They say you should dance like no one’s watching and sing like there’s no one listening. Music provides one of the purest joys in life – it can take us back to a moment of nostalgia or inspire us to step into a brighter future. Some songs resonate the very same way today than they did when they were first released, decades ago.
Here is a list of some of the best songs that have ever been released. Try not to sing along…
49. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
This anthem was originally written and recorded by Prince. He never released the version he made back in 1984, and it was subsequently given to the Irish sensation. Upon its release, Nothing Compares 2 U reached the top of the charts in 17 different countries.
Overall, it was in the Top 100 for four weeks and was heard around the world. The video is still famous today: the one-shot of Sinead O’Connor staring into the camera and crying resonates with listeners everywhere.
48. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
One of Presley’s biggest songs hit our radios way back in 1957 and is still enjoyed today. It was featured in the film of the same name and showed the singer performing the song in a prison.
Today, Jailhouse Rock is considered one of the most iconic songs of the 1950s and represents vintage Americana. This is just one of Elvis Presley’s massive hits and proves to be a dancing tune 60 years later. Do you still listen to it?
47. Hit Me Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
It’s hard to believe that this song is already 21 years old. Hit Me Baby One More Time featured a 17-year-old Britney dressed as a young school girl which instantly garnered a worldwide audience.
The video has remained somewhat iconic even today, solidifying itself as one of the biggest songs of the decade. Even the first couple of beats can be recognized by people of all ages. It was produced by Max Martin – the mastermind behind songs for other bands such as The Backstreet Boys.
46. Let It Be – The Beatles
There are many songs from The Beatles that deserve to be on this list. Paul McCartney wrote Let It Be in 1970 and focuses mainly on only four piano chords. The song refers to a ‘Mother Mary’, which some consider being a religious reference.
Even though music can be an intimate and personal experience, McCartney has confirmed that it is a reference to his mother who died when he was 14. Apparently, she spoke to him in a dream, reassuring him to ‘let it be’. The rest, as we know, is history.
45. We Belong Together – Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s 2005 earned her a Grammy for the best R&B song of that year. After its release, We Belong Together, spent an impressive 14 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. To date, this is the longest time a song has been at the top of the Billboard charts in the 21st century.
The music video features the star wearing a wedding dress – this is the actual one she wore to her wedding to Tommy Mottola in 1993. Unfortunately, they divorced a few years later but she had no problem wearing it again.
44. Yeah! – Usher feat. Lil’ Jon and Ludacris
This 2004 hit soared to #1 as soon as it was released to listeners around the world. In its first week, it sold an impressive one million copies. The album, Confessions had three songs in the top 10 charts once it became available to listeners.
Amazingly, Usher was only the third artist to achieve this after The Bee Gees and The Beatles. Fifteen years later and the song still has its place in parties around the world. Its familiar beat flows through your body and causes listeners to dance wherever they are.
43. Endless Love – Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
Endless Love has its deserved title as one of the most romantic duets of all time. It featured in the 1981 film of the same name. Even though the film would not leave too much of an impact, the song has clearly stood the test of time.
Amazingly, it was hard to get these two stars together due to their busy schedules. Consequently, the studio opened its doors at 3:30am after a Nevada concert. Two hours later, the song was recorded and complete.
42. I’ll Make Love To You – Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men had a fantastic 1994 – their biggest song reached #1 for 14 weeks. I’ll Make Love To You clearly left a mark on its listeners and is still considered one of the most romantic songs ever written.
It won the 1994 Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. According to Babyface – the song’s writer – it almost didn’t make it on to the album until a last-minute change.
41. Lose Yourself – Eminem
Eminem’s 2002 hit can be considered his most iconic, and for good reason. Lose Yourself acted as the soundtrack to his 2002 film 8 Mile, a semi-biographical movie set in Detroit.
The personal lyrics and catchy beat make Lose Yourself a popular song even today, resonating with people who are also chasing their own goals. It won the Oscar for Best Soundtrack and has made Eminem one of the most iconic rappers in the last 20 years.
40. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You – Bryan Adams
This popular ballad was first released in 1991 and was featured in the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. At first, the film studio didn’t approve of the song since it didn’t fit with the era in which the film was set.
Ultimately, they approved it and the rest is history. (Everything I do) I do it for You was #1 for a massive 16 weeks in the UK and seven weeks in the US.
39. Last Christmas – Wham!
One of Wham!’s biggest hits was released in the middle of the 1980s, giving it that iconic sound that we all know today. It was written and produced by George Michael and became a Christmas hit, despite not being about the actual holiday.
The song simply refers to a broken relationship that took place over Christmas and new year. It’s an annual staple on radio stations at Christmas time, especially in the UK. Sadly, George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016.
38. Dancing in the Street – Martha and The Vandellas
Not many songs can so eloquently sum up the 1960s like Dancing in the Street. Released in 1964, the Motown sound would quickly become a sign of the times and a changing culture of civil rights and social mobility among minorities.
The feel-good beats and lyrics represent the ‘swinging ‘60s’ era that had often been romanticized by future generations. Today, people can still find comfort by dancing to the song. Location is optional.
37. Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye Feat. Kimbra
Somebody That I Used To Know is a shining example of a ‘One Hit Wonder’. Written and performed by Gotye, the 2011 single shot the Belgian-Australian star to worldwide fame and recognition. The single won the Record of the Year at the 2013 Grammys and he has largely been quiet ever since.
After writing the song, Gotye transformed it into a duet and is one of the most covered songs in recent years. Its unique sound has resonated with people from around the world.
36. Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns N’ Roses
What happens when one of your hits drives you crazy? Well, for Slash, that’s exactly what happened. Sweet Child O’Mine hit radios in 1988 but it only took two years to drive the band crazy.
According to Guns N’ Roses, the song was written during a jam session in the Sunset Strip. Today, it is one of their best-known songs and perfectly captures the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. Looks like they’ll have to play it for a few more years!
35. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
Amazingly, ‘Born To Run’ was Springsteen’s last attempt to make it big in the music industry. Released way back in 1974, the classic song had followed two albums that didn’t make the impact the singer had hoped for.
Well, it looked like it paid off! Today, Born To Run has earned its place as one of America’s most iconic tunes. According to Springsteen, there are 11 guitar tracks on the record to get the sound ‘just’ right.
34. Every Breath You Take – The Police
The song, which will celebrate its 36th birthday this year, has become known as the band’s signature song. According to reports in 2010, Every Breath You Take accounts for roughly 30% of the band’s entire income.
And there’s good reason. The song perfectly captures what it means to be in love and infatuated with the person of your dreams. Sting wrote the ballad after his separation from Frances Tomelty. Do you like the classic ‘80s anthem?
33. Macarena – Los Del Rio
The 1993 Spanish dance song was an immediate hit around the world. Before we knew it, we were all standing in the middle of the dance floor and copying the easy but memorable moves in large crowds.
At the time of its release, it spent 14 weeks at Number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It is the remix, however, that is more iconic and played today. The Macarena inspired many additional uniform dances in the following years.
32. Mambo No. 5 (a Little Bit of…) – Lou Bega
From the opening introduction to catchy few beats, Mambo No. 5 is a timeless classic that invites people of all ages to jump on to the dance floor. Describing the loves of his life, Lou Bega pays homage to the ladies with a brass band and unique rhythms.
Upon its release, Mambo No. 5 won the NRJ Music Award for International Song of the Year. 20 years later, It is ingrained into the music culture and a must-play at weddings and special events.
31. Shape of You – Ed Sheeran
Shape of You hit streaming services in 2017 and has become one of the most played songs in history. To date, it has more than two billion streams on Spotify alone – and that’s not counting other platforms and physical records.
Shape of You has an irresistible beat and rhythm that causes almost anyone to get up and dance. Originally, Sheeran wrote the song for Rihanna but decided it was more suited for him. We can’t imagine her singing it – can you?
30. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
Gimme Shelter is only one of the many songs that came out during the Vietnam War. The 1969 hit is supposed to highlight how the fear of war is always present and a concern for young men and women.
60 years later, it is still played in bars around the world as a reminder of the hippy era and swinging ‘60s. Mary Clayton performed the iconic female vocals that are heard with such power, that she ultimately ended up miscarrying her child.
29. No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Another song that fits perfectly within its decade is Bob Marley’s famous No Woman No Cry. One of the all-time favorite Reggae classics was released in 1975 and has been played in college dorm rooms ever since. The original lyrics were ‘no woman nuh cry’, with ‘Nuh’ translated from Jamaican as ‘don’t’.
So, the meaning of the song is ‘no woman, don’t cry’. This is a bit more romantic than the other interpretation which is that without women, man has no reason to be upset.
28. Dancing Queen – ABBA
ABBA is perhaps the most successful example of a Eurovision band that gained worldwide fame and recognition for their work. Dancing Queen is one of their most iconic tunes that quickly gets a rhythm flowing through its listeners.
Despite their place in history today, this song was the only one to make it to #1 in the US charts. In 1999, Mamma Mia! hit the stage in London – a musical based on their discography. The musical has since had a film adaptation and a sequel.
27. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
Another song from the 1970s to highlight the romanticism of its time, Bridge Over Troubled Water has solidified itself as one of the most iconic songs ever written. Even though it was written by Paul Simon, it’s Art Garfunkel that would ultimately lend his voice to the tune.
Simon said, “I have no idea where it came from. It came all of a sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.’”
26. Hotel California – The Eagles
Ever since its release in 1977, Hotel California has been named as one of the most iconic songs of the decade. Its catchy lyrics and recognizable guitar coda has been voted one of the best solos of all time. Hotel California is actually based off a real location: the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The band explains how the hotel had become a literal and symbolic focal point in all of their lives. The song acts as an homage to a place that meant so much to them. Today, their song means so much to us.
25. Respect – Aretha Franklin
The world said goodbye to Aretha Franklin in 2018, but her 1967 song will live on forever, Younger fans may not realize that Respect is actually a cover of the Otis Redding original from two years before.
Franklin added her own unique style and voice to the song which has since become an anthem for civil rights and feminist movement across the US. 50 years later, the song is more relevant than ever. When did you first hear this song?
24. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
This classic rock song was released in 1971 and helped transform the genre. The monster 8-minute hit is a journey from the calm and modest into a huge climactic masterpiece. Throughout the record, listeners get to experience the change in melody, tempo, and tune.
Today, guitarists all over the world pay tribute to the anthem by adding their own twists and turns on to it. Many fans of the genre can turn to Stairway to Heaven as a staple in the era.
23. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit first played on radios in 1990 and became the definitive single for Nirvana. According to sources, Kurt Cobain admired The Pixies and wanted to write a song in the same style.
When writing Smells Like Teen Spirit, Kobain confessed: “I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.” Today, the song can be identified in its opening few notes.
22. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Another classic hit from the 1960s, Like A Rolling Stone came to the world in 1965 right in the middle of the swinging sixties. Many musical historians mark Like A Rolling Stone as the song that transformed Bob Dylan from a folk singer to a bonafide rock star.
Bob Dylan experienced many ups and downs during his career, but this song ended up resonating with fans all over the world. Today, it is one of the best songs ever written.
21. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
This catchy tune will surely be played at weddings and birthdays for generations to come. The 2014 summer hit immediately made an impact on listeners and instantly became a staple in pop culture.
Part of the winning formula by Ronson and Mars was to adopt a classic sense of nostalgia among its listeners. They achieve this by mirroring classic ‘80s songs and balancing the rhythm in a similar way. Can you resist tapping your feet when you hear this?
20. Smooth – Santana ft. Rob Thomas
Another instant classic: Santana’s Smooth grooved along the radio waves in 1999 and was one of the most popular collaborations in recent years. Merging the Latin rock of Santana with American soul of Thomas, they achieved something special.
20 years later, the song is still as popular as ever. It helped cement Santana into American pop culture and accelerated Rob Thomas to a bonafide star. Who do you think the ‘Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa’ is?
19. Imagine – John Lennon
Often considered one of the best songs ever written, Imagine is still as relevant today as it was in 1971. Lennon wrote the song with wife Yoko Ono in mind, and she eventually received a writing credit for her help inspiring him to sit down and record his feelings.
The song asks us to ‘imagine’ a better future free of war and conflict. Its socialist messaging wasn’t immediately embraced by many, but it is only garnering more support in recent years. What would you wish away if you could?
18. One – U2
One of the best songs to come from U2, One was written by lead singer Bono. According to sources, the song was inspired by all the broken relationships experienced by the band members. Amazingly, we can all find something in its lyrics to remind us of a past love.
Many ballads tap into feelings of love and loss, but few achieve the emotional response in the same way that U2 does. 28 years later and the song is frequently used in pop culture.
17. September – Earth, Wind, and Fire
Few songs capture the soul of the 1970s like September. From its opening few beats all the way through to its chorus, the tune manages to get everyone dancing the night away. 40 years later, it is an essential record at weddings.
Lyricist Maurice White was once asked in an interview what ‘ba-dee-ya’ meant. He replied bluntly: “Who cares? never let the lyrics get in the way of the groove.” It turns out that many millions of us don’t care.
16. Daydream Believer – The Monkees
The Monkees often don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to the impact they had on music. Daydream Believer, released in 1967, told a sad story about a husband looking in the mirror and realizing his marriage was over.
However, the feel-good beat and melody mix our emotions as we’re left tapping our feet and singing along. The song reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it rested for four weeks.
15. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
Made famous by the 1985 film Back to the Future, Johnny B. Goode is one of the most quintessential songs of the 1950s. The lyrics tell the story of an illiterate man from New Orleans who wows people with his guitar.
Originally, the lyrics referred to Goode as a ‘colored boy’ but radio stations told him they couldn’t play it. Berry changed the lyrics to make it more radio friendly and the impact has had lasting effects all the way to today.
14. I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas had many classic hits during their glory years, but perhaps the most iconic one was I Gotta Feeling. Released in 2009 and produced by David Guetta, the song was written and performed by each member of the group.
Will.I.Am, the band’s frontman, explained the intention behind the weekend evening jam that rocked the world. “Times are really hard for a lot of people and you want to give them escape and you want to make them feel good about life, especially at these low points.”
13. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Perhaps made more famous by the 2001 hit Zoolander, Relax was released in 1983 to a wave of controversy. The BBC banned it from its airwaves due to its provocative lyrics, which can be interpreted as too sexual.
Like most great art, the song was ahead of its time yet still manages to capture the era of its own time. The song reeks of ‘80s fun and disco, with many people still enjoying the song today.
12. Happy – Pharrell Williams
One of the greatest dance songs ever, Happy became the best-selling song of 2014 with a massive 13.9 million singles sold. The song featured on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and elevated Williams to worldwide fame.
After only a few beats, listeners are immediately caught in its catchy beat and melody. Whether it’s your first listen or your 50th, we’re sure you’ll still be tapping your feet along. Years from now, people will likely still be dancing along to this instant classic tune.
11. Your Song – Elton John
British pop star Elton John was king of the music world in the 1970s. He co-wrote the ballad with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. It was first released in 1970 and has since become an absolute classic.
Today, it is often appearing on many lists that highlight some of the world’s best songs. The gentle melody and powerful lyrics make for an unmistakable anthem that resonates today. It’s been covered by artists like Ellie Goulding, Lady Gaga, and Ewan McGregor.
10. Thriller – Michael Jackson
Is there a more iconic song than Thriller? The Michael Jackon song was released in January 1984 as the seventh and final single from the album of the same name. Produced by Quincey Jones, Thriller was accompanied by an entire music video.
The music video – which features a dance performance and voiceover by Vincent Price – has solidified its place in pop culture. Almost all of us know the rhythm and dance moves 36 years later. In fact, his outfit is still a popular Halloween costume.
9. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys
Good Vibrations was bringing the good vibes ever since its release in 1966. The title was inspired by Brian Wilson and his interest in cosmic vibrations in space. He wanted to explore the good and/or bad vibes that people give off.
Today, Good Vibrations is still played and enjoyed by millions of people. It is still considered a summer anthem is can frequently be found at parties or picnics. Do you like the classic ‘60s song?
8. My Way – Frank Sinatra
My Way was released in the middle of Sinatra’s career and remains one of his best songs. Coming from the 1969 album of the same name, it is a remake of a French song with the same meaning. At the time, it spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40.
The song is a love letter to one’s past and a lifetime of events. It is the most played song at funerals due to the uplifting message of nostalgia and taking control of one’s life.
7. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye
Sexual Healing appeared on Midnight Love, the 1982 album. The song marked the first single from Marvin Gaye following his departure from his Motown record label. It’s often listed as one of the best songs ever written. The post-disco, soul, and funk song is considered ‘America’s hottest pop culture turn on’.
Today, the song is often thought of as one of the most… ahem… romantic songs in recent years. Its explicit meaning often excites those who listen to it.
6. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Comfortably Numb appeared on the band’s 11th album, The Wall, from 1980. Almost 40 years later, the song is one of their most iconic songs due to its two guitar solos and evocative lyrics.
Most people think it refers to drug use, and while this has been denied, we can’t be sure if that can be trusted.Comfortably Numb was written by both Roger Waters and David Gilmour who often perform the song in modern times.
5. Wonderwall – Oasis
Oasis quickly became one of the most iconic bands of the mid-90s with their breakout his Wonderwall. From their album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? The song describes “an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself”.
To this day, Wonderwall remains one of the band’s most popular songs and one of Britain’s most famous exports. Almost 25 years have gone by but the lyrics and unique instrumentals have remained iconic. Who is your Wonderwall?
4. Piano Man – Billy Joel
Piano Man tells the semi-true stories of Billy Joel’s time as a piano man performing in a bar. Through its various verses, Joel sings us through the various characters he would meet throughout all hours of the day.
It’s been more than 45 years since Piano Man was first released, but the song still resonates with music fans from all over the world. In 2016, the Library of Congress selected it to be preserved in the National Recording Registry. It cites its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance”.
3. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
There is no album more full of heartbreak and turmoil than Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours. During its recording, two of the band members divorced from each other, another two were fighting during an acrimonious affair, and the fifth member was having personal domestic problems.
Despite all this, Dreams cuts through the emotional chords of its performers and listeners to explore the feelings of love and loss. All these years later, its beat and lyrics remain incredibly powerful to future generations.
2. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Another song to hit the radio in the 1970s was Steve Wonder’s iconic hit Superstition. From the 1972 album Talking Heads, Wonder wrote a funky hit that electrifies the hearts of all its listeners.
It’s almost impossible to resist a dance to the heavy funk and bass lines that flow through the speakers and into the airwaves. To date, it is still a staple at most parties or weddings to encourage people to get the dance floor. With its bass and blowing brass set, it’s easy to hear why.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
It might sound crazy now, but Bohemian Rhapsody was considered somewhat of a gamble upon its release in 1975. The band was in desperate need of a hit, but a 7-minute ballad including opera solos and grunge riffs, all mixed together with poetry and screams.
It’s a mishmash of themes and styles that effortlessly blend together to tell the story of a group of misfits. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find someone who doesn’t know the lyrics to the anthem.