The Top 50 Singles of 2010

This year, I wrote about over a hundred songs on The Singles Jukebox, and I often felt like the biggest curmudgeon on the site, and I have a strong hunch I give a much lower average score than most of the other writers on the site, as I handed out a shitload of 0s and 1s and 2s and 3s throughout the year. So even though the past couple years I've pared my year-end singles list down from where it was up to 100 a few years ago, I still like to go all out with at least 50 singles on this list every, if for no other reason than to just show that I actually do like quite a lot of popular singles. I'll be posting each of the 50 songs one at a time throughout this week, 10 a day, and you can follow me on Twitter as I unveil each choice:

50. Trey Songz f/ Nicki Minaj - “Bottoms Up”
Although "Monster" is pretty much the consensus pick for Nicki Minaj's greatest guest verse of her breakout year, I have to say, if I am going to listen to one of her verses (and I'm not necessarily saying I'd want to, god knows most of the time I'm just not in the mood for that kind of forced wackiness), the one I'd pick is "Bottoms Up." It's shorter than the "Monster" verse and compresses more goofy voices, including an Anna Nicole Smith impression and R.I.P. shoutout, into that space, while keeping to and running circles around the meter of the Trey Songz verses. I think my favorite part is "I don't say 'hi' I say 'keys' to the Benz," like saying "hi" to her car would have been the normal thing to do.

49. Pink - “Glitter In The Air”
We're now 2 years out from Pink's great blockbuster album Funhouse and she's finally moved onto the next project, a greatest hits collection and the obnoxious but catchy victory lap single "Raise Your Glass." But at the beginning of the year, she was still playing out the end of the album's very long singles campaign and using a great Grammys performance as a chance to milk it for one last top 40 hit, the gorgeous closing ballad "Glitter In The Air," which I'd loved as part of the album and enjoy just as much on its own.

48. Keri Hilson - "Breaking Point"
When the first single from Keri Hilson's second album appeared a few months ago, I listened to it once, shrugged, and pretty much forgot about it. But then when the follow-up singles "Pretty Girl Rock" and "The Way You Love Me" started getting a buzz and increasing my anticipation for the album, I went back to "Breaking Point" and realized it's a pretty great song in its own right, even if I'm not too surprised at its failure to score as a radio hit. As Timbaland trudges toward self-parody and cheesy dance pop, it's nice to hear him throw out such a subtle little R&B jam with no particular fanfare.

47. Toni Braxton - "Hands Tied"
When this popped up on Singles Jukebox a few months ago, I listened to it once or twice, nodded in mild approval, gave it a 6 and then more or less forgot about. Then when I heard it again more recently, it really surprised me how great it sounded and how much it stuck in my head afterwards.

46. Nick Jonas & The Administration - “Who I Am”
As the Jonases fade into memory as the less sensational tween sensation that came and went just before the Bieberpocalypse, their most likely breakout star pondered what career path to emulate after his teen idol phase: Justin? Hanson? Nope: John Mayer.

45. John Mayer - “Heartbreak Warfare”
Meanwhile, the real Mayer was in top form, singing bighearted breakup songs with puppydog eyes while his actual skeevy wisecracking oversharing horndog alter ego (i.e. his actual personality) was getting all the headlines this year.

44. Usher f/ Jay-Z - “Hot Tottie”
Me enjoying this song was kind of a pleasant surprise given the mediocre output of all 3 men who made it in 2010 -- Usher and Jay-Z have been running on fumes for years now, and Polow Da Don has barely been earning his superproducer clout for a while now. It was also interesting, if a little anticlimactic, to finally hear Jay on a Polow beat, since Polow was saying back like 4 years ago that he had some great track that would've saved Kingdom Come.

43. Ne-Yo - “One In A Million”
At first I thought this was merely pleasant, and only a relief compared to the two awful Libra Scale singles that preceded it, "Beautiful Monster" and "Champagne Life." But this song has really grown on me the last few weeks, great simple groove and bewitching melody. I still think it's vaguely in poor taste for an R&B singer to release a single with the same title as a classic Aaliyah song, but I guess his only other real option was to call this "Best I Ever Had" and there was a much more recent hit with that title.

42. Good Charlotte - “Like It’s Her Birthday”
I liked some of their early singles more than probably anyone should admit, but by the time of 2007’s “Dance Floor Anthem (I Don’t Want To Be In Love)” it seemed like their inherent glossiness and pop instincts had taken over to the point that there were just too smooth to turn out anything remotely actually catchy. But this surprised me, it’s kinda clever by their standards and as shamelessly hooky as anything from their underrated pinnacle.

41. Diddy-Dirty Money f/ Drake - “Loving You No More”
A really nice simple, understated kind of R&B jam that Diddy’s getting really good at making, and the first Dirty Money joint that really lets the girls emote and not sound too anonymous. Too bad about that Drake verse, though. I should also add that this morning I heard this group referred to as “Diddy Dusty Coupons” on Twitter and I will probably only be callin them that from now on.

40. Lady Antebellum - “Need You Now”
I like contemporary mainstream country more than I dislike it, but I've paid less and less attention to it over the past 5 years and always mean to give it more time -- really I just need to add a country station to my pre-programmed stations in the car. But as usual, there was at least one or two songs that crossed over to the pop charts and won me over, and for most of 2010, this jangly gem was my token country pick.

39. Sugarland - "Stuck Like Glue"
And then toward the end of the year, another co-ed group popped up with a pop hit that I liked even more than "Need You Know," with the kind of goofy shamelessly cheesy bubbly appeal that modern Nashville does best. The video would be funnier if Pink hadn't done a pretty similar one a year before, though.

38. Ke$ha f/ 3OH!3 - "Blah Blah Blah"
Ke$ha has constantly ruled pop radio with five back-to-back top 10 hits over the past year, and I found four of them absolutely repulsive and borderline unlistenable. Oddly enough, though, it was the most deliberately obnoxious and nonsensical of the whole bunch that I ended up warming up to a little bit, no doubt partly because it felt a lot less ubiquitous than the others.

37. B.o.B. f/ Bruno Mars - “Nothin’ On You”
Bruno Mars has had a shockingly speedy ascent to ubiquity -- at the beginning of the year, he was a relative unknown who'd written one forgettable Flo Rida hit. Since then, he's co-written five top 10 hits, two as a solo artist and two as a hook singer. And it all started with this shamelessly shiny pop gem that was first offered to Lupe Fiasco, who seemed so embarrassed by its obvious crossover appeal that he sounds kind of sheepish on the version he did record that has since leaked, and ultimately went to B.o.B., who used this song to complete his transformation from a promising southern rapper to a total top 40 sellout. I have to admit, though, as much as I can't really stand most of the other stuff this year that these two guys made or that this song kind of made possible, I don't really have any problem with "Nothin' On You," it's catchy as fuck and just plain sounds good.

36. Ciara - “Speechless”
When "Speechless" first leaked during the long protracted run up to the Ciara album that's just now about to be released, it was a duet with the album's producer, The-Dream. A lot of people were disappointed when the song was released as a single with just Ciara soo, but really I think it works better with just her.

35. Green Day - “Last Of The American Girls”
I hate when bands that are big enough to release four singles off every album wait until the fourth single to release the really catchy song off the record, after people have pretty much stopped paying attention.

34. T-Pain f/ Rick Ross - “Rap Song”
Almost 4 years ago, T-Pain scored his biggest solo hit by basically doing a sing-song mashup of Lil Jon's "Snap Yo Fingers" and Lil Scrappy's "Money In The Bank," and after a brief fallow period, he finally scored his first hit in a while by just singing the hooks from as many hip hop hits as he could squeeze into one song, with a clever lyrical concept to make the whole thing feel more creative than shameless this time around.

33. Pitbull f/ Sensato, Black Point, Lil Jon & El Cata - “Watagatapitusberry”
It's truly kind of wonderful and bizarre what a convoluted path this song took to getting into MTV Jams rotation. To put it as straightforwardly as possible: DJ Class made a Baltimore club tune incorporating modern AutoTune vocals called "I'm The Ish" in late 2008 and got signed and remixed it with a bunch of mainstream stars, including Lil Jon and Pitbull. Then, some Dominican rappers named Sensata and Black Point took the beat for a crazy song called "Watagatapitusberry," which became a viral hit when some kids made an unofficial YouTube video for it. Then Pitbull grabbed the song, had DJ Class produce a new version with Lil Jon and the original guys, and it ended up, well, not a big hit, but pretty high profile for such a funny, weird song with so many divergent points of origin.

32. Monica - “Love All Over Me”
This song hooked me with its weirdly harsh snare sound cutting through a pillowy slow jam, but really what keeps me listening to it every time it comes on the radio is how hilarious the lyrics are if you interpret them as being about bukkake.

31. Trey Songz - “Already Taken”
During the year that My Mans Trey Songz killed the radio with back to back hits from back to back albums, this great little Polow Da Don-produced soundtrack single got left by the wayside. And that's a real shame, since it has a sweetness and a subtlety woefully missing from both his histrionic ballads and his hectoring club bangers.

30. Flo Rida f/ David Guetta - “Club Can’t Handle Me”
I pretty genuinely think "I Gotta Feeling" is too good a pop song to think of it as a guilty pleasure, but Guetta's "I Gotta Feeling" knockoffs, particularly the one by Flo Rida, are kind of a different story.

29. Sick Puppies - “Odd One”
The soft/loud verse/chorus is straight out of the most overused ‘90s alt-rock playbook, but for some reason this song has always felt kind of dusky and intimate in a way that I rarely get from mersh rock these days.

28. Justin Bieber f/ Usher - “Somebody To Love (Remix)”
Bieber’s braindead persona and blank little girl voice weren’t going to sell them very hard anyway, but “Baby” and “U Smile” would’ve been useless bland songs in any singer’s hands. This one, however, transcended his limitations to prove that a Bieber song can be kind of rousing and lively, if the chorus is actually well written and especially if one of his grown up buddies turns up to show him how it’s done.

27. The-Dream - “Love King”
The-Dream's first four solo singles were all sizable hits, reaching #6 or higher on the R&B charts -- the last five or so since then have all been decisive misses, with this one being the biggest and still peaking at only #26. It seems like the guy still had the zeitgeist in his hands and it just slipped out somewhat unexpectedly. Maybe female R&B fans finally got a good look at him and realized they can't seriously listen to this weird-looking motherfucker sing about love and sex all the time -- video killed the Radio Killa. And in a way I'm kinda glad for his commercial slump, because I like plenty of his music but generally think he's pretty overrated by some R&B fans and critics, and some of the flops, like "Make-Up Bag," deserved to be ignored. But I actually really liked this song and think it's one of his better ones. There’s nothing sadder than a lead single that’s also the album’s title track -- if it flops, you can’t really drop another single and pretend it didn’t exist (like he did with “Let Me See The Booty”).

26. Lady Gaga - “Alejandro”
The drab, overlong video and inelegant horseshit like “hot like Mexico, rejoice” keep me from really fully embracing this song or ever really rooting for Gaga, but this is still a pretty safe, if distant, 2nd favorite after “Bad Romance.”

25. Keri Hilson - “Pretty Girl Rock”
I’ve been trying not to watch the video because it’s just cloying and saccharine enough that I think it’ll make me notice those qualities the song more, and I like thinking of this song more the way it first sounded to me on the radio, as this kind of assured, confident song with hard drums.

24. Fabolous - "You Be Killin' 'Em"
I don’t know if this is up there with “Addiction,” “Good Love,” or “Everything Everyone Everywhere,” but this continues a killer run of great Fab/Ryan Leslie collaborations.

23. Drake f/ T.I. & Swizz Beatz - “Fancy”
There may be no ubiquitous rap star I find more inherently worthless than Drake, but the things that make him so bland and devoid of redeeming value --- his calculatedly derivative Kanye + Wayne formula and eagerness to piggyback on existing sounds and trends -- all but insure that he inevitably ends up on some songs I enjoy in spite of myself. I could just say I like to pretend it’s a T.I./Swizz song, but I do usually jam that first Drake verse too. Not that outro, though, that shit is garbage.

22. J. Cole - “Who Dat”
J. Cole is a terribly uncool rapper among people I know, a guy who gets compared to Drake a lot despite not really sounding at all like Drake (I guess just light-skinned and well-connected is the main comparison point?). So this song is kind of a guilty pleasure, even more than an actual Drake single, but I gotta say this is what I wish debut singles from new rappers should really always sound like: an anthemic, no-nonsense rap song with no guests or R&B hooks, just a nice straightforward showcase for a new voice. But really I like this more for Cole's production than for his kind of bland rhymes, it's the kind of bright, hard regionless beat that I identify with Timbaland or the Neptunes at their peak, or more recently Polow Da Don.

21. Fat Joe f/ Young Jeezy - “Ha Ha (Slow Down Son)”
Fat Joe's post-"Lean Back" career has consisted of kind of an alternating series of vaguely loathsome pop radio grabs and total head-nodding bangers, and this one fell into the latter category. I like that though the Jeezy chorus, which managed to get on the radio even though practically every other word is "murder," is the main hook of the song, the feel and the sound is still totally Joe and his verses make the song.

20. Enrique Iglesias f/ Pitbull - “I Like It”
Nothing better represents U.S. pop music’s shift toward openly catering to the douchiest clubgoers in the world than that they put the cast of “Jersey Shore” in the video to this song to help make it a hit, and it worked. But this song feels so massive and fun that it really does kind of make me want to do the fist pump and put product in my hair.

19. Katy Perry f/ Snoop Dogg - “California Gurls”
"California Gurls" would probably be in the top 10 if its follow-up single "Teenage Dream" hadn't almost immediately eclipsed it. But this song still ran the summer for a couple months and that slap bass hook still jams.

18. Nickelback - “This Afternoon”
In the increasingly self-conscious and compulsive annual round of conversations about what the year's "summer jams" are, I mostly was happy to stick by those big obvious Katy Perry songs as my default answer. But really for a while there this was the song that was just rocking my world in the heat of July, and it was really just as cheesy and shameless and unhip as a summer jam could and should be.

17. Cavo - “Crash”
Cavo are one of the hoardes of grungey young bands who aren't remotely as well known as Nickelback, and this is one of the two hits they have so far, and it is massively, massively catchy. Technically this song broke in late '09 but I didn't hear it until this year.

16. Erykah Badu - “Window Seat”
I knew she’d never return to her days of making great radio singles like “Next Lifetime” or “Tyrone” or even “Love of My Life,” but with all the talk of New Amerykah Part One being the dark esoteric yin and New Amerykah Part Two being the more upbeat yang, I had high hopes that this album would turn out some great standout single. And initially this seemed like a total disappointment in that regard, being so mellow and groove-driven, and the stupid controversy-baiting video didn’t help my impression of the song. But slowly, surely, it grew on me in a big way.

15. Sara Bareilles - “King Of Anything”
Bareilles makes just the kind of adult contempo piano pop I go head over heels for when it's done right, and her breakthrough single "Love Song" really hit that sweet spot a couple years ago. This one nearly equals it, however, by not trying to copy its success, letting percussion and a killer horn arrangement be the emphasis of the song instead of the piano, while the amiable grain of her voice still takes center stage. I like how sassy and pissed off she tries to be but still comes off kind of sweet.

14. Paramore - “The Only Exception”
I fell in love with Paramore’s 2007 breakthrough Riot! because of how respectably tough and aggressive the riffs and drums were behind the undeniable pop appeal of Hayley Williams’s voice, and I appreciated that they didn’t gun for a crossover power ballad. When I heard this song on their follow-up album, though, I knew it was too good a song to not release as a single, but I ended up being disappointed when it was kind of overshadowed by Hayley’s anonymous hook on that terrible B.o.B. song.

13. 30 Seconds To Mars - “Kings & Queens”
It's totally horrifying that Jared Leto and his stupid screaming and his pompous epic videos have catapulted his damn mediocre band into the closest thing to serious rock stardom that exists anymore, but I have to admit I kind of love this song. Great shameless soft/loud verse/chorus, killer drumming, and more of that stupid screaming that climaxes with the big finishing "WE ARE THE QUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENS."

12. John Mayer f/ Taylor Swift - “Half Of My Heart”
Taylor Swift fans will never admit this, but her big-hearted adult contempo songwriting is in a very similar vein to John Mayer, and she really just isn't remotely as good at it as him, as demonstrated by the great song that he got her to sing a perfunctory little bit of backup on. The fact that they apparently had some type of relationship is totally skeevy, though.

11. Neon Trees - “Animal”
I've never thought of myself as having a particularly good ear for picking hits or predicting what will take off. But early in the year, this was just one of many random new major label alt-rock bands that was in rotation on MTV2, and it immediately stuck out to me as having a huge, indelible hook, and sure enough it slowly took off and became a big crossover hit.

10. Train - “Hey, Soul Sister”
In my recent series on the best singles of the '00s, there was probably no pick I took more shit for from more people than putting "Drops Of Jupiter" in the top 10 rock singles of the decade. And that song is probably considered way more acceptable than this song, which is kind of this bizarre gross ukulele-driven pop hit about untrimmed chest hair that sounds like it was written while masturbating to a Beyonce video. But it also has a great hook and I just could never quite bring myself to let my embarrassment overcome my enjoyment of the song. I’m so disappointed Weird Al Yankovic rejected my suggestion to parody it as “Anal Fister.”

9. Ciara - “Gimmie Dat”
This one is still slowly rising up the chart and I’m kind of rooting for it and praying for it to become a real hit, because it’s just fucking nuts and is one of the most propulsive dance tracks I’ve ever heard on mainstream R&B playlists. And the hardcore Ciara fans seem to prefer “Ride,” which I hated.

8. Linkin Park - “Waiting For The End”
For a band that's always gone for the jugular with ruthlessly straightforward verse-chorus-verse anthem rock, whether the verses were rapped or not, it's really refreshing to hear a Linkin Park song that for once takes on on kind of a winding path, where you're not really sure when Mike Shinoda's gonna hand the mic to Chester Bennington or how long he'll have it once he does, or even which part is technically the verse and which is the chorus. And in spite of all that, this is one of the most wonderfully pop things they've ever done.

7. Lloyd Banks f/ Juelz Santana - "Beamer, Benz or Bentley"
I didn’t think much of this at first, although I’ve always thought Lloyd Banks was a top notch punchline rapper and that it was a shame that the sinking momentum of G-Unit in recent years kept him from being a radio fixture the same way as the similarly talented but uncharismatic Fabolous has been. But slowly without thinking about it I came to really highly regard this song as one of the best mainstream rap hits of the year. Even Juelz’s verse is kinda tight!

6. Young Jeezy f/ Plies - “Lose My Mind”
One of my favorite rap singles of 2009 was “Wasted,” which featured Atlanta star Gucci Mane getting upstaged by 12 quotable bars by Miami C-list dumbass Plies. This year, the cycle repeated itself, with Plies instead screaming obscenely in between verses by Gucci’s nemesis Jeezy. It still befuddles me that this song, which wasn’t really intended to be a big radio single, ended up getting huge spins, but Def Jam just kind of sat on Jeezy’s album and has still yet to release it 6 months after it hit.

5. Katy Perry - “Teenage Dream”
"Teenage Dream" packs enough hooks to fuel at least two or three pop hits -- specifically, the pre-chorus, the chorus and the recurring bridge could each work just fine on their own (I'm still waiting for some enterprising house producer to sample the pre-chorus and make a club smash called "Dance Until We Die"). Instead, they're all stacked together into one strangely slinky and ethereal blockbuster.

4. Sade - “Soldier Of Love”
Sade could've dropped a smooth-ass slow jam like everyone would be happy to hear form them, but instead they dropped probably the hardest drums and synth stabs heard on R&B radio all year, and sometimes it really does work great when someone zigs when you expect them to zag.

3. My Chemical Romance - “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
The whole trend of YouTube lyric videos, and especially the more recent trend of major label acts uploading professionally made ones when a song is first released and the real video isn't out yet, is kind of interesting, and in a weird way it has helped me focus on the lyrics of songs in the rare occasion that something new leaks and I can't stop listening to it, which was the case when MCR finally released their first new original song in 4 years. At first its appeal was in how mindlessly monolithic and breathlessly energetic it is, but watching that video with the lyrics flashing across the screen helped me realize what a densely written and funny song it is too.

2. Gucci Mane - “Lemonade”
I got some shit from fellow critic and all-around Gucci Mane enthusiast David Drake, who put "Lemonade" on his year-end top 10 at the end of 2009, for the fact that I consider this a 2010 single and am only listing it now. But in December '09, it was just a promo single with a video circulating on the internet, one of many great Gucci songs in the best year his career has had and probably ever will have. But it entered the charts in February and peaked around April, and it was only around January that I even started hearing it on the radio and seeing it on MTV Jams and really feeling how great this song is, and how perfectly it crystallizes both Gucci's appeal, the post-"A Milli" production style Bangladesh has been toying with the last couple years, and the color-themed rap song archetype that's been done so many times before and even since then (such as Gucci's perennial enemy Young Jeezy's "All White Everything"). "Lemonade" and the single that directly preceded it, "Spotlight," had virtually identically chart positions, both peaking at #8 on the Billboard Rap chart and #15 on the R&B chart, while "Spotlight" got to #42 on the Hot 100 and "Lemonade" stalled at #53. And yet "Spotlight" was a forgettable Usher collaboration that was considered both a failed grab for a big crossover hit and a disappointing rejection of the things people actually like about Gucci Mane's music. By comparison, "Lemonade" was a triumph of him just doing him in the best possible way, and subsequent singles from other projects throughout the year just didn't remotely come close to competing with it.

1. Rihanna - “Rude Boy”
Rihanna has hit #1 on the Hot 100 a staggering nine times now, four of those songs just in 2010 alone, so it's hard to really make a case for why "Rude Boy" feels bigger than almost any of those songs outside of "Umbrella" and maybe one or two others, but it's much easier to articulate why I think it's perhaps her best. Stargate's pinging synth steel drums bring out her Caribbean accent more than it'd been heard in years, with Rihanna herself revealed powers of emphasis and intonation that had been all but nonexistant in most of the hits she's belted out like a foghorn. And that newfound gift for real vocal expression also made this an actual sexy song with a sexy performance, whereas the singer's physical beauty had so often done the heavy lifting in that department before.
« Home | Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »
| Next »

Post a Comment