In the musical landscape of the 2010s, we would see the rise of new stars, as well as the continuing growth of well-established ones. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that today’s music industry is the outgrowth of the foundation that was laid this past decade.
Here we explore the best 2010s singers across all genres. These singers will no doubt be a huge influence on the singers of tomorrow too.
Taylor Swift was the reigning queen of pop music in the 2010s, and it’s certainly looking as though that trend will continue in times to come.
In the 2010s, Swift dominated with number-one hits like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” “Bad Blood,” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Of course, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Red,” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” weren’t exactly throwaways either.
The 2010s would also see Swift leave her comfortable country-pop nest and venture into dance-pop, heartland rock, and even dubstep. It was all very controversial, and downright scandalous to Swifties.
Forgive me if I found it all rather predictable (which I did). Transitioning from country pop to pop is kind of like removing a dollop of whipped cream from a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Let me know when Swift transitions from pop to jazz fusion. That’ll give me something to write about.
Playful jesting aside, Taylor dominated the 2010s.
Female singers largely conquered the 2000s and were very prevalent in the 2010s as well. That said, there were more than a few male singers that either got their start in the 2010s or would come to prominence in the decade, and that includes the now inimitable Bruno Mars.
Mars certainly paid his dues on the way to the top, signing and being dropped by multiple labels throughout the mid to late 2000s. These years proved crucial to his development, however, and he ended up earning his stripes as a producer along the way.
Finally, in 2010, Mars would release his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, along with the lead single, “Just the Way You Are.”
The rest, as they say, was magic, or in this case, “24K Magic.”
Mars has yet to release any new albums in the 2020s but remains a relevant icon. His three studio albums all came out in the 2010s.
While his music often borrows from the best of the 70s, 80s, and 90s (The Police, Montell Jordan, Paula Abdul, etc.) at least he knows the right places to borrow from.
Having wrapped up her commitments with Destiny’s Child in the early 2000s, Beyoncé would embark upon a successful solo career with bangers like “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.” By the 2010s, she was well-established as “Queen Bey.”
Though she would go on hiatus in January 2010 to find new inspiration, she would find herself back on top by 2011 with the release of 4 and the opportunity to headline the Glastonbury Festival.
Beyoncé would also have her first child in 2012, release her surprise self-titled album in 2013, appear on the cover of Time magazine in 2014, and again on the cover of Vogue in 2015, release the politically charged Lemonade in 2016, become pregnant with twins in 2017, and much more.
Her biggest hits from the decade would come to include “Drunk in Love,” “Formation,” “Sorry,” and “Hold Up,” with Lemonade being her highest-performing and decidedly most important statement of the decade.
With 2008’s massively successful Fame in the rearview mirror, anyone could see that the only thing waiting for Gaga in the 2010s was more success.
Soon her debut album’s heels was 2011’s Born This Way, which spawned four top-10 hits, including the eponymous “Born This Way,” “The Edge of Glory,” “Judas,” and “You and I.”
It would be followed up in relatively short order by 2013’s Artpop, with “Applause” reaching the top four.
Having made a name for herself with her Halloween antics, Lady Gaga would take a detour from the esoteric and bizarre with the release of 2016’s Joanne, where she embraced more of a singer-songwriter aesthetic. Its second single, “Million Reasons,” would make it into the top four in the U.S.
I don’t know if I approve of all her appearances with President Joe Biden in recent years, but I suppose that is neither here nor there for the talented and skilled, late-30s singer whose impact on the music industry is already immeasurable.
In 2008, Ed Sheeran began playing in small venues in London. He would soon be invited on tour by the likes of Just Jack and Example. In 2010, Sheeran would release his Loose Change EP, featuring the song that would later become a hit, “The A Team.”
Sheeran’s popularity would continue to grow through YouTube and with well-publicized praise from Elton John. He would also begin to find mainstream attention thanks to his collaborative independent EP, No. 5 Collaborations Project, in 2011.
Later the same year, his debut single, “The A Team” would rocket up to number three on the UK Singles Chart. Sheeran’s career has only blossomed from there.
In the 2010s, Sheeran would release + (Plus), x (Multiply), and ÷ (Divide), and I don’t think there’s a stinker in the bunch.
Some prevalent hits include “The A Team,” “Thinking Out Loud,” “Photograph,” and “Shape of You.”
Ariana Grande’s rise to fame is now largely taken for granted, and that may well be due to her ability to sing like many of her heroes – Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston, among others.
In the late 2000s, a young Grande was still primarily working in theater, though she already had ambitions of recording an R&B album. The Nickelodeon TV show Victorious would propel her to teen idol status, but more interested in music, Grande would begin work on her debut album, in earnest, in 2010.
Having fulfilled TV-related commitments, Grande would finally release her debut album, Yours Truly, in 2013. Its debut single, “The Way,” would peak at number nine on the charts.
Much could be said about the events that followed, including the release of My Everything, Dangerous Woman, Sweetener, and Thank U, Next, but it’s fair to say Grande would quickly rise to become one of the top singers of the 2010s and she continues on an upward trajectory.
Other notable hits include “Problem,” “Break Free,” “Bang Bang,” “Love Me Harder,” “Side to Side,” “Dangerous Woman,” “Into You,” “No Tears Left to Cry,” “God Is a Woman,” “Thank U, Next,” and “7 Rings,” among others.
Katy “Queen of Camp” Perry’s explosive rise to fame began with her 2008 release, One of the Boys, featuring essential hits like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot n Cold.”
The 2010s were therefore the raven-haired bombshell singer’s playground. We saw the release of “Perry essentials,” like Teenage Dream, Prism, and Witness, and in particular, Teenage Dream would amp up the camp.
These three releases collectively spawned hits like “California Gurls,” “Firework,” “Teenage Dream,” “E.T.,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” “Roar,” and “Chained to the Rhythm.”
Teenage Dream was pivotal, however, as it was the second album in history to have five number-one singles (the first was Michael Jackson’s Bad).
In recent years, Perry has birthed a child and landed herself a Las Vegas concert residency too.
Canadian singer The Weeknd would spend his early years, as many artists do, trying a variety of things – primarily releasing music anonymously, posting tacks to YouTube, and releasing mixtapes – before meeting music executives Amir “Cash” Esmailian and Wassim “Sal” Slaiby and founding a record label.
The Weeknd would hold his first live performance at Toronto’s Mod Club Theatre, which helped him get connected to Canadian rapper Drake. And he just kept hitting the pavement with additional performances and releases.
That is until 2013 when he released his debut studio album, Kiss Land, which debuted at number two on the charts.
In the 2010s, The Weeknd would also go on to release the albums Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy.
You may have heard of “Starboy,” “Die for You,” “Reminder,” “Call Out My Name,” and “Pray for Me,” among others.
Lana Del Rey
In the mid-2000s, Lana Del Rey would release a couple of EPs and an acoustic album. She would go on to perform publicly for the first time and meet an A&R rep. 5 Points Records subsequently offered her a recording contract after she submitted a demo tape.
Del Rey would continue to develop while earning her college degree. Her self-titled debut album would be released in 2010, and Del Rey would get out of her record contract and engage in self-promotion. Her breakthrough success would arrive shortly after in 2011.
Del Rey remained active through the 2010s with additional releases, like Born to Die, Ultraviolence, Honeymoon, Lust for Life, and Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Check out “Summertime Sadness,” “Million Dollar Man,” “West Coast,” “Sad Girl,” “Brooklyn Baby,” “Love,” “Lust for Life,” and others, and hear this woman’s impressive vocal prowess.
Harry Styles, of course, will always be remembered as one of the singers of the boy band One Direction, which had a prolific run from 2010 to 2016, with hit songs like “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Best Song Ever,” “Story of My Life,” and “Live While You’re Young,” among others.
The band did eventually go on hiatus, of course, ostensibly to allow its members to pursue solo projects and to avoid burning out their fans.
That is effectively what’s happened to this point, as we’ve seen solo releases from One Direction members Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and of course, Harry Styles.
Styles began recording his first solo album in 2016. His debut single, released in March 2017, the Bowie-esque “Sign of the Times,” made it to the top of the charts in the UK and number four on Billboard.
In addition to his self-titled debut album, Harry Styles, Styles would also release Fine Line in 2019.
Some other notable songs of his include “Two Ghosts,” “Kiwi,” “Lights Up,” and “Watermelon Sugar.”
Lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds has risen to become a hugely influential figure in percussion-heavy pop rock. No doubt, his singing style is being put on notice by the singers of tomorrow, who will one day soon reference Reynolds as their primary influence.
Imagine Dragons spent their early years (2008 through 2011) assembling their band, recording demos they uploaded to MySpace, and releasing several EPs.
Their 2012 single, “It’s Time,” would prove their breakthrough hit, reaching number 15 on the charts. Soon to follow was their debut album, Night Vision.
The music of Imagine Dragons has become ubiquitous and is practically an internet meme. Some love it, and some hate it, but either way, the Dragons have found a winning formula they don’t appear to have any intention of deviating from.
Will the 2010s be remembered as their heyday? Likely, yes. After 2012’s Night Visions, they went on to release Smoke + Mirrors in 2015, Evolve in 2017, and Origins in 2018.
So far, the 2020s have also proven a prolific time for the band, however, so you just never know what could happen next.
The always-fit and heavily inked Adam Levine is best known as the singer of the L.A. pop outfit Maroon 5. The band has had considerable longevity and originally began its 30-year run in 1994 as Kara’s Flowers.
The band started in high school and would go on to self-release their independent album, We Like Digging? In 1995. The band caught the attention of Reprise Records, who signed them in 1997.
Unfortunately, their album went over like a lead balloon. So, the members of the band decided to focus on college before re-launching as Maroon 5 in 2001.
Having signed with an indie label, the band would go on to release Songs About Jane in 2002, which was spurred on by the success of tunes like “She Will Be Loved,” “This Love,” and “Harder to Breathe.”
By 2009, Levine felt the band didn’t have much of a life left. He was quick to take back that statement, however, and Maroon 5 would continue their touring efforts in 2010.
In 2011, they would headline the Super Bowl XLV pre-show, perform at Rock in Rio, and even appear on Saturday Night Live. The 2010s were quickly shaping up to be a prolific time for the band.
That was about the time that Maroon 5’s keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jesse Carmichael decided to go on hiatus. The band kept on, however, beginning work on Overexposed, which featured hits like “Payphone” and “One More Night.”
The 2010s would also see the release of V and Red Pill Blues.
I’m not a fan of Levine’s singing style myself, but that will not stop the band’s continued domination.
Known best as the singer and ukulele player of Twenty One Pilots, Tyler Joseph will probably be another one of those singers whose influence will be felt on young up-and-comers in a matter of a few years.
The duo got its start in 2009, though Joseph and drummer Josh Dun met at a much younger age and would not come together as a duo until later. Joseph would get to work on his music, releasing a solo basement EP, No Phun Intended in 2007.
Joseph would go on to form a band with Nick Thomas and Chris Salih. The band would release their self-titled album, Twenty One Pilots, in 2009, tour locally, and participate in Battle of the Bands contests.
Salih and Thomas both left the group in 2011. Salih introduced Joseph to Dun, and when Dun saw what Joseph was up to, he was done (I know, bad pun).
The group went on to release Regional at Best in 2011, and they kept building their fan base, touring, and posting to social media until they played a sold-out show at Newport Music Hall in Columbus. This, along with their Regional at Best tour finally landed them a contract with Fueled by Ramen.
In the 2010s, we would also see the release of Vessel, Blurryface, and Trench, spawning hits like “Holding On to You,” “Stressed Out,” “Ride,” “Jumpsuit,” and “Nico and the Niners.”
With her Hannah Montana years mostly in the rearview mirror, smoky-voiced singer and daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus would eventually find her stride as an often high, hypersexual, twerking sensation in the 2010s.
Miley’s final hurrah with Hannah Montana and journey to solo success, however, wasn’t without its pitfalls. She knew she wanted to embrace a more mature image, but her early releases didn’t do all that well. Her final soundtrack as Hannah Montana was also a commercial failure.
Cyrus would also face quite a bit of controversy during this time, and she would be dropped from film projects too. Having appeared on multiple popular releases like “Fall Down” and “23,” though, Miley would finally find her way again.
Her “comeback” single, “We Can’t Stop,” hit the top of the charts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Soon on its heels was “Wrecking Ball” and its music video, which showed Miley swinging naked on – you guessed it – a wrecking ball.
It wasn’t all twerking and simulated sex for the young starlet, who would follow up 2013’s Bangerz with Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz (2015) and Younger Now (2017). But what it did for Madonna, it did for Miley too.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen originally gained mainstream attention by placing third on Canadian Idol, which was in its fifth season, in 2007. Jepsen followed up her appearance with her debut album, Tug of War, in Canada, in 2008. It would not see an international release, however, until 2011.
And while not all fans or listeners know the exact details of what happened next, they will no doubt appreciate the reference. In 2012, her silly single, “Call Me Maybe,” with the help of Justin Bieber, would become her breakthrough hit. It even became the best-selling single of the year.
Jepsen has kept the releases coming. After 2012’s Kiss, she also released Emotion in 2015 and Dedicated in 2019.
Emotion was very different from her bubble-gum pop-oriented Kiss and was inspired by alternative styles and 1980s music. Its lead single, “I Really Like You,” at least to me, was no less goofy (maybe even goofier) than “Call Me Maybe,” but it was nevertheless a top-five hit.
Dedicated did all right too, even if there weren’t any standout hits.
Having just found fame with 2008’s 19, the 2010s would remain prolific for the English singer-songwriter Adele.
There are usually a few years in between any Adele release, and the 2010s would see the two albums – 21 and 25 – come to fruition.
Her failed relationship would inspire much of the material heard on 21, which ended up becoming a bit of a sleeper hit. It was never expected to become as successful as it ultimately did, and it even became the world’s best-selling album of 2011 and 2012.
Unless you’ve been following her from the start, 21 is what you know her for – especially “Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone Like You,” and “Rumour Has It.”
Her 2015 release, 25 would come to incorporate electronic elements, but the lyrical melodrama is just as present as it was on 21, and you can add to that nostalgia, motherhood, regret, and new love as key themes.
The release was just as explosive as the last, if not more so, with songs like “Hello,” “When We Were Young,” and “Water Under the Bridge.”
Rihanna was well-established in the 2000s and probably could have ridden her success to the bank in the 2010s. She didn’t, though, because, between 2010 and 2012, she would release an album per year, yielding Loud, Talk That Talk, and Unapologetic. She would also release Anti in 2016.
The 2010s, however, would also see the pop and R&B star adding fashion mogul to her resume. Now, where most music entrepreneurs have modest and humble successes with their “side” ventures, Rihanna’s fashion empire has become a force to reckon with. Her estimated net worth now totals $1.4 billion beating out Taylor Swift’s nevertheless impressive $600 million.
Rihanna would have more than enough hits in the 2010s, including “What’s My Name?,” “Diamonds,” and “Work,” among others.
Marcus Mumford, of course, is none other than the lead singer of the London folk band Mumford & Sons.
Mumford & Sons was formed in 2007. As a proponent of the so-called “West London folk scene” (which has been downplayed by the band), Mumford & Sons would find management in 2008. Labels had an eye on them, but reps were clear that they weren’t ready for mainstream yet.
The band kept growing its fan base, however, and they even embarked on a massive UK tour. This all culminated in an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival and an EP titled Love Your Ground.
The band recorded their self-funded Sigh No More in 2009, signing with Island Records, Dew Process, Glassnote Records, and Cooperative Music, each representing them in different regions of the world.
The lead single, “Little Lion Man” made a bit of a splash, and things took off from there.
During the 2010s, the band would release Babel, Wilder Mind, and Delta. You will no doubt remember “I Will Wait,” “The Wolf,” and “Guiding Light,” among others.
Singer and pianist John Legend would successfully establish himself in the 2000s, finding breakthrough success in 2004. As his popularity continued to rise in the late 2000s, he picked up three Grammy Awards (and that’s just one highlight).
Legend would begin touring in full force from 2011 to 2015, releasing his fourth studio album, Love in the Future, along the way.
In the 2010s, Legend would also release 2016’s Darkness and Light, as well as 2018’s A Legendary Christmas.
His career may have gone through some ups and downs, but on balance, Legend has come out on top.
Reference “All of Me,” “Love Me Now,” and “Bring Me Love.”
Top 2010s Singers, Final Thoughts
What did you like best about the 2010s? Which singers were your favorite? Is there anyone else you would add to this list?
We hope you enjoyed this guide, and we look forward to your return.