Top 10 Underappreciated Pop Songs of All Time
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Underappreciated Pop Songs of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most notable tracks from the genre that didn’t get the recognition they deserved.
Did we miss one of your favorite pop songs? Let us know in the comments below!
#10: “Unwanted” (2002)
Canadian singer Avril Lavigne was immensely popular in the 2000s. Hits like “Complicated” and “My Happy Ending” made her a household name. However, “Unwanted” is a deep cut that managed to slip through the cracks. Off of her debut studio album “Let Go,” the song showcased her early mastery of pop and alt-rock music. With ferocious guitars underneath, Lavigne sang about feeling disregarded by a boyfriend's family. It’s this kind of early 2000s song that kept her rocker identity alive, all while giving pop fans something to appreciate. Showing that she wasn’t just a teenage gimmick, Lavigne proved that she could hold her own in “Unwanted.”
#9: “Suddenly I See” (2004)
KT Tunstall delivered her first record “Eye to the Telescope” in 2004, with a heavier folk influence that set her apart from her pop contemporaries. “Suddenly I See” was released as a single the following year, featuring Tunstall’s earthy singing voice and soulful songwriting. Inspired by Patti Smith, the alt-pop track felt like an ode to independent and commanding women. Yet even with its use in films like “The Devil Wears Prada,” it failed to receive the recognition it deserved. In fact, the song only reached number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. With “Suddenly I See,” the performer combined sweet guitar licks and empowering lyrics, creating an oft-forgotten gem in the process.
#8: “Touch” (2016)
After winning “The X-Factor,” Little Mix reenergized the girl group genre. The energetic and upbeat “Touch” was included on their fourth studio album, “Glory Days.” The song’s fun pop hooks were perfect for the dance floor, with lyrics about how much a single touch can accomplish. The group members blended their voices into a set of glorious harmonies, making the number all the more memorable. The single performed well in their home country, even cracking the top 5 on the UK Singles Chart. But despite the band promoting it, “Touch” didn’t make much of a splash across the pond. We’re still not sure why pop fans everywhere didn’t jump all over this one.
#7: “Call the Shots” (2007)
During a time where it felt like every pop girl group member had gone solo, Girls Aloud trudged forward as a rare quintet in the genre. Their song “Call the Shots” had all the upbeat pop power to conquer the world. Discussing a relationship that had soured, the lyrics felt incredibly empowering, giving the women the upper hand. Rising to number three on the UK Singles charts, the track was only given a chance to shine in Europe. The words brought out a fiery and empowering message, and there’s no doubt that they had the potential to connect with listeners all over the world.
#6: “Come Home” (2007)
OneRepublic is best known for hits such as “Apologize” and “Counting Stars.” But “Come Home,” which was first released in 2007, deserves some of that love too. The piano ballad delivered an emotional plea for a loved one to return home. Apparently, singer Ryan Tedder wrote the song for his friend in the military, who was facing some challenges in his relationship. Sara Bareilles’ featured vocals on the 2009 single version also gave the poignant message extra depth. Overshadowed by their “Apologize” collaboration with Timbaland, “Come Home” stripped things down, with moving results. It’s hard to believe both versions of this track have largely gone unnoticed.
#5: “American Boy” (2008)
Estelle feat. Kanye West
Though it’s the song most of us associate Estelle with, there’s still the feeling that “American Boy” didn’t get the appreciation that it deserved. This Grammy-winning single was borne out of a massive songwriting collaboration between Estelle, Kanye West, and will.i.am, among many others. Of course, West’s rapping was also memorably featured on the track. Its amazing verses and beats combined the best of pop, disco, R&B, and hip-hop. Just barely cracking the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, the jam should have easily made number one on every chart. Given its timeless quality, there’s hope that the younger generation will rediscover it sooner rather than later.
#4: “Wicked Games” (2011)
With “Wicked Games,” Canadian singer The Weeknd laid the foundation for a prosperous career. From his first mixtape “House of Balloons,” the single was the first glimpse at a rising star. Produced with a pop and R&B flair, the performer brought a brutally honest twist to the genres. Singing about cheating on his girlfriend, The Weeknd bared it all in a no-frills look into the dark side of attraction. Considering it was only his debut, it didn’t generate the attention that comes after years of popular releases. Given his recent success, it’s only fair that his new fans investigate his earlier work to discover the root of his musical genius.
#3: “Afterlife” (2019)
Promoting her starring role in the Apple TV+ series “Dickinson,” Hailee Steinfeld channeled her inner poet for “Afterlife.” Embracing her popstar side, the multi-talented actress brought her angelic voice to this emotional and spiritual piece. Questioning whether or not love continues after death, this song explored a deep metaphor while still having a catchy hook and enticing melody. Steinfeld makes juggling an acting and music career look easy, and was able to blend the two worlds for this promotional single. Even though “Afterlife” didn't do the numbers of her other hits, the singer delivered a track worthy of her critically acclaimed show.
#2: “Sober” (2007)
From her third studio album “My December,” “Sober” represented the best talents and instincts of singer Kelly Clarkson. Showcasing her vocal power, the slow burn pop song delved into the struggles of leaving behind the addictive people or things that bring you down. A powerful metaphor, the build-up into the passionate and poignant chorus allowed the “American Idol” winner to really shine. But in spite of decent notice from critics, the number’s performance on the Billboard charts was surprisingly underwhelming. Full of profoundly resonant lyrics, “Sober” remains one of Clarkson’s most criminally underrated tracks – but it’s also one of her most inspired.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Please” (2005), Toni Braxton
This Sultry Track Didn’t Even Make the Hot 100
“Pain & Pleasure” (2018), Black Atlass
This Jam From an Album of the Same Name Is Rarely Talked About
“Maneater” (2006), Nelly Furtado
This Catchy Furtado Single Failed to Crack the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10
“What You Waiting For?” (2004), Gwen Stefani
A Memorable Track Overshadowed by Stefani’s Other Towering Singles
“Be Mine!” (2005), Robyn
A Great Electropop Record That Should Be on Every Playlist
#1: “Who Knew” (2006)
Pink has repeatedly shown everyone what a gifted artist she is. And “Who Knew” remains a profoundly noteworthy yet neglected work. While the song got peoples’ attention upon release, many have largely forgotten it since then. This edgy pop single let the singer showcase the full range of her talent. The heartfelt lyrics about losing a loved one were articulated through contemplative lyrics, and Pink’s amazing delivery made us feel each word. The track reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s so powerful that it’s hard to believe it didn’t chart higher. “Who Knew” stands the test of time, and should be widely revered.