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…
23. 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.
22. 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?
21. 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.
20. 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.
19. 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.
18. 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.
17. 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.
16. 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.
15. 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.
14. (Everything I do) I do it for You – Bryan Adams
This popular ballet 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.
13. 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.
12. 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.
11. 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.
10. 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?
9. 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.
8. 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.
7. 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, Mama Mia hit the stage in London – a musical based on their discography. The musical has since had a film adaptation and a sequel.
6. 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.’”
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.