Earlier this year, I wrote about a bunch of songs from 1999 that are still very much present in our lives today. If you’re a songwriter, I would think that longevity is something you strive for when writing a tune. You want your music to live on, especially if your career doesn’t.
I’m looking at you, Len.
If you were to expand the scope of that concept to songs from the 1990s, the list could very well be endless. We love the nineties. The nineties gave us grunge and gangster rap as well as (unfortunately) a cringeworthy combination of the two.
Additionally, the 1990s gave us Nirvana, Beyonce, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Beck, The Fugees, Snoop Dogg, Green Day, and Smashing Pumpkins.
They also gave us “Mambo No. 5” because the 90s were truly a magical time.
The following decade is when pop truly took over, followed closely behind by rap. It’s when rock started to fade a bit despite stellar offerings from Kings of Leon and Green Day plus the emergence of The Strokes, The Killers, and a handful of other bands that started with “The.”.
Thankfully, rap-rock was blasted into space.
The first decade of this century was dominated by Beyonce, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga and there are without a doubt at least a couple dozen songs that will carry on for the next few decades.
After all, there will always be weddings so there will always be a world where “Single Ladies” is needed.
As this decade starts to turn off the lights and tally up the receipts, I think it would be in our best interest to take stock of the songs that have been released and pencil in twenty that have a damn good chance of living on forever.
As I did with the songs from 1999, I’m going to rank them in terms of potential longevity.
Here we go!
20. “Bad and Boujee”—Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert
Migos’ breakout tune will no doubt live on longer than Migos will themselves. That is a dispiriting statement but ultimately a true one. Migos are not long for this world and that’s not me saying that. That’s their actions saying that.
In the past year alone, all three members have released solo albums and…wait a second. Did Offset finally release his album? I can’t remember.
I guess he did.
As I was saying, all three of the dudes in Migos have embarked on solo joints in the past year. However, they are all related, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology, recording an album can be a work-from-home kind of deal now. As a result, there will definitely be more Migos albums to come. I just don’t think there will be many more Migos albums to come.
If it’s a race against time between the group being together and “Bad and Boujee” still being out there, I’m going with “Bad & Boujee” and doing so with little regret.
19. “Truth Hurts”—Lizzo
Please, don’t for a second think that I’m falling victim to recency bias here. That is not the case. Well, it might be a little of the case but not all of the case.
You know how I know that “Truth Hurts” will continue to live on? Because there’s a Kidz Bop version of that song. It feels like there shouldn’t be one due in no small part to certain lines and colorful language in the song, but the masterminds behind Kidz Bop were able to pull it off and now my four-year-old loves “Truth Hurts.”
At some point, she’ll outgrow Kidz Bop (please God, let it be soon) and will find herself discovering the real version of “Truth Hurts.”
When that happens, a new Lizzo fan will be born. Such is the cycle of life.
While I’m certainly no expert in longevity (I once thought Third Eye Blind would go on to be the next U2) I do believe that one of the keys to agelessness is simplicity. Simple will survive the passage of time thanks to its wits and its ability to be low fuss and low muss.
“Royals” is a simple song.
There’s not much to it—the hook is easy to grasp and sing-along to and before you know, it’s over.
It’s also a song that is sneaky. If it comes on the radio, there’s a damn good chance you might not realize it’s playing until halfway through, but even before that happens, your head is gently bobbing up and down to the low-key beat. Then you realize it’s playing, realize you’re cool with that, and realize it’s over.
“Royals” might very well survive the Apocalypse.
17. “N*ggas in Paris” Jay-Z, Kanye West
This song will always endure just like it will always be a song white people like but don’t feel comfortable saying the title of.
16. “Work”—Rihanna feat. Drake
There’s always going to be summer, right?
Then there will always be bars that play “Work,” and in turn, there will always be people who like bouncing along to it.
Wait, there will always be summer, right? I know climate change is going to mess up a lot of things but summer’s not one of those things, is it?
Please standby on that one.
15. “Lonely Boy”—The Black Keys
As a fan of rock music, I find it troubling that the genre seems to be going the way of baseball in that it’s becoming something people 27 or older only really care about. That’s a bummer. Both rock music and baseball are great and it’s not their fault that young people have their priorities all out of whack.
Full disclosure: I am not a young man anymore, hence these scorching hot takes.
I do think that classic rock stations will continue to exist, and because of that, rock will keep on trucking (albeit in somewhat of a frozen caveman kind of state). There might not be that much new rock music per se but we will continue to honor the hits of old.
“Lonely Boy” will be one of those hits and is relevant here because without actually consulting any statistics, I’d say it’s the biggest pure rock ‘n roll song of this decade. I’m sure there are other more popular “rock” songs from a chart standpoint but it doesn’t get much more traditionally rock ‘n roll than this barnburner from The Black Keys.
We might as well put it in a time capsule now.
14. “Hotline Bling”—Drake
“Hotline Bling” will continue to live on but for two totally different reasons.
The first is that it’s a fun song and fun songs are like vodka: they never go bad.
The second is kind of tragic and certainly not Drake’s fault.
During the 2016 election, Donald Trump hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live. I don’t think that his hosting had an impact on the election and, if anything, the lasting impact was that the show seemed to feel the need to correct course after being seen as giving him favorable treatment.
However, it does seem as if when it comes time to look back at Trump’s presidency and what led to it, the SNL appearance will be included, and when they choose a clip to show from that episode, there’s a very good chance they’ll use the bit when Trump did a version of “Hotline Bling.”
It’s a bummer, but it could happen.
Sorry, Drake. As Robin Williams told Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, it’s not your fault.
13. “I Will Wait”—Mumford & Sons
I was recently reminded that this tune is a fantastic driving song. It had been a minute or so since I had listened to it, but then it came on one morning while I was going to work, and sure enough, it fit perfectly.
I know that self-driving cars are slowly being introduced into our society but we still have some time before they become a common thing. Until that happens, us humans will still be driving our cars, and because of that, we’re going to need great music to listen to while we’re doing it.
Podcasts are great. I love podcasts. I think there might be too many podcasts but we can talk about that later.
But come on now—sometimes you just need to blast music, and as long as humans are driving cars and not untrustworthy robots, we’ll need some killer driving music like “I Will Wait” (and basically anything by Guns N’ Roses).
12. “Humble”—Kendrick Lamar
This song is a statement and an effin’ fierce declaration of a statement at that. It’s a flag that is so firmly planted into the ground that no erosion of the earth or natural disaster could lodge it free and remove it.
As the years go on, we might not listen to “Humble” as much as we will some of the other songs on this list. But we will always know it’s there, waiting for us and calling to us, beckoning us towards it when we need it.
It’s worth noting that it’s also a pretty good driving song so NOT JUST YET CAR-DRIVING ROBOTS!
11. “Feel It Still”—Portugal. The Man
“Feel It Still” was released in March 2017. Soon after, it started to catch on, and by summer, it had become one of those songs played everywhere.
Sporting events, commercials, movie trailers, the mall, the bar, the other bar, the bar by the beach, the restaurant you went to before the bar, etc.
By summer’s end, “Feel It Still” had budged it’s way into the conversation for Song of the Summer, an unusual title for a band like Portugal. The Man to make a run for. Rihanna and Drake drop summer jams. So do Beyoncé, Bieber, Calvin Harris, and Post Malone.
A band from the Pacific Northwest that mashes up genres damn near seamlessly does not traditionally give the masses a summer jam.
But they did.
And it wasn’t just the summer of 2017.
“Feel It Still” kept on keeping on throughout the fall and into the winter and by the time the grass was green again and we all got our first sunburn of the season, “Feel It Still” was still in the mix in the summer of 2018.
And the summer of 2019 too.
There’s a good chance that while you are reading this, “Feel It Still” is playing somewhere on the radio, and if it isn’t, you should hold fast because it’s probably coming in the next block, just after a few short words from our sponsors.
Unless America embarks on a crazy new change in direction, underrepresented people in this country will always be looking for anthems of empowerment; songs that speak to their plight and struggle.
Now, of course, new songs speaking to these issues will be released in the years to come but they will all be swimming in the wake of Queen Bey’s ball-busting call to arms.
“Formation” was an atomic bomb, and like an atomic bomb, its effects will carry on for years to come.
9. “Pumped Up Kicks”—Foster the People
Before there was “Feel It Still” there was “Pumped Up Kicks.”
This may come as somewhat of a shock but “Pumped Up Kicks” came out all the way back in September of 2010. Now, I would argue that what makes this fact shocking and/or interesting is that you still hear “Pumped Up Kicks” on a fairly regular basis today.
“Pumped Up Kicks” is, in a way, kind of like “Royals” if “Royals” had injected some HGH right into its ass. The beat is stronger and the hook is catchier but it’s just as sneaky.
I dismissed the song when it first came out, and because that was back in 2010, I definitely can’t remember why. It wasn’t until about a year or two later when I started to come around to it. This was easy to do because the song was still on regular rotation a year or two later.
And it’s probably still in rotation today, coming up juuuuuust after this one from Portugal. The Man.
8. “Can’t Stop the Feeling”—Justin Timberlake
Doesn’t it seem like this song should have been more popular? I feel like it was taken for granted because it was almost too perfect of a pop song.
I suppose that could be a knock against it; that the song sounds like a paint-by-numbers kind of track that hit all the beats and notes required to both sound familiar and reminiscent of something else and also sound as if—hot damn!—Justin effin’ Timberlake did it again.
But come on now. Isn’t that what Weezer has been doing for the past decade? People seem to be cool with that for the most part. Or we’re not. Are we still cool with Weezer? I can’t remember.
A few months after this song came out, I was at a wedding and the DJ was taking requests. I was a little “wedding drunk” and requested this song before the DJ informed me it was on the couple’s “Do Not Play” list.
I was shocked and taken aback. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was made for two reasons. The first was the Trolls movie and the second was for weddings.
However, then they started playing a Slayer song so maybe it was just one of those weird weddings.
7. “We Found Love”—Calvin Harris, Rihanna
Here is a list:
- Montages in romantic comedies
- Promotional videos for tropical getaways
- Sweet Sixteens
- Graduation videos
- A “Getting Ready to Go Out” playlist
Those are just a few situations where “We Found Love” is the PERFECT song and those situations will happen forever.
This song might never go away and I for one am totally cool with that.
6. “Ho Hey”—The Lumineers
I don’t go to many open mic nights anymore but based on the year or so back in the day when I did (and knowing how much people who can strum an acoustic guitar and carry a tune love themselves a song like “Ho Hey”) I would have to think that this is a staple at open mic nights.
Plus, bars and coffee shops are going to continue to have open mic nights because Tuesday nights are still going to be a thing forever and there’s nothing else happening on them.
On top of that, it’s safe to say that we all like to sing along to our favorite songs. At the same time, we all like to pretend we know all the words to our favorite songs as we sing along to them but the truth is that we rarely do.
More often than not, we get close to the words and just see what happens.
“Ho Hey” is, then, the perfect song because it’s perhaps the easiest song to sing along to. When in doubt, just yell out “Ho!” or “Hey!” and you’re golden, kid.
The Lumineers are just looking out for you.
5. “Get Lucky”—Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers
Dance. Songs. Don’t. Die. They. Only. Get. Stronger. With. Age.
4. “Rolling in the Deep”—Adele
You know what’s going to happen, right?
In a couple of years, we’ll start to forget about this song. We won’t forget about Adele, of course, because she’s Adele and she’ll continue to emerge every few years to remind us that her voice is a weapon of mass destruction. But this song specifically will at some point fade from view and come dangerously close to being gone forever.
But then, as if they were on a mission from God to save us from ourselves, someone will record a cover version of this tune and it’ll be good enough to catch our attention and (more importantly) remind us of how cool this song is.
Just like that, “Rolling in the Deep” will embark on its second act.
It’ll be a shame that it had to happen that way but we can’t always be trusted with precious materials.
It should be noted that this won’t happen if Weezer is the band to cover the song. However, it very well could be Weezer who covers this song.
Consider yourselves warned.
3. “Wagon Wheel”—Darius Rucker
“Wagon Wheel” will continue to live on for the following reasons:
- Because of what I said about “I Will Wait”: it’s also a fantastic driving song.
- Because of what I said about “Ho Hey”: It’s so much fun to sing along to.
- Because of what I said about “Feel It Still” if you swapped stations dedicated to rock with those devoted to country.
- Because of what I said about “Royals”: It’s inherently a simple song, just a different kind of simple song than “Royals” is. It’s a simple country song in that it has a good story to it and a great melody. It checks a lot of boxes in that regard.
- Because of what I said about “We Found Love”: It works for almost all the same situations (if not a few more).
Even if you prefer the Old Crow Medicine Band version to Rucker’s, you can rest easy knowing that “Wagon Wheel” will be there when you need it for the foreseeable future and beyond.
2. “Shake It Off”—Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift isn’t going anywhere.
As long as we have air to breathe, Taylor Swift will be part of our lives. I don’t know how much longer she’ll be making music and if she’ll transition to acting at some point, but a decade from now, her music will still be involved in our daily lives.
Just like it is with Springsteen and The Beatles and Len, Swift’s Mount Rushmore Songs—those few tracks that are generally considered everyone’s favorites—will continue to have second, third and fourth acts.
“Shake It Off” is her “Born to Run.” Musicians playing cocktail hours and patio bars and tourist traps will include it in their set and it’ll be a crowd-pleaser every damn time they play it.
Yes, the part where she “raps” will always be awkward and will never turn a corner and become endearing but we’ll go with it and eventually it’ll become something we just learn to deal with—much like we’ve learned to deal with the designated hitter in baseball, Weezer releasing one good album and then three terrible ones, and people constantly changing which fish is good for you and which one isn’t.
1. “Uptown Funk”—Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
We have already established that as a society, we will continue to have weddings, and to expand on that, we can rightfully assume that at least 70% of those weddings will include dancing and most of them won’t consist solely of country music or (like that one wedding I went to) Slayer songs.
Let’s say that leaves us with 63% of weddings that will include “normal” dancing. That’s where “Uptown Funk” will continue to thrive.
If we finally all decide weddings are kind of a big waste of money and scale them back, “Uptown Funk” still has ways it can keep on living, mainly in kids’ movies. Sure it will most likely show up in montages in either romantic comedies or lighthearted action movies, but as someone who watches kids’ movies fairly regularly these days, I can say with 100% certainty that future incarnations of children’s cinema will always find a way to successfully deploy “Uptown Funk.”
There’s nothing not to like about “Uptown Funk.”
It’s got a great beat, a fantastic groove, fun lines to sing along to, and more. It’s already timeless and despite only coming out five years ago, it feels as if it’s been around forever.
That’s because it will be around forever. We’re powerless to stop it. It’s inevitable.
We might as well embrace it.