Best Pop Songs of All Time
While pop music has origins as far back as the 1920s, it didn’t really take shape as a genre until the 1950s. In the decades that followed, the term was largely used to denote a specific type of catchy sound or style, which usually overlapped with other genres like rock, country, folk, soul, R&B, and electronic. As the trend persisted into the 1980s and 1990s, the concept itself continued to evolve to the point that “pop music” didn’t overlap with peripheral genres as much as it did swallow them whole. To keep pace, the Billboard Pop Songs Chart debuted on Oct. 3, 1992.
Stacker is listing out the greatest pop songs of all time, based on weekly performance on the Billboard Pop Songs chart, from its inception all the way up to Sept. 30, 2017. Artists and songs are ranked by way of an inverse point system, with weeks at #1 earning the greatest value, and weeks at the lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates during various respective periods. Artists are then ranked based on a formula blending performance—as outlined above—of all their Pop Song chart entries.
Being that the list is bound by specific parameters, there’s an absence of names like Michael Jackson or Madonna. Meanwhile, The Goo Goo Dolls and Bruno Mars have three songs on the chart—the most among all the artists. Nickelback, Bruno Mars, Timbaland, OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, and 3 Doors Down all have two songs on the chart. Everyone else has one song on the chart. Okay, enough with the spoilers. Here are the best pop songs of all time.
#50. Gives You Hell by The All-American Rejects
Release year: 2008
Despite its upbeat sound, this power pop hit by the All-American Rejects explores some relatively dark subject matter. According to frontman Tyson Ritter, the song takes a tongue-in-cheek approach toward “looking at someone you hate...and giving them the finger.” In addition to grabbing the #1 spot on the U.S. Pop charts, it landed at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it became the first song with the word “hell” in its title to crack the top 10.
#49. I Knew You Were Trouble. by Taylor Swift
Release year: 2012
In 2012, Taylor Swift continued to stray from her country roots to forge a broader pop aesthetic. Putting that newfound sensibility on full display was this hit single from her wildly successful album, “Red.” With its palpable dubstep influence, the song sees Swift experimenting in terms of sound and style, but sticking close to familiar subject matter. Specifically, the song is about a break-up, albeit one that Swift saw coming from a mile away.
#48. Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
Release year: 2009
Proving that Taylor Swift isn’t the only artist who can channel bad romance into a hit song, Lady Gaga unleashed this infectious dance single in 2009, cementing her status as pop royalty. Along with the catchy music came an eye-popping video, which was recently named by Billboard as the best music video of the 21st century.
#47. Run It! by Chris Brown
Release year: 2005
Nowadays, Chris Brown may be as famous for his endless legal troubles as he is his music. In 2005, however, he was among the industry’s newest and brightest stars. Giving him a formidable boost was this aggressive hip-hop song, which was co-produced by then-hitmaker Scott Storch. Rap artist Juelz Santana provided additional lyrics.
#46. Big Girls Don't Cry by Fergie
Release year: 2006
Bearing no resemblance to a 1962 hit song of the same name, Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” finds the artist coping with a breakup against a backdrop of relatively sparse instrumentals. Produced by fellow The Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am, this was one of a few singles to contribute to the success of Fergie’s debut solo album, “The Dutchess.” In 2017, Fergie released a follow-up album, “Double Dutchess,” to less fanfare.
#45. Far Away by Nickelback
Release year: 2005
Canada’s Nickelback may be the rock band that everyone loves to hate, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming one of the best-selling acts in the history of modern music. They make their first appearance on the list with “Far Away,” which, according to lead singer and guitarist Chad Kroeger, is the band’s only true love song—in that it’s exclusively about being in love.
#44. Lights by Ellie Goulding
Release year: 2010
Pop star Ellie Goulding certainly isn’t the only one who prefers to sleep with the lights on, but she might be the only one to turn that habit into a chart-topping single. In somewhat fitting style, the song proved to be a sleeper hit, taking its sweet time before landing on the Hot 100 chart, where it stayed for more than a year.
#43. Don't Let Go (Love) by En Vogue
Release year: 1996
By the mid 1990s, female R&B outfit En Vogue dominated both MTV and radio by way of numerous hit singles. One of those singles was “Don't Let Go (Love),” which was included on both the “Set It Off” soundtrack as well as the group’s 1997 album,"EV3.” The song may have been En Vogue’s best-selling number to date, but that didn’t stop member Dawn Robinson from leaving the group soon after “EV3” hit the shelves.
#42. Whatcha Say by Jason Derulo
Release year: 2010
Contemporary R&B crooner and seasoned songwriter Jason Derulo unleashed this hit single in 2010, and by 2014, it had sold more than 4 million digital copies in the U.S. The track expertly weaves samples of Imogen Heap’s 2005 single “Hide and Seek” with Derulo’s auto-tuned vocals. It appeared on the artist’s self-titled debut album.
#41. I Know by Dionne Farris
Release year: 1995
The name Dionne Farris might not ring too many bells in 2018, but her hit 1994 song “I Know” certainly endures. Mixing guitar power chords with straightforward vocals and semi-funky percussion, the song stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 38 weeks, peaking at #4. Over on the Pop chart, it held the #1 spot for a solid 10 weeks. Before launching her solo career, Farris was featured on the hit track “Tennessee,” by Arrested Development.