Top 20 Pop Songs of All Time
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Pop Songs of All Time.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the best tracks that this genre of music has offered us over the years.
Did we miss one of your favorite pop songs? Let us know in the comments below!
#20: “California Gurls” (2010)
Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg
By the late 2000s, Katy Perry had brought a fun energy back to pop music. She was ready to take her success to new heights, and that’s exactly what happened when she released “California Gurls.” In her tribute to the Golden State, Perry delivers equal parts disco and funk. With a bubbly production, the singer creates the perfect song for a summer dance party. To put the final stamp on the track, famous California resident Snoop Dogg raps his own enjoyable verse. Originally intended as a response to “Empire State of Mind,” “California Gurls” stands on its own as one of the defining pop statements of 2010.
#19: “We Belong Together” (2005)
Starting in the early ‘90s, Mariah Carey maintained a consistent run of number-one songs that shattered pop records and expectations. Some questioned if the singer could maintain that success into the 2000s, but “We Belong Together” silenced her critics. Proving that she could compete with the newest pop stars, Carey delivered a song tailor-made for her inimitable voice. With one of the widest vocal ranges in the business, the performer created a timeless pop and R&B performance. Securing yet another number-one single, the record-breaking vocalist staked her claim as one of the most vital and enduring artists of her generation.
#18: “Blinding Lights” (2019)
Steadily building a following through the 2010s, The Weeknd ended the decade at the height of his powers. Released in late 2019, “Blinding Lights” was a runaway success that kept gaining traction in the months that followed. Trying out a radically different image and sound, the artist blazed a new pop trail with one of the catchiest songs of its kind. Always one to push his vocals to the limit, his towering range gets the ultimate workout on the song’s many high notes. Featuring a throwback sound and amazing melody, "Blinding Lights" secured the artist’s place in pop history.
#17: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (1983)
From the Billboard charts to Broadway, Cyndi Lauper has conquered popular music several times over. Among her most successful tracks, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” made the artist a formidable force in the ‘80s music scene. Combining a powerful message and a fun-loving sound, the singer created a definitive song from the new wave and synth-pop era. Little do people know the single was actually a cover, further demonstrating the performer’s ability to turn silver into gold. While Lauper has gone on to give us many other great hits, few pieces can ever compete with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
#16: “Bad Guy” (2019)
Through the mid-to-late 2010s, then-teenager Billie Eilish began emerging as a unique artist. Working with her brother and producer Finneas, the singer unleashed the number-one single “Bad Guy.” Lighting up the charts, the complex track and the performer’s idiosyncratic delivery pushed the boundaries of pop music. A breakthrough hit for the artist, the song’s multi-genre hooks and tempo changes blew the minds of listeners everywhere. As a precocious figure in the industry, the young vocalist revolutionized the genre with this work of art. It charted a course for the future music legend, who has since gone on to do great things, like slay a “James Bond” theme!
#15: “Dynamite” (2020)
While a number of groups and solo artists paved the way for BTS, the boy band has emerged as one of the most successful artists in K-pop history. Combining all the signature elements of a hit song, "Dynamite" signaled a changing tide for the genre. BTS's first all-English track connected with a new and very large audience, especially in the United States. And the talented group seemed more than ready for the spotlight. While their track “Butter” is also iconic, “Dynamite” is the hit that helped make them the international superstars they are today. As they continue to spread amazing music, it remains a shining example of the band's cultural hold on pop.
#14: “Believe” (1998)
Whether it's her days with former partner Sonny or her decades of solo pop dominance, Cher has been a cultural institution since the 1960s. So it’s only fitting that she would end the century with one of her greatest hits. Becoming one of the first pop singers to use auto-tune, the artist reinvigorated her music career and proved that she could still surprise us. She reminded everyone that she was a multi-generational talent, style icon, and pop ambassador. To this day, "Believe" has a spot on playlists thanks to its endearing and inviting message that still feels fresh and innovative.
#13: “My Heart Will Go On” (1997)
It will forever be known as the song from “Titanic.” But this iconic love song by the powerful Canadian vocalist Celine Dion is so much more than Jack and Rose’s theme. It’s a song that won many accolades, including several Grammys, as well as the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It’s one of the best-selling singles of all time. And it is the signature song of one of the most iconic voices of our generation. “My Heart Will Go On” is a reminder of the power of a great movie theme; the good ones reinforce the film’s message. The best ones transcend their films to become a cultural phenomenon all their own. And just think: Celine didn’t want to record it at all.
#12: “Rolling in the Deep” (2010)
When Adele entered the entertainment world, it was abundantly clear that she was going to be one of the next great vocalists in pop music. Her second album, “21”, reminded people that she was here to stay with its massive single, “Rolling in the Deep.” What became the defining hit of her career captured the star in complete control. Vocally unparalleled, the track carried a gravitas rarely seen in modern pop music. Bombastic and well-produced, the performer dished out a flawless performance that honored her many musical influences. Selling millions of copies, “Rolling in the Deep” was so well-regarded that it made the artist a household name.
#11: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2008)
Beyoncé has created dozens of indelible songs throughout her amazing career. And “Single Ladies” made sure the few remaining earthlights who hadn’t yet heard her music would know her name. Creating a feel-good anthem for bachelorettes, the singer brought a magnetic presence to this iconic recording. There’s no telling what the world would be like without this powerful pop number. And that’s without considering the hugely successful video and dance. “Crazy in Love” was a spectacular solo debut, but the artist made an even bigger splash with this pop song. Securing her place in music history, Beyoncé shook up pop culture and music with “Single Ladies.”
#10: “I Want It That Way” (1999)
Among the most successful and enduring boy bands ever, the Backstreet Boys rightfully conquered the charts with this pop ballad. Some may even argue that it's the definitive song of its kind, setting a high bar for those that came after. The 1999 hit was proof that the late ‘90s pop craze wasn't just a flash in the pan. After all, the group was making fans swoon and cheer with their lyrics and presence. With powerful vocal performances and a relatable story, the band arguably beat out their contemporaries in terms of style and quality - although we know if you were an *NSYNC fan, those are fighting words. Needless to say, we’ll never get tired of hearing the Backstreet Boys sing their hearts out on "I Want It That Way."
#9: “Hips Don’t Lie” (2005)
Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean
Colombian music star Shakira became a sensation after "Hips Don't Lie." Elevated by rapper Wyclef Jean's contributions, the song blends Latin flavor and expert production to create a tremendous cocktail of pop magic. With a simple yet effective title, the artist took the best of her local and international influences and turned them into a huge smash hit. Reaching a massive audience, the pop sensibilities of "Hips Don't Lie" never fail to put people in a dancing mood. Nobody has forgotten it, and it stands as a brilliant example of Shakira’s brilliance. Hitting number one all around the world, the undisputed reggaeton hit is a sensational pop listen.
#8: “Wannabe” (1996)
Pop groups could chase – but never catch – the Spice Girls in their heyday. Their lasting girl power anthem "Wannabe" delivered an encouraging and powerful message to female listeners. What’s more, the undeniable dance track features an infectious combo of hip hop and pop. The world would never be the same after hearing that iconic opening and insanely catchy chorus. Housing a progressive mission statement, the track became a sort of calling card for a new brand of girl groups. The Spice Girls brought their positivity to the industry with this game-changing song, and revolutionized pop music in the process.
#7: “Shake It Off” (2014)
After years of delivering amazing hits, this singer-songwriter shed her country roots with "Shake It Off," which presented her as an undisputed pop star. Beyond its success, the track also represented a shift in Swift’s sound amid her “1989” era. The song’s positive theme carried a universal feeling while also allowing the singer to respond to the negative press and tabloid stories about her. From the first beat, the self-aware hit was an odyssey of experimentation and artistry. Defiant of her critics, Swift confronted the haters in a winning pop formula that ushered in the next great phase of her career.
#6: “Dancing Queen” (1976)
Few music groups were as captivating or successful as ABBA was in the 1970s. Their most famous and catchy song, "Dancing Queen", outlived disco and still has all the same vitality of its initial release. Describing a dance hall scene with fun-loving lyrics, the track goes for raw pop power and wins. The group brought a beautiful melody and exciting lyrics together, and it just worked. In many ways, the greatness of modern pop can be traced to acts like ABBA, whose songs like "Dancing Queen" crossed borders and barriers. To this day, it's hard not to get up or at least smile at the intro of this beloved single.
#5: “Poker Face” (2008)
Since her meteoric climb to the top, Lady Gaga has had a firm hand in pop music and culture. "Poker Face" was arguably the track that made audiences realize pop music would never be the same. A synth-pop number off of her debut album, the single quickly became her most recognized work. Later winning a Grammy, the song achieved critical and commercial notice thanks to its mix of throwback influences and futuristic vocal sounds. Bold and unafraid, the hit's salacious and interpretative lyrics only made it more intriguing. Capturing her artistry and vision in its purest form, "Poker Face" ensured that Gaga's new hold on pop music was only just beginning.
#4: “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
With the release of "The Bodyguard," singer Whitney Houston made her first appearance on film. More importantly, the movie’s soundtrack featured her magnum opus, "I Will Always Love You." It's hard to compete with a master at the top of her game, and this song truly encompassed her talents from every angle. Her every breath, inflection, and impeccable range took pop vocals to another level. It's fair to say that the Dolly Parton-written song, which has been widely covered by artists, will never be sung the same way. There was only one Whitney Houston, and her earth-shattering rendition of "I Will Always Love You" is as memorable as they come.
#3: “...Baby One More Time” (1998)
Britney Spears pushed pop music across the Millennium divide, conquering the landscape to claim a top spot among the industry’s plethora of artists. And her talents were particularly apparent on her breakthrough hit "...Baby One More Time." It was a fully-formed and perfect encapsulation of her many talents. It only took the hitmaker Max Martin's songwriting and Spears' charming vocals to generate the ultimate late ‘90s pop song. There were many more Britney masterpieces to come, like the fantastic “Toxic.” But this track marked the beginning of the star’s storied career. From the song’s iconic video to its classic hook, "...Baby One More Time" remains one of the best pop debuts ever.
#2: “Vogue” (1990)
Madonna didn't get the "Queen of Pop" moniker for nothing. As the face of female pop music for decades, the singer’s release of "Vogue" completely changed the game. Taking inspiration from the Harlem ballroom scene, she brought a variety of cultural influences into this dance hit. Accompanied by a memorable house music sound, the artist threw out the names of a number of early Hollywood icons. Putting a spotlight on many of her musical influences, Madonna walked into 1990 and completely owned the year with this acclaimed record. Never one to slow down, this song's compelling rhythm makes for one the artist's greatest achievements.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“No Tears Left to Cry” (2018), Ariana Grande
A Show-Stopping Performance From Grande in a Melancholic Pop Hit
“Bootylicious” (2001), Destiny’s Child
The Trio Deliver Skill & Attitude
“Adore You” (2019), Harry Styles
Styles Once Again Proves His Power as a Pop Solo Artist
“Since U Been Gone” (2004), Kelly Clarkson
This Breakup Anthem Never Lost Its Pop Luster
“Shape of You” (2017), Ed Sheeran
Sheeran Embraces Unbridled Pop Glory in One of His Most Successful Hits
#1: “Billie Jean” (1982)
If you look up "pop music" in the dictionary, you'll probably see Michael Jackson's name. Maybe not literally – but you know what we mean. There's no denying the impact the singer had on the genre with the release of his "Thriller" album. And "Billie Jean" remains one of the work’s artistic centerpieces. The scandalous lyrics float over top of a perfectly constructed track. There are few pop songs where the bass line is as recognizable as the vocals. It’s a testament to the care and attention to detail that went into crafting the song at every level. Thus, Jackson delivered what might just be his signature hit, and an unbeatable pop masterpiece.