Join us all month long as we celebrate the best music, film, and television of the decade. Yesterday, we shared the Top 100 Songs of the 2010s. Today, we continue with the Top 25 Rock Songs of the decade.
Ten years ago, If you’d asked me to predict the artists behind the top 25 rock songs of the 2010s, I would’ve had no shortage of predictions: a couple opuses by blog-era heroes like Franz Ferdinand or TV on the Radio, a decade-worth of hits by promising newcomers like Wavves or Surfer Blood, and maybe even some dazzling singles from Washed Out, Neon Indian, and the rest of the chillwave vanguard. 2009 Tyler would’ve been pretty confident in these guesses. He also would’ve been absolutely, totally wrong.
Aside from being a personal embarrassment, my failures at prognostication also speak to the sneaky depth of talent that emerged during a decade in rock music that felt like a critical and popular retreat for the genre. As the world’s geopolitical reality began to crack around us, it was easy to assume that conventional wisdom of “rock is dead” was accurate. Though many outlets (this one, at times, included) spent much of the decade writing and rewriting rock’s obituary, the artists on this list missed the memo regarding retreat.
Instead, freed from the expectations of the spotlight and the whims of previous decades’ quick-moving subgenre cycles, the rock musicians of the 2010s were free to stake out sonic territory as they saw fit. For some, that meant refining the primordial sounds that helped define the genre to begin with; here you’ll find the thrashing guitars of Cloud Nothings, the smoky stoner sounds of Kurt Vile, and the shout-along choruses of Japandroids.
For others, it meant capturing a share of the hypercolor bigness that help pop and hip-hop conquer the decade; Spoon’s Dave Fridmann-aided reinvention as a synth-rock band goes here, as do the best tracks from crossover headliners like Arcade Fire, Tame Impala, and The 1975. From veterans turning in classics in the autumns of their careers (hello, Tom Waits and David Bowie) to acts that took dance-punk’s electro fusions to their logical high points (you too, LCD Soundsystem and M83) — when the the chapter on the 2010s is written into rock history, it’s going to be longer than you’d think.
Having established that I’m terrible at predictions isn’t going to stop me from asking this anyway: what will rock music look like at the end of the 2020s? If I’m going to go on the record, it’s going to be with a touch of hope: the next time we write one of these lists, you’re going to see an even more diverse lineup of artists than the one we’ve compiled here. From Mitski to Brittany Howard to Laura Jane Grace, the voices keeping rock music vital in 2019 are more varied and inclusive than ever before, and that’s a shift that needs to keep trending upward if rock wants to survive as anything other than a genre in twilight.
Now’s not the time for looking forward, though. For now, we’re looking back, and taking a moment to appreciate the rock songs that soundtracked the decade. It hasn’t been an easy one, and the next one’s looking rough already, but tracks like these might just help us weather the storm, one power chord at a time.
Click ahead to see our Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s…