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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Favorite Songs of the 2010's: Honorable Mentions

Why am I doing this? New music isn't exactly my area of expertise. I'm not the kind of person who flatly dismisses any popular releases from the 21st century, but I don't immerse myself in them, either. I dabble. I'm a dabbler. And the hunt for new music has led me to artists like Kacey Musgraves, Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats, and twenty one pilots.

Lists like this always invite commentary, which, I suppose, is part of the point. Let's talk about the music (or movies, or books, or whatever) that mattters to us. I don't know where these songs fit into anyone else's list of favorites, but these were the songs that stick with me as enter a new decade.

Tomorrow, I will list my 13 favorite songs of the decade. And that's all they are. My favorites. It's not intended to be some definitive ranking of the best of the 2010s. They represent the music that I enjoyed for whatever reason. Who knows? In 10 years, I may discover more.

For now, here are 13 honorable mentions. Songs I liked, but cut from the final list. I also added a couple of bonus tracks at end, including my favorite song of 2019 (you likely haven't heard it).

1. "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King (2014)

Elle King's raspy, soulful vocals combined with the sassy lyrics and head-bobbing melody made this track a whole lotta fun. I enjoyed it when it was first released in 2014, but came to appreciate it more in the last year or so when I placed it on a playlist for a novel I'm working on. Plus, the video is a fun piece of reverse objectification.

2. "Payphone," Maroon 5 feat. Wiz Khalifa (2012)

The first few comments on this song's YouTube video include:

"who's (sic) again her in 2019, to remember your cheerful memory of childhood? :P"

"Who else started listening to old songs randomly?"

"Who's just going from old song to old song just see the comments lol"

Old song? OLD SONG?!?! This came out 7 years ago! 2012! That was the year the world was going to end. Not that long ago. Who is looking back on this as a childhood memory?

I must pause, though, and remember filtering through records in a flea market in 1992. I scoured such places then for albums and 45 rpm singles I didn't own. I was 25 and trying to put my life back together after a rough patch. I longed for the simpler times of high school and anywhere I could find the music associated with it, I scooped it up. Reconnecting to songs like "Vacation," by the Go-Gos and "Kiss On My List," by Hall & Oates eased my soul and helped me ease back into things.

So, to YouTube user dcoelho surf, who asked "listening to this song in 2019?," I get it. Every one likes to revisit the music of their youth, regardless of then that youth occurred.

3. "Can't Stop The Feeling," Justin Timberlake (2016)

I won a lip sync battle at work performing this song. The year before I did "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey and that went well, but I wanted to show that was hip and with it because you're nothing in this world if you're not hip and with it. That was three years ago when "Can't Stop The Feeling" was owning the charts. Now, I'm just another schlub, but for those four minutes of lip-synching, I was hip and with it.

I miss those four minutes.

4. "Rainbow," Kacey Musgraves (2018)

When I first listened to Golden Hour in early 2018, I sensed I was listening to a probable Grammy winner (which it was, for Best Album). Kacey Musgraves is a gifted songwriter and her voice (which reminds me more than a little of Dolly Parton and Alsion Krauss) is angelic. I could've picked any song from it for this list, but settled on "Rainbow" for its simplistic beauty and soothing, heartfelt lyrics. This is one of those songs you listen to when you're down and you need to believe again.

5. "Take Me To Church," Hozier (2013)

This is one of those songs I belt when I'm driving alone. In that setting, I hit every note and my vocals soar. The song's raw emotional power comes through my voice and my imaginary audience is enthralled by this bombastic rumination on the transformative power of a sexual relationship. Then, my performance ends and I glance to my right and see some soccer mom staring at me at the stoplight.

Shut up, Karen. Like you don't do it, too.

6. "Girl Crush," Little Big Town (2015)

This goes way beyond just a typical sad country song. "Girl Crush" is a vocal ache and cry for love that belongs to someone else. The woman at the center of story longs to be the woman her man would rather have. She feels inadequate and is desperate to be her so she can have him back. It's a sad, heartbreaking plea sung flawlessly by Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town. "Girl Crush" is a beautiful song of heartache delivered with perfection.

7. "Harlem River Blues," Justin Townes Earle (2010)

Thanks to Spotify, I discovered this little number by alternative country artist Justin Townes Earle. The mix of country, gospel, and roots rock is a fun sound and I like Earle's vocals, which remind me a little of Hank Williams.

8. "No Simple Machine," Old 97s (2011)

Speaking of Spotify discoveries... I had no clue about Old 97s, a roots/alternative country band from Texas who has been around since 1992. I was browsing through different channels trying to find something different when a song called "Lonely Holiday," which they released in 1999, and I was hooked. I came across "No Simple Machine" and listened on repeat for a while. My reason for loving this song is simple: it rocks.

9. "Call My Maybe," Carly Rae Jespen (2012)

I suspect this is a choice that will provoke some jeering from some of my friends, but I could care less. Some songs are just fun and "Call Me Maybe" is one of them. This is what good pop music should be. It's bouncy, happy, and infectuous. Maybe some will see this as a guilty pleasure, but I don't believe in those. You like what you like and I really like "Call Me Maybe."

10. "Should've Gone To Bed," Plain White T's (2013)

Ah, the drunk dial/text to the ex you never should've broken up with. When I was writing my novel Kilroy Was Here, I created a playlist for the main character, Tony Pershing. He had ended his relationship with a girl he considered out of his league because of his job guarding a portal to space. You'll have to read the book for more information. Anyway, in the book, he creates something called the Soul Torture Playlist, which is a collection of songs he listens to as he wallows in his stupidity and self-induced heartache. As I researched songs for the playlist, I stumbled across "Should've Gone TO Bed," by Plain White T's. This playful little ode to ringing up your ex when you've had too much to drink perfectly fit Tony Pershing's mindset. When writing scenes of Tony hating himself for breaking up with his beloved Marlene, I played "Should've Gone To Bed" on repeat.

11. "Stressed Out," twenty one pilots (2015)

The transition from childhood to adulthood is gradual and then it's abrupt. "Stressed Out" is a song about twentysomethings already longing for the life before the adulthood they longed for. Now, it's about careers and grinding and paying bills. The concern that you've sold out at the expense of bigger dreams constantly nags. I wonder if in 20 or 25 years twenty one pilots will record a sequel called "Still Stressed Out." Because, I got news for ya, fellas. It doesn't get easier.

12. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)," P!nk (2012)

I like P!nk. I like her voice, her attitude, and her songs. Funhouse is a great album with no skippable tracks. "Sober," from that album, is one of my favorite songs. The Truth About Love is also excellent and "Blow Me" is a standout. How amazing is this song? I'm still listening in 2019! YouTube user Beast89 would be proud.

13. "Some Nights," fun. (2012)

Apparently, some YouTube users are very interested in who is up still listening to old songs in 2019. I mean, I'm not staying up because I get nauseous if I don't get to bed at a decent hour. Some nights, when I wait until after midnight to turn in, my belly churns and my head gets swimmy and I instantly regret not calling it a night at least an hour earlier. My dad used to go to bed at 8:00 some nights and I thought that was so sad to be that old. Forget the fact he got up at 5 a.m. and busted his ass all day long as a mechanic. My teenage self assumed it was because he was old. Now, I'm 52 and I get it. I'm still listening to old songs, though, YouTube user Averian Biton. I'm just more likely to do it in the middle of the afternoon when I'm trying to stay awake at work.

I could've included any others here and been satisfied. "Two Hearts Down," by The Black Lillies, "King Kunta," by Kendrick Lamar, "Dance Like Yo Daddy," by Meghan Trainor appealed to me. a-ha came out with a new album that included a song called "Under The Make-up" that I really liked. Oh, and here are couple of bonus tracks:

Favorite performance of a song on television:

"Piece By Piece," by Kelly Clarkson (2016)

My wife and I saw Kelly Clarkson in concert back in February and she performed this stripped down version of "Piece By Piece." It is a devastating song about a daughter overcoming her father's abandoment and raising her daughter in a different way. She also sang it at the finale of the final season of American Idol. If you can listen to this without being deeply touched, then I don't know how to help you.

Also, you should see Kelly Clarkson live. She's a blast and can sing anything.

Favorite song of 2019:

"Lady Like," Ingrid Andress

I mentioned earlier that I included "Ex's & Oh's" on a playlist for a novel I'm working on. The story centers on two female characters from Kilroy Was Here, Marlene and Clara. They are ass-kicking, suffer-no-fools alien hunters and I needed some tunes to get me in the headspace to write them as authentically as possible. I came across "Lady Like," by Ingrid Andress, and knew I had found their anthem. While their story is a comedy, "Lady Like" perfectly captures their fierceness and independence, as well as their insistence to not be placed into any expected norms of behavior. This song has made writing them so much fun.

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