Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade (20-11)
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:
20. “Go Now,” from Sing Street
We’ve entered the top 20. Now’s probably a good time to mention that, despite all the diversity of sources on the rest of this list, the top 20 songs of the decade all come from basically the same sources. There are four Star Is Born songs, four La La Land songs, two Sing Street songs, two Patti Cake$ songs, two Greatest Showman songs, two Bond songs and three songs from Disney. Which leaves only one song unaccounted for there. I’ll leave you all to guess what that is (but I bet nobody can guess it, because it’s a pull). But anyway, let’s get into it–
It’s funny that the second highest-ranked Sing Street song is the one sung by Adam Levine. But you know what? It’s the most beautiful song in the film. It plays over the end, as the characters make their decision to run away together. And it’s just a wonderful song for the moment. And you can hear in the vocals, but it was also co-written by Glen Hansard, from Once. Which is probably why Levine doesn’t go into the falsetto as much as he normally would in another song. But it’s just a transcendent song and moment that I just adore. I couldn’t leave this one out of the top 20.
19. “City of Stars,” from La La Land
Oh, what, you thought this would be the top La La Land song? Shame on you. Just because it’s the one everyone associates with the movie doesn’t make it the best and certainly wouldn’t automatically make it my favorite.
It’s a really nice song. It captures the love between the two characters and the love of the city really well. It’s built really well around that little piano riff, and has that repetitive melody to it that really works.
We’re at the point on the list where there’s really not a whole lot to say about the songs. We kinda get why they’re great and that they’re great, and really it’s just, “Yup, here it is. Let’s appreciate how great it is.”
18. “This Is Me,” from The Greatest Showman
I always appreciate a good ‘anthem’ song in a movie. And that’s what this is. This is the song for all the outcasts and those who don’t fit in saying, “I’m not apologizing for who I am, take it or leave it.” And it’s just a wonderful song and a wonderful moment in the film. This is one of those songs where, what it stands for is the driving factor for my ranking. But not really, because it’s also a wonderful song that makes this spot on its own merit anyway. But the fact that it is that anthem that transcends the moment in the film and works as something that represents that feeling in any walk of life is what solidifies its ranking to me.
17. “Writing’s On the Wall,” from Spectre
Honestly, the only negative thing I can say here is that it’s a shame we’ve only had a chance at two Bond songs this decade. But man, that franchise always delivers (well, Madonna…).
Sam Smith was a great choice for this, because his voice fits with the tradition of the opening songs. And even if you had any doubts, once it starts, with those strings and those unmistakably ‘Bond’ chord progressions, you know it’s gonna be good. I love the way they wrote this one, with an almost two part chorus. That first part where it builds and crescendos, and then the second half, where he’s coming back down. It’s really well done. This holds up among the great opening credits songs that are a part of this franchise’s history, and that’s not easy to do.
16. “Never Enough,” from The Greatest Showman
And we’ve reached our final Greatest Showman song. It’s not the one you’d think it would be, is it? But you know what? This is the most powerful song in the film and the one that’s gonna be able to stand on its own. If someone sang this just at a concert or in another movie, sans the context of this film, it would work. It’s an amazing song. And it’s just a towering vocal performance from Loren Allred. It’s actually a showstopper in the movie. You see this moment happen and you’re just awestruck. I mean, sure, it’s not the kind of song that character would have sung in the moment, but who cares — because the way she sings it and the strength of the lyrics and instrumentation just take your breath away. I can’t even pretend like this isn’t my favorite song from this entire soundtrack. It’s absolutely incredible.
15. “Start a Fire,” from La La Land
This song is just so fucking good. What’s great about it is, it’s supposed to be the moment in the film where Ryan Gosling has sold out, given up his jazz ambitions for a ‘pop’ group. Problem is, this song is amazing. They stop the film just to give you this number, and it totally works. I know we’re supposed to want him to not make this kind of music, but shit, this song is so good… I’d be fine if he kept going.
14. “Another Day of Sun,” from La La Land
We’re double dipping on La La Land songs. I’d be derelict in my duties if this didn’t make the top 15. In terms of pure music moments from this past decade, this is one of the five most memorable, if not #1. Starting the film in this traffic jam and suddenly turning it into one of the most vividly choreographed musical numbers in film history is just incredible. Seeing this movie for the first time, having no real idea what I was in for, this number took all the air out of the room. You just couldn’t believe what you were seeing. This is a straight showstopper on its own. If this were just a ten minute short on its own, it would have won an Oscar by itself. It’s that well done. And the song is really good — it’s a chorus of all the dreamers in LA, before we focus on two of them in particular. It’s the perfect way to set the tone for everything that’s to come in this movie.
13. “Always Remember Us This Way,” from A Star Is Born
I’m truly in awe of how good all the songs in this movie are. This song in particular is a really important one for the relationship between the two characters. You see her writing the lyrics at one point, and then this is the first time we see it get played. Plus you get the intro of him surprising her and telling he she’s gonna play it, mixed with the first time him telling her he loves her. It’s a huge moment in the film. And visually, as she plays it, it’s the first time her ‘star’ overtakes his. Because “Shallow” is sort of the birth moment where the light goes on. But this is the first time where she really becomes the star and he gets relegated to the sidelines.
Plus, the song is just incredible. It’s just impeccably written and performed. And those vocal runs — my god. I must have said this about a dozen times now for the songs in this movie, but truly… every single one of those songs would probably have been the Best Original Song Oscar winner for the year. I’ve never seen a movie with this many incredible original songs in it.
12. “Tuff Love (Finale),” from Patti Cake$
This song gave me chills the first time I heard it. It’s the finale of the film, taking place at the local battle of the bands, of sorts. Basically, whoever wins is gonna get signed by O-Z, the big local rapper. And it’s that moment in the film where Patti has to both put forth her best performance and make amends with her mother, with whom she’d been fighting for the entire film. And it’s the moment where she finally comes to terms with who she is, where she’s from and just lets it all out there. And of course, her mother shows up during the performance to see it and realize that what she’s doing isn’t just this bullshit lark — she’s actually really talented. And the kicker is that she used her mother’s song (which was also on this list at some point) as the sample. Which is just a beautiful realization to tie all the plot threads together. And the bonus being, in the film, her mother actually sings the last chorus live, providing a wonderful mother-daughter moment. It’s an incredible song, and if you couldn’t tell by how I’m talking about it, one of the most unsung movies of this entire decade.
11. “Is That Alright?” from A Star Is Born
This is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Gaga’s performance here is just towering. The deepness of the love in the lyrics just truly matches how that character feels about Bradley Cooper’s character, and the way she delivers them, voice cracks and all — how can you not be moved by that? This is why we love movies. Songs like this.
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