Before we dive into this list of the best pop songs of all time, we need to take a moment to define what pop music actually is. And, unfortunately, that requires a lot of caveats along with ample use of the words "technically" and "actually." Technically, indie rock and rap qualify as pop, so long as they're filled with catchy beats and memorable melodies. Actually disco and hair metal are pop because they held the zeitgeist of a decade. You could technically qualify Limp Bizkit as pop music, since it dominated airwaves alongside the Backstreet Boys. (We won't… but we could.)
One thing pop isn't is old. At its very essence, pop music and "popular" songs are of their time. And once they hit a certain vintage, they graduate to classic status. Yes, The Beatles all but defined pop, and MJ was its king. But decades on, they've moved onto a different plane of existence.
For this updated rundown of the best pop songs of all time, we've rethought the canon and focused solely on 21st-century hits. The 40 songs on their list were all released between 2000 and 2021. We've excluded straight-up rock, alternative (whatever that means), and hip hop and focused instead on radio-friendly popular songs that will force even the stodgiest music snob to sing along if nobody's looking.
They are the buzzy, zeitgeisty songs that define their new generations, proudly carrying on the pop traditions laid out by pop's 20th-century forebears. And once they reach a certain age, they'll fit right in on a "best songs of all time" playlist along with MJ, Madge and Prince. These are the 21st-century pop songs that stand tall among the greatest of all time.
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