And we’re on to part three of four! My plan was to tweet out every single one of these 101 songs but time got away from me. Also, I’m currently recovering from a pub crawl and this is a scheduled post, so the final 25 will be unveiled tomorrow, as a treat. Thank you for taking the time! Here are 50-26.
50. Kris Allen – My Weakness (2012)
Kris Allen won American Idol over Adam Lambert in 2008 and along with it: my heart. He’s the typical wholesome white guy with guitar doing cliché love tunes who knows his was around a melody – a bit like an American version of McFly’s Tom Fletcher. My Weakness is the song of his (that came out this decade) that I’ve played most: it’s full of whistling, a sickly sweet guitar melody, a chorus to um and aw to. It’s nauseatingly cute and I am beyond excited that I’ll finally be hearing it live with my own two ears next year.
49. Sam Smith – Stay With Me (2014)
Sam Smith followed up his misstep of a lead single, Money on My Mind, with this cheesed out love tune featuring one of the most singable hooks of the year. Stay With Me was unavoidable in the summer of 2014, those opening piano bars would fill you with warmth or dread depending on how you felt about Smith’s soulful voice. It’s simple, it’s soulful, and it’s unfailingly uplifting.
48. Ariana Grande – 7 Rings (2019)
All the teasers for 7 Rings successfully hid the Favourite Things sample and when it was revealed, I was floored. Every single lyric on this song is iconic (I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”, “receipts be looking like phone numbers/if it ain’t money then wrong number”) . It was Ariana’s real come back song – where she had announced her cathartic self care on thank u next, 7 Rings was her fuck you guys I’m rich I can do what I want, treat myself treat my friends song, and I’ve never felt more empowered to spend all the money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need.
47. MUNA – I Know A Place (2016)
I’ve rarely felt as much kinship with my LGBT community than when I listen to I Know A Place. It’s a song about the non-hetero experience: feeling out of place in the world, being unable to express yourself, then finding your people who welcome you into a community where everyone is welcoming and reassures you that you are allowed. I have three very specific memories attached to this song: first is the the time I was having a bad day and I’d gone out for a run and this came on and I could literally feel myself regaining control; second is when MUNA performed this on Jimmy Kimmel just after Trump had been elected and they change the lyrics to “he’s not my leader even if he’s my president”; and when I saw them live earlier this month and they performed it with the entire crowd belting out every single word. This is a massively important, emotionally wrought, vocally stunning sadbanger.
46. Kanye West – Black Skinhead (2013)
This song starts at a ten and it’s only up from there. Black Skinhead is pure energy, pure hype, and pure empowerment. It’s angry. It’s loud. It’s Kanye West at his Kanye Best.
45. Rihanna – Love on the Brain (2016)
Every once in a while a song comes along that, when you hear someone perform it, stuns you. Love On The Brain is just Rihanna, a light instrumental, a basic rhythm, and a killer melody. She belts, she brings her falsetto, she licks and adlibs and every single second of the song is vocal perfection. The song every wannabe singer will try to match and secretly wishes was theirs.
44. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Downtown [feat Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Melle Mel, and Eric Nally) (2015)
Macklemore is renown for writing thematically vapid wraps (see: Thrift Shop, Let’s Eat and Brad Pitt’s Cousin). Downtown is a chaotic song about buying a moped and riding it, well, Downtown. Its innocent in its concept – finding that perfect set of wheels to and that perfect girl to ride it with – and its laced with ridiculous lyrics like “There’s layers to this shit player, tiramisu, tiramisu“. The M the A C the K is on point in his delivery, but the real MVPs are the guest spots: both Grandmasters Caz and Melle Mel provide some much needed grit to verses, and Eric Nally’s Micheal Jackson eqsue chorus is larger than life and more powerful than the ludicrous lyrics should allow it to be. A theatrical rap driven work of art.
43. Kelly Clarkson – People Like Us (2012)
We know that Kelly Clarkson can bring it vocally, she’s a versatile powerhouse and is at her best when she’s giving it her all in emotionally driven pop-rock ballad (Since U Been Gone, My Life Would Suck Without You, Stronger) and People Like Us is among her biggest and most overlooked. Its a huge by the numbers Kelly Clarkson banger: with an opening like Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, a firm bass drum driving the rhythm, a tease of her vocal talents in the verse, then a balls to the wall banger of a chorus.
42. Imagine Dragons – Shots (2015)
I love Imagine Dragons a lot but their second, apologetic-themed, album was… A mixed bag at best. It did, however, produce Shots: a song that opens with a chorus of “I’m sorry for everything, for everything I’ve done” then leading into their methodical strongsuit: a verse chorus verse chorus hype-inducing-bridge chorus upbeat raw-vocalled piece. I don’t what about this I love so much: it’s thrilling, Dan Reynolds’ vocal is on point, the bridge is concise and ties the song together. Every part of it just feels like a little bit of musical magic to me, and I’ve listened to it a hundred and fifty times over.
41. George Ezra – Blame It On Me (2014)
I can boast to being early on the George Ezra train – I saw him after he had one little EP out in and was playing to a small crowd at King Tuts in 2014 (incredibly, he was being supported by the even lesser known Sam Fender) where he stood solo wielding his guitar and batting off well meant banter from a guy in the crowd who was as a high as a kite. I was already low-key in love with Did You Hear The Rain, Cassie O and Angry Hill, but when Blame It On Me dropped it felt like a turning point. I’m still slightly baffled that it was Budapest that was the song that catapulted to fame when this existed: a cheerful, soulful song with a loveable chorus. Up until this point he was another moody, slightly soppy white guy with a guitar and a deep voice. Blame It On Me was the first glimpse of the loveable goon that would win the hearts of fans with his off-centre banter, quirky persona, and singer of massive tunes. Sure, Shotgun is great, but no part of it for me quite matches those opening bars and that impassioned “when I dance alone I know I know blame it on me” in the final stretch of the song.
40. Ed Sheeran – Castle on the Hill (2017)
I do, for my sins, like Ed Sheeran. He’s got a lot of undeniably great tunes that are right up my street and I can’t pretend I’ve not listened to them just as much as everyone else. I was so sure when he dropped both Castle on the Hill and Shape of You that it would be the former folk-pop anthem that would take the world by storm, so much so that I even took part in a cover version of it (google at you own risk). It’s a nostalgic banger about growing up in a small town and reflecting on your youth, it’s got a bittersweet bridge, plain spoken lyrics, and listening to it really does feel a bit like riding at 90 down a country lane.
39. Jonas Brothers – Sucker (2019)
I don’t think I was the biggest jobros fan in their heyday, although I did love Burnin Up and Paranoid, but their comeback single did something to me I can’t explain. I listened to Sucker non stop for a week and it’s far an away my most listened to song of the past 12 months, and whilst I still can’t confidently sing all the words from heart or discern what about it I actually like – Nick’s falsetto, the clap-along prechorus, the subtext that the Jonas Brothers have finally had sex – it really hits the spot.
38. Andy Grammer – Fine By Me (2011)
I love a cheesy love song from a guitar wielding white man, and Andy Grammer is the archetype of that – trying to be both hypermasc and loveable goon in the same breath. Fine By Me is at its core a harmless and fun morning after song: “it’s fine by me/if you never leave/so let’s lay like this together/it’s fine by me”. It’s lyrically a bit overeager and listening back it’s the teensiest bit nauseating, but it’s a fun, light pop-rock song and my teenage self played it an unnecessary number of times.
37. Lizzo – Cuz I Luv You (2019)
2019 was the year of Lizzo. The rapper slash singer slash flautist had been going for the best part of the decade, finding a dedicated fan base, when a guest judge spot on Drag Race and a well orchestrated album release opening with Bruno Mars esque Juice, she finally landed. For me, the biggest turning point was with title track Cuz I Luv You. The opening declaration: “I’m cryin cuz I loooove youuuuu”, the warbling power vocal, the dramatic dun-dun-dun-dun, the near whistle tones – all of it combined shook me and continues to shake me to my very core. I’m crying cuz I luv you, Lizzo.
36. Dua Lipa – New Rules (2017)
Being so ahead of the game, I was full blown in love with Dua Lipa when she exploded into the mainstream. Whilst I was initially disappointed that it didn’t come through Hotter Than Hell, my then personal favourite, New Rules was a force of its own. Its the perfect pop song: lyrics that can be quoted without context (“1 don’t pick up the phone” etc), an excellent video, and a fresh voice to rally behind. I’d like to claim her other tunes (Lost In Your Light, Homesick or Don’t Start Now) was my favourite to make me look a little bit cooler, but I am who I am and if you stick on New Rules I will sing along word for word.
35. James Bay – Peer Pressure [feat. Julia Michaels] (2019)
James Bay x Julia Michaels = all of my emotions coming to the fore. Every single line that Bay sings in his broken sounding voice rips at my very being. The harmonies with Micheals are aural divinity. I write my short review of this song through my tears.
34. Alabama Shakes – Always Alright (2013)
I fuckin love Alabama Shakes and it is CRIME that I have been deprived of seeing them live. I wanted to fill this list with their songs – Hold on, Don’t Wanna Fight, Miss You, Hang Loose, Joe, You Ain’t Alone – but I would just say the same thing over and over: Brittany. Howard’s. Voice. Hands down my favourite living vocalist. The grit, the control, the falsetto, the sheer power of it, and the best example of her using it: Always Alright. The opening build is perfect, the hook is just engaged enough to bear excessive overplaying, there are some seriously cool bass lines, those shrieks of ee-oo-ee, the conviction with which she sings “I don’t care if its seven in the mornin’/for all I care it could be the second coming” – and it was written for the Silver Linings Playbook film. The coolest song by the coolest band.
33. Billie Eilish – when the party’s over (2018)
Billie Eilish is a straight up hero and I won’t hear arguments against it. She’s edgy, neuvo emo, a huge Justin Bieber fan, Bad Guy and Bury a Friend slap, but she is at her best when she’s crooning out heartwrenching lyrics over gentle synth melodies. when the party’s over is a perfect heartbreak lullaby – it’s haunting, it’s got a melody that you’ll be singing softly to yourself for months, and has lyrics that will make you cry for the person you know is a fuck up.
32. Haley Reinhart – Free (2012)
Sometimes you just need a big piano driven pop ballad to bring soothe your soul. Haley Reinhart has one of those voices you’ve probably heard – she came third on American Idol and has a well-listened cover of Elvis Presley’s Can’t help falling in love with you. Her more recent outings are playing to the modern jazz singer persona she’s formed around herself, but Free came at a time when a pop career looked to be her path. It was her big debut, and whilst a lot of people probably didn’t know who she was and if they did paid this no mind, I was obsessed. Her voice is stunning, there’s the perfect amount of gritty affectation, some glorious belting, and at its subject a plea to be released from a codependent relationship – a feeling I’ve known too often.
31. Bastille – Pompeii (2013)
Those opening “ay ayo ayo”s are iconic. Bastille came out swinging with Pompeii, a song about the volcanic tragedy of 79AD where two people had accepted their imminent death – the perfect subject for an alt pop song. Dan from Bastille has become one of pops most recognisable voices, but nothing had matched the genius of Pompeii. Every part of the song is unique and perfect: the “oh where do we begin”s, the “and the walls kept tumbling down”s and the ongoing “ayo”s, it was like nothing that had existed before it and nothing they have produced has quite done the same thing since.
30. Lorde – Green Light (2017)
Green Light is a phenomenon that someone more attuned to speak about music than me. What I do know is that it is Pure (aural) Heroin. Its got some killer melodies, its determinedly euphoric, it finally fulfills the destiny the piano has been waiting to reach since its creation, and she must have sacrificed and entire herd of hand reared cattle because those echoes of “I’m waiting for it/that green light/I want it” we’re sent from the gods.
29. Adele – Someone Like You (2011)
Do I even need to give a reason for this one? The falsetto, the hook, the heartache. A ballad that will outlive us all.
28. BØRNS – Electric Love (2015)
Electric Love is a solid wall sound. The echoey opening, the alternative vocal, the sweeping chorus: it genuinely feels like you’re being drenched in musical electricity – every time I hear it I’m just overwhelmed by how perfect it is, it’s like nothing I’ve hear before or since, and I get chills whenever it comes on. A musical masterpiece.
27. Alice Merton – Why So Serious (2018)
Alice Merton is a theatrical nomad. Her songs are all touched by her dramatic delivery, when I saw her earlier this year it was almost like being at a one woman play (with a backup band). It’s only fair that a singer who’s songs are all so life-questioning had one upbeat banger telling you to fuck it, life is short, live in the moment. Every second of Why So Serious is pure joy and I am yet to tire of listening to it.
26. Taylor Swift – Paper Rings (2019)
Taylor Swift has shown us many iterations of herself, but by far her most joyous and engaged is what she brings on Paper Rings. It’s a song about being genuinely, unequivocally in love. Sure, she did the heartache songs, the teen-appealing Romeo and Juliet narratives, the anti-men songs, but none have felt as authentic as this. The lyrics are full of innocent snapshots of the relationship – “the moon is high like your friends on the night that we first me”, “In the winter, in the icy outdoor pool/when you jumped in first, I went in too,” – and the melodies are fun, fast, feverish, and upbeat. There are three chorus-worthy moments crammed in (the chorus, the pre chorus, the bridge) and that bridge is the most exciting bridge to come to pop music in years. It almost makes me want to fall in love and get married.