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Best Pop Songs Of All Time: Our Top 10 Favourites

Photograph of the blog post author, Hannah Jaap

Hannah Jaap

11.2.2021

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We don’t know about you, but the team here at Music Gateway is absolutely obsessed with pop music! It was a no brainer that we had to dedicate an article to the best pop songs of all time – it just had to be done! Today we will be taking you through the top picks of our favourite pop songs, featuring some icons that you definitely would have heard of!

best pop songs

Whilst you’re here, why not put on your favourite Spotify playlist and get jamming with us? Every day is a party here at Music Gateway – let’s jump in! Without further ado, here is our list of the best pop songs of all time!

The Beatles – Let It Be

Starting with a 70s track is The Beatles’ Let It Be, released in March 1970. Written by Paul McCartney, it was the title track of the band’s final album and is a favourite of many Beatles fans.

The heart-warming single reached No. 2 on the UK charts and went two times platinum in the US. Furthermore, its influence of gospel and pop music makes this piece powerful with the addition of McCartney’s beautiful lyrics.

The songwriter has explained that inspiration hit him after he dreamt about his mother, Mary, who had passed away years prior. Stressed about The Beatles after the release of their eleventh LP, The White Album, he dreamt that Mary told him, “It will be alright, just let it be.”

Let It Be was recorded at Apple Studios and later performed in the Live Aid show in July 1985. Paul McCartney was joined by founder Bob Geldof, David Bowie, Pete Townshend, and Alison Moyet for the performance. Playing to 72,000 people in Wembley Stadium to raise money for the Ethiopian famine disaster. It’s certainly considered one of the best piano pop songs of all time!

David Bowie – Heroes

Music legend David Bowie released his astounding song, Heroes, in 1977. It was to become one of his most influential tracks, though it didn’t seem so at the time.

The song was not regarded especially highly upon its release as part of the album of the same name. Later peaking at No. 23 in the UK Singles Chart after Bowie’s death in 2016.

Heroes (the album) was the second in the Berlin Trilogy, which also included Low and Lodger in collaboration with Brian Eno. Furthermore, the single was written about two lovers from opposite sides of Berlin. Meeting at the Berlin Wall and embracing. As inspired by the man who produced the song, Tony Visconti and his girlfriend.

Some of the music was experimental for the artist, as was so much of his music, using an EMS VCS3 and gated vocals to create the unique sound. Moreover, at one point, after the song’s release, Bowie stated, “When we did Heroes it really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer. I’ve never felt it like that again.”

Clearly, many others did in the years to come. It’s for that reason along with its poetic lyrics that the song is still considered one of the best pop songs ever today.

Prince – Purple Rain

Prince’s Purple Rain was named his best song by Rolling Stone magazine’s readers, with good reason. Released in 1984, it was the title track of his sixth studio album and the finale of the Purple Rain film which he starred in. Ultimately becoming one of Prince’s best 80s pop songs.

This pop power ballad went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and, following Prince’s death in 2016, it shot back up to No. 4. Additionally, a year after it was shared, the song won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score.

Purple rain builds instruments and harmony throughout and implements Prince’s versatile vocal ability. In the middle of the 8-minute track is a soaring guitar solo played by the songwriter himself. Which, despite its simplicity, is the best guitar solo in pop due to its heart-breaking emotion.

Originally, the song was written as a country song to perform with Stevie Nicks, who felt overwhelmed by the writing task and backed out. But, without Prince’s lyrics, it wouldn’t be the same song we know and love.

Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

From the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is one of the world’s most famous pop songs and the best 80s pop songs. It was released as the second single from 1982’s Thriller album. Moreover, this album also featured its namesake and a number of other songs which would become the singer’s biggest hits.

With producer Quincy Jones, Jackson leaned into the disco genre which was becoming less popular after the 70s. Billie Jean is certified five times platinum digitally in the US and once in physical copies, peaking at No. 1 on both the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100. 

Additionally, in 1984, the song won Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammys. That year, Jackson won a record total of eight awards!

Lastly, at 922 million YouTube views since its upload in 2009, the music video was the first by a black artist to be aired in heavy rotation on MTV. Additionally, it was also the first short film made for Thriller and features some of Jackson’s iconic dance moves to the driving drum and bass beat.

TLC – No Scrubs

No Scrubs by TLC was the lead single from the band’s third album Fanmail in 1999. Band member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes co-wrote the song and recorded it with fellow singers Tionne Watking (“T-Boz”) and Rozonda Thomas (“Chlli”).

It was the first time Thomas had sung lead vocals on a TLC song, and it paid off. No Scrubs debuted at No. 1 on the UK Singles Charts and the Billboard Hot 100. It won the Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo/Group With Vocals and is one of the best 90s pop songs thanks to its message of female empowerment.

Beyoncé – Crazy In Love

Beyoncé is one the most famous and accomplished artists of today with her monumental Lemonade album and works on the live-action Lion King soundtrack. However, her fans will always cherish her 2000s releases like Crazy In Love featuring her partner (now husband) Jay-Z.

Now boasting 400 million streams on Spotify, the song was written for Beyoncé’s debut solo album Dangerously In Love in 2003 after her departure from girl band Destiny’s Child. It’s still one of her biggest hits and best pop songs of the 2000s, taking the No. 1 spot on both the UK and US charts at the time of release.

Crazy In Love won Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration based on Jay-Z’s verse, Beyoncé’s vocals and the horn section which plays the well-known hook sampled from the 1970 song Are You My Woman (Tell Me So) by The Chi-Lites.

Green Day – American Idiot

Influenced by rock and punk bands such as The Ramones, The Clash, and The Who, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wrote American Idiot with producers Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool. The protest song is the title track of the band’s seventh album. Which won Best Rock Album at the 2005 Grammys, a few months after its release.

American Idiot is considered one of the best pop-punk songs ever. Moreover, it reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 1 on the Rock and Metal Chart. With Armstrong’s twangy vocals and the heavy, fast-paced drumbeat, it hits all the right notes for fans who resonate with the song.

Lyrically, American Idiot has continued to be relevant since its release. The band have spoken out against Trump after his supporters used the song to endorse the former President.

At a performance in Las Vegas in 2019, Armstrong changed the song’s lyrics from “I’m not a part of the redneck agenda” to “I’m not a part of the MAGA agenda,” which is referring to Trump’s slogan. This is why it is one of the best pop songs of the 2000s.

Taylor Swift – All Too Well

All Too Well has been named in many articles as one of Taylor Swift’s best songs, and it is commonly revered among fans. Written by Swift and her fellow band member Liz Rose in 2012, the song is from the star’s fourth album Red. Surprisingly, it was never released as a single.

Swift’s ballad is another of the best piano songs which was described by Rolling Stone as “a masterpiece”. According to the artist, All Too Well was originally ten minutes long. But she worked with Rose to bring it down to five minutes.

With a simple chord structure common in many pop songs, what makes this one so ground-breaking? Swift’s use of her country roots and her later-discovered knack for pop tells the detailed story of a break-up and the difficulty of moving on with multiple builds throughout. While the song did not peak as highly commercially as some of her others, it is the best lyrically and received sparkling reviews from critics.

Billie Eilish – Bad Guy

In the best pop songs of 2019, Bad Guy, has garnered over 1 billion streams on Spotify since its release as the fifth single from Billie Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It was written with her brother, known as FINNEAS, who also produced the album.

This sarcastic electropop song is refreshingly experimental. Breaking rules and becoming a huge commercial success. It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Top 40 and gained Eilish both Song and Record of the Year at the 2020 Grammys.

Lastly, what makes Bad Guy so highly regarded is its eccentricity, in lyrics but especially in sound. As a producer, FINNEAS finds new sounds in his daily life, recording a pedestrian signal to use as hi-hats in the sparse instrumental. Furthermore, Eilish’s signature whisper can be heard over her lead vocal part right from the first line, “White shirt now red, my bloody nose” and, obviously, her hilarious “duh” cues every drop.

BTS – Dynamite

Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without K-Pop phenomenon BTS with one of the best pop songs in 2020, Dynamite. The boyband have taken the world by storm over the last five years. Sharing the song last year as part of their album BE. It has procured 600 million streams in six months.

The song climbed to the top of most single charts and it is the first BTS song to hit No. 1 in the US. It follows the trend which we saw last year of disco’s return with its synths, falsetto vocals, and funky bass-line. It even has a classic key change for the final chorus. Written by David Stewart and Jessica Agombar, Dynamite was created to uplift listeners during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dynamite also received the group their first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the upcoming 2021 ceremony. This makes them the first Korean pop act to be nominated. To find out if BTS win, tune in to the virtual Grammy broadcast in March 2021!

Honourable Mentions

With so much choice over the years, it’s hard to choose only ten which are considered the best of all time.

So, here are some honourable mentions of other incredible releases – the best 80s pop songs and some more of the best pop songs of the 2000s.

Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Firstly, the 80s saw many of the best pop artists break out into the music industry and not all of them made the top 10. Whitney Houston brought her unparalleled voice to the feelgood single from her eponymous sophomore album, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).

Synths, groovy bass and a Roland TR-808 were used to create the instrumental for the 1987 track. Furthermore, it won the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1988 and charted at No. 1 in multiple countries. 

It was Houston’s fourth consecutive No. 1 single in the US and her first platinum single. Written by Georgie Merrill and Shannon Rubicam and produced by Narada Michael Walden. 

Destiny’s Child – Say My Name

We couldn’t include Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love without acknowledging her successful career in girl band Destiny’s Child.

Their song Say My Name charted similarly to TLC’s No Scrubs. Making them two of the best and most memorable songs of the 90s.

This smooth R&B track is from the band’s album The Writing’s on the Wall and is a laid back empowering anthem. It won the Grammys for Best R&B Song and R&B Performance by a Duo/Group With Vocals in 2001.

Amy Winehouse – Rehab

Lastly, 2006 was a big year for the soulful Amy Winehouse. She put out her second and final album Back To Black. Sharing five singles including the title track and her breakout song Rehab. 

Inspired by jazz and R&B artists, Winehouse created an emotional song about her struggle with drug and alcohol addiction in the public eye.

Moreover, it was produced by Mark Ronson and, despite the upbeat backing, the lyrics are a dark, saddening reflection of Winehouse’s mental state at the time. Which was only made worse by the media. 

Rehab went to No. 7 on the UK charts and No. 9 in the US. Making it the songwriter’s only top 10 hits in the US. It also won a total of three Grammys: Record and Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Our Final Thoughts

best pop songs

That was our list of the 10 best pop songs of all time! We hope that you enjoyed this article and inspired you to update your playlist. We know for certain there were some absolute icons on here!

Let us know if we mentioned your favourite or if you think we missed any out in the comment section below! We want to hear your thoughts! Also, don’t forget to share this article across your socials and tag us @musicgateway – we love interacting with you all!

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