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Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, “Monster”

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On this rumbling id-fest, Minaj delivers the cameo of the year, switching personae and voices like she's rap's Meryl Streep. Kanye has the good sense to let her go on for 31 thrilling bars.

Video: Kanye West's Surprise Visit to Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone's Best of 2010: Albums, Singles, Movies and more

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6

Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone”

A modern hymn, written by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and sung with maternal assurance by the voice that once told you to "Respect Yourself."

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3

Sade, “Soldier of Love”

Nobody knows where Sade disappears to for years at a time between hits, but "Soldier of Love" proves she knows how to make a hell of a re-entrance. She sings about emotional devastation over a beat that mixes quiet-storm synths with acid-damaged riffs straight out of TV on the Radio's playbook. It's as close as she's ever come to blowing her cool.

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2

Cee Lo Green, “F**k You”

The title alone would have guaranteed hundreds of thousands of Web clicks. But Cee Lo didn't just say "Fuck you" — he said it with humor and serious panache. Despite the bummed-out lyrics, the Motown-style beat is DayGlo-bright, and Cee Lo's lovelorn lament doubles as an anthem for lean times: "If I was richer/I'd still be with ya/Ha, now ain't that some shit?"

Video: Cee Lo's Official "Fuck You" Video

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1

Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway”

It takes a special kind of dark, twisted genius to raise the white flag of surrender while raising a middle finger. Kanye West is that genius. "Runaway" is Kanye's musical response to the Taylor Swift affair, but it's much more than that: a nine-minute meditation on romantic failure and public infamy. Kanye creates a huge, eerie beat out of thunderous drums and plinking piano, and he turns the phrase "Let's have a toast for the douchebags" into a refrain nearly as catchy as "She loves you — yeah, yeah, yeah." In 2010, no other song was so crazily epic or jaw-droppingly gorgeous — not on the radio, not anywhere. Now, everyone raise your glasses.

Gallery: Kanye West's Career Highs — and Lows

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