The 1960s British Invasion, where music from artists like the Beatles gained international popularity and spread like wildfire through the US, has produced a profound impact on American audiences. Much of today's music is still a major export from the UK.
In this article, we've listed 31 of the most famous songs to come out of the UK. Read on for 31 famous English songs by UK musicians.
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
Song year: 1968
If you're looking for a comforting song about letting things go and remembering that the future will come no matter what, then this is for you.
The Beatles are one of the most infamous bands globally, and Paul McCartney is lauded as one of the greatest songwriters ever. The Beatles have plenty of songs that remain at the forefront of cultural consciousness long after they go their separate ways. This is only one of the many, but it is one of the greatest English songs to become popular in the US.
“To Love Somebody” by The Bee Gees
Song year: 1967
The intense feelings of love can be difficult to put into words. But this song gets incredibly close.
It's about living for someone and asking them if they can understand what it's like to love somebody more than yourself. Sometimes the closest you can explain the way you feel is actually by singing a song about how unexplainable your emotions are.
The Bee Gee's are also one of the most classic rock bands to break out of the UK market and claim fame on the Billboard charts in the US.
“Duffy” by Warwick Avenue
Song year: 2008
The back and forth between a woman who loves a man but knows he doesn't feel the same way has touched many hearts and souls that have fallen in love with this song.
There's so much confusion that comes with unrequited love, especially when mixed signals are involved. The strength to leave someone is common in many songs, but this one by Warwick Avenue hits the spot. Especially if you're in the mood for a good cry and a pint of ice cream, this song pairs perfectly with those things.
“Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John
Song year: 1997
Elton John is the master of songs that you could serenade to a loved one. This song is less about how someone looks and more about how they light up a room and give the narrator feelings as they've never had before.
Elton John's passionate voice, combined with the emotional lyrics, make this song a staple for so many people.
“Don't Look Back in Anger” by Oasis
Written by lead singer Noelle Gallagher, this rock song by English band Oasis is all about letting go of the past and moving forward without holding on to any grudges. The lead singer laments about Sally, who he's in love with, but it isn't reciprocated.
Once Sally finally comes to him, it's too late, and the lead singer realizes it's just best to move on. This song is one to put at the front of your playlist when you need the inspiration to be the bigger person and realize it's time to move on.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Song year: 1975
Formed originally in 1970s London, Queen created some of the most innovative and trailblazing albums in rock history. Freddie Mercury and the rest of the band played with sounds and genres that few other rock bands had done before.
Bohemian Rhapsody is an easily recognizable song, and that is iconic for its unconventional lyrics and inclusion of sounds from genres like opera, which often seemed to exist on the opposite side of the music spectrum.
It's an incredibly fun song to sing along to and one of the most iconic rock songs to exist.
“Gold” by Spandau Ballet
Song year: 1983
One of Spandau Ballet's most memorable singles, Gold, is the anthem we all need when we need a boost of confidence. It's a great song to sing along to when we have to remember that we're resilient and worthy.
This song was even used during the BBC's coverage of the 1984 Olympics in California. Its uplifting spirit definitely lends itself to boosting motivation.
“Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins
Phil Collins wrote this song to shed light on and get more people to think about issues like homelessness and poverty. It's about lending empathy to those in need and recognizing that there is often such a start difference between the wealthy and the impoverished.
It was a bit of a detour from Collins' previous work, but it was an intentional move to show audiences his range and that he was serious about discussing important topics through his music.
“A View to Kill” by Duran Duran
If you're a James Bond fan, you're probably already familiar with this song by iconic 80s rock band Duran Duran.
This song embodies James Bond's aesthetics perfectly. It's larger than life and portrays the grandiose yet elegant style of Bond movies. It was also one of the last songs the band put out before dismembering to pursue other side projects.
“West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys
West End Girls catapulted Pet Shop Boys into international fame, topping the charts in both the UK and the US.
The song celebrates nightlife. Young men and women coming out at night to dance and have a good time. There are even specific clubs mentioned in the song that the band members frequently visited. The song is about meeting on the dance floor to live in the moment rather than thinking or living in the past or present.
“Careless Whisper” by George Michael
Song year: 1984
Nothing hurts the heart quite like a lost love. In this record topping song by George Michael and performed by the musical duo Wham!, the lyrics touch on cheating and the feelings of guilt that come with losing someone over your own mistakes.
George Michael's songwriting skills are already evident in this song, even though he was quite young when he wrote it.
“Who Do You Think You Are” by The Spice Girls
Song year: 1996
The Spice Girls made music industry history in their success appealing to a young female audience and speaking to the issues that that specific demographic faced. They quickly became some of the most infamous pop culture icons of the 90s decade.
This song touches on topics like fame and the ego. The lyrics show the band's attempt to explore ways to strike a balance between striving to reach your dreams while staying true to yourself and your roots along the way.
“Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
Song year: 2014
Ed Sheeran broke out of the UK scene into the US with his soulful lyrics and pop influences. This song contemplates love openly and honestly. Examining how love can grow and expand in the future and all the ways that two people can stay committed to each other over time.
Sheeran is one of the great lyricists, especially when it comes to love.
“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine
Song year: 2009
Florence and the Machine create a unique sound that brings freshness to the indie rock genre. Formed in London in 2007, the band has won numerous awards in the UK, and with breakout hits like this one, they've proved to be a strong force in the music industry.
The song has a lot of depth because, from the beat itself, you might assume it's an upbeat and uplifting song, but when taking a closer look at the lyrics, there's a greater sense of seriousness and possibly even about an unhealthy relationship.
There's a lot of being unpacked in this song, but it's also simply a great track to enjoy if you're not into dissecting and interpreting lyrics.
“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
Song year: 2006
This track and eponymous album became one of the top-selling albums in UK history. Amy Winehouses' voice brought a truly unique sound to the stage and innovatively blended multiple genres.
Amy Winehouse often wrote with inspiration from her own life and relationships. And this song is no different. It's about the tumultuous times that often come after a bad breakup. She discusses the pain of having the love of her life go back to an ex even though they both still love each other.
“Lights” by Ellie Goulding
Song year: 2010
Ellie Goulding boasts an incredibly angelic voice, which, when paired with the electronic pop production of songs like Lights, produces a beautiful song that is so fun to sing along to.
There are plenty of different interpretations to the lyrics, full of symbolism and metaphors that you can easily get lost in. This song topped the charts and became an international hit. But if you haven't heard it yet, we highly recommend giving it a listen and seeing what you think of the blend between the deep lyrics and the pop synth production.
“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
Song year: 2008
This track by British rock band Coldplay is the group's signature song which debuted in 2008. It quickly became a hit single and gained critical acclaim.
The opening orchestra music is unique and creates a sense of tension for the listener that is amazing. There's a lot to unpack in the lyrics, which include Christian references. It's one of those songs that can stand the test of time.
“Destroy Everything You Touch” by Ladytron
Song year: 2005
The line between self-protection and self-sabotage can get pretty thin. This song by British pop band Ladytron touches on how your past can creep up on you.
Many listeners see it as a portrayal of how self-sabotage and being unwilling to let other people in can result in both people ending up hurt.
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
Song year: 2011
Adele's voice and songwriting abilities make her one of the most incredible English artists to make it big internationally.
Her debut hit Rolling in the Deep shows the frustration of finally seeing a relationship for what it really is. Adele channels anger so elegantly into soulful lyrics that still get audiences off their feet and singing along with her. This song is great for dealing with heartache or breakup.
“Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets
Song year: 2004
For that time when you're just coming out of a breakup and are getting ready to wipe those tears away, this song is for you.
The song goes through the lead singer's breakup, with the chorus directing him to wipe away his tears and remember that there are other women out there in the world. This song is The Streets' signature song topping the UK charts shortly after its release.
“Fastlove” by George Michael
Song year: 1996
This is one of those fast and upbeat songs that so many people love. Michael's lyrics describe wanting a short fling with a woman. Rather than looking or longing for serious love, this song is just about having fun for a night and keeping things casual.
It's a refreshing song against many other serious breakup songs that accompany this list, so definitely check it out.
“I'm Still Standing” by Elton John
Song year: 1983
This song is all about staying strong and remaining confident even when relationships don't work out.
Rather than wallowing in self-pity or pining after the person who broke up with you, jam out to this track when you really want to feel like everything is going to be okay and that you'll thrive no matter what.
“Levitating” by Dua Lipa
Song year: 2021
The newest song on this list, Levitating by Dua Lipa, has gained more and more fame from internet sensations and trends on platforms like TikTok.
This song is pop electronic in its most enjoyable form, and the fast pace of the lyrics makes it even more fun to sing along to.
“Hello” by Adele
Song year: 2015
We all wish we could make a clean break from those relationships that have ended, but that's often easier said than done.
This song by Adele speaks to those lingering feelings that often so stubborn and tough to get rid of even after so much time has passed. For those moments when you wish you could talk to that special person again and tell them all the things you wish you would've said, listen to this track immediately.
“Adore You” by Harry Styles
Song year: 2019
Harry Styles has grown more and more into a pop icon not only in his music but in his fashion and even acting skills as well.
Adore You is a great song to come out. This UK artist, like Styles, blends lyrics that speak to cultural and social issues with pop synth instrumentation that brings an even greater amount of accessibility and reaches wider audiences.
“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley
Song year: 1987
This 80s pop anthem from Rick Astley is such a fun beat, and his low baritone voice brings even more of a dynamic experience to this fantastic track.
This song is a fully-fledged declaration of love, commitment and promises to always be there for someone.
“Rehab” by Amy Winehouse
Song year: 2006
After personally dealing with addiction, the late Amy Winehouse laid all her experience and emotion out on the table with one of her signature songs, Rehab.
This song is about Amy refusing to go to Rehab, although in reality, the artist did check herself into a treatment center for addiction along with her husband.
This song won three Grammy's in 2008, beating out a number of other extremely popular songs.
“Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin
Song year: 1971
This song is all about returning to something you love. After taking a break, Led Zeppelin returned to the music scene with this quintessential throwback to authentic rock and roll.
With the British Invasion being such an essential part of rock n' roll history for the UK and the US, this song reminds us of the amazing rock music that came out of the UK and created international mania.
“Space Oddity” by David Bowie
Song year: 1969
David Bowie is by far one of the most recognizable and trailblazing artists to come out of the UK. Bowie's songs often have such strong narrative aspects to them. They are definitely worth researching a bit and looking into the story behind the lyrics.
Fictional characters span multiple songs, creating an entire universe across multiple tracks.
The artistry of Bowie is truly unmatched, and no list of prominent UK artists would be complete without him.
“Astronomy Domine” by Pink Floyd
Song year: 1967
As the first track on their debut album, Astronomy Domine was Pink Floyd's first step into space rock. This song and the album as a whole have become a staple for anyone into psychedelic rock.
This iconic 60s group and the innovative rock music they played helped to define the decade.
“War Pigs” by Black Sabbath
Song year: 1970
This anti-war song by the heavy metal band Black Sabbath is often ranked as one of the band's best songs of all time.
The metal rock genre definitely grew throughout the UK, and with issues like the Vietnam war gaining more and more attention from young people and activists, it became the perfect storm for a song like this to really take off.
Top English Songs By UK Musicians, Final Thoughts
Much great music has come from prominent UK artists from plenty of genres spanning from heavy metal to classic pop.
These songs range from early classics to new wave pop phenomena. These infamous songs are all worth a listen, and you may even find some new or simply new-to-you gems to now add to your favorite playlist.