Hit Songs From the Year You Were Born

One birth year, one song: what was a hit during your first year?
Odin Odin (54)
0

Why do some songs soar toward the firmament while others crash into the chasm of obscurity? Regardless of the reason, every year, a few songs do make that mighty clime, rising on the thermals of society’s whim to find an altitude beyond the reach of mortal ken.

Which is to say: every year there’s a song that, for some reason, popped like a crazy jack-in-the box to the top of music charts everywhere, blowing away the competition and enamoring fans from then on. Some of these might be one-hit wonders, songs that topped out the charts but were followed by years of ho-hum attempts to recapture glory’s shooting star. Others were just one star in a vibrant artistic sky, just one song in an already incredible musical constellation into which the band or artist is still pouring new and vibrant work.

Either way, there’s something magical about learning what people were in love with during your first year of life—like knowing what sign you were born under, only more tangible. “Best” is, of course, subjective (we all have different views on what’s best, and that’s okay!) but I’ve aimed to put together a collection that hopefully won’t be what you expect, so check it out.

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Pop Culture
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1971
1971
  • A Case of You
  • Joni Mitchell

Few painters in history produced as incredible a range of music as Joni Mitchell who, in an interview in 2000, said, "I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance." For someone who saw their career as a poet and musician as something of a derailment from the art that brought them true passion, Joni sure managed to bring a shining light into the world, inspiring millions and rejuvenating the limits of the possible within the popular music scene.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is the runner-up for this year. What an incredible piece by an incredible poet and musician.

1972
1972
  • "Lean on Me"
  • Bill Withers

There’s powerful wisdom inherent in this song. All of Withers’ work contains both a sense of deep yearning and an eye-twinklingly subtle subversive trend, work that bucks the usual social trend. In a 2006 interview he explained his position on love and how he explores it within this song, making his approach unique in a heavily commodified industry:

“Romantic love you only wanna touch people because they’re pretty and they appeal to you physically. The more substantial kind of love is when you want to touch people and care for them when they’re at their worst.”

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Changes" by David Bowie is the runner-up for this year.

1973
1973
  • "Ramblin' Man"
  • The Allman Brothers Band

A classic that conjures up something true about the nature of the American life — as it was and, in many ways, as it still is for many, Ramblin’ Man offers listeners with a relatable vibe and catchy melody that entwine yearning and dreaming with the heavy reality of the melancholy road. As Dicky Betts said about his process writing this song:

“When I was a kid, my dad was in construction and used to move the family back and forth between central Florida’s east and west coast. I had two sets of friends and spent a lot of time in the back of a Greyhound bus. But the song, as I originally wrote it, had a country flavor and needed to be Allmanized – given that rock-blues feeling.”

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Runner-up

"Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)" by Deodato is the runner-up for this year.

1974
1974
  • "Hooked on a Feeling"
  • Blue Swede

Though it’s been re-popularized by the Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy, Hooked on a Feeling was a big hit on its own back in the day, making it onto the top 100 songs of the year chart when it came out. It’s actually Blue Suede’s cover of the original B.J. Thomas song, and though the original’s grand, it's the Suede version that flew to the stars.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"You Haven't Done Nothin'" by Stevie Wonder is the runner-up for this year.

1975
1975
  • "Love Will Keep Us Together"
  • Captain & Tennille

Basically, the soundtrack to the whole year of 1975, Love Will Keep Us Together was a breakaway hit for Captain & Tennille, being their first hit single and the piece that would catapult their career.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Fame" by David Bowie is the runner-up for this year.

1976
1976
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  • Queen

One of the most important musical groups of the 20th century, Queen offered the world a prog-rock sound that shook the foundations of the music industry with its vast dimensionality, social commentary, and sheer catchiness. Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury and proved to be a breakaway music video hit years before music videos were popularized by MTV.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Dream On" by Aerosmith is the runner-up for this year.

1977
1977
  • "Dreams"
  • Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks wrote Dreams during an especially tumultuous time for the band, with the relationship between Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham ending during a long period of disintegration. In the swell of powerful and often viscerally-antagonistic emotions, it’s no wonder that Dreams blooms with both melancholy and surges of anger, loss, and the fight to move on. As Nicks herself said:

“I can remember how hard it was for me to play Dreams the first time, for the whole band, because I know it would probably really upset Lindsey, and probably really upset Chris and John, and probably really upset Mick and really upset me. And if I could even get through it I'd be lucky.”

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Runner-up

Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band by Meco is the runner-up for this year.

1978
1978
  • "Take a Chance on Me"
  • Abba

No list of hits during the 1970s would be complete without at least one Abba song. The Swedish pop group dominated during the 70s, providing poppy hit after poppy hit, though by the time they wrote Take a Chance on Me they were tending toward more complex musical and poetic themes which is perhaps the reason why this song became such an enduring hit - it hearkened to their earlier work well, especially surrounded as it was by their changing tune.

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Runner-up

"Miss You" by The Rolling Stones is the runner-up for this year.

1979
1979
  • "I Will Survive"
  • Gloria Gaynor

Though released at the end of 1978, "I Will Survive" exploded as a major 1979 hit. Later, it would grow into a powerful feminist icon track. It also grew into an anthem for members in the gay community during the height of the AIDS epidemic, its dramatic flair and cresting mix of disco and pop becoming a song that spoke to the will of a generation to survive the struggles before it.

The song also has the same BPM as the human heart, making it the perfect track to play if you need to do CPR (though we don’t recommend delaying that to open up your playlist).

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Runner-up

"Heart of Glass" is the runner-up for this year. <3

1980
1980
  • "Refugee"
  • Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

Another late 1979 release that made its serious break-out in 1980, this became one of the band’s most recognizable songs. Tom talked about his process, saying that this was one of the easiest songs to come to him, almost as if by magic, “I remember pacing around the room, and I started singing to the cassette. And, within twenty minutes, it had all appeared. I think I worked a little longer filling in the bridge. But I’m not even sure of that. It really came quickly. There was no effort at all. It was just very easily done, as far as the writing.”

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Runner-up

"(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon is the runner-up for this year. His last album before his assassination.

1981
1981
  • "Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)"
  • Joey Scarbury

The connection between television hits and what the public loves is no secret, just look at how popular the Game of Thrones soundtrack became outside of fans of the show! But, in 1981 the big hit cult show was The Greatest American Hero, a superhero comedy series about an average American Joe who finds himself possessed of a suit with mysterious and powerful abilities. Anyway, the series was a massive hit and its theme song lept into the public sphere as a top-100 hit as well.

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Runner-up

"Urgent" by Foreigner is the runner-up for this year.

1982
1982
  • "Don't You Want Me"
  • The Human League

A classic of the early synthpop era, this was The Human League’s greatest hit and was considered one of the leading songs in the so-called “Second British Invasion” of American airwaves. Released in 1981, it swept over the pond and, in 1982, took the charts by storm. Despite its success and eventual era-defining fame, it started off rough, with Philip Oakey hating the studio-altered version (they turned down the gritty synths he’d originally envisioned) so much that he placed it at the end of the album.

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Runner-up

"Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band is the runner-up for this year.

1983
1983
  • "Africa"
  • Toto

1983 was a big year for hits and many of the songs we often think of as quintessentially “80s” showed up in ‘83 at the top of the charts (think Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf or Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart). Toto’s Africa was released in October of 1982 and it topped out in 1983, taking the airwaves by storm. Regarding the percussion loops in the song, Jeff Porcaro said, “I was about 11 when the New York World's Fair took place, and I went to the African pavilion with my family. I saw the real thing ... It was the first time I witnessed somebody playing one beat and not straying from it, like a religious experience, where it gets loud, and everyone goes into a trance.”

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Runner-up

"Der Kommissar" by After the Fire is the runner-up for this year.

1984
1984
  • "When Doves Cry"
  • Prince

This is one of my favorite Prince songs, a piece that I could listen to dozens of times over and not get tired of it, and apparently, the people in 1984 agreed with me because this song blew the top off the charts that year. It feature’s Prince’s usual sultry musical zest, his ability to infuse every lyric with intensity and meaning while the backing percussion and synth activates something primal and exquisite. It also took him only 12 hours to complete, a record piece of work by all accounts.

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Runner-up

"Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson is the runner-up for this year. When these two do a song together, you better pay attention.

1985
1985
  • "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
  • Simple Minds

One of the most iconic songs of the 1980s, largely due to its inclusion in the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club for which the songs was originally composed by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff. Forsey wrote the song with Simple Minds in mind, but the band initially declined, not wanting to perform music that wasn’t their own. Eventually, they relented after Forsey convinced them that he honestly admired their work, and the rest is history. An instant classic, it shot to the top of the charts, proving Forsey’s belief that Simple Minds was the right band for the job.

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Runner-up

"Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin is the runner-up for this year.

1986
1986
  • "Your Wildest Dreams"
  • The Moody Blues

One of the first synthpop pieces that The Moody Blues produced, shifting them away from their traditionally more pop-oriented sound, “Your Wildest Dreams” became a classic hit and slid up onto the top 100 charts. Justin Hayward wrote the song as a reminiscence about his first love and wanted it to have a time-machine feel. “Most of "Wildest Dreams" - 90% of it - is Tony Visconti, my DX7, and a guitar synth,” Hayward said. “The piece at the beginning of "Wildest Dreams" that sounds like a sort of Theremin ... that's a guitar synth. All of that is. So it was just another way of exploring musical avenues.”

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Runner-up

"True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper is the runner-up for this year.

1987
1987
  • "Walk Like An Egyptian"
  • The Bangles

The Bangles’ first number-one single, also topped the charts in 1987, mixing poppy sounds with a rock bass vibe and a tambourine throwback that gave the song a unique flavor in the synth-heavy late-80s. The song was written by Liam Sternberg who sold it to a publisher who then passed it on to the Bangles. Though the song became a huge hit, it’s one of those interesting amalgamations of musical talent from various sources, with the band acting as the performers only rather than the true artistic effort behind the music. Indeed, the song caused some contention within the group who had difficulty deciding who would get to sing which lyrics.

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Runner-up

"(I Just) Died In Your Arms" by Cutting Crew is the runner-up for this year. One of my favorites.

1988
1988
  • "Never Gonna Give You Up"
  • Rick Astley

Only one song could possibly be included on this list because any other song would let you down. This worldwide number one hit was written by Mike Stock one of the most famous producer/writers in the industry. Initially, he wasn’t quite certain if the song would work with Astley’s unique vocal style… but clearly his hunch paid off. In 2007 a bait and switch meme took the internet by storm as an April Fools’ Day joke. By switching the URL of a link for something else with “Never Gonna Give You Up” one of the most harmless and humorous pranks in history became an instant classic and reignited the song’s cult status.

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Runner-up

name"We'll Be Together" by Sting is the runner-up for this year.

1989
1989
  • "Lovesong"
  • The Cure

With its distinctive counterbalance of minor chords and upbeat style, the simplicity of Lovesong was difficult for Robert Smith who wrote it. Smith said that, "It's an open show of emotion. It's not trying to be clever. It's taken me ten years to reach the point where I feel comfortable singing a very straightforward love song" He may not have been trying to be clever, but his straightforward work paid off big time and launched The Cure onto the top 100 chart for 1989.

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Runner-up

"Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson deserves its own place of honor. One of Jacksons’ best songs (and a personal favorite), this is a powerful, dynamic, theatrical, and utterly entrancing musical experience that cannot be ignored.

1990
1990
  • "We Didn't Start the Fire"
  • Billy Joel

With references to 118 significant political, cultural, scientific, and sporting events between 1949 (the year of Joel’s birth) and 1989, "We Didn't Start the Fire" offers up a fast-paced explosive journey through modern history, summing up half a century of intense and tumultuous history in just four minutes. A powerful reminder for a generation living under the threat of the Cold War for too long, it was Joel’s attempt to showcase the vast range of world events that occurred during that time. It became an unofficial anthem for many organizers with the first Bernie Sanders campaign for Presidency.

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Runner-up

"Janie's Got a Gun" by Aerosmith is the runner-up for this year.

1991
1991
  • "Unbelievable"
  • EMF

Mixing neopsychedelic guitar and vibrant hip-hop, this song is quintessentially 90s, with lead singer James Atkin providing a vocal style that would be seen repeated throughout much of that decade. It was extremely simple, with a basic repeating lyric round, but it was undeniably catchy as all heck, and it popped up to the top of the billboard in 1991.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Crazy" by Seal is more than a runner-up, really, it’s a whole different segment of what was happening in the 90s music scene. Powerful, poppy, and dedicated to recent world political events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Seal said, when the song was originally conceived that, “I felt the world changing and I felt profound things happening." One of my favorites.

1992
1992
  • "Under the Bridge"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers broke the top of the charts with this one, combining the band’s alt-rock style with powerful melancholy lyrics, “Under the Bridge” spoke to a generation dealing with huge world changes and a narcotics climate that was becoming increasingly deadly. With the dark lyrics, the counterpoint of the upbeat chords proved an excellent and intentional decision on the part of John Frusciante: "I thought if the lyrics are really sad like that I should write some chords that are happier".

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Stay" by Shakespears Sister is the runner-up for this year.

1993
1993
  • "Fields of Gold"
  • Sting

A classic ballad of the sort that only Sting could possibly produce. The singer/songwriter spoke about the landscape that inspired his song, stretched out beyond his 16th-century Wiltshire manor home: “In England, our house is surrounded by barley fields, and in the summer it's fascinating to watch the wind moving over the shimmering surface, like waves on an ocean of gold. There's something inherently sexy about the sight, something primal, as if the wind were making love to the barley. Lovers have made promises here, I'm sure, their bonds strengthened by the comforting cycle of the seasons.”

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Hey Jealousy" by Gin Blossoms is the runner-up for this year.

1994
1994
  • "Linger"
  • The Cranberries

The first major hit for The Cranberries, “Linger” would catapult this alt-rock band into the public consciousness, cementing them forever as one of the greats of the era. Dolores O'Riordan wrote the lyrics for the song when she first auditioned for the band. Fergal Lawler, the band’s drummer, recalled the experience in a later interview:

“It was a Sunday afternoon. She arrived with a keyboard under her arm, just set it up, and played a few songs. We couldn't really hear her because she was singing through a guitar amp or something. I gave her a lift up to the bus stop and I was saying, 'Will we see you next week?' We gave her a tape of the music for 'Linger', which she took with her. The following week she came back, and she had lyrics written out and melodies and she sang along to what we were playing, and it was like, 'Oh, my God. She’s great'.”

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Runner-up

"Return to Innocence" by Enigma is the runner-up for this year.

1995
1995
  • "Gangsta's Paradise"
  • Coolio featuring L.V.

One of the darkest and bleakest songs in the pop-lineup of the era, "Gangsta's Paradise" became an instant classic, blending a powerful strings backing with the hypnotic poetics of the main lyrics. It’s an ode to social problems and the ruined lives of people following the path of crime. It also included samples from Stevie Wonder's 1976 song "Pastime Paradise". Wonder, who deplored profanity, didn’t like an earlier version of the song where Coolio had included curse words. Coolio promptly removed them, making this one of his only songs sans vulgarities. "I had a few vulgarities...” Coolio said, “and he wasn't with that. So I changed it. Once he heard it, he thought it was incredible."

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Runner-up

"Carnival" by Natalie Merchant is the runner-up for this year.

1996
1996
  • "1979"
  • The Smashing Pumpkins

A coming-of-age story in song form, “1979” was written by Billy Corgan in memory of his own transition out of childhood when he was 12 in 1979, on the edge of a whole new world. Part of the album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” for which about 56 songs were initially written as part of the process, 1979 was considered one of the weakest at first, but after some re-writing, it proved to be one of the band’s greatest hits.

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Runner-up

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something is the runner-up for this year.

1997
1997
  • "I Believe I Can Fly"
  • R. Kelly

For the 1996 film Space Jam semi-pro basketball player, composer, and singer R. Kelly produced a hit R&B single that stormed the airwaves long after the film it was composed for had drifted from the public’s mind. Kelly recounted his experience of being contact for the production of the song, “When I met Michael Jordan on a basketball court at an athletic club — we hooped together in Chicago — he came to me and asked me if I wanted to do a song for his upcoming movie. I was like, “Yeah!” I didn’t even ask what it was. We went to a screening to watch it and that’s when I ended up coming up with ‘I Believe I Can Fly.’ I knew from the first melody that was gonna be the song that was gonna take me out of R&B and into another genre of music."

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Runner-up

Third Eye Blind by Third Eye Blind is the runner-up for this year.

1998
1998
  • "Cruel Summer"
  • Ace of Base

The late 90s started to see increased renditions of 80s songs topping the charts, perhaps due to a lessening of original talent topping out the charts. In this case, the Ace of Base cover of Bananarama’s original hit takes on a characteristically dark-themed 90s vibe, losing the playfulness of the original whilst adding in a sensual techno vibe.

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Runner-up

"Spice Up Your Life" by Spice Girls is the runner-up for this year.

1999
1999
  • "Wild Wild West"
  • Will Smith featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee

Will Smith is one of the most eclectic public figures in recent history, producing hilarious and fun music that somehow perfectly captures the vibe of the 90s. Smith’s acting career was taking off in a big way in the 1990s as well, but his musical career offered him another outlet. In the film Wild Wild West these two collided in a big way, providing him with the chance to play his characteristic hero character alongside a theme song of his own design.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"What It's Like" by Everlast is the runner-up for this year. One of the great songs of the era, a powerful ballad to the real America that too many other hit songs on the charts of the decade had started to gloss over and ignore.

2000
2000
  • "All The Small Things"
  • Blink 182

One of the great transition songs from the 90s era of music to the 2000s. Containing many of the motifs and riffs found in 90s alt-rock but diving forward into the increasingly poppy ‘00s aesthetic, Blink 182 produced a catchy track that defined a generation.

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Runner-up

"Then The Morning Comes" by Smash Mouth is the runner-up for this year.

2001
2001
  • "Thank You"
  • Dido

Considered Dido’s signature song, this not only became an international hit, but it also provided a soulful exploration of the aesthetic and mood that inhabited the early 2000s when the major changes in the world were looking increasingly less-optimistic. The song at once combines melancholia with heartfelt moments related to those places in our lives that matter most.

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Runner-up

"Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down is the runner-up for this year. Though it was fully released in 2000, it smashed into the top charts in 2001 as well.

2002
2002
  • "How You Remind Me"
  • Nickelback

Definitely the song that put Nickleback on the map “How You Remind Me” became their signature song, showcasing all their talent and their specific style. Chad Kroeger wrote the piece after an argument with his girlfriend. He went to the basement and started to improvise, trying to get out the words for how angry he felt. His girlfriend told him that it sounded great.

"It wasn’t supposed to be a vengeful anthem,” Kroeger said, “it was supposed to be what it was. I think it always felt like that in the moment, because we just had an argument, and I felt like striking back. But I find it to be a sarcastic look at relationships. Like the line 'Are we having fun yet?' That’s full sarcasm."

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Runner-up

"Don't Let Me Get Me" by P!NK is the runner-up for this year.

2003
2003
  • "Unwell"
  • Matchbox Twenty

With an alt-rock vibe that would channel much of the sub current for future indie successes, Matchbox Twenty struck it big on the melancholy pop scene, providing bouncy songs that were, y’know, deep man. With an extremely catchy chorus riff, “Unwell” scored high on the charts, driving it into the position of second-most played song in the United States.

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Runner-up

"Landslide" by The Chicks (Formerly “The Dixie Chicks”) is the runner-up for this year.

2004
2004
  • "This Love"
  • Maroon 5

As with so many great songs, “This Love” deals with the topic of a breakup, in this case, that of lead vocalist Adam Levine who described the time when he was writing the song as the “most emotionally trying time of his life.”

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Runner-up

"My Immortal" by Evanescence is the runner-up for this year. Emo power ballad hit of all power ballad hits, this is a 2000s classic.

2005
2005
  • "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"
  • Green Day

Green Day’s great breakaway hit would become cemented as a song everyone knew, capturing something powerful about finding strength even in the midst of loneliness. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the song for just that purpose, trying to create a song that showcased his own struggle to find strength in the middle of isolation. It fits well with its album’s theme, which was all about "going away and getting the hell out, while at the same time fighting their own inner demons."

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Runner-up

"Feel Good Inc." Gorillaz is the runner-up for this year. 2005 was a good year for fresh albums on the top chart.

2006
2006
  • "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
  • KT Tunstall

Scottish singer KT Tunstall broke into the top charts with this one. It’s one heck of a powerful piece, offering something of far greater musical depth than a number of other songs gracing this year’s list.

"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" is inspired by old blues, Nashville psycho hillbillies & hazy memories,” Tunstall said. “It tells the story of finding yourself lost on your path, and a choice has to be made. It's about gambling, fate, listening to your heart, and having the strength to fight the darkness that's always willing to carry you off.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira is the runner-up for this year.

2007
2007
  • "How to Save a Life"
  • The Fray

A song that was the band’s first major international success, “How to Save a Life” was composed by Isaac Slade’s experience working for a camp for troubled teens that Slade described in a Sauce interview.

“Well there's a group home here in Denver called Shelterwood, and it takes in teens who've had a tough time; their parents don't want to send them to jail, but they can't keep track of them themselves... A friend of mine was actually the president for that particular school, so he asked Joe and I to come up for one of their weekend retreats... I was paired up with one boy in particular. His story was just amazing – all the relationships that he had put at risk because of the decisions he made, and eventually losing the relationships... the cost of his lifestyle and his choices, and kind of relating them to my own life and my own stories; seeing all the relationships I've threatened for one reason or another. It was a really inspiring weekend.”

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Runner-up

"Chasing Cars" Snow Patrol is the runner-up for this year.

2008
2008
  • "Viva la Vida"
  • Coldplay

Coldplay has had many hits, but Viva la Vida broke the charts in 2008. Written by all the members of the band, the title is meant to be translated as “Long Live Life” and was inspired by a painting by Mexican artists Frida Kahlo. The band’s lead singer, Chris Martin explained:

"She went through a lot of pain, of course, and then she started a big painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida', I just loved the boldness of it."

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Runner-up

“So What” by P!nk is the runner-up for this year.

2009
2009
  • “Fireflies”
  • Owl City

Owl City’s big debut, “Fireflies” gave the electronica-inspired style a whole new popular lift. Based on Adam Young’s struggle with insomnia as well as his experience growing up in rural Minnesota, he said it’s "a little song about bugs and not being able to fall asleep at night.”

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Runner-up

“Poker Face” by Lady Gaga is the runner-up for this year.

2010
2010
  • "Hey, Soul Sister"
  • Train

Train broke onto the big charts with “Hey, Soul Sister” a bouncy piece featuring the ukulele and based on imagining what the Burning Man festival must be like.

Jimmy Stafford spoke about this in an interview: “The story lyrically, I’ve heard Pat talk about this in interviews. He’s always heard of Burning Man. Somewhere in Reno Nevada's desert, they do it every year. It’s this whole city in the desert that gets built for a festival that happens every year. They build a huge man out of wood and at the end of the festival, they burn it. Pat had never been to Burning Man, but he had an image in his head of what it must be like. All these beautiful women dancing around the fire. That was the imagery he conjured up when he was writing the lyrics to, “Hey, Soul Sister.” It’s a pretty big deal. Thousands and thousands of people go to it every year. People run around naked and I guess it’s a total crazy deal.”

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Runner-up

“Not Afraid” by Eminem is the runner-up for this year.

2011
2011
  • "Rolling in the Deep"
  • Adele

Offering the world something musically different than much of the music surrounding it, “Rolling in the Deep” hit it big with Adele’s incredible voice and the combination of her and Paul Epworth’s writing. With blues and disco roots, it broke the pop mold in subtle ways while still being catchy enough for a replay-radio hit.

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Runner-up

“Animal” by Neon Trees is the runner-up for this year. It might not be as good as earlier punk-pop efforts, but it hit the charts in a big way.

2012
2012
  • "Somebody That I Used to Know"
  • Gotye

The signature song for the Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter Gotye and featuring the New Zealand Singer Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know” took the charts by storm, providing a more creative approach to writing (both lyrically and musically) than most of the other pop songs on the charts for the whole decade.

Gotye said, “The arrangement of 'Somebody' is reflective of me moving towards using sounds that provide me with inspiration for a texture or a platform for an idea, and then through sonic manipulation and coming up with original melodies and harmonic ideas to make it my own.”

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Runner-up

"It's Time" by Imagine Dragons is the runner-up for this year.

2013
2013
  • "Radioactive"
  • Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons released this in 2021 but it became a radio hit in 2013, sweeping across the world and helping to usher in a whole new popular music scene, popularizing a mix of styles between the dubstep beat and typically more musical pop themes.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

"Sail" by AWOLNATION is the runner-up for this year.

2014
2014
  • Happy
  • Pharrell Williams

Taking neo-soul into the popular scene “Happy” by Pharrell Williams offers a gentle mid-tempo piece that is both catchy and defining of further changes in pop genres for the decade. In the words of journalist Paul Tingen, the song is done in “a faux-Motown style, with an arrangement that is, by modern standards, very sparse: programmed drums, one bass, and one keyboard part, and handclaps both programmed and played, all topped off by Williams's lead vocals and a whole posse of backing vocals."”

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Runner-up

"Pompeii" by Bastille is the runner-up for this year.

2015
2015
  • "Take Me to Church"
  • Hozier

Hozier’s powerful piece took the whole world by storm, fueled by Hozier’s frustration with Catholic dominance over global conversations of religion, morality, and ethics. He expounded on this in an interview for Rolling Stone, saying: "Growing up, I always saw the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. The history speaks for itself and I grew incredibly frustrated and angry. I essentially just put that into my words."

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Runner-up

"Hello" by Adele is the runner-up for this year.

2016
2016
  • "Stressed Out"
  • Twenty One Pilots

One of the biggest hits of the year, “Stressed Out” struck a positive chord for critics, who admired its mix of psychedelic pop, rap, and alt-hip hop. It became a huge hit in the public sphere as well, for a reason the producer Mike Elizondo captured well: "We can all kind of relate to wanting to have more of those simpler days. I think he nailed it; though the lyrical content is very specific to him, the listener is able to impose their own story onto it. That type of feeling will never go away."

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Runner-up

"Hymn for the Weekend" by Coldplay is the runner-up for this year.

2017
2017
  • "Something Just Like This"
  • The Chainsmokers & Coldplay

A simple but powerful piece that ran up the charts for 2017, it digs deep into the roots of pop while simultaneously offering a heavy electric vibration and simple repeating motifs that make for one heck of a catchy tune.

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Runner-up

“Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles is the runner-up for this year.

2018
2018
  • "This Is America"
  • Childish Gambino

Considering the facile nature of most of the songs that topped the charts in 2018 Donald Glover’s dark satirical piece exploded onto the scene with a message. Mahita Gajanan of Time quoted music history professor Guthrie Ramsey at the University of Pennsylvania:

“He's talking about the contradictions of trying to get money, the idea of being a black man in America. It comes out of two different sound worlds. Part of the brilliance of the presentation is that you go from this happy major mode of choral singing that we associate with South African choral singing, and then after the first gunshot it moves right into the trap sound.”

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Runner-up

"Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons is the runner-up for this year.

2019
2019
  • "Bad Guy"
  • Billie Eilish

Bursting into the top of the charts in 2019 was Billie Eilish who provided an artistic punch that had been long sorely missing from the top artists of the pop world.

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Runner-up

"Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is the runner-up for this year.

2020
2020
  • "Everything I Wanted"
  • Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish tops out my list again because of her consistent originality, the complexity of her music, and the depth of her lyrical construction — all of which are again hands-down better than the runners-up from the major pop brands. She’s doing something really cool with her art, and I hope artists around her start to take notice.

Watch the video:

Runner-up

“Trampoline” by SHAED is the runner-up for this year.

There are so many awesome fantasy TV series out there, how do you pick?
Odin Odin (54)
0

Fantasy, as a genre, is a bit of a “fuzzy set”. There are so many different things that go into making something “fantastic” that it can be hard to pin down exactly what someone even means by fantasy!