10 Song Lyrics That Defined the 2010’s Decade

January 15, 2020
David Bowie Mural

(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)


“The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot be,” wrote the late poet John Ashbery (one of many great wordsmiths we lost this decade). The same could be said about song lyrics—after all, is a song really so different from a poem? Albeit with some controversy, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Lyrics can feel so personal, and yet the greatest of them are open to endless interpretations, little mirrors in which everyone can find themselves. Whether happy or sad or both at the same time, these lines cannot belong to any one of us, because they belong to all of us.

Here are my picks for ten song lyrics that defined the 2010’s decade in rock music:


  Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
  That we can never get away from the sprawl

    -- Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” 


  Even on a cloudy day
  I'll keep my eyes fixed on the sun

    -- Cage the Elephant, “Shake Me Down” 


  Look up here, I'm in heaven

    -- David Bowie, “Lazarus”


  Give me all your money, and I'll make some origami, honey

    -- Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best” 


  Digital witnesses
  What's the point of even sleeping?
  If I can't show it, if you can't see me
  What's the point of doing anything?

     -- St Vincent, “Digital Witness” 


  I've never been alone
  Long enough to know
  If I ever was a child

    -- Wilco, “If I Ever Was a Child” 


  Your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me
  But I do, I finally do

    -- Mitski, “Your Best American Girl” 


  I'll be your morning bright goodnight shadow machine
  I'll be your record player, baby, if you know what I mean

    -- Big Thief, “Paul” 


  We're only tourists in this life
  Only tourists but the view is nice

    -- David Byrne, “Everybody's Coming to My House” 


  I don't wanna live like this, but I don't wanna die

    -- Vampire Weekend, “Harmony Hall”



Related: The Artists That Defined 2010's Rock & Roll