The 2010s: A Celebration of a Decade Gone By

Sarah Ray, Editor

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The 2010s are coming to a close, and riddled with pop culture trends and social change, the past decade has certainly been one to look back on. The decade began with uncertainty after the end of the 2000s, also called “the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post– World War II era,” by Time Magazine. With the predicted end of the world in 2012 and the coinciding sense of impending doom felt by many, the 2010’s were off to a rather rocky start. Now having made it to the end, we can reflect on the last ten years and how they marked a paradigm shift in the culture of the world, and will surely be remembered as one of the most influential time periods yet.

Technological advancement has been a popular topic of conversation since the late 1950s, but has especially taken a front seat in the last ten years.  2010 gave us the iPad, and at the time, this was in no way a revolutionary idea for a piece of technology. The idea of a handheld, gesture-based computer had been around and on the market for years.  However, these gadgets were often unreliable, bulky, and very expensive. It wasn’t until Apple, a company normally associated with high-ticket items, introduced the iPad that the consumer tablet market took off, and set the stage for many of the technologies we have today. With the invention and innovation of automation technology, voice-based personal assistants and digitized home systems have also gained popularity in recent years, making day-to-day life significantly more convenient.  Similarly, virtual reality, a concept that seemed so far away only 10 years ago, has become a household commonplace for many. While all of these technologies may not have enormous potential outside themselves, they have nonetheless rocked the world over the course of the last decade and have left society on the cusp of enormous strides in things such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Akin to the technological advances that happened in the 2010s, pop culture has also come a long way. From music to movies to fashion, there are some stark differences between the pop culture of today versus that of prior decades.

It’s no secret that music has changed a fair bit over the years, and when you get to the end of a decade in the music industry, it’s always tempting to wonder what that period will primarily be remembered for generations down the road.

With the rise and fall of certain music genres, the music industry has seen some dramatic changes in the last decade.

The 2010s have brought new meaning to the words, “boy band.” Formed in 2010, One Direction is a prime example of what a stereotypical boy band was long believed to be, and topped the pop charts for many years. While the band has since split, their impact on the boy band movement is undeniable and still seen in music today. 5 Seconds of Summer, an Australian boy band that started gaining popularity in 2015, demonstrated an edgier version of boy band, playing more punk-inspired music. In more recent years, the rap collective and self-described “biggest boy band in the world,” BROCKHAMPTON, has flipped the boy band stereotype on its head. Thanks to these artists and others like them, the term “boy band” is bigger and more diverse than ever.

Another defining feature of the decade is the dominance of rap music. In 2018 Billboard reported that rhythm and blues/hip hop was the U.S’s most popular genre of music. With popular artists like Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Kanye West, and several break out artists like Post Malone, Cardi B, and Lil Nas X constantly producing chart-topping hits, rap is a hard genre to compete with these days. With rap’s growing popularity in the 2010s has also come the emergence of  “backpack” rap, or underground rap also brought artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Earl Sweatshirt to the forefront of music.

One of the most dramatic changes in music during the 2010s was that of teen pop. Former teen idols such as Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift shifted to a more electronic and anti-pop inspired sounds, appealing to teenage emotions that are significantly darker and more ironic. The rise in this style of music has also made way for artists such as Lorde and Billie Eilish to thrive in today’s music industry.

So, will the 2010s be remembered as the streaming era? The electronic era? The boy band era? The era of hip-hop dominance? While the answer remains unclear, year-end lists always feel worth making, if only to have a backlog of one’s own heart and mind. That being said, every decade has it’s hits, and this one has been no exception.

According to a student survey ran by myself, five of the most decade-defining songs are as follows:

  1. “We Are Young” by Fun. ft. Janelle Monáe

  2. “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye ft. Kimbra

  3. “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele

  4. “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean

  5. “Star Ships” Nicki Minaj

Whether you listened to these Billboard Hot 100 hits on repeat or sought for something different, it is undeniable that these songs have undoubtedly touched lives throughout the decade and been largely influential in the way that music has come to be produced, performed and received.

Watching movies used to be so simple. If you wanted to see a film, you went to a nearby movie theater and watched some actors deliver their scripted lines surrounded by a physically constructed set. These days though, maybe the set was built by a program, rather than a person, and exists only on a screen. Maybe the actors don’t exist either, or maybe they died half a century ago. As for a movie theater, why go there when you when you can watch a newly released movie on your TV or phone with just a few clicks of a button?

The film industry and how audiences watch content has changed more in the last ten years than in almost any other decade, and there is no telling what form it will take in the coming decades.

In the 2010s streaming services and on-demand television took the world by storm. Netflix launched its own streaming service in 2010 and quickly became the largest in the world. Since then, more and more companies have followed suit and released their own streaming services.

Over the past ten years movies have had a significant impact on culture and social conversation. Our favorite movies aren’t always the ones that shape the industry or inspire culture change around the world, but they seem to have led the film industry in the 2010s.

Get Out (2017) is a satirical mystery-thriller that serves as a spot-on commentary about race in America. It’s tense, funny and provides viewers with hours of rewatchability potential, but most significantly is a harsh critique of liberal racism and post-racial America.

Moonlight (2016) is highly personal, low-budget coming-of-age story, and made history by becoming the first Oscar winner for best picture from an African American director.

Blackfish (2013) gave viewers an honest look at the abuse faced by orca whales at SeaWorld, and inspired change in public perception, behavior, and law regarding these animals.

The Social Network (2010) delves into not only the launch of social media’s defining force, Facebook, but also how far people are willing to go and what they are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of success.

Parasite (2019) sheds light on classism and in Asian culture along with society and economy in Korea. This satirical thriller blurs the lines between villain and hero and leaves you questioning every conclusion you may come to.

The Big Sick (2017) is a modest film based on the real-life romance between it’s writers, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, and how their relationship was complicated by their cultural differences.

Ex Machina (2015) gives a jarring glimpse into what the future might hold if humans underestimate the power of artificial intelligence. As technology progresses this film starts to look like more fact than fiction.

Advancement in smartphones and mobile applications in the last decade has radically changed the way people communicate and interact with one another. This, coupled with the popularization of social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram would not make it unreasonable for the 2010s to be dubbed “The Decade of Social Media.”

Social media began in the early 2000s with the invention of MySpace, and in 2004 the site became the first to reach one million monthly active users. Since then, the number of social media platforms and their users has skyrocketed. In recent years however, once-dominant platforms like MySpace and Friendster have fallen into the foreground and been replaced by newer platforms.

Tik Tok, for example, launched in September of 2016, and is now inhabited by billions of monthly users.

The feverish use of social media by billions of people every day has attracted corporations to these sites for advertising. Fun, video sharing services such as Youtube have been corpritized and turned into money-making machines for highly-produced adverts.

This change has also brought on the era of  “social media influencers, and has culminated in the necessity of a highly-wrought public appearance, where social clout and the ability to hone one’s appearance, humor, and tastes to the dictates of the latest trends is key. Only time will tell if we will continue accepting the corporatized nature of social media or if we’ll find something better.

The 2010s gave much-needed visibility to civic and political issues as the rise of social media fueled protests around the world has allowed thousands to rally behind their causes. In the US, hashtags like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter have become rallying cries for social justice, and protestors in the Arab Spring and Hong Kong demonstrations have used social media to spread awareness and information about a government that is trying to silence them.

Of course, the positive effects are not without the negative. Social media has also provided a new platform for hate and bigotry, on a much more public scale than in previous decades.

The 2010s brought about tremendous changes in technology, music, film, social media, and social climate, all over the world. Having both negative and positive aspects, the past decade has surely been one to remember. Here’s to another 10 years.