161 Best Songs Of All Time

Contents

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

It didn’t matter what circles you frequented, in 2010, you were destined to hear Pumped Up Kicks. The song cemented Foster The People’s track as one of the greatest songs of the new decade.

At the time, indie rock was enjoying a short time in the limelight with a crossover success with pop audiences. The vocals during the verses even have a lo-fi filter almost reminiscent of Sparklehorse.

Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey – I Know What You Want

It isn’t all that uncommon for rap artists to sneak hints of sultry R&B into a track’s sound. Busta Rhymes took this approach for his 2003 single, I Know What You Want, which features Mariah Carey.

The song would end up becoming exactly what people had been looking for, becoming an international hit. It was just what the 2 artists needed at a pivotal time in both of their careers.

Fun. – We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe

Were you a fan of the indie-emo crossover that happened during the prime days of the Myspace platform? If so, there’s a chance you probably remember The Format, whose singer went to form the band, Fun.

The group has had a smattering of hits since 2008, with their biggest being We Are Young. This track, featuring Janelle Monáe, would become a colossal hit due to it being featured in some high-profile TV shows.

Aerosmith – Crazy

Aerosmith mostly made their name during the 1970s, producing some of their biggest hits. They surprised audiences in the 1990s when they released Crazy, one of the best love ballads ever recorded.

In some strange way, Crazy has a sense of longing desperation inherent in the way the song is performed. It also showed that Aerosmith was still worthy of consideration despite the glory days being long over.

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

Most people tend to associate N.W.A. with the genesis of the gangsta rap that would dominate the 1990s. Their track, Straight Outta Compton, was the group’s first single, which shook the world to its core.

Since then, N.W.A.’s members have become some of the most important names in rap and hip-hop. It’s safe to say that the early success of this debut album had quite a bit to do with that.

John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (with the Flux Fiddlers) – Imagine

Some songs just have a message that remains ever more relevant with each passing decade. This could certainly be said of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Imagine is akin to a hymn, but begs the question of how different things would be without certain things. The world would be a very different place if more people took this song to heart.

Pentatonix – Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah is widely regarded as one of the greatest songs ever written. Jeff Buckley’s cover version has turned out almost more famous than the original recording.

Even Pentatonix’s version of the song has gained widespread acclaim. Of course, what else would you expect from the greatest a cappella pop group of all time?

Pentatonix - Hallelujah

The Isley Brothers – Shout

How many times have you been at a party where dancing is involved and heard the song, Shout? This song by The Isley Brothers is a true classic in every sense of the word.

Part of what makes this song so effective is its creative use of dynamics. The song almost details the emotional journey of going from baseline to excitement.

Terror Squad – Lean Back

As rap became more intertwined with pop music, rap groups began putting out tracks suitable for dance clubs. The early 2000s were especially ripe with unforgettable hooks and catchphrases.

One of the absolute best from this time period is Terror Squad’s Lean Back. This smooth track will have you repeating its hook again and again.

Meat Loaf – I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)

Queen wasn’t the only band injecting a sense of theatrics into their sound and live performances. Meat Loaf proved he could be just as dramatic, even with a little bit of a harder edge.

The song that best exemplifies this is I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That). Despite being nearly 3-4 times longer than average singles, the track ruled the charts for over a month. One of the top songs ever.

Rockwell – Somebody's Watching Me

If you feature Michael Jackson as a guest on your track in the 1980s, it’s probably a guaranteed hit. Throw in some ridiculously cool synthesizer lines and you’ve pretty much struck gold.

That’s precisely what happened with Rockwell’s track, Somebody’s Watching Me. This song is like the Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer but with way more synthesizer.

Kings Of Leon – Sex On Fire

Around 2008, it was hard to avoid the rise of Kings Of Leon, even if you desperately wanted to. They had a string of hits spawned by Sex On Fire that gave the band a nearly unstoppable momentum.

For the most part, this is a straightforward upbeat indie rock bop that leans into modern pop vocal styles. It’s a combination that people keep returning to after all these years.

The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

Even if you didn’t know of The Verve back in the late 1990s, you definitely knew Bitter Sweet Symphony. The song has a signature repeating orchestral line that serves as the musical foundation.

In some ways, Bitter Sweet Symphony is similar to early Radiohead based on an iconic sample. Needless to say, the song is quite cinematic, which is likely why it has been in so many films.

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