In conjunction with my albums list, here’s my list of what I think are the ten best songs of 2010. This list is always a little bit more difficult than the albums list. I’ve revised the list a couple of times before I even started writing it, and I’m second-guessing it as I write. There were so many great individual songs, and it’s hard to choose, but most of the selections coincide with my albums list. Here goes…
10. “Why Does The Wind,” Tracey Thorn — I’ve loved Tracey Thorn’s voice ever since she was with Everything But The Girl. I just so happened to hear this song at Kohl’s; I’m grateful for the music at Kohl’s and for my Shazam app on my phone. The song deals with a broken relationship, as it seems a lot of her songs do. It’s a melancholy, minor key song (I’m kind of a sucker for songs in a minor key), but it has a drive to it that’s a little unusual for a mid-tempo song. It’s definitely not one of your typical pop songs.
9. “Our God,” Chris Tomlin — Here’s a new worship song that has become a pretty popular anthem since we started working it into services at Eastridge. It’s a powerful, stirring worship song that reminds us of how God is “greater…stronger…higher” and how He stands up for the children He loves so dearly (“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?”)
8. “Cry Baby,” Cee Lo Green — I had a hard time picking one song from Cee Lo Green’s amazing album The Lady Killer, because there are so many good ones. I decided to go with the song that stuck in my head the most. In this song, Cee Lo’s “Lady Killer” character is breaking up with a girl, and he’s torn between guilt (“Cry baby, I guess that I’m the bad guy now.”) and the knowledge that hers isn’t the only heart he’s broken (“Cry baby, just like all the other ones.”) It’s a really cool retro-soul gem, and it’s probably the best slice of pure pop all year long. “Cry Baby” is just one of many awesome songs on The Lady Killer.
7. “Cut Back,” Connor Pledger — My friend Connor wrote eight fascinating songs for his Detours album. They’re not the typical topics you’d expect to hear on an album by a 20-year-old. I had to go the same route with Connor that I did with Cee Lo Green and pick the song that stuck in my head the most. “Cut Back” is about how the way you live now affects the way your life will be in the future (at least that’s my interpretation). With a catchy melody and a compelling lyric, along with a really cool chord progression, “Cut Back” is a sophisticated folk/pop tune that shines among the diamonds on this album.
6. “I Was Made For Sunny Days,” The Weepies — The Weepies (Deb Talan & Steve Tannen) are at their best when they write and sing songs about blissful love/marriage. Deb Talan, in her Shawn Colvin-esque voice, relates memories than span from early love to their first child running through the yard. The verses talk about less-than-desirable times of year…rainy days, wintertime, work days…but the chorus sums all of it up with the line “I was made for sunny days, and I was made for you.” A great song about devotion and true love.
5. “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum — This was one of 2010’s (or late 2009) first great songs. It’s a powerful duet about desire and lost love, and Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott interpret the song, which they cowrote, as if they’ve lived the lyrics. I love the harmonies, and I’ll have to admit I love singing along with them. The song reaches its most poignant moment when Kelley and Scott sing, “Guess I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” Wow. Songs don’t come much more honest…or much more country…than this one. Good stuff.
4. “Flags,” Brooke Fraser — Brooke Fraser has written her share of powerful songs throughout her career, both as a solo artist and with Hillsong United. But nothing she has written is as moving as the title song from her latest album. In it, Fraser addresses the age-old question of why good people suffer. Sympathizing with a friend in the midst of difficult times, she admits that she doesn’t know why specific bad things happen, but in the bridge she relates the truth that “the last shall be first,” which she reiterates at the song’s end. Beautiful in lyric and melody, “Flags” is a compelling and sensitive expression of Christian faith.
3. “Cold Hearted,” Zac Brown Band — Here’s one from another album where I had a hard time choosing just one song. I thought about going with the first single, “As She’s Walking Away,” which is one of the best songs on You Get What You Give, but this one sticks with me. Like the title suggests, it’s an expression of heartbreak at the hands of a cold hearted woman. Here I go again revealing my penchant for melancholy, minor-key stuff, but Brown and the rest of the band sing their hearts out, and the tone of the song fits the lyrics perfectly. It’s yet another example of just how talented and tight these guys are as musicians, vocalists, and songwriters.
2. “Georgia,” Band of Horses featuring the University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band — This song is undoubtedly one of the most fun ones to come out this year. Bulldog fans Band of Horses came up with the idea of doing a song with the Redcoats, and they chose to cover Cee Lo Green’s “Georgia.” If you think it sounds like a bad match, you’ll change your mind once you hear the song. It’s bouncy and upbeat with terrific vocals (especially the harmonies) and superb marching band musicianship. As for the song itself, it’s a buoyant celebration of my home state, and it contains one of my all-time favorite lines: “When they ask me where I’m from/I’m proud to say that I’m your son.”
1. “Ordinary Day,” Melanie Penn — Melanie Penn emerged as an incredible new talent this year. Her album Wake Up Love, which was one of my top ten albums, is a largely low-key affair, but among those songs is this brilliant moment. Buoyed by snapping fingers and layered harmonies, “Ordinary Day” is told from the point of view of the wind, and it’s about how God makes His presence known in the natural world around us. With lyrical ideas straight from the Bible, it’s a nice reflection of Penn’s Christian faith, though it doesn’t purport to aim for the Christian marketplace (thank God). It’s simply a lovely, slightly quirky pop song that just asks us to look around us to notice things like the wind. My favorite line in this song: “I am the sigh while all creation groans and waits.” It doesn’t get much better than that.