The Headphone Jack: Songs defining the decade

Often, memories are marked by music: we’ll never forget the song that was on when we watched the Blues win the Cup, the ballad playing through the car speakers as we had our first kiss, the one that wraps up our favorite movie as the credits begin rolling. So, it only makes sense that we commemorate the decade by making a Headphone Jack playlist comprised of the most special songs that helped define these past 10 years. Enjoy!


‘Blacker the Berry’ by Kendrick Lamar, 2015

When our staff was throwing around ideas for our very first print issue of 2020, we unanimously agreed we should do a special Headphone Jack. I also knew what my contribution would be: Lamar’s ‘The Blacker the Berry.’ The problem didn’t set in until I sat down to write about it: How can I possibly give this song the justice it deserves in one to two short paragraphs? 

Forgive me for all I leave out. From the intro to the last verse, Lamar brings it. It’s honest. It’s not sugar-coated. It’s what America needed at the time, even though it wasn’t a saving grace — wake the hell up and acknowledge race in America. Acknowledge at the same time employers are punishing a Black man for wearing dreadlocks, there’s a whole slew of people trying to appropriate a culture they try to destroy every day. And when it takes the form of violence to which we cannot turn a blind eye, it didn’t start with a few racist cops: “When I finish this if you listenin’ then sure you will agree/ this plot is bigger than me, it’s generational hatred/ It’s genocism, it’s grimy, little justification.” Sit down and let the words marinate with this one. 

— Madison Lammert, editor-in-chief 


‘I’m Not Racist’ by Joyner Lucas, 2017

I had a really tough time trying to decide what to put on here that made the most sense as a “song of the decade.” The more I thought back on the decade, the more I remember nothing but negative media surrounding both sides of a racial issue, and that’s something I hope we can leave behind us for this new decade.

This song has a strong message, conveying two sides of a debate: a white man and a Black man. The song is full of explicit language so if that isn’t your thing, maybe skip this one. However, looking at the deeper message of the lyrics really gives an insight on what we might be able to do moving on to this next decade. 

One of the most powerful lyrics is said by both the white and the black character, and it goes “I’m not racist and I never lie, but I think there’s a disconnect between your culture and mine.” A lot of the issues we saw stem up in the last decade came about due to a lack of knowledge about the diversity in people around us, and most of them could be solved by just sitting down and trying to understand the people who aren’t similar to us.

— Shane Wheatley, copy editor


‘Homecoming Queen’ by Kelsea Ballerini, 2019

Kelsea Ballerini has inspired me since she released her first album in 2015. As a young female singer, she became a voice for people that could relate to her personal experiences. I chose this song to recognize how important it is to remember that there is not a single person in this world that does not face difficult situations, including the most popular girl in school. 

The lyrics emphasize the lies we often tell to prove ourselves to people every day. As the decade progressed, the presence of social media became more prominent all over the world. It is easy to hide behind an Instagram post, to pretend you have it all figured out and put together. It is even easier to convince yourself that you are the only person struggling after seeing how “perfect” everyone else’s lives are. We are constantly surrounded by people at the touch of a button, yet many people will report that they have never felt more alone. Listening to this song brings me peace of mind as it reminds me that everyone has to fight their own battles, both silent and shared. ”Homecoming Queen” says that we are not alone, and that we do not have to hide who we are or what we feel. 

— Mackenzie Smith, multimedia editor


‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ by Gotye, 2012

“Somebody That I Used to Know” is one of the most iconic breakup songs of the decade. It’s a song that you hear for the first time in a while, and it’s immediately stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Gotye’s voice captures a perfectly melancholy tone on the verses, which is contrasted by a higher-pitched, more impassioned tone on the chorus. However, my favorite part of the song will always be the verse sung by Kimbra. While most of the song comes from one partner’s perspective during the breakup, this verse reveals the other side, adding more depth and contrast to the song. 

Perhaps even more memorable than the song itself is the music video. With both singers’ naked bodies painted to blend in with the backdrop, it is one of the most simple yet artistic music videos I’ve ever seen. The highlight for me, however, is Gotye’s acting in the video. The nuances in his facial expressions really sell the emotion behind the lyrics, especially as Kimbra sings to him about how badly he hurt her. Heartbreak is one of the most relatable and timeless topics, and I think this song and its accompanying music video will both be timeless as well. 

— Jennifer Goeckner, managing editor


Ballad of the Dying Man by Father John Misty, 2017 

“Naturally the dying man wonders to himself, has commentary been more lucid than anybody else?” In this song Father John Misty sings about a bitter, conceited man who, even on his deathbed, can only wonder who will critique the “idiots, dilettantes, and fools’’ after he’s gone. In the 2010’s, the internet peaked, finally becoming accessible to everyone. Though it has so much to offer, some people have chosen to only use the internet as a means to channel their hate. This song perfectly represents that culture by using something as significant as one’s final moments to show how pointless a lifestyle like that is.  

Though Misty likes to sing about pretentious fools who think they’re better than everyone, many have accused him of being that very thing. In my opinion, they’re right, but this only further proves the song’s significance. So many have listened to this song and thought it was so clever, and then went on the internet to judge people like the man in the song. Others hated the song and went on the internet to judge people like Father John Misty. Suddenly both sides look pretty stupid. 

An examination of this song and one’s reaction to it can reveal how focused on hate and cynicism so many people have become. This song, and others on the album show that it might be a time to take a step back from those things that make us bitter, like the internet, and try to focus on the more positive things in life.

— John McGowan, reporter

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