Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade (80-71)
This was probably the list I was most excited to create when I came up with the idea of all these ‘Decade’ lists. It’s the most immediately gratifying. The songs are all right there to listen to and appreciate.
One of my favorite things to do each year (before they tried to take it away from us with that shortlist bullshit) was go through the list of all the eligible songs for Best Original Song at the Oscars and then figure out which ones I liked best. So I already had a giant pool of songs to work from, and then all I had to do was go in and look for any others that may have not been submitted or eligible, etc. And after that it was just making a playlist and figuring out what order they were going in. Which, I’ve gotta tell you, if you’ve never tried it… do it. It’s great. This is now a playlist on my phone that I listen to occasionally because it’s just great songs from movies.
Anyway, this is a list of my 200 favorite original songs from the decade in film. I was pleased that I could get to 200 here because there actually were that many (and more) that I liked enough to deem worthy of one of these lists. We’re gonna post it in chunks of ten, the way we’ve posted all the other lists. Only this one has been slowly been rolled out over the past couple of months, one each day. So really this is just cleaning all that up and putting it all in one place.
So here are my favorite original songs from the films of 2010-2019:
80. “Invincible,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I wanna fly right now. How much better a beginning can you have to a song? This song is great. We’re nearing the top of the Spider-Verse song list, because they don’t get much better than this one.
79. “Faith,” from Sing
Ah, yes, another stealth entry to this list. Sing. The Illumination movie that’s basically just American Idol for animals. But, while there are a lot of covers all throughout the film, there are two distinct original songs in it that are quite good. This one’s the end credits song, and it’s done by Stevie Wonder with a feature by Ariana Grande. And I remember hearing this and thinking, “Well that’s gonna be bad.” Just on principle. Because it’s for an animated movie that’s not Disney, and it’s an end credits pop song, and you just sort of offhandedly dismiss those things. But you also forget… Stevie knows how to write a good song. And you sort of know it immediately, once that bass line kicks up. That really draws you in and then Stevie uses that first verse to get you all in with it. It’s just a feel-good kinda song with a funky beat. This is one of those that, when I first started figuring out this list, had about thirty spots lower than this, and it slowly kept creeping up little by little each time I heard it as I started liking it more and more.
78. “A Lovely Night,” from La La Land
And look who enters the fray. Almost forgot about this one, didn’t you? On the one hand, I feel weird having this as the lowest ranked song from the movie, but on the other hand, all the songs from this movie are in the top 80 of the list. That’s immense respect in and of itself.
This is the weakest of the songs in the movie, to me, because it’s not really about the lyrics so much as it’s about the gorgeous pre-dawn setting and the dancing. This is the Fred and Ginger song. And if only they set up this part of the relationship a bit better (the meet-cute and the initial ‘dislike’), then the song lyrics that talk about how the lovely night is wasted on the two of them, who aren’t in love, might work a bit better. But like I said, it’s not really about the lyrics so much as it’s about the two of them performing the song, doing the tap dancing and the gorgeous view behind them. It’s one of the most memorable film music moments of the decade, but on a pure song level… this spot feels about right for it.
77. “Out of Time,” from A Star Is Born
This is the first of twelve Star Is Born songs left on this list, so you’re gonna get one of these about every five or so songs, so be prepared for that. That’s how good they all are. This one’s purely instrumental, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s an original song for a movie. Bradley Cooper performs it. And in a way, the way he plays his guitar, which almost feels like an improvisation the way he plays it within the scene, those are the lyrics. That’s him getting that primal energy inside himself out on the stage. Everything he’s feeling, all the pain and anger, it all comes out through the guitar. And that’s just as good as lyrics to me.
76. “The Keeper,” from Machine Gun Preacher
This is just a great song. It just happens to have been written for Machine Gun Preacher. I love that Chris Cornell wrote a bunch of these songs for the end credits of movies (or opening credits, in the case of Casino Royale, which has become one of the best Bond themes of all of them since its release). The song is just beautiful and it’s a great one to listen to. Another one that’s hard to rank just because it straddles the line between song I just listen to and song that technically also is a movie song. It’s like when you’re trying to rank the Bond songs (speaking of Bond) and get to “Live and Let Die.” And it’s like, what do you do? Because that’s the one I’ve heard on terrestrial radio all my life. Shirley Bassey sure as hell wasn’t on radio. So it’s hard to separate the two. That’s kind of how I feel about this song.
75. “Rewrite the Stars,” from The Greatest Showman
This is probably the second most overlooked song from The Greatest Showman, second only to the Michelle Williams solo number. This is the Zac Efron/Zendaya song, and it’s overlooked because their entire romantic subplot gets overlooked in the film and just kind of gets tacked in there the way old movies have the young couple in love to break up from the older married couple that lead the proceedings. Any circus movie is gonna have the young couple in love. But it’s actually a really good song. The movie gives it short shrift, but the song is really well done. A bit too Garage Band-y in the production, but the lyrics are good and the vocal performances are good too. I particularly like the latter half of the song when it really goes all out with the two of them harmonizing. I do really like this one.
74. “Christmas Means Nothing Without You,” from Anna and the Apocalypse
This is my favorite Anna and the Apocalypse song. And it’s not even a song that’s a part of the movie, per se. It’s not performed by the characters the way the others are. But it is an original song that appears within the film. Therefore it counts. And honestly, the reason this is my favorite is because it’s really difficult to write a good Christmas song. And honestly, if I presented this to you completely separate from the film as its own Christmas song… you’d think it was good. You could put this on an album with other recent Christmas songs (I mean, ones written in the past twenty years), and it would fit right in. If someone took this song and rearranged it and made it to sound more like a ‘classic’ Christmas tune, Wall of Sound, Darlene Love style, this would 100% just be assumed to have been a great Christmas song written fifty years ago.
73. “Freedom,” from Django Unchained
Django’s back. The songs are all over the map from the movie, but there are a few that stand out as particularly good. This is the first of two. This one’s very good, and has the great female vocals in the first part, before Anthony Hamilton takes over. He’s someone I first knew about when I heard him perform “Do You Feel Me” on the American Gangster soundtrack (and actually in the movie). The song just totally stood out to me, as did his voice, and remains one of my favorite songs of that decade. So hearing him pop up on the Django soundtrack was pretty wonderful. This song is really good.
72. “Shiny,” from Moana
How fun is this song? What a great moment within the film, when you have this giant crab, voiced by Jemaine Clement of all people, sing this great villain song, it’s just wonderful. I love how they break the song up, too. He’s all cocky and basically monologuing, and then Maui shows up and the song stops. But then Maui can’t fully control his hook, so the song just starts back up. It’s so much fun. It’s impressive to have both a fun song that also somehow also captures just how dangerous a villain this dude is in the moment.
71. “Visions of Gideon,” from Call Me By Your Name
This movie has two amazing Sufjan Stevens songs. This is the one that plays over the end credits… over that crazy long take of Timothée Chalamet staring into the fire, which is one of the more stunning shots of the entire decade. This song just perfectly encapsulates that entire moment and that feeling of him having someone he loved leave and having that first love end. It’s a really beautiful song for a really beautiful moment.
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