When you get to the end of a decade in the music industry, it’s always tempting to wonder what that period will primarily be remembered as generations down the road. Will the 2010s be remembered as the streaming era? The EDM era? The global pop era? The era of hip-hop dominance? The era of the surprise album? The Drake era?
The answer, of course, is yes. The 2010s were all these things -- and as much as we like to reduce history to one single central narrative, you can’t understand the decade without including all of those mini-histories, and many, many more.
What we at Billboard are trying to do with our list of the 100 Songs That Defined the Decade is to tell the story of the 2010s in the music business through the songs that were most critical to it. These aren’t our picks for the best songs of the decade, or even the most popular, necessarily -- though a large number of them were widely loved, including by many of us on staff -- but rather, the songs that shaped and reflected the music and culture of the 2010s. Not all of them defined the decade at its best, but for better or worse, it’s close to impossible for us to imagine the decade without any of them.