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.
Over Dr. Luke's arena-electro beat, Ke$ha takes stupid-savvy pop to bombastic heights.
A twangy, hilarious vignette about a schoolgirl who becomes powerless against the charms of a mulleted, El Camino-driving skeezeball.
NYC trio transcend joke-rap status by making a song about transcending joke-rap status, set to a finely stoned beat.
Rock throws on a fringed jacket and cuts a Seventies-rock anthem that's perfect for cruising in a vintage Chevy — or just pumping your fist.
The psych-pop jokers let down their guard and rip off the Band for a hazily pretty singalong about fast fame.
An expertly reconstructed track from the Exile on Main Street sessions, with Keith Richards' damaged licks crying across the years.
"I've been in love, and I've seen a lot of war": Young wrestles with his two biggest topics — and meditates on his entire career.
A nearly perfect pop-rap ballad, with the Atlanta MC telling his one and only, "You the whole package, plus you pay your taxes."
Florida guys combine a Beach Boys-style surf tune with Nineties alt-rock riffs. Why didn't anyone think of this before?
Pale-voiced Swede José González kicks up the volume for a supremely pretty folk swirl.
The first sign of how crazy Twisted Fantasy would be: 'Ye goes all schizoid while sampling King Crimson.
Brian Fallon triangulates doo-wop, Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey emo. Result: a finger-snapping ode to basement gigs and lost love.
2010's most mesmerizing guitar groove — a dark, dubby burner with lyrics about basement gigs and lost love.
Two New York badasses team up over the year's rawest beat to celebrate paying way too much in car insurance.
One of the year's great driving songs, with Minaj "doing doughnuts in a six-speed."
The U.K. trip-hoppers call in guest moaner Hope Sandoval for a narcotic ballad that's both surreal and unnervingly erotic.
Your favorite cartoon primates cook up a disco jam that's sexy enough to make Donna Summer sigh with pleasure. And that synth-bass line? Unstoppable.
The San Diego trio turn in a sweetly psychedelic punk nugget: part Buzzcocks, part acid-damaged beach rock.
The year's freakiest rap song: Three South Africans mix machine-gun flows with warped hooks, suggesting Eminem's "Lose Yourself" on mescaline.
The long-lost Seventies rap pioneer rasps his way through an acoustic version of a Smog ballad. He turns indie-rock melancholy into the darkest, deepest country blues.
Dylan delivers a roots-folk lullaby with a hushed melody James Taylor would kill to have written.
A classic Petty road story, outfitted with black-ice organ and sneering guitar.
A country-rock ballad about needing to get away, built around shimmering guitars that go on for miles.
"I still owe money to the money to the money I owe," croons Matt Berninger, singing so seductively you'll want to toss him a few bucks.
The Swedish diva spots her beloved with another girl — then turns her sadness into sparkling pop, perfect for solo freakouts.