect balance between craftsmanship and emotion, and providing more proof that Ritter is one of our finest songwriters. Andrew Gilstrap




“This Orient”

Go back and listen to Cassius again and marvel how Foals ever got here. “This Orient” isn’t any less energetic than Foals’ earlier work, but there are grace notes here (the way those washes seem to plunge the track underwater every time the chorus hits) that the band never seemed capable of. And while their earlier lyrics were inscrutable or, frankly, a little dumb, “it’s your heart that gives me this Western feeling” is one of those great song lyrics packed full of connotation, until it reaches past dejection or elation (or both) to something more powerful and ineffable. Ian Mathers

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Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings


Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
“The Game Gets Old”

Soul queen Jones is at her best on this bluesy old school tune about being fed up at losing in the game of love yet again. The band’s authentic rhythm and blues sound is a time machine that goes back decades, but Jones’ great vocals put a fresh twist on it. The production value is superb, from the deep groove and smooth horn lines to the perfect backing vocals. There’s a catharsis here for anyone who’s carrying around a disappointing heartbreak. Greg Schwartz


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