Some songs are instantly forgettable, and others have incredible staying power. Songs that stay popular for years on end, don’t always have to have deep and meaningful lyrics. Sometimes the most listened-to songs are the ones with a catchy beat, or a matching dance fad or just songs sung by awesome bands.
On this list are just a few of the hundreds of songs that have truly stood the test of time, and can be found on personal playlists everywhere. Try not to tap your feet as you listen to these tunes. I dare you.
10 “All Shook Up” – Elvis Presley
The history of the Elvis Presley hit “All Shook Up” is somewhat convoluted. It is widely accepted that songwriter, Otis Blackwell, wrote the song after one of the owners of Shalimar Music saw him shaking a bottle of Pepsi and suggested he write a tune incorporated the phrase ‘all shook up.’
Another version has it that during an interview in October 1957, Presley said that he’d never had ideas for songs, except for the night he “had quite a dream, and woke all shook up.” Shortly after phoning a friend to tell him about the dream, the song was written by both Presley and Blackwell.
“All Shook Up” was recorded in January 1957 and became hugely popular, staying at number 1 on the Billboard Top 100 for eight consecutive weeks. It was Presley’s first number one hit on the UK Singles Chart where it stayed for seven weeks. The single sold more than two million copies. The song has been credited as being part of the rock and roll revolution that took place during the 50s in which rock music was influential in breaking down racial barriers in the USA after WWII.
9 “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva
Songs that spawned dance-crazes didn’t start with the Macarena. Dance fads started as early as the 50s and the massively popular “The Loco-Motion” continued in this trend when it was released in 1962. The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King but not, as myth would have it, after Eva Boyd started dancing while doing some chores at King’s house. Instead, Boyd was given the song to record after Dee Dee Sharp turned it down.
“The Loco-Motion” started a line dance craze and eventually appeared in the American Top 3 three times, each time in a different decade. Eva Boyd’s name was changed to Little Eva and she came up with dance steps to accompany the song. She also started performing the dance during live performances. In 1987, Kylie Minogue recorded a cover of the song and the resulting success of the single saw her signing a record deal with PWL Records.
8 “The Twist” – Chubby Checker
Speaking of dance crazes, Chubby Checker’s version of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ song “The Twist” still sees people twisting to the tune almost 61 years on. The song was released in 1960 and again in 1962 and reached the top of the Hot 100 singles chart both times.
In 2020, during a telephonic interview, Checker had the following to say about the song: “I just say it’s dancing apart to the beat because we don’t touch each other when we look at each other and do the boogie. That’s why it’s caught on the way it has: because of the style of the dance.”
Sounds about right for social distancing in 2020.
7 “Hotel California” – The Eagles
The 70s were all about disco, bell-bottoms and “make love, not war.” This decade was a great one for music, with ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Diana Ross and many more releasing songs. It was also a rocking 10 years what with “Stairway to Heaven”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Dream On”, and “Sweet Home Alabama” making their mark on the music charts.
In 1976, rock band The Eagles released their mega-hit “Hotel California”, which was originally named “Mexican Reggae.” The song was credited by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as being one of the songs that shaped rock and roll and the band was inducted in 1998. “Hotel California” is still considered the band’s most famous recording and they have performed it live over a thousand times.
6 “When Doves Cry” – Prince
The 80s are considered by many to be the golden age of a lot of things, including movies, TV shows, and of course music. Between 1980 and 1989 great songs were released, including “Sweet Child O’Mine”, “Billie Jean”, “Eye of the Tiger”, and “Under Pressure”. And who could forget Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
One of the best songs to come out of this era, is “When Doves Cry” by Prince. The singer was asked by film director Albert Magnoli to write a song that would match the movie, Purple Rain’s theme of parental issues and a love affair. By the next morning, Prince had come up with two songs, one being “When Doves Cry.”
The song ended up being Prince’s first Billboard Hot 100 Number One single and became a hit worldwide.
5 “(I’ve had) The Time of My Life” – Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes
The 80s are known for its great soundtracks in popular movies. Just think Top Gun, Flashdance, Pretty in Pink and Footloose.
One of the most popular movies and accompanying soundtracks from the 80s is Dirty Dancing. In the film, songs from The Ronettes, Bruce Channel, and Eric Carmen can be heard among many others. But, of course the most karaoked tune from the movie is the one that plays during the pivotal dance scene at the end. The song truly reverberated around the world, winning many awards including an Oscar for Best Original Song. To date it is still one of the most frequently played radio songs worldwide.
The song was originally intended to be recorded by Donna Summer and Joe Esposito, but Summer was put off by the title of the film.
4 “Black or White” – Michael Jackson
For those who grew up during the 90s, it might be terrifying to think that it’s been 31 years since. But let us not dwell on that. Instead, let’s focus on the great music the 90s gave us. While it was the decade of introducing pop stars such as Britney Spears, The Spice Girls and Ace of Base, the 90s were also about Nirvana, Radiohead, the Notorious B.I.G., Madonna and Oasis. Not to mention the hordes of boy bands.
By the time the 90s rolled around Michael Jackson was already a huge star who had released the best-selling album of all time, Thriller, in 1982. In 1991, he released the very catchy “Black or White” which has been describe as a ‘rock dance song about racial harmony’. The song was the fastest climber on the Billboard Hot 100 since “Get Back” the Beatles. In 1992 it became the best-selling single worldwide.
3 “Joyride” – Roxette
Also in 1991 Swedish pop rock duo, Roxette, released their third studio album featuring “Joyride” as the lead single. The song became one of the band’s biggest hits and topped several charts across Europe and the USA.
Roxette took much of their inspiration from 60s rock music and had 19 top 40 hits in the UK and four number ones in America. So popular were Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson that they were both honored with their own stamp in Sweden, their native country. The band is the country’s second best-selling music act, after ABBA.
2 “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) – Meat Loaf
The 90s was also the decade of the power ballad as evidenced by the releases of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, and “Wind of Change”.
A power ballad still standing the test of time is the 12-minute long “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meat Loaf. The song was a huge success, reaching number 1 in 28 countries and earning Meat Loaf a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.
The line “But I Won’t Do That” cause a lot of confusion and then a lot of interpretation among fans. In 2014, Meat Loaf explained that the words refer to the line before every chorus.
1 “Mr Brightside – The Killers
By the early 2000s, boy bands’ popularity was fading and contemporary R&B was taking over the charts. Post punk, Britpop and alternative rock was enjoying great popularity and country music kept going strong.
The years between 2000 and 2009 saw many memorable songs released including “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse, “Get Ur Freak On” by Missy Elliott, “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, and “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay.
One of the best songs to see the light of day during this decade is “Mr Brightside” by The Killers. An upbeat tune of jealousy and betrayal, it became one of the most sing-along-worthy songs after its release in 2003 and also one of the longest-charting songs in UK history, 208 weeks in total.