To rank the 10 best pop music songs of all time is a daunting task. Pop music emerged as its genre in the 1960s and has developed into the recognizable traits we acknowledge as pop music today: repetitive lyrics, simple musical tunes, and a beat that makes you want to dance.
The name itself stems from the fact that it is the most popular form of music. While some call it simple or basic, pop music significantly varies in structure, sound, and rhythm. From the electronic beats of dance-pop to the folksy notes of indie pop, there is no one way to define the genre.
Still, when you think about pop music artists, certain songs are bound to come to mind. These are the hits that skyrocketed on the charts, bringing people out of their seats and onto the dance floor. Even pop haters bop their heads along to these tunes when they come on the radio. These are the 10 best pop songs of all time.
“No Tears Left to Cry” – Ariana Grande
While this song is newer than most of the hits on this pop songs list, its impact on pop music – along with Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album as a whole – cannot be denied. “No Tears Left to Cry” received critical acclaim due to Grande’s impressive vocals, joyful melody, and euphoric take on finding happiness during sad times.
The track debuted at number three in its opening week, and its music video received critical acclaim.
“Hey Ya!” – Outkast
“Hey Ya!” is a staple at weddings and dance clubs, making it one of the most universally appealing and well-known pop songs. Outkast released the bop in 2003, reaching number one in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Sweden.
It gets consistently named one of the best pop songs ever made and one of the best songs of the 2000s.
“Hey Ya!” was written and produced by Outkast member Andre 3000, and the song won a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. It was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Music Video.
“Cruel Summer” – Taylor Swift
“Cruel Summer” might not be the first of Taylor Swift’s many popular songs that comes to mind. Songs like “Bad Blood,” “Blank Space,” and “Shake It Off” all received more commercial success, but ask any Taylor Swift fan, and they’ll tell you that this is her most underrated pop song.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting shortly after the release of her Lover album, “Cruel Summer” did not receive the promotion or music video it typically would have.
However, the powerful bridge, electropop beats, and emotional storytelling lyrics gave it critical acclaim; Rolling Stone even called it “a merely perfect Taylor Swift Song.”
“Umbrella” – Rihanna
“Umbrella” topped the charts in many countries and was listed on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and Best Songs of 2007. Rihanna and Jay-Z won a grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and got nominated for Record and Song of the Year. Its undeniable appeal comes from its blend of hip-hop, pop, and rap in an upbeat hit.
“Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry
Possibly the most classically “pop” hit on this list due to its sweet lyrics, rock and funk elements, and belting chorus, this song makes you want to roll down your car’s window and scream along with the lyrics on a summer afternoon. While the song received mixed reviews from critics at first, it has become an iconic pop song that The A.V. Club calls “pop perfection.”
“Crazy in Love” – Beyonce
“Crazy in Love” was the lead single from Beyonce’s debut album Dangerously in Love. This hit marked Beyonce as a solo artist outside Destiny’s Child and her first collaboration with her future husband, Jay-Z. The song went number one when it was released in 2009 in the United States and the United Kingdom and was a hit across the world.
While it is a pop song with an incredibly danceable beat, “Crazy in Love” merges with the R&B and rap genres to produce the iconic hit.
The song went on to earn a Grammy. Rolling Stone ranked it as number 16 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time and the greatest song of the 21st century!
“Material Girl” – Madonna
“Material Girl” established Madonna as the pop girl of the 1980s. The song focuses on opulent materialism, a pillar of pop music. The cool synth beats, luxurious music video, and glamorous feel launched the song to the top ten Billboard list in 1984 and made it one of the top songs of all time.
“…Baby One More Time”- Britney Spears
One only has to hear the first chord to recognize this iconic 1999 smash hit. Rolling Stone has named it the greatest debut single of all time. This song put Britney Spears on the map. “…Baby One More Time”’s relatability and school girl music video went straight to the top of the charts… and launched sixteen-year-old Spears to unmatched levels of stardom.
“Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
He’s known as the King of Pop for a reason. “Billie Jean” is Michael Jackson’s most universally known and loved hit. It’s guaranteed to fill the dance floor and has become one of the best-selling singles of all time, reaching number one in many countries. It won two Grammys and an American Music Award. In 2000, Rolling Stone ranked number 58 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
Like the song alludes to, Lady Gaga’s biggest single is more than just frothy pop goodness. This dark, synth-pop hit is about Gaga’s bisexuality through cheeky lyrics and commentary on love and sex.
The catchy beats and hooks received critical acclaim, and the song was nominated for three Grammys, winning one. Gaga was already on her way to fame with her hit “Just Dance,” but “Poker Face” put Lady Gaga as the predominant face of pop music in the 2010s.
Maybe there’s some room to debate about the ranking of these songs, but there’s no doubt that all of these are timeless, huge pop songs with enormous impact on the culture. These hits are perfect whether you’re looking to create a playlist or just vibe to some upbeat jams.