The 2010s: A Pop Music Countdown

How is it 2020 already?!? It seems like yesterday we were all running about the place listening to Tik Tok – which currently has a WHOLE new meaning in 2020 –  by Ke$ha on our iPods (remember those?). So with a new decade in full swing I thought I’d attempt to count down the songs and albums that shaped my 2010s.

Bearing in mind that 95% of my saved songs on Spotify are Glee covers, I’ll try to be as diverse as possible with the music I choose. So basically no artist can have more than one song or album in any list – which for me means that I unfortunately cannot have Katy Perry occupy every possible spot on my top ten lists.

Let’s start off by counting down the top ten pop songs that shaped my 2010s…


Top 10 Songs of the 2010s –

1. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (July 2010)

A sing at the top of your lungs chorus and an expertly crafted bubblegum pop beat. A song that transports you back to summer as a teenager with not a care in the world. I challenge anyone to listen to the first 3 seconds of this song and not feel a wave of nostalgia flow through them. A song that is the blueprint for perfect pop and an indicator of the kind of pop songs we’d be listening to throughout the 2010s.


2. Dancing On My Own – Robyn (June 2010)


Robyn’s ‘Dancing on my own’ is the original “do I cry or dance to this?” pop banger. It’s lyrics are thoughtful and romantic enough for on repeat listening, but it also has a pop sensibility that makes you want to head out in search of a dance floor. This is one of those songs that never gets old, listening to it now it still sounds as fresh as ever; even if the lyrics hit a lot differently in comparison to my 13 year old self listening to it.


  1. Gypsy – Lady Gaga (November 2013)


The most criminally underrated Gaga song from her most criminally underrated album – Artpop. It has a slow and steady build up with a retro 80s beat but once it reaches the chorus it showcases Gaga at her best – belting out lyrics that you can’t help but sing a long to – “I don’t wanna be alone forever, but I can be tonight.” It is an instant classic that was made to be performed in arenas across the world and it     provides listeners with an epic narrative about fame and loneliness.


  1. Delicate – Taylor Swift (November 2017)


It’s crazy to think that Taylor Swift has completely transformed herself from a guitar wielding, country song – crooner to a pop superstar. ‘Delicate’ is the perfect example of her talents at creating an excellent pop song. With vulnerable and insightful lyrics backed by progressive synths and whispering vocals. Also the way her vocals are distorted by a vocoder in the first 20 seconds is just a whole lot of yes!


  1. Turning Tables – Adele (January 2011)


On ‘Turning Tables’, Adele effortlessly executes all the low and high notes of the song – showing off her incredible vocal range. Aside from the vocals, the lyrics provide us with the story of a scorned lover and we all know Adele is at her best when she is her most heartbroken. In my opinion it is one of the most overlooked songs in her discography as it gives us everything that is quintessential Adele, impeccable vocals, sentimental lyrics and a good old cry. Also the Gwyneth Paltrow cover on Season 2 of Glee is fab!


  1. Ribs – Lorde (January 2013)


Everyone dreads getting old and with ‘Ribs’ Lorde truly captures the emotions and fears that accompany growing up. The song starts off slow (no vocals are present for the first 50 seconds) and as Lorde begins to sing she starts to sound more frantic and panicked after every note as she sings “it feels so scary getting old”. By the end of the song you find yourself reminiscing about good times you’ve had with your friends, trying so desperately to hold onto your youth just as Lorde is throughout the song.


  1. Super Bass – Nicki Minaj (April 2011)


Nicki was the one that introduced me to the world of rap. Obviously I heard all those m*n on the radio but whenever Nicki burst onto the scene she was so exciting and different, integrating her signature hip-hop sound with elements of pop. Super Bass is the classic Nicki song that everyone knows the words to and it always finds its way on during a reminiscent pre drinks.


  1. Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna (November 2010)


Throughout the decade Rihanna ruled the radio and the charts, and rightfully so. With sure fire classics like ‘Only Girl’, Rihanna was able to ensure complete dance floor domination. A feel good EDM-pop song that gets everyone on their feet. It’s not necessarily the best song in her discography but it perfectly captures the sound that she used to cement her superstar status. Now Rih, how about that album hmm?


  1. Countdown – Beyoncé (June 2011)


A song unlike anything in Beyoncé’s most recent discography but a welcome addition all the same. It is impossible to resist the eccentric nature of the beat and Beyoncé’s nearly rap like vocals. With the ‘Countdown’ esque chorus that is so simple yet effective, a perfect R&B/Pop banger is born.  The Audrey Hepburn influenced music video is also an instant classic and the Snuggie version on YouTube is a must watch for a few laughs!


  1. Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen (September 2015)


I couldn’t round out my top 10 pop songs of the decade and not include Miss Pop Princess – Carly Rae Jepsen!! Everyone knows her for the irresistibly catchy ‘Call Me Maybe’ but I respect her for everything she has released since her catapult to stardom in 2012. It is reminiscent of the number 1 song on this list as it creates the picture of a teenage love story coupled with an anthenmic, summery chorus. It is an underrated pop music gem that sets the scene for one of the best pop albums (ever?!) but more on that later…



Honourable Mentions –

  1. High Horse – Kacey Musgraves (March 2018)

Country meets pop in the best way – Taylor Swift is shaking.


2. Your Love Is My Drug – Ke$ha (January 2010)


Is there anything more 2010 than this song? Miss you Ke$ha.


3. Commander – Kelly Rowland featuring David Guetta (November 2010)

Invented by the Waltzer in Bundoran? If you know, you know.


Next up we have the pop albums that defined my 2010s…


Top 10 Albums of the 2010s –


  1. Pure Heroine – Lorde (September 2013)


Whenever I listen to “Pure Heroine” it still amazes me that Lorde was only 16 when she wrote the album. Not only are her lyrics thought provoking but her vocals are striking against the heavy bass and programmed beats of the albums 10 tracks. Lorde explores themes of growing up, cynicism and friendship; all of which I identified with listening to this album as a jaded teenager. It was the soundtrack of my transition from teenager to ‘adult’ and I don’t think another album deserved the #1 spot more.

Certified Banger: Glory and Gore

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Ribs


2. Emotion – Carly Rae Jepsen (June 2015)


At the start of the decade if someone had told me that Carly Rae Jepsen would be challenging the likes of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry for the crown of “pop queen” I would have been like “emmm who?!?”. She burst onto the scene with the pop anthem that no one could get out of their heads – “Call Me Maybe”, but it was her 2015 album “Emotion” that truly cemented her status as a pop perfectionist. With tracks backed by an array of drums, synths and 80s callbacks its a dream album for any pop enthusiast.

Certified Banger: Making The Most Of The Night

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Your Type


3. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (August 2010)


Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” era is one of the most successful pop eras of all time. With over 7 million albums and close to 50 million singles sold worldwide as well as 7 Grammy nominations; Perry was able to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with in music. She also tied Michael Jackson’s US chart record by having 5 songs from one album hit #1 on the charts. It’s not hard to see why this album was so successful as each track exudes pop excellence with irresistibly catchy hooks, playful lyrics and sing along choruses. Listening to this album brings me back to the simpler days of teenage discos when your only stress was choosing what grossly coloured Hollister top you’d pair with your “skin tight jeans”.

Certified Banger: Hummingbird Heartbeat

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Not Like The Movies


4. Reputation – Taylor Swift (November 2017)


I’ll be taking absolutely no ‘Reputation’ slander, this album is great! Although ‘1989’ is a real contender for best pop album ever, ‘Reputation’ just hits differently. The production is excellent and even though Miss Taylor isn’t known for the best vocals she knows how to lay down a track through various EDM, pop and synth-pop styles. It is a big, brash album that is backed by some extremely weaponised lyrics – long gone is the sweet little girl singing ‘Love Story’. I mean ‘Lover’ was cute but ‘Reputation 2.0’ next T-Swift thank yew!!

Certified Banger: I Did Something Bad

A Sad Song to make you sadder: New Year’s Day


5. Artpop – Lady Gaga (November 2013)


As I said previously, ‘Artpop’ is a criminally underrated album. I wish people would just forget about what they wanted Gaga’s  fourth album to be and just enjoy it for what it is. There are definitely some not so great songs *cough Jewels N’ Drugs cough* but there are so many gems. Throughout the album Gaga belts her way through EDM and disco fuelled songs that are encouraging you to have fun and forget your worries on the dance floor. There is no denying Gaga knows how to craft a pop song and this album showcases it, even if people were too bitter to realise. #JusticeforArtpop

Certified Banger: Fashion

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Dope


6. Ctrl – SZA (June 2017)


I had to seriously argue with myself about putting this album on the list. This b*tch cancelled her concert THE DAY I was going to see her so we fell out for a while and this album was swiftly deleted(!) from my Spotify and SZA was banished from my life. However, a couple of years have passed and I recently purchased the album on Vinyl and fell in love again. It is an album with no heavy production or big vocals its just stripped back to perfection highlighting the unique tone of her voice and the relatable, vulnerable lyrics. The perfect album to listen to on a long train ride or just when you want to wind down. Still hate her though.

Certified Banger: Prom

A Sad Song to make you sadder: 20 Something


7. 4 – Beyoncé (June 2011)


The album that invented the “fourth-album curse.” Just like Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’, ‘4’ by Beyoncé is seriously underrated. Obviously ‘Beyoncé’ and ‘Lemonade’ are phenomenal, timeless albums but it was ‘4’ that really ignited my love for Queen Bey. It is an album that celebrates love and revels in heartbreak. As usual Beyoncé showcases her stellar vocal prowess (stream 1+1) and her immense versatility as she traverses through pop, R&B, soul and funk effortlessly.

Certified Banger: Schoolin’ Life

A Sad Song to make you sadder: I Was Here (Watch the UN performance on YouTube… Whew!)


8. Yours Truly – Ariana Grande (September 2013)


The pop superstar of the future’s first album is still her best – I’m sorry I know my exquisite taste is too much sometimes! Showcasing her powerful vocals and her penchant for Pop-R&B this album provides us with a simple, yet effective journey through Grande’s early loves and life. Her most recent music has evolved and so has she but there is something so sweet and innocent about this album, a theme I happily relate to the early 2010s.

Certified Banger: Better Left Unsaid

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Almost is Never Enough


9. Loud – Rihanna (November 2010)


Brandishing her signature red hair, Rihanna could do no wrong. ‘Loud’ is filled with banger after banger, Rih clearly just wanted us to live on the dance floor. It is reminiscent of her early dance-pop classics like ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ and returned her to the top of pop after her stint on the dark side with ‘Rated R’ (another underrated 4th album HELLO the curse is real). So all that’s left to say is, Fenty Beauty is sickening but throw the god damn makeup in the bin and GIVE! US! THE! ALBUM!

Certified Banger: S&M

A Sad Song to make you sadder: California King Bed


10. Pink Friday – Nicki Minaj (November 2010)


The last spot on the top 10 album list belongs to none other than Queen of the Barbs – Miss Nicki Minaj. With a perfect balance of hip-hop, pop and R&B Nicki was able to create a masterful debut album. With countless memorable hooks and an insight into her versatility through the lens of her various rap personas she cemented herself as the next big thing in music.

Certified Banger: Blazin

A Sad Song to make you sadder: Save Me


Honourable Mentions –


1. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves (March 2018)


While listening to this excellent album am I:

  • Sad?
  • Happy?
  • Both?


2. Self-Titled Album – Paramore (April 2013)


My 14 year old emo self would be so sad if I did not include a Paramore album..


3. 21 – Adele (January 2011)


Gear up guys, Adele and her husband split up; album of the decade incoming!! See you on next decade’s list sis..


If you have made it to the end of my ramblings on pop music over the last decade you’re a real one! Thank you and I hope you enjoyed what you read, and if not maybe I at least inspired your Spotify streaming for a little while… Deuces!


Gareth Donnelly is a Final Year BSc Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on LinkedIn at , Twitter – @GarethDonnelly4 and Instagram – @garethd__