Time was, ‘pop’ meant manufactured acts whose music erred towards the disposable. Sure, there were a few certified geniuses like Michael Jackson or Madonna. But for all the units shifted, in the twentieth-century pop never seemed to be the zeitgeist artform of the day: the Beatles weren’t pop; Pink Floyd weren’t pop; Dolly Parton wasn’t pop; NWA weren’t pop.
At the dawn of the new millennium, all the rules for pop went out the window. A complicated series of cultural shifts that can largely be attributed to the internet kicked in: suddenly the bottom fell out of the market for guitar-based music, and suddenly it was sophisticated pop production that was getting the audiophiles drooling.
It’s an age we’re absolutely still living through, with little sign of letting up. And so, for this list, we’ve taken a long listen to some of the biggest bangers of the last 20-plus years and did what feels nearly impossible: we’ve ranked them. As a genre, pop has always been nebulously defined, so while we’ve broadly speaking excluded rock, country and hip-hop (though elements of all those things appear), you’ll find R&B jams, dance-floor fillers and insanely catchy earworms not even the snootiest of snobs can deny. These are the best pop songs of the twenty-first century.
🎉 The best party songs ever made
🎸 The best classic rock songs
🎤 The best karaoke songs
🎶 The best ’80s songs
🎵 The best ’90s songs