The “Songs of the Year” That Ruled the 2010s and What Made Them So Special


Brooklyn Chillemi

Song of the Year is one of the four major categories awarded at the Grammys.

Avery Rush, Assistant Editor

Music is the background of our lives. No matter the time or place, there is a song that perfectly fits the scenarios in our lives and represents the emotion behind them. 

These ten songs were given the title “Song of the Year” at the Grammys, where musical artists or groups receive arguably one of the most prestigious awards out there.

Here’s a look back at the last decade’s Song of the Year awards, along with my personal ratings and commentary.

2011: “Need You Now” by Lady A

Overall rating: 7/10

“Need You Now” by Lady A is one of only two country songs to win the award in the past 20 years, alongside Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” The song features lead singer Hillary Scott’s vocals on a catchy but emotional track about reaching out to an ex-partner in a moment of desperation.

While the track was up against songs I personally prefer such as Kanye West’s “All of the Lights,” it was undoubtedly a song worthy of the award due to its strong lyrics and infinite replay value.

I rate this song a 7/10 because it is undoubtedly a good song, but it lacks the high production value and unique composition I look for when listening to music. The value of nostalgia in this song has also brought me to give it a higher ranking, as that is something that makes a song more enjoyable to me.

2012: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele

Overall rating: 9/10

“Rolling in the Deep” was Adele’s first big step to record-breaking stardom. This award was accompanied by five others that year for the singer, with countless more to come later in her career.

While Adele’s song “Chasing Pavements” was nominated for the Song of the Year in 2009, “Rolling in the Deep” gained the singer her first award from the four major categories at the Grammys. The track is upbeat and carries a powerful tempo throughout, making it well loved by many, even today.

This song gets a 9/10 in my opinion because it is not only an enjoyable song, it is also a well-made song. The track has a suspenseful buildup to the chorus, as well as strong background vocals that solidify the quality of this track’s masterful production.

2013: “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monáe

Overall rating: 10/10

“We Are Young” by Fun. is an iconic track from the 2010s that perfectly captures the essence of nostalgia people look for when listening to music. Serving as the career-blossoming song for the band Fun., the track proves the immense talent possessed by lead singer Nate Ruess and his band by showcasing their lyrical and compositional skills.

Despite the oddly specific and descriptive lyrics, the song is still somehow relatable, making it a go-to in 2013 and years to follow.

I think that this song is a 10/10, because it transports me back to a time in my life in a way most songs cannot. The track is one I never get tired of listening to, and it is a song that is tied to many cherished memories from my childhood.

2014: “Royals” by Lorde

Overall rating: 9/10

This track was released on Lorde’s first studio album, “Pure Heroine,” which she released at only 16 years old. On “Royals,” Lorde sings about fame and luxury, and how it has no appeal to her.

This song was constantly on the radio in 2014 and appealed to mostly younger audiences, but still managed to garner the attention of all ages due to its fun and catchy chorus. While I believe Lorde has songs much better than “Royals,” the song allowed her deeper, more emotional songs to gain exposure through her newfound fame.

“Royals” is a 9/10 because to me it is a song that perfectly captures 2014, which is fitting for the “Song of the Year.” Whenever I imagine 2014, I can hear this song playing in the background, which in my opinion, makes it a song worth high praise.

2015: “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith

Overall rating: 8/10

On this track, Smith sings about the pain of a breakup in a heart-wrenching, soulful ballad. Accompanied on the track by gospel choir vocals, Smith uses their vocal skills to deliver a chilling performance worthy of the award.

“Stay With Me” won Smith the Album of the Year award along with three other Grammy awards. This was an impressive feat for Smith as their awards were for their debut studio album, “In the Lonely Hour.” 

I give this song an 8/10, because while it isn’t one of my favorite songs of all time, it is a great demonstration of Sam Smith’s outstanding talent. The lyrics pack emotion and pain that I can feel while listening to the song, which to me, is an indicator of a well-written track.

2016: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

Overall rating: 7/10

Ed Sheeran’s endearing love song is one of the most streamed songs of all time on YouTube, and is one of Sheeran’s many hits to achieve record-breaking success. The wholesome nature of the song gives it an easy-to-listen-to vibe with equally sweet lyrics. 

This track has birthed countless viral first dance and proposal videos, making its Song of the Year title not only understandable but also well deserved.

I am a fan of Ed Sheeran’s first album, but do not listen to his newer music as I feel it is less personal and more so written with the purpose of garnering listeners. For this reason, I give this song a 7/10, which is also accredited to the extreme overplay of the song.

2017: “Hello” by Adele

Overall ranking: 7/10

“Hello” earned Adele her second win in the Song of the Year category, following her 2012 win with “Rolling in the Deep.” The track features Adele’s masterful belts during the chorus as well as her unique and distinguishable vocals throughout. 

The song was up against tracks such as “Formation” by Beyonce and “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber, making the song’s win impressive given its tough competition. I personally am not a big fan of the song, but I do think Adele earned the win given the track’s massive popularity and impressive production quality.

The primary reason that I rate this song a 7/10 is because I feel that Adele is capable of making better songs. It is not a bad track by any means, but it pales in comparison to other songs in Adele’s discography.

2018: “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars

Overall ranking: 8/10

This upbeat track from Bruno Mars was a staple in 2018. From constant radio play to the speakers at school dances, the song undoubtedly got people in the mood to dance. While the lyrics are not necessarily deep or meaningful, they’re fun and catchy enough to make the song worth appreciating.

2018 was a big year at the Grammys for Mars, as he won both Song of the Year and Album of the Year — the two most coveted awards in music.

I rate this song an 8/10 because it is a song that I truly enjoy listening to. Better songs definitely exist, but on “That’s What I Like,” Mars exhibits his ability to make a light-hearted song with masterful skill.

2019: “This Is America” by Childish Gambino

Overall ranking: 10/10

“This Is America” was a semi-shocking pick for Song of the Year, given the controversial themes of the song, but it paved the way for other Black artists at the Grammys after years of backlash surrounding the pool of typically white winners.

The song discusses issues such as police brutality, corrupt government systems, and modern day racism. Gambino received mixed reviews on the song from everyday listeners, but gained high acclaim from professional music critics for the track. 

I give this song a 10/10, not because it is a track I listen to super often but because it’s influence and important meaning is undeniable. The song was released at a time of high political tension, and did a great job at grabbing everyone’s attention, especially those who could learn from it’s meaning.

2020: “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish

Overall ranking: 5/10

Billie Eilish received criticism from fans of other artists after her clean sweep of the four big categories at the 2020 Grammys. With household name competitors such as Lana Del Rey and Ariana Grande, many felt that Eilish was undeserving of the award.

Her winning song features odd lyrics and a decently generic beat, which left me unimpressed with its overall quality. While Billie Eilish is clearly a talented young artist, her win for Song of the Year is one I personally do not agree was a valid choice by the Grammys.

I give this song a 5/10 because it is not a song I would ever listen to willingly or on my own. I’m not a non-fan of Billie Eilish, but I do feel that this is one of her weakest songs and has little to no replay value.