Pop music is a genre that has been around since time immemorial. The term encompasses music that’s popular in the mainstream. It produces the most hits, meaning songs that sell well.
What makes pop songs stand out are their good rhythm, easy-to-remember lyrics, and their catchy melodies. They consist of two or more verses and a chorus that is usually repeated. Most of these songs tackle the ups and downs of romance and relationships.
We have searched far and wide to bring you songs that made a place in pop music history. We put them in a compilation of 31 of the best pop songs of all time. Read on to find out more.
1. “Despacito” By Luis Fonsi Ft. Daddy Yankee
Arguably the best Spanish-language pop song, “Despacito” is a mix of Latin pop and reggaeton. The original song was recorded by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee in 2017 for Fonsi’s album Vida. A few months later, a remix was released featuring Justin Bieber.
This melodic song has since caught the attention of many listeners. No doubt, you’ve also sung along to the lyrics whenever you heard the song. Critics had nothing but praise for this song as it reflects the fusion between Latin and urban rhythms and is catchy.
This helped the song become a commercial success. The original version bagged three awards at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards. The remix version, on the other hand, won Best Urban Fusion/Performance. The remix also topped the Billboard Hot 100. In 2019, “Despacito” was inducted into the Guinness World Records for having achieved seven milestones.
2. “Shape Of You” By Ed Sheeran
In 2017, Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape of You” hit the radio airwaves. It was one of the double lead singles on Sheeran’s album, ÷. Winning a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance, it’s only right to include it on our list.
“Shape of You” has a simple but addictive and danceable beat to support the lyrics. At its core, the song is about a budding romance between the singer and a woman he meets in a bar.
This hit has received numerous accolades since its release in 2017. It was the best-selling song of that year. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for 12 non-consecutive weeks.
The song also became the second most-streamed song on Spotify with 3.3 billion streams. In addition, it was one of the best-selling digital singles of all time! In 2021, the song was ranked the 10th most successful song of all time.
3. “Uptown Funk” By Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars
While the prior examples are a bit slower, Mark Ronson‘s “Uptown Funk” is more upbeat. The song, a cross between pop and funk, was the lead single in Ronson’s fourth studio album, Uptown Special. Bruno Mars provided the lead vocals for the song.
“Uptown Funk” is fun to dance and sing along to. The lyrics encourage the listeners to get into the groove. In addition, the song addresses self-love and fashion, among others.
“Uptown Funk” became the most successful single from the collaboration of Ronson and Mars. In the US, it occupied the top position on Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. It was rumored to have earned $100,000 per week from Spotify. Also, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it platinum 11 times.
4. “Counting Stars” By OneRepublic
In 2013, OneRepublic released its third studio album, Native. The most successful single from the album is “Counting Stars.”
The song features a slow and steady beat, plus a big crescendo to the song’s climax during the chorus. In the lyrics, the singer is struggling financially. His goal is to provide for his love to the point that they will be “counting stars” and not dollars.
As it turns out, “Counting Stars” became one of OneRepublic’s most successful pop songs. It peaked at #1 in many countries and #2 in the US. Its music video is also one of the most watched on Youtube, with 3.7 billion views. These remarkable figures are a testament to the popularity and longevity of the song.
5. “Dark Horse” By Katy Perry Ft. Juicy J
Another one of the best pop songs of all time comes from Katy Perry. “Dark Horse” was released in 2013 from Perry’s fourth album, Prism. She collaborated with American rapper Juicy J who did the intro and rapped the bridge.
“Dark Horse” sounds almost ethereal, with lyrics warning a man to stay away from the singer or she’d be his last. The lyrics, even the rapped parts, are easy to sing along to.
Though the song debuted at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, it eventually reached the top spot in February 2014. It remained in the charts for 57 weeks in total. In addition, “Dark Horse” peaked at #2 on the Adult Pop songs. RIAA certified it platinum 11 times.
6. “Love The Way You Lie” By Eminem Ft. Rihanna
It’s safe to assume that Eminem chose Rihanna to sing the chorus because of their similar experiences in difficult relationships. “Love the Way You Lie” tackles an abusive relationship where the couple still refuses to part ways.
The song, and collaboration, proved to be a success. It peaked on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the spot for seven weeks. It also sold over 12 million copies in the US alone. Cher Lloyd and The Band Berry released their own versions of the song.
7. “Just The Way You Are” By Bruno Mars
Another popular hit from Bruno Mars is “Just the Way You Are,” released in 2010. This was his debut solo single from his debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans.
The lyrics may appear corny, but what most people like about the song is that it celebrates a woman’s beauty. The singer declares that there’s nothing he’s going to change about her. She’s lovely as she is.
The song became one of Mars’ most successful hits, as it won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In the US, it hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Not surprisingly, the song was 2011’s best-selling digital single, having sold over 12.5 million copies.
8. “Cheap Thrills” By Sia Ft. Sean Paul
What makes “Cheap Thrills” special is that this was Sia‘s first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The original version was released in 2015. The remix version featuring Sean Paul was released in 2016 in the album This is Acting.
“Cheap Thrills” has an almost Caribbean beat that makes it a great dance track. It became super popular after its initial release that some marching bands performed instrumental versions. This one is quite upbeat compared to some Sia songs, and the pop style shines through.
“Cheap Thrills” sold 1.7 million copies in 2016, making it the 10th best-selling song of the year in the US. RIAA certified it octuple platinum after selling over eight million copies in 2022.
9. “Bad Romance” By Lady Gaga
One of the earliest songs from Lady Gaga is “Bad Romance.” It has become one of the biggest pop hits since its release in 2009 from her album The Fame Monster.
There’s a reason why the American Psychological Association considered this song the catchiest in the world. You’ll get addicted to the song’s chorus, hook, and beat. Lyrics-wise, Gaga wrote the song based on her preference for unhealthy relationships at the time.
A lot of people also consider the song Lady Gaga’s best. It reached the top of the charts in 20 countries and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It stayed at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
10. “Call Me Maybe” By Carly Rae Jepsen
Considered a teen pop and dance-pop song, Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” was released in 2011. The lyrics reflect the inconveniences a girl goes through as she wishes that a new crush would give her a call.
“Call Me Maybe” proved to be a hit among listeners, and it’s easy to see why. The song is catchy, with its hook easy to remember. These factors, along with the instrumental arrangement, are the perfect formula for an unforgettable pop song.
In Canada, the song debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at #97. In less than four months, it jumped to #1. “Call Me Maybe” was also a success in the US, debuting at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached the top spot and stayed there for nine weeks. As of 2015, it sold 7.6 million copies in the US.
11. “I Will Always Love You” By Whitney Houston
The legendary Whitney Houston did a gorgeous job with “I Will Always Love You.” She turned it into a pop song as it was originally a country song by Dolly Parton. It’s on the slower side and has a sad mood, but that’s what makes it so great.
The song starts a capella with Houston’s vocals before the addition of instruments. Lyrically, the song is about the end of a relationship. It’s an amicable separation thanks to the singer’s initiative to part ways with respect.
By 2013, Houston’s version has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. This made the song the best-selling single by a female artist. Her version also became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
12. “Billie Jean” By Michael Jackson
King of Pop Michael Jackson released a lot of great hits during his career. “Billie Jean” is certainly one of the best. The song has elements of pop as well as funk and R&B.
Jackson’s vocals are very unique in this song, but it’s fun to sing and dance along to. The song follows the singer, who is accused of being the father of Billie Jean’s son.
Following its release in 1983 from his Thriller album, the song became Jackson’s fastest-rising #1 song. It peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart as well. “Billie Jean” was a best-selling song in 1983, and that helped propel Thriller to become the best-selling album of all time.
13. “Hips Don’t Lie” By Shakira Ft. Wyclef Jean
Arguably Shakira‘s most famous song, “Hips Don’t Lie,” is one of the best-selling singles of all time. This Latin pop song features some brass instruments and a reggaeton beat.
Shakira’s vocals have a nasal quality in this song, but they work well. Wyclef Jean raps in between the chorus and verses over a drum beat with occasional trumpet notes.
After its release in 2006, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #84. As soon as the song became available in digital stores, it sold 267,000 copies. This helped push the song to the top of the chart. “Hips Don’t Lie” became the fifth most successful song of the year 2006 and the second highest-ranked song for a female artist.
14. “7 rings” By Ariana Grande
One of the most successful singles by Ariana Grande is “7 rings.” This song takes the famous melody and rhythm from “My Favorite Things” (a song from The Sound of Music) but is in a different key.
In the song, the singer is telling her listeners that she’d treat her friends rather than mope around after a breakup. In this trap-pop song, Grande raps the hook and final verse.
“7 rings” is Grande’s most-streamed on Spotify, with over 1.9 billion streams. It also debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. With a total sales of over 13.3 million copies, it’s one of the best-selling songs in digital history.
15. “Old Town Road” By Lil Nas X Ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
At its core, “Old Town Road” refers to the path that the singer is taking. It’s the road to wealth and success. Now that success is in his hands, he’s going to take advantage of the opportunities coming his way.
Despite the controversy after the song was removed from the Hot Country chart, “Old Town Road” gave Lil Nas the success he wanted. RIAA certified it diamond as it sold 1.6 million digital copies in the US in 2020.
The song also occupied the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 consecutive weeks. This achievement is the longest in chart history. In addition, “Old Town Road” was the first #1 single on the Rolling Stone Top 100 chart in 2019.
16. “Happy” By Pharrell Williams
Who can resist the funky groove of Pharrell Williams‘ “Happy”? And even if you don’t know the lyrics, you can’t help but bob your head while the song plays.
Despite being released in 2013, the universal message of the song is timeless. The singer says he’s happy, and there’s nothing that can bring him down.
“Happy” is a commercial success, reaching the top spot in many charts in the US and 19 countries. In the US alone, in 2014, it sold 6.45 million copies, making it the best-selling song of the year. In the UK, it was the most downloadable song of all time in 2014.
In addition, “Happy” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Original Song. In 2014, it was the most successful song after selling 13.9 million units worldwide.
17. “We Found Love” By Rihanna Ft. Calvin Harris
Barbadian singer Rihanna had come a long way since her debut single, “Pon de Replay,” was released in 2005. Since then, she released one hit after another, including “We Found Love” in 2011. This song combines her vocals with the DJ skills of Calvin Harris to create a fun dance tune.
“We Found Love” stayed in the #1 spot on Billboard Hot 100, becoming Rihanna’s longest-running #1 song. It was also a success outside of the US, topping the charts in many countries.
No wonder. Singing along to “We Found Love” is exciting. With just one listen, you’ll keep singing, “We found love in a hopeless place.” The song has the ability to be stuck in your head for days.
18. “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” By Beyonce
Who can forget the catchy hook, “All the single ladies, all the single ladies”? This line is from Beyonce‘s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” from her 2008 album, I Am… Sasha Fierce.
The song follows the singer who finds herself in the club after breaking up with her man. He’s unwilling to commit to her, and now it’s too late for reconciliation.
“Single Ladies” was a global and commercial success for Beyonce. It became the seventh best-selling digital single in 2009 after selling 6.1 million copies. It bagged three Grammy Awards in 2010, one of which is Song of the Year. It also stayed on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for four non-consecutive weeks.
19. “Yeah!” By Usher Ft. Lil Jon & Ludacris
It’s unbelievable that it’s been almost two decades since Usher‘s hit single, “Yeah!” was released. And yet the song is still played on the radio. It was the lead single off his 2004 Confessions album and featured Lil John and Ludacris.
Music fans have categorized this song into multiple genres, from pop to hip-hop. Its underlying beat repeats throughout the song, so you can easily dance along. Meanwhile, the lyrics are fun, and who can resist the catchy pop hook, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeaah!”
The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 consecutive weeks, making it the longest-running #1 song of the year. It also won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
20. “Moves Like Jagger” By Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera
The pop rock band Maroon 5 has had a lot of successful hits since they came together in 1994. But nothing compares to their 2010 hit song “Moves Like Jagger.” The song was a collaboration with Christina Aguilera for their Hands All Over album.
Two things you can’t forget about the song: the whistle hook and the chorus that goes, “You want the moves like Jagger, I got the moves like Jagger, I got the mooooooves like Jagger.” The song refers to The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who was flattered by the concept.
The collaboration proved to be a success, as the song became one of the best-selling singles of all time. The song received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Meanwhile, Spotify users have streamed the song more than 1 billion times already.
21. “Hey Ya!” By Outkast
A pop classic that will always be considered one of the greatest songs of the 2000s is Outkast‘s “Hey Ya!” This is known for its fast and lively beat, plus the catchy hook, “Hey ya! Hey ya!”
The song was a universal success. Acclaimed Music, a website that ranks songs and albums, considers “Hey Ya!” the 18th most celebrated song in pop history. It is also the best song of the 2000s. Rolling Stone ranked it at #10 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2021.
In the US, “Hey Ya!” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #57. It climbed to the top spot and stayed there for nine weeks. In addition, the song won a Grammy for Best Urban and Alternative Performance.
22. “I Gotta Feeling” By Black Eyed Peas
Another one of the best pop songs of all time comes from Black Eyed Peas. It takes only a second to identify the catchy instrumentals in “I Gotta Feeling.” The song was released in 2009 from the album, The E.N.D.
The beat stays consistent as the song adds vocals and other instrumentals. And the lyrics immediately begin with the hook. It’s easy to dance along and sing to this track, so it’s great for a party or a night out with friends.
“I Gotta Feeling” received critical acclaim. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #2, then reached #1 and stayed there for 14 weeks. This means that it was the longest-running #1 single in 2009. The song also won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
23. “TiK ToK” By Kesha
In 2009, Kesha‘s “TiK ToK” hit the airwaves of radio stations worldwide. The song, which happened to be her debut single, became a hit, especially among party-goers.
The lyrics are simple enough as they talk about partying all night long. It doesn’t matter if the singer has no money. She’s living a carefree life and won’t let anything bring her down.
“TiK ToK” became a hit in and out of the United States. It dominated the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, and RIAA certified it platinum eight times. It became the best-selling single of 2010 when it sold 12.8 million copies.
24. “Toxic” By Britney Spears
In Britney Spears‘ heyday, she released the dance-pop song “Toxic.” This was the second single from her 2004 album, In the Zone.
The opening instrumentals of this track are iconic, and they set the tone for the lyrics. As the title suggests, Spears sings about a man who is like an addictive drug to her but she still wants him. Notably, the buildup of the chorus and the hook are catchy and help move the song along.
“Toxic” was a worldwide success for Spears after it topped the charts in several countries. In the US, it reached #9 and won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. With 607 million YouTube views and 939 million Spotify streams, people still love this song 20 years after its release.
25. “Apologize” By Timbaland Ft. OneRepublic
Our next song on the list is a number from Timbaland and OneRepublic. “Apologize” has obtained over 548 million views on YouTube since its release in 2007. The song is the third single from Timbaland’s Shock Value album.
“Apologize” is a moving song with a slow groove that builds before scaling back before each verse. In the lyrics, the singer says it’s too late to apologize for what his lover has done wrong.
The success of this track can’t be emphasized enough. More than 10,000 plays in one week made “Apologize” the biggest radio airplay in the Mainstream Top 40 chart in the US. It dominated the top spot on the Billboard Pop 100 chart and was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
26. “All Star” By Smash Mouth
Who doesn’t recognize the infectious sound of Smash Mouth‘s “All Star”? This Grammy-nominated single was the lead single from their Astro Lounge album.
The syncopated guitar rhythms work well with the vocals. Meanwhile, the other instruments provide a bit of a countermelody to the chorus. At its core, “All Star” is an anthem for outcasts.
While the song came out in 1999, it gained more popularity after appearing in the 2001 movie Shrek. It also received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. On Spotify, the song has over 897 million streams and counting.
27. “Hey Jude” By The Beatles
The pop rock “Hey Jude” by The Beatles may be older than most of us. But it has gone down in music history as one of the most successful pop songs.
Paul McCartney wrote the song to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, following the separation of Julian’s parents. The song is a reminder to look at a bad situation in a positive light.
Though the band was at a difficult time during the recording of this song, its success was a reason for celebration. Only a month after its release in 1968, RIAA certified the song gold. “Hey Jude” climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart, dominating the top spot for nine weeks. In 2001, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
28. “Genie In A Bottle” By Christina Aguilera
The biggest summer hit of 1999 is Christina Aguilera‘s “Genie in a Bottle.” This teen pop song features elements of R&B and is the lead single from the album Christina Aguilera.
Depending on the listener, “Genie in a Bottle” can be about self-respect or sensuality. But it’s a song that resonated with a lot of teens and one that represented the ’90s pop music.
The song charted well in 21 countries. In the US, it reached the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100. RIAA certified it double platinum, having sold more than two million copies in the US alone. “Genie in a Bottle” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
While Aguilera’s music video had 218 million views to date, Dove Cameron’s cover had 324 million views. Even then, the song remains one of the best pop songs of all time.
29. “Dynamite” By Taio Cruz
The opening notes of Taio Cruz‘s “Dynamite” are recognizable to many fans of 2000’s pop music. Drum beats dominated the song, except for the chorus, helping make the song danceable.
Thanks to the repetitive chorus, the lyrics are easy to sing along with. The song, which tackles one’s feelings when going to a party or a club, can get stuck in your head after just one listen.
The song wasn’t an immediate success after debuting at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. Eventually, it rose to #2 and stayed there for three weeks. “Dynamite” stayed on the chart for a total of 47 weeks. This became the longest run for a single. In addition, the song sold over six million copies in the US alone by 2012.
30. “Since U Been Gone” By Kelly Clarkson
One of the classic pop songs from 2004 is Kelly Clarkson‘s “Since U Been Gone.” It was the lead single from her second studio album, Breakaway. It falls into the categories of pop rock and power pop power ballad.
Pink and Hillary Duff were first offered the song, but both turned it down. It turned out well for Clarkson as the song only cemented her status as a pop-rock artist.
Commercially, “Since U Been Gone” was a success. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at #1 on the US Pop 100 and US Pop Songs. Music critics also agreed that the song was one of the best pop songs.
31. “My Heart Will Go On” By Celine Dion
Finally, we have “My Heart Will Go On.” Celine Dion recorded and released this song in 1997 for her album Let’s Talk About Love. It has since become her signature song.
“My Heart Will Go On” was the main soundtrack for the movie Titanic, which is where many people first heard it. But it holds its own outside of that context. In the lyrics, the singer expresses her feelings for someone and losing that person.
The song was a commercial success. At the 1998 Academy Award, it won Best Original Song. In the same year, it won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It also received various accolades at the 1999 Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year.
Summing Up the Greatest Pop Songs of All Time
Our list above is by no means a comprehensive list. There are countless pop songs that would have been included here if we could.
But one thing is for sure. These pop songs reflect the creativity of songwriters in penning masterpieces that listeners throughout the world would enjoy. These songs selling well are proof of that.
Despite the limitation of our list, we hope that you enjoyed learning about these songs. It’s our way of introducing these earworms to the younger generations who are not familiar with the old songs and to the older generations who are new to the pop songs of late.