Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade (30-21)
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:
30. “All the Stars,” from Black Panther
How great is this song? I can’t really put it higher than this (and even this is kinda high), considering it’s not even remotely in the film and is just over the end credits. But man, what a banger it is. I had to put it this high on that alone. As much as I wanna put other stuff over it, I have listened to this one pretty consistently since it came out. So it had to make it here. And hey, it was nominated for an Oscar. And it may have even won, were it not for another song still yet to appear on this list. It’s just an amazing song.
29. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls
It’s just a joyous song. Sure, it doesn’t exist without “Happy,” but hey, a song’s a song. And this is just a really wonderful piece of music. It’s funny, for as generic and not-good a movie as Trolls is, there are two incredible songs on the soundtrack. This, I think, was like the top song in the country that year it came out. And, even more impressive to me, is how Timberlake called his shot. They hired him to do the soundtrack and he was like, “We’re gonna get this nominated for an Oscar.” And he made it happen. All credit to him, it’s a really wonderful song.
28. “For the First Time in Forever,” from Frozen
Your typical Disney princess song — this is usually the moment where the princess wishes her life could be better, but here it’s more, “Oh wow, change might actually happen.” And it’s her looking forward to all the stuff she’s gonna be able to do that she’s never been able to before. The humor in this one does detract slightly, but the actual serious/emotional moments are quite wonderful. This is pure classic Disney, through and through.
27. “Please Mr. Kennedy,” from Inside Llewyn Davis
What a perfect film moment this song is. You’re watching this movie, and Oscar Isaac is singing folk songs, and then he comes in to do a studio bit with Timberlake and Driver and you’re thinking, “Okay, it’s more of that.” But no, it’s this. A novelty song. And it’s just perfectly written. Adam Driver’s vocals on this are just wonderful. I actually memorized just his part to the song after it came out, just because I loved it so much. But it’s a great moment, because you just see them performing this, and it’s both catchy and also funny (because of Driver) and you see Isaac’s character perfect in this moment — he helps with the song, makes it better, performs it well, and then is like, “This is shit and it’ll never make money.” All around one of the most memorable music moments of the entire decade.
26. “Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
U2 doesn’t contribute to soundtracks all that often, but when they do, it’s usually something special. The last one I can remember is “The Hands That Built America,” from Gangs of New York, which was just a wonderful song. This one was pretty special for them, as they’d been friends with Mandela for years and stopped work on their album to work on this song for the film. It’s just a really lovely song that is among the best work the band’s put out this decade.
25. “To Find You,” from Sing Street
I love this song. What a beautiful little ballad. What is there to say about it? You can just hear the greatness in it as you listen to it.
24. “A Million Dreams,” from The Greatest Showman
What an incredible song this is. The ‘dreamer’ song, perfectly introducing the character and taking us from him as a child to him as an adult. That chorus is really what drives the song — it captures the spirit of invention and creativity and shows how infectious it can be. Because the song is also a bit of a seduction. The character is talking about all these ideas he has, but also saying, “Come, share this with me, we can do this.” And it’s just a fantastically structured song, too (that again, would be perfect on the stage): the kid talking about his dreams, then inviting his crush to share them with him, then right as we get to another chorus, he’s an adult, which is just a perfect way to bring the main actor into the film/show. And then we get into the duet, as the two characters are now married and are doing this all together. It’s just a really incredible piece of work.
23. “Up,” from Sing Street
Another Sing Street song. I’m telling you, everything in this movie is perfect. The simplicity of this one is what makes it so amazing to me. It’s just a love song. And once they get to that chorus, it just takes off. I also love how they slowly bring the rest of the band is as the song progresses. This is one of those songs that’s just guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
22. “Oblivion,” from Oblivion
This might be the most underrated film score/soundtrack of the decade. The movie’s pretty good, but the score… the score is just incredible. This song — you know how some songs start on the ground and then take flight by the time they get to the chorus? This song starts in the air. You’re in the cosmos at the beginning of this song, and you’re just floating along to the melody and the irresistible lyrics by Susanne Sundfør. Looking at all the songs left on this list, this is the song I’ve listened to the most over the past decade as a pure song. This is just regularly on shuffle for me at all times. It’s just a beautiful piece of music. And if for some reason you completely missed the boat on this one when it came out, well, then you’re welcome for introducing this incredible song into your life.
21. “You’re Welcome,” from Moana
How can you not have this here? Even if you were a bit iffy on Moana and its songs by this point in the movie, it is impossible not to smile and sing along or at least bob your head along to this one. It’s a perfect introduction to the character. You’ve got the great songwriting from Lin-Manuel Miranda and a great vocal performance by Dwayne Johnson to really give one of the best Disney songs of all time. Also, what an amazing premise to a song — the absolute hubris of the character, bragging about his exploits. “You’re welcome,” as a chorus is just perfect. It’s catchy as hell, too. And, even better, it works within the film, because it’s his way of distracting her (and trust me, we all get distracted with that musical number, singing along to it) so he can take her boat and get off the island. It’s a perfect entity, this song. This is one of the few Disney songs you actually don’t mind having to hear endlessly on a loop when the kids want to hear it, because it’s just lovely.
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