REWIND: Recap the decade with our editor’s top Spotify song of each year

Cat Stevens

Andrew WK gave everyone the permission to party hard. Yes, even to Cat Stevens.

This week Spotify rolled out its annual Year in Review app, for subscribers to see what their top songs and artists of 2019 were. This year, since 2020 is right around the corner, they stretched it out to the entire decade.

Twitter is alight with people posting their top songs, and then subsequently with people insisting they don’t care about your top songs and how they wish everyone would stop. And that may be true for most people. But I think we can all agree that, objectively speaking, I have the best musical taste of all time.

So join me, dear, reader, on a journey through time as we listen to my top song of every year since I’ve been a Spotify user.

2011: Lordi — “Who’s Your Daddy”

I didn’t start using the service until 2011 so, sorry, we start the decade a year late. Or if you’re an insufferable pedant, we start the decade at the correct time but end it a year early. If you’re one of those people be aware that literally nobody likes you.

Anyway, 2011! Things were so much simpler then. We were all so young and naive. The first “Captain America” and “Thor” movies came out, and LMFAO was still a thing. We could go entire days without thinking about the President.

And apparently I listened to Lordi a lot. I mean I love Lordi, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t even my favorite song of theirs. But whatever, Past Danny, you do you.

2012: Fastball — “The Way”

Why was my most-listened song of 2012 a minor hit from 1998? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I mean it’s an OK song, but… top song of the year? For 2012? Did I not use Spotify much? Your guess is as good as mine.

Remember when the world was supposed to end in 2012? Something about a Mayan calendar and a Roland Emmerich movie? It all seems so quaint in retrospect. These days the world is ending all around us—climate change flooding Houston and burning California every year, the world’s nuclear powers seemingly teetering on the edge of war over competing economic sanctions, the Nazis coming back—but back then it was this theoretical conspiracy theory.

You poor, poor people of the past, looking for reasons to be afraid. If only you knew.

2013: Bon Jovi — “Livin’ on a Prayer”

All right, Past Danny, there you go. This is better.

Say what you will about hair metal, and there’s certainly a lot to say, but is it ever fun. Any Bon Jovi song is amazing for karaoke or singing along in the car. You can’t hear a Bon Jovi chorus and not air-drum along. It’s just aggressively catchy music from a pre-irony era, before the ’90s jaded us all and made enjoying things uncool.

Also it led to one of my favorite memes. Whoooooah, we’re halfway there. Whoa-oah, pigeon in a chair.

2014: Whitesnake — “Here I Go Again”

This was the year I broke my ankle. Not just a minor break, but a trimalleolar fracture; my ankle broke completely. My foot was just hanging on by the skin. It took surgery and a whole lot of hardware to put it back.

The recovery for this involved a full month trapped on my parents’ couch unable to even get up without help, then two months stuck in my house. A full quarter of the year housebound and isolated. Let me tell you: Nobody’s that introverted. There’s not enough Netflix in the world to fill that much downtime. [Gokhman note: Not in 2014, but now? Now there are enough shows and movies just about people who broke their ankles].

I’m not ashamed to say I went more than a little stir-crazy. There was a lot of air-guitar and air-drumming to hair metal. I kinda stopped shaving or cutting my hair until I looked like a feral mountain man. I lived off TV dinners since I couldn’t stay upright long enough to cook, and that’s not good for your health or physique, especially with near-total inactivity.

But, oddly enough? It made me far more patient. After that ordeal it’s hard to be frustrated by anything anymore.

2015: Cat Stevens — “Wild World”

This is where things started to take a turn.

Over the course of 2015 we went from joking about Trump running for President, to joking that we hope he wins the nomination so a Democrat is a lock, to slowly realizing that a lot of people are angry and racist enough to actually vote for him.

Partisan rage increased. Hate crimes increased. And, understandably, my music choices went from joyous hair metal to the melancholy. In retrospect it was remarkably on the nose.

2016: George Michael — “Careless Whisper”

As we’re all too aware, Trump ended up winning the nomination. Then the Presidency.

We all dealt with it in different ways. Some got depressed. Some got mad. But I had an added complication: I got laid off from my job of 10 years in early May of that year. So as the world was falling apart I was trying to navigate the insurance exchange and apply for unemployment.

So I retreated into the musical version of comfort food. I unironically love “Careless Whisper,” the unnecessary saxophone riff soothes my soul. So I listened to it. A lot.

2017: George Michael — “Careless Whisper”

I listened to it a lot over a long period of time, in fact. This isn’t a typo: “Careless Whisper” was my top song in 2016 and 2017. The funk lasted a really long time. Even though I was settling into my life as a freelancer and doing more work for RIFF to get out of the house and cover shows, the funk remained.

You’d think after two years of listing to this more than any other song I’d be sick of it, but no. I let the entire song play while writing the last entry after opening the video up in another browser tab, then restarted it for this entry when I went back to grab the link.

It’s such a good song.

2018: New Order — “Blue Monday”

Well, the good news is I broke out of my “Careless Whisper” funk. The bad news is I slipped back into the ’80s and into a New Wave funk.

Once again I have no explanation for how this became my top song of the year. I have no particular affinity for this song, and if anything I have more of an emotional connection to Orgy’s very weird cover from decades later. But Spotify says this is it and I have no reason to doubt them.

It’s for the best though. I think people were starting to worry about me over the whole George Michael thing.

2019: Andrew WK — “Party Hard”

Yes, Trump is still President. Yes, the world is still ending and there are still children in internment camps. Yes, everything is very much still garbage.

That said, in 2019 there were times to party and, as commanded, when it was time to party I partied hard.

Andrew WK is a friend of RIFF and one of the best interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. He’s a genuinely nice guy who has real love for people, and “Party Hard” especially has the sort of pure unironic joy that hadn’t popped up since those hair metal songs from earlier in the column. His music, like the man behind them, gives you permission to blow off some steam, have some fun and live life.

This year the Democrats took control of the House and starting impeachment proceedings. There was that first glimmer of hope. So I, and hopefully a lot of other people, gave ourselves permission to party hard and relieve some tension.

If you haven’t yet, I’m giving you that permission now: It’s time to party, and when it’s time to party we will party hard. Go hard and have fun. After the decade we’ve had you earned it.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at

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