80 – Sorry by Justin Bieber (2015, Year-End Rank: #3)
In my head, I’ve always pictured Justin Bieber as a kid. He used to act and sound cute for teenage girls and they would gush over him. When “Purpose” came out, I was pleasantly surprised. His artistry progressed – infusing EDM, abandoning his good boy image, and taking more chances in his sound. “Sorry” is my personal favorite from the era.
79 – Once in a While by Timeflies (2016, Year-End Rank: #5)
I’ve never heard a single critic giving a damn about Timeflies. Maybe they don’t have room for upbeat sounds and mundane themes. I think music serves many purposes all worthy of recognition. They may not discuss politics. But they certainly serve good vibes with their releases. “Once in a While” is the best example.
78 – Price Tag by Jessie J featuring B.o.B (2011, Year-End Rank: N/A)
Jessie J’s vocal power can blow most of her contemporaries out of the water. But when she first came out, she didn’t showcase her voice. Instead, she focused on the age-old wisdom of money’s real importance. She’s released songs with bigger notes since. But not all have struck one as strong as “Price Tag”.
77 – Get Outta My Way by Kylie Minogue (2010, Year-End Rank: N/A)
I’m a fan of Kylie Minogue. But I’m ashamed to admit I only discovered “Get Outta My Way” years later. I came across the song when Randy Blue made a parody of her single. I can’t remember how many times I watched that video on YouTube. But that (specifically chiseled men dancing topless) helped me connect with the track.
76 – Budapest by George Ezra (2014, Year-End Rank: #48)
I’ve never been to Budapest. But the George Ezra song about the European city gives me travel vibes no matter where I go. I call it the track of all travel tracks. The laidback and relaxed vibe of the single helps me appreciate the rush I feel when I see the world, learn about its history and culture, and meet the people walking it.
75 – Hold My Hand by Jesse Glynne (2015, Year-End Rank: #16)
The first time I came across Jess Glynne was in “Rather Be”, her collaboration with Clean Bandit. Little did I know she would continue making hits after. Now, she’s on the journey of spreading her infectious energy. “Hold My Hand” feels like a rollercoaster with only highs – the progression happens from the first verse to the refrain and to a joyous chorus.
74 – Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira (2010, Year-End Rank: N/A)
Are Latinos and Latinas best at making songs for the World Cup? The last time I fell in love with a single from the event was Ricky Martin’s “The Cup of Life”. Shakira created something as spectacular. Most people never understood the words. But she inspired a following. They took out lots of celebration, some victory, and the need for unity.
73 – High Horse by Kacey Musgraves (2018, Year-End Rank: #22)
I won’t pretend to know country music. But I can’t grasp how little women penetrate it if the output is as good as Kacey Musgraves’s. Some are turned off by how little is left to the imagination in the genre. But I find their storytelling better for my mind. Not to mention, any catchy tune that has you doing a giddy-up will never make you feel down.
72 – Lean On by Major Lazer featuring M0 and DJ Snake (2015, Year-End Rank: #4)
I listened to a podcast trashing Diplo for dipping his toes on all sounds and all cultures the world has to offer. I find his exploration and experimentation a step forward. While “Lean On” is a cross-pollination of Indian music and EDM, I’m happy I got some taste of the former. Without Major Lazer, I never would have even listened to it.
71 – Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (2018, Year-End Rank: #3)
For most of her career, Lady Gaga’s sound was assisted by heavy production. When videos of her bar performances of “La Vie En Rose” surfaced, or award show segments for The Sound of Music happened, it was clear she had a raw talent that stood on its own. “Shallow’ is the culmination of the bare and stripped-down sound she’s capable of.
70 – Tonight I’m Getting Over You by Carly Rae Jepsen (2013, Year-End Rank: #14)
Nowadays, dance music tends to be heavy on production. The focus shifts solely to the drop and the big bass moments. But Carly Rae Jepsen struck the perfect balance between her angelic voice, the sentiment of getting over someone, and a beat that will make you move on the dancefloor.
69 – Finesse (Remix) by Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B (2018, Year-End Rank: #5)
Nowadays, many remixes exist only for commercial gain. But “Finesse” is an example of a collaboration done for purposes of improving on the base. “Finesse (Remix)” adds more street cred to the already funky and groovy Bruno Mars. Her verses are a natural fit to balance out the male swag and confidence that the song exudes.
68 – Counting Stars by OneRepublic (2013, Year-End Rank: #9)
In my core, I’m a dreamer. I work hard for the money. But I try not to be consumed by it. I aspire to live my dreams. OneRepublic’s catalog is like a soundtrack for TedTalk. My first encounter with them preaching is in “Counting Stars”. There’s joy in doing precisely that and ignoring everything else.
67 – Never Enough by Loren Allred (2017, Year-End Rank: Unranked)
I was blown away by the vocal prowess that Loren Allred demonstrated in The Greatest Showman. And the sentiment of being never enough is timeless. Outside of the film, the song is a bit dramatic for the mainstream crowd to catch on. But isn’t all of our interesting lives filled with some insecurity and jealousy?
66 – Thunder by Imagine Dragons (2017, Year-End Rank: #5)
Songs about being yourself, and not conforming to what everyone expects from you, do not come as light and as laidback as “Thunder”. I’m not surprised they faced some backlash. It is synthpop from a rock (pop?) band. But isn’t that what they intended to do? Be free from the shackles of perception and expectation.
65 – All Too Well by Taylor Swift (2012, Year-End Rank: Unranked)
I must admit I was late to the party. But I’m glad I discovered what many regard as the best Taylor Swift song ever released. As the years go on, I fall more in love with the track. “All Too Well” has the attention to detail and living-in-the-moment that I can only dream of. And she turns these devastating memories into magical pieces of art.
64 – Animal by Neon Trees (2010, Year-End Rank: Unranked)
I’m happy for Tyler Glenn, the lead singer of Neon Trees. He came out in 2014 and openly discussed his struggles with homosexuality. After his disclosure, the change in the band’s music was evident. But even when artists hide part of their identities, they are still capable of creating magic. Listen to “Animal” and you will know what I’m talking about.
63 – Roses by The Chainsmokers featuring ROZES (2015, Year-End Rank: #10)
I remember the time I fell in love with The Chainsmokers. That was the time they first created a mellow EDM song – “Roses”. For a time, all the clubs were playing this track. A few years later, they made it even bigger with a similar sounding single, “Closer”. But I prefer the original even though it is less commercially successful.
62 – Juice by Lizzo (2019, Year-End Rank: #3)
Being confident, playing around, and having a good time are not confined to the models and celebrities of this world. Lizzo shows that she’s in an equal, if not better position, to live life. “Juice” is a good vibe jam that’s perfect for your time at the gym (not mine), in the club, or just at home doing chores.
61 – Sing by Ed Sheeran (2014, Year-End Rank: #7)
While on a flight back home, I watched a video of Ed Sheeran performing this song in front of a London crowd. I was envious of the crowd’s energy. The chanting made everyone part of a community. I wish I could’ve been part of a similar experience. In 2019, I saw him perform “Sing” live. Real-life trumps what I witnessed onscreen tenfold.
60 – Stay by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko (2013, Year-End Rank: #42)
Rihanna doesn’t get enough credit for her vocals. And I only began to notice how powerful and soulful her voice was at the Grammy Awards. She performed this single alongside Mikky Ekko. In “Stay”, she has nowhere to hide. Only a piano accompanies her duet. Yet, she manages to connect with people at the most visceral level possible.
59 – Bad Liar by Selena Gomez (2017, Year-End Rank: #2)
If Billie Eilish’s “bad guy” had a prequel, it would be Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar”. Both songs are plagued with the mystery and intrigue that leave the audience wanting more. And Selena gives a little to tease. But her signals are not enough to reveal her intentions and to satisfy your cravings.
58 – No Problem by Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz (2016, Year-End Rank: #8)
Chance the Rapper gave a “f*** you” to record labels when he opted for an independent release. He used streaming as his sole platform. And to reaffirm his choice, the Recording Academy changed their Grammy eligibility rules. He even won. But the biggest blow was the hit he generated from it. As a result, the world is now blessed with “No Problem”.
57 – I Love It by Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX (2012, Year-End Rank: #17)
In 2020, I will enter my 30s. At that point, I doubt it would be cool to claim I’m from the 90s. Icona Pop gave tribute to arguably the best decade in music. And they made a diss to other periods while glorifying theirs. I have a feeling that the 2010s generation will have the same view and regard for Millenials. Let’s wait when they own the airwaves.
56 – I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix) by Mike Posner (2015, Year-End Rank: #11)
I know Mike Posner learned the hard way that all the partying and alcohol would not resolve his problems. And it’s ironic I partied and drank to his music while I was undergoing mine. Maybe he should have created a different sound if his intent was to impart his wisdom. But I do look back at this period with a smile and happy memories.
55 – Home by Phillip Phillips (2012, Year-End Rank: #25)
Phillip Phillips may not be remembered as well as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But in my books, he had the best coronation single among all of the show’s winners. “Home” is the classic, nostalgic, coming-of-age track. It’s simple enough to be accessible. And it’s sentimental enough for me to take a trip down memory lane.
54 – Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men (2012, Year-End Rank: #46)
I enjoy listening to music that takes me back to specific periods of my life. I distinctly remember “Little Talks” playing over stores of Cotton On. I just started my job. I was Christmas shopping at a mall near my place. And for the first time in my life, I felt fully independent.
53 – Passionfruit by Drake (2017, Year-End Rank: #6)
If anyone can flirt and experiment with a dancehall beat, Drake would be the best bet. When he released his playlist More Life, I thought the record would be full of throwaway tracks. But it was filled with some of his best and one of my personal favorites “Passionfruit”.
52 – Get Lucky by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams (2013, Year-End Rank: #7)
When Pharrell is part of a collaboration, his influence on a song is usually pronounced. This was not the case for “Get Lucky”. Daft Punk came back strong and had their identity all over the song. Their return marked a simpler and cleaner version of EDM. I fell in love with this sound in the 90s. They got lucky the market for their music lived on.
51 – Black Magic by Little Mix (2015, Year-End Rank: #12)
Historically, some women have been burned at the stake for being witches. In popular media, there are still remnants of their magic-capable and sorcery-performing nature. And as a play on this narrative, Little Mix recrafted the story into a bubbly and cutesy love song. Now, all of this potion-making is catchy and adorable.
50 – Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran (2017, Year-End Rank: #20)
Even though Divide was divisive, everyone agreed that “Castle on the Hill” was one of a kind. Ed Sheeran takes us through his childhood and journey back home. And there’s no better feeling than reliving the past and coming back to where it all started. After all, the worries of yesterday are always trivial and its pain inconsequential.
49 – Shake It Off by Taylor Swift (2014, Year-End Rank: #5)
People in music often operate on blurred lines. Most are afraid to make decisions out of fear of isolating the other camp. But “Shake It Off” represented Taylor Swift’s truth. She embraced her pop persona and temporarily abandoned her country roots. Her boldness has been heavily rewarded with chart success and industry respect.
48 – Money on My Mind by Sam Smith (2014, Year-End Rank: #2)
I remember hating my job. The thing that kept me going was Sam Smith’s “Money on My Mind”. I refused to believe I was doing work I didn’t enjoy. Today, I’m still in the same company. But I have never felt more connected to work than I have in the last 7 years. Now, I can put my hand in my heart and say I don’t have money on my mind.
47 – Brokenhearted by Karmin (2012, Year-End Rank: #12)
Every now and then, I remember parts of my younger self. I recall my teenage years with all the mind games and wait-and-see. While I don’t have the patience nor the right attitude to relive the period, I am fond of knowing how much has changed and how I was once “Brokenhearted” ala Karmin’s single.
46 – Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus (2013, Year-End Rank: #16)
Miley Cyrus can get over-the-top. But no matter where you stood on her, the pain and agony all seemed so real. The emotion she felt on “Wrecking Ball” broke through my own walls and made me empathize with what she was going through. She’s mellowed down since. But her brokenness then still reverberates.
45 – Love It If We Made It by The 1975 (2018, Year-End Rank: Unranked)
If I take a step back and ignore my own interest for a moment, I can say the world is pretty messed up and humanity is screwed. Through snippets of today’s reality, The 1975 elaborates on this matter in “Love It If We Made It”. But there’s hopefulness and a call to action. It’s for all of us to make the difference we clamor for.
44 – Telephone by Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce (2010, Year-End Rank: N/A)
When superstars join forces, the outcome is often underwhelming. Think about “Can’t Remember to Forget You” and “Beautiful Liar”. “Telephone” is an exception. I think it has something to do with the subject’s importance not being blown out of proportion. The two sing about a simple telephone. Yet, the beats give us epilepsy on the dancefloor.
43 – Hold On, We’re Going Home by Drake featuring Majid Jordan (2013, Year-End Rank: #97)
Five years back, I was assigned overseas for the first time in my life. I recall my last day. I was playing “Hold On, We’re Going Home” on a loop. I needed a song to evoke emotions. There is no feeling more bittersweet than abandoning the home you’ve built for the one you grew up in.
42 – Shots by Imagine Dragons (2015, Year-End Rank: #6)
I don’t think I make that much of a difference in the world. But I tend to be overcritical of myself. I thought I messed things up for the people in my life. For a time, I suffered from this insecurity. And Imagine Dragons’s “Shots” is the song to amplify this feeling. I don’t have my life sorted. But I can’t listen to the track the same way I did four years ago.
41 – Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (2010, Year-End Rank: Unranked)
I noticed a pattern on my list. Many songs talk about home – whether it’s the rush of coming back, how people defined what the term meant, or the obstacles that stand in my way. That is a story I can relate to. I have one in Manila and found it in other places. In 2014, I remember happily dancing drunk to this with my Filipino and Aussie friends.