BTS at the American Music Awards

By Featureflash Photo Agency

Congratulations–you've survived 2019

We've been through haunting commercials, traumatically bad movies, and the fall of a favorite childhood author. But through it all, there's been Spotify, judging our music tastes like a disapproving boomer. And yet, we persisted. In alphabetical order, these are the top 50 musical lifelines of the 2010s. In the top 25 are the likes of BTS, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino. Among the bottom 25 are FKA twigs, Tayor Swift, Julien Baker, and Charli XCX. Notably absent is anything by Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber, because we don't believe bad listening habits should be encouraged. Happy listening in 2020!

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Pitchfork's Top 200 Songs of the 2010s Actually Gave Me Hope

Kendrick Lamar tops Pitchfork's pleasantly surprising list of the top 200 songs of the 2010s.

I dipped into Pitchfork's list of the top songs of the 2010s tentatively, not knowing what to expect.

Considering the sheer amount of music released in the past decade, there's simply no way one could ever hope to listen to it all, let alone compare it. Also, music rankings are inherently subjective, entirely reliant on the opinions of those curating the list and their respective definitions of what makes "great" art.

Don't get me wrong—the Pitchfork list has issues. First off, it essentially consists of popular American music. You won't find too many deep cuts here, nor many country, K-pop, classical, or non-English-language tracks. If you're someone who "dislikes pop," you might as well leave. Also, some of the blurbs are very odd. "Hotline Bling" is described as a "human centipede of modern music," which is a unique metaphor—I'll give them that—and apparently Lorde "[dissects] love like it's a frog in science class." Justin Bieber's "Sorry" is somehow painted as a track that asks for redemption in an era of #BlackLivesMatter protests. A lot of the writing is beautiful, though, and we get phrases like, "Pop songs, trends, and life itself are a constant cycle of death and rebirth" (in reference to Ariel Pink) to balance out the other stuff.

In terms of the song choices, I like and respect Grimes, but I'm not sure "Oblivion" deserves its number two slot. There are countless glaring omissions, with innovators like Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Donald Glover, and Sufjan Stevens notably absent (though Gaga and Stevens appeared on Pitchfork's equally solid best albums of the 2010s list). Also, "The Louvre" is objectively not the best song on Melodrama.

Even so, scrolling through the list made me remember that a lot of fantastic music has been released this decade, and a lot of creative visionaries have come out of the woodwork, selectively utilizing new technologies to create ambitious works of art. Plus, in contrast to the vast majority of best-songs-of-all-time lists, a lot of these songs are by women and people of color. Yes, there's still inequality in the music industry, but music has never been more diverse, both sonically and demographically.

The list is evidence that the concept of listening to one genre or disliking music just because it's pop has been steadily dying over the past decade. In today's world, pop hits like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Run Away With Me" and Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" exist comfortably next to indie powerhouse ballads like Mitski's "Your Best American Girl" and ANOHNI's "Drone Bomb Me," and rap and ambient and metal all appear on the same playlists. The kind of pretentiousness that discredited pop music in the past is largely disappearing, and in its own respect, pop is getting more daring, more willing to experiment and pull from other genres.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video)

You could analyze the list forever on this kind of macroscopic level, but music is never only collective or political; it always has a microscopic, personal dimension. Personally, as I scrolled through the list from the bottom to the top, I began to feel something that I don't usually feel while on the Internet. The list was strangely heartwarming. It brought back good memories. Many of the songs on it are extremely special to me, intertwined with specific places, people, and emotions.

For example, Sampha's breathtaking ballad "No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)" took me right back to a time I got lost on a bus in Queens and ended up listening to that song as a woman delivered a sermon from the seat across me while rain poured down around us. The Kanye selections are particularly wrenching; "Runaway" is eternally powerful, "Ultralight Beam" sparks several memories immediately—driving over a bridge under a purple sunset, or another time, astronomically high in the woods, blasting the song from speakers and clinging to every note. "Queen" by Perfume Genius made my jaw drop the first time I heard it. Listening to "Mary" by Big Thief is always a religious experience. SZA, Tyler the Creator, the National, Vampire Weekend, Chance the Rapper—they've all held special places in my heart and life over the years. They're as real and significant to me as any friend, and I doubt I'm alone in that.

Perfume Genius - 'Queen' (Official Video)

Reading through the list made me remember that while the world may be incredibly chaotic and painful to exist in, there's so much good music to soundtrack our journey through this brief and absurd life. The 2010's gave us revolutionary opuses like Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. and "Pa'lante" by Hurray for the Riff Raff. It gave us Frank Ocean's mystical, effervescent Blond, which I must give thanks for roughly once per week. It gave us Katy Perry's early exquisite pop and Courtney Barnett's dry ramblings and the soft electricity of Yaeji, whose "Drink I'm Sippin On" soundtracked so many of my night walks around the city.

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Pa'lante (Official Video)

It gave us ample drama and good stories, too—there was the gleeful spite of "thank u, next," and the thrill of watching Cardi B rise with "Bodak Yellow," Miley's chaotic metamorphosis and Solange's ascendance. The 2010s took David Bowie and Lil Peep. It gave us unforgettable images, Bon Iver and his mythological cabin and FKA Twigs' surrealist masterpiece "Cellophane," images that connected to us on personal levels and bind us together across space and time.

FKA twigs -

I think that the best kind of music is taps into something much bigger than us, like a collective unconscious, something that extends way beyond the reach of one person. In order to make it, and to make any kind of art that can reach others on a profound level, you have to let go of the limitations of your singular self. That's what so many of these songs do—they tell individual stories, but they also channel something greater, and bring us together on a higher plane.

In many ways, I suspect that the 2020s will be even more full of change and tumult than the 2010s were. But I have complete faith that, when 2029 rolls around, there will be another Pitchfork list of songs that tap into the deepest emotions and most powerful connections we have. And maybe sometimes, the songs that help us personally are what give us the strength to engage with the world on a larger scale and speak truth to power. Maybe our greatest songs are the ones that, like Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," give us the strength to go on.

Kendrick Lamar -


Collective Unconscious or Conscious Appropriation: Did Mac DeMarco Steal Mitski's Cowboy Archetype?

Mitski's cowboy was a meaningful subversion of patriarchal norms. What is Mac's cowboy trying to say?

Mitski has repeatedly announced that she doesn't care that fellow indie rocker Mac DeMarco just released a single called "Nobody," off his forthcoming new album, Here Comes the Cowboy. Of course, this news is coming about a year after the release of Mitski's fifth album, Be the Cowboy—which also happened to feature a lead single called "Nobody."


On social media, Mitski has been persistently laughing the whole thing off, writing that "I'm 100% sure Mac and I just went fishing in the same part of the collective unconscious… Idk you Mac and you clearly didn't know me lol but thanks for the laugh."

Still, it's hard to understand why no one—no producer, songwriter, or marketing agent—mentioned the similarities. To compound the strangeness, Mitski and DeMarco also both have the same PR person, whom Mitski apparently talks to every day. "What's wild is we have the same PR, so I LOVE my personal conspiracy theory that she heard the album and track titles but kept quiet thinking maybe some Mac fans will mistakenly find me," Mitski added.

After all, both musicians occupy comparable levels of recognition in a similar sector of indie rock. Plus Mitski's Be the Cowboy was one of 2018's best reviewed and most highly ranked albums; Mac and his team would've had to ignore every end-of-year list to have never heard of her.

Their music's also relatively similar, in that they both favor ambient guitars, world-weary lyrics, and dreamy imagery (just listen to DeMarco's "Moonlight on the River" next to Mitski's "Pink in the Night" for comparably psychedelic, mournful, lonely-in-the-dark sentiments)—though their takes on "Nobody" couldn't be more different. Mitski's is a frenetic pop-disco scream that touches on global warming and loneliness, whereas Mac's is a typically low-key, abstract musing that may be about television's ruinous effects on humanity.

Pink in the

Moonlight on the

Although Mitski might be cool with the presence of more than one cowboy in this town, her fans have not been as accepting. Today, Mitski implored enraged fans not to leap to her defense, tweeting, "while the mob is still in there fighting on my behalf. You may turn against me for saying this, I accept that, I just have to admit it's terrifying to have a big group of strangers acting on my behalf in ways I'd never act myself, and I don't even seem to matter in the equation."

So, to borrow a phrase from a review she wrote about Harry Styles, if Mitski reads this, she'll probably hate it. In that review, Mitski discussed the way that One Direction functions as an idealized projection screen for fans in need of pretty-boy icons to worship. In a very similar way, although Mitski may not have wanted this to happen, her music has become a projection screen for fans treasuring the opportunity to see their identities and emotions represented in an articulate and nuanced way.

After all, Mitski's utilization of cowboy imagery was a purposefully subversive reclamation of an archetypically masculine, colonialist trope. The cowboy—like the kings and demigods that preceded him—is usually a man, violently in charge, and always getting what he wants. Mitski's cowboy turned that trope on its head.

In an interview with The Outline, Mitski explained her album's title, saying that it "kind of came from the fact that I would always kind of jokingly say to myself, "Be the cowboy you wish to see the world," whenever I was in a situation where maybe I was acting too much like my identity, which is wanting everyone to be happy, not thinking I'm worthy, being submissive, and not asking for more. Every time I would find myself doing exactly what the world expects of me as an Asian woman, I would turn around and tell myself 'Well, what would a cowboy do?'"

Mac DeMarco's explanation was a bit different. "Cowboy is a term of endearment to me, I use it often when referring to people in my life. Where I grew up, there are many people that sincerely wear cowboy hats and do cowboy activities. These aren't the people I'm referring to," he said.

Looking at these descriptions side by side, it's easy to see that while Mitski herself might not be angry, some of her fans—many of whom don't often get to see much powerful, successful representation of their identities, mostly due to oppressive hegemonies of white power—might be taking offense. Mitski has grappled before with the implications of her music being taken as something far more symbolic and political than she intended. In response to suggestions that her "Your Best American Girl" was a fuck-you to white male-led music culture, she stated that the song was only about how she personally felt while processing her identity as a Japanese American woman in a relationship with a white man.

But one of Mitski's greatest talents is her ability to make microscopic views of her experience feel universal, and many fans have leaned into this, understanding her music as a touchstone of power, a nuanced and subversive center of solidarity and truth in a white supremacist-run world.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video)

Maybe this all was nothing more than a coincidence. But if Mitski and Mac DeMarco were truly fishing in the "same part of the collective unconscious," what corner of the mind was this, exactly? Maybe the cowboy represents a universal desire for a real hero in an era that seems to desperately need one, or something similarly loaded. But in all likelihood, DeMarco was probably just incredibly stoned, heard Be the Cowboy, and later became wholly convinced he'd dreamt it up himself.

Regardless, Be the Cowboyis available for streaming everywhere, and Here Comes the Cowboy will be coming for us all on May 10th.

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.

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