Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right The 50 best pop songs
50 best pop songs

The 50 best pop songs

From power ballads to revenge tracks to the seriously sweet stuff, here's our pick of the best pop songs ever

By Time Out London Music

Few people can resist a good pop song, let alone 50 of the best. Time Out's music obsessives have filtered through pop's finest floor-fillers and chart-toppers and selected the absolute cream of the crop. We're talking about tunes that'll make you want to dance in the street with Martha Reeves, get your freak on like Missy Elliott, and join Hanson in an 'mmmbop', whatever that is. Here's our ultimate list of the 50 best pop songs ever.

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best party songs

The 50 best pop songs

what makes you beautiful, one direction

50. 'What Makes You Beautiful' – One Direction

For better or worse, five boys changed modern pop forever in 2011. One Direction’s first single pandered to the insecurities of every prepubescent girl around the world, selling over a million copies and earning a solid slot on every decent Spotify pop playlist. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s catchy as hell (and it gave us Harry Styles, so...). Rosie Percy

Best pop songs: Daphne & Celeste UGLY

49. 'U.G.L.Y.' – Daphne & Celeste

These days, if a pop song isn’t about romance then it’s about #beingyourself, but roll back the years to 2000 and squeaky-voiced duo Daphne & Celeste were all about the diss tracks. ‘U.G.L.Y’ features the kind of insults Taylor Swift could never shake off. Featuring fat jokes and ‘yo mama’ put downs, it would never get made now, but it’s a certified jam. Kate Lloyd

Best pop songs: Idina Menzel Let It Go

48. 'Let it Go' – Idina Menzel

You don’t have to actually like ‘Frozen’ to appreciate what is surely the most powerful ballad of recent musical history. Sure, the lyrics are technically about castles and icy superpowers, but ultimately the message is in the soaring, string-drenched melody: it doesn’t matter whether everyone hates you for only having a snowman for a mate (or something), as long as you can belt out a top C loud enough to drown out all of Broadway. It’s the best of musical theatre transmitted to the masses by the magic of Disney. No wonder it sold 10 million copies. Ashleigh Arnott

Best pop songs: All Saints Pure Shores

47. 'Pure Shores' – All Saints

Written for Danny Boyle’s trouble-in-paradise film ‘The Beach’ and given a dreamlike shimmer by producer William Orbit, All Saints’ masterpiece builds from languid ripples to an almighty tidal wave of a chorus. Despite the lyric about deserts, the shots of the band walking on a beach in the video were filmed on the North Norfolk coast: less Leonardo DiCaprio, more Alan Partridge. James Manning

Best pop songs: Edwin Collins A Girl Like You

46. 'A Girl Like You' – Edwyn Collins

A massive surprise hit in the ’90s, this wins for the scuzzy guitar riff alone: its quivering distortion is the musical equivalent of a dangerous love affair, so it just makes sense when a tortured Edwyn drawls in his trademark low ‘n’ nerdy blues voice how his ‘hands are bleeding and knees are raw’. Plus it features a vibraphone played by a Sex Pistol. I mean, c’mon. Amy Smith

Best pop songs: Lorde Royals

45. 'Royals' – Lorde

A 15 year-old girl from small-town New Zealand makes musical history with a massive international hit that rips the piss out of US hip hop’s culture of bling. It’s not the kind of thing that happens a lot in pop music, which makes the incredibly sparse, intricately layered, ultra-classy ‘Royals’ even more of a treasure. ‘Let me be your ruler,’ sang Lorde. ‘Yes please,’ replied millions of pop fans. James Manning

Best pop songs: Drake Hotline Bling

44. 'Hotline Bling' – Drake

Take away the mountain of memes, ignore Drake’s beautiful dad dancing and this song would still be a winner for the ages. That delicate, trickling calypso beat effortlessly shrugs off the lover who never calls, transforming a classic tale of ghosting into an eminently danceable revenge song that everyone – ex included – would struggle to resist. No wonder it was literally inescapable for the whole of summer ’15. Amy Smith

Best pop songs: Eve Let Mw Blow Your Mind

43. 'Let Me Blow Ya Mind' – Eve ft Gwen Stefani

Take two cool-as-hell women, put them together on a track with a slow, cocky beat and you get one of the best hip-hop-meets-pop collaborations ever. ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’ is a four-minute brag about career success. The lyrics are a lesson in sass and the melody is both slow-paced and floor-filling. Kate Lloyd

Best pop songs: Tatu All the Things She Said

42. 'All the Things She Said' – tATu

The crass, controversy-courting faux-lesbian gimmick makes this a bit of a cultural relic, but ‘All the Things She Said’ is still absolutely gripping. Blasting straight out of the gates with an unforgettable chorus, it suddenly drops to a hardly audible verse and manages to fit bizarre prog synths, roaring basslines, acoustic guitar and an acapella bridge into just under four minutes. James Manning

Best pop songs: Sisqo Thong Song

41. 'Thong Song' – Sisqo

A monster-sized hit dedicated to the smallest, flimsiest piece of underwear. The breathless Sisqo worships those truck-like ‘dumps’ over sweeping cinematic strings and an itchy, hyperactive beat. But it’s the epic key change that really stretches the knicker elastic and makes this the truly gargantuan hit it is. Amy Smith

Show more

Listen to our ultimate pop playlist

More magnificent music


    You may also like