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40.

Rihanna featuring Jay-Z - "Umbrella" (2007)


Tricky Stewart and The-Dream wrote "Umbrella" with Britney
Spears in mind. Her record label rejected it claiming they had
enough songs for her upcoming collection Blackout. The song then
caught the attention of L.A. Reid at Island Def Jam, and after he
sent it to Rihanna she immediately wanted to record it. Upon
release the song quickly became the biggest hit of Rihanna's career
reaching #1 around the world. "Umbrella" remained at the top of
the chart in the UK for 10 weeks, the longest of any song in the
decade. It was nominated for Grammy Awards for Song and Record
of the Year while winning a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung
Collaboration.
39. Stevie Wonder - "Superstition" (1972)
Stevie Wonder originally wrote the song "Superstition" for guitarist
Jeff Beck. However, with insistence from management, he recorded
it himself. The song was notable as indicating Stevie Wonder's
move into personal exploration with a funkier sound and the use of
innovative arrangements of synthesizers and horns. The song was
the lead single for Stevie Wonder's Talking Book album and hit #1
in the US in early 1973.
38. Aretha Franklin - "Respect" (1967)
"Respect" was originally written and recorded by R&B legend Otis
Redding in 1965. However, it is Aretha Franklin's 1967 version that
has become definitive and a signature song for her. The
showstopping "R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me" line is
unforgettable. The song went to #1 on the US pop charts and won
two Grammy Awards for Best R&B recording and Best R&B Female
Vocal performance.
37. New Order - "Blue Monday" (1983)
"Blue Monday" is one of the most influential dance pop records of all
time. New Order recorded it just two years after the group had
risen out of the ashes of the post punk band Joy Division which fell
apart when lead vocalist Ian Curtis. The band incorporated
influential elements from seminal dance artists Kraftwerk, Donna
Summer and Sylvester. The breakbeat production work of Arthur
Baker in New York was also a strong influence. The 12-inch single
became the biggest selling 12-inch of all time.
36. Don McLean - "American Pie" (1971)
"American Pie" is considered by many to be an allegorical history of
rock music up to the time of its recording. The "day the music died"
from the chorus is considered the day that Buddy Holly died in 1959
in an airplane crash with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The
actual meaning of the specific lyrics is the subject of ongoing
speculation. However, many believe that such figures as the Byrds,
Mick Jagger, and the Beatles are subjects mentioned in the song.
"American Pie" was a #1 pop single for four weeks.
35. R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion" (1991)
The biggest hit single by the band R.E.M. went to #4 on the pop
singles chart. The sound of the song is built around a mandolin
hook. The song's title comes from a Southern colloquial phrase
meaning to lose one's temper. R.E.M.'s lead vocalist has said the
song is about unrequited love and romantic expression. The
accompanying video was highly acclaimed. It won a Grammy Award
for Best Short Form Video.
34. Madonna - "Ray Of Light" (1998)
Madonna worked with producer William Orbit to put together this
dance classic. It became the top song played in dance clubs for the
year 1998. The accompanying video was inspired by the time lapse
photography in the film Koyanisqaatsi. "Ray of Light" was a top 10
smash hit in both the UK and the US. It was one of the first
recordings where Madonna full embraced the techno and electronica
dance music genres.
33. Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean" (1983)
The pulsing bass line is the introduction to "Billie Jean." The song's
tale of patrimonial accusations is based on a real-life incident.
Michael Jackson's vocal hiccups became a trademark. Like so many
classics, "Billie Jean" almost missed the cut to be included on the
Thriller album. It went straight to #1 and was a top 10 smash
across Europe. Many consider "Billie Jean" to be the most prominent
and most influential song on the bestselling album of all time
Thriller.
32. Lena Horne - "Stormy Weather" (1943)
This pop standard written in 1933 was first sung by Ethel Waters at
the Cotton Club in Harlem. However, Lena Horne's version of the
song was included in the 1943 movie Stormy Weather and is
probably the best-known recording of this classic. The song is built
around a classic weather metaphor used to describe emotion. This
recording is included in the Grammy Awards Hall of Fame.
31. Human League - "Don't You Want Me" (1981)
The electronic pop band Human League were skeptical about the
release of "Don't You Want Me" as a single and thought it would
stall the band's commercial progress. To their surprise it went to
the top of the pop singles chart in both the US and the UK. It has
since become known as a defining song of New Wave pop. The
match of deadpan vocal delivery with an aggressive electronic hook
is unforgettable.

30. Righteous Brothers - "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"
(1964)
This is one of the definitive records exhibiting producer Phil
Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique of recording. Cher was among
the background singers on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." It went
to #1 on the pop singles charts in the US and the UK in the midst of
the peak of interest in the British Invasion. Daryl Hall and John
Oates took the song back into the top 20 in the US in 1980.
29. Pink - "Get the Party Started" (2001)
This was the first dance song written by producer and songwriter
Linda Perry. She has said she wrote it when she was wanting to
learn about programming drums and included "every catch phrase
you possibly could imagine." The result was an instant party classic.
The song became Pink's first #1 pop single in the US and her only
#1 until "So What" in 2008.
28. Bobby Darin - "Mack the Knife" (1959)
"Mack the Knife" was originally composed and premiered onstage in
German in Berlin in 1928. It was widely introduced to English-
speaking audiences as part of an English version of The Threepenny
Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. The song is a murder ballad
detailing the crimes of the highwayman MacHeath. Pop singer
Bobby Darin recorded a version of "Mack the Knife" that hit #1 on
the US pop charts in 1959. It went on to win the Grammy Award for
Record of the Year.
27. Britney Spears - "Toxic" (2004)
Britney Spears' commercial success seemed to be seriously fading
when she headed into the studio to record this first single from her
album In the Zone. It has a very high pitched hook that is
unforgettable. The song has been the subject of cover versions by
artists ranging from bluegrass band Nickel Creek to French-Israeli
folk-pop artist Yael Naim. The song brought Britney Spears back to
the pop top 10 and earned her a Grammy Award for Top Dance
Recording.
26. Donna Summer - "I Feel Love" (1977)
Utilized for the futuristic segment of Donna Summer's disco album I
Remember Yesterday, "I Feel Love" became a landmark in
electronic music. The entirely synthesized backing track brought
electronic music into the pop mainstream. Producer Giorgio Moroder
was one of the key architects of the sound. It was a top 10 pop hit
for Donna Summer, but the highly synthesized electronic sound is
not something she explored extensively in later recordings.
However, "I Feel Love" inspired waves of electronic bands and
artists for decades to come.
25. Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel" (1956)
"Heartbreak Hotel" was the first #1 pop single by Elvis Presley and
the bestselling single of the year 1956. The song's subject matter of
extreme sadness at the end of a love relationship was inspired by
the songwriter Thomas Durden reading a story about a suicide in a
newspaper. A note was left saying "I walk a lonely street." The
intense bluesy sound with a slow rock and roll beat was a radical
change from Elvis Presley's earlier recordings.
24. Frank Sinatra - "Strangers In the Night" (1966)
Frank Sinatra, one of the top pop artist of all time, had not had a
#1 pop single since 1955 when he recorded this song. It won three
Grammy Awards including Record of the Year. One of the most
distinctively remembered components of the recording is the
scatted "doo-be-doo-be-doo" as the song fades.
23. Marvin Gaye - "Let's Get It On" (1973)
Many consider this one of the sexiest recordings of all time. It was
reportedly written after a case of serious writer's block. Marvin
Gaye was struggling to come up with material to follow his
landmark What's Going On album. The song was first written from a
spiritual point of view and then with political overtones. Ultimately it
became one of the most celebrated odes to lovemaking ever
recorded.
22. Beatles - "Help!" (1965)
This Beatles classic was primarily written by John Lennon to express
the extraordinary stress he felt from the band's meteoric rise to
success. "Help!" was the title song for the Beatles' second feature
film. John Lennon has stated it was among his favorite songs he
wrote due to its honesty. It did mark a shift in subject matter for
Beatles songs to concerns about a wider range of life than simply
love songs.
21. Impressions - "People Get Ready" (1965)
This Gospel-influenced classic was written by Curtis Mayfield of the
vocal group the Impressions. It only reached #14 on the pop
singles chart, but its social and political overtones were perfect the
times. The song has been covered many times by a range of artists
from Bob Dylan to Dionne Warwick.
20. U2 - "Beautiful Day" (2000)
Although it only reached #21 on the pop singles chart in the US,
"Beautiful Day" has become a signature song for the rock band U2.
It was sung by the band in a highly emotional performance at the
first Super Bowl Game following the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks. Bono has said the song is about, "a man who has lost
everything, but finds joy in what he still has." "Beautiful Day" was
used extensively by Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential
campaign.

19. A-Ha - "Take On Me" (1984)
At heart "Take On Me" is just a simple synth pop song. However, in
the course of the song the singer ranges nearly 2 1/2 octaves
soaring to high notes that are exhilarating to the listener. It became
a #1 pop smash around the world and featured a highly memorable
video using pencil sketch animation. The video took home six
awards from the MTV Video Music Awards.

18. Pink Floyd - "Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)" (1979)
This protest against rigid schooling was one of the most surprising
hit songs of all time. It is one of the songs used to set up the
withdrawal and depression of the main character in the rock band
Pink Floyd's The Wall. The song was banned in South Africa.
"Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)" features vocals from the
Islington Green School choir. A distinctive component of the song
are the shouted orders and mocking statements by presumed
teachers. The song became Pink Floyd's only #1 pop single in the
US and the UK.
17. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)

Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blasted grunge into the
mainstream pop world. The band's Kurt Cobain says he was trying
to write the ultimate pop song by ripping off the Pixies, his favorite
band. The shouted and muddy lyrics mystified some and was seen
as an anarchic celebration by others. The song was promoted with
one of the most celebrated videos of all time depicting a frightening,
anarchic high school pep rally. The song became a top 10 smash hit
in the US.

16. Simon & Garfunkel - "Mrs. Robinson" (1968)
This song featured in the film The Graduate also speaks about
American culture memorably in the form of Joe DiMaggio. "Mrs.
Robinson" details the hidden lives of upper middle class families in
the late 1960's. It was a #1 hit single for Simon & Garfunkel. The
song itself is almost hushed in tone until the chorus breaks through
referencing a nation looking for a hero.

15. Sam Cooke - "You Send Me" (1957)
Gospel singer Sam Cooke turned to the secular world with this
single. Its crooning, romantic R&B style is considered a rock and roll
landmark. "You Send Me" remains Sam Cooke's only #1 pop single.
14. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time" (1998)
This song introduced the world to Britney Spears as a pop artist. It
is also a landmark hit in the career of songwriter and producer Max
Martin. Although Britney Spears was only 16 at the time of
recording, the song has a decidedly sexual tone enhanced by the
sexy schoolgirl theme of the accompanying music video. "...Baby
One More Time" has been very frequently covered by other artists
including Fountains of Wayne and Panic at the Disco. The song was
a #1 smash in the US and became a chart-topping hit in more than
a dozen countries around the world.
13. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone" (2004)
"Since U Been Gone" was written for Kelly Clarkson's album
Breakaway by Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Kelly Clarkson has stated
that she insisted on adding the rock feel to the recording. The result
was a record that captured the prevailing sound of mainstream pop
with near perfection. "Since U Been Gone" went to #1 on the US
pop singles chart and was a top 10 hit around the world. The
reputation of the song has grown since its original release, and it is
frequently covered by other artists.
12. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - "I Love Rock 'n Roll"
(1982)
"I Love Rock 'n Roll" was first recorded in 1975 by British-American
band the Arrows. Joan Jett heard the song when she was touring
the UK with her band the Runaways. Her later recording with her
band the Blackhearts became a huge success at home in the US. It
topped the pop singles charts for seven weeks. It remains one of
the hardest rocking songs to spend such a long time at the top of
the pop chart.
11. Bob Dylan - "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965)
"Like a Rolling Stone" is Bob Dylan's pop epic. It had its origin in a
short story Bob Dylan wrote. The over six minute length is
extraordinary for a pop hit of the time. The subject matter of the
lyrics has been frequently discussed and may be seen simply as a
rant and warning about excessive materialism. However, closer
observation unveils the stunning poetry throughout Dylan's best
material. Musically, Al Kooper's organ work is highly prominent and
lends an air of gathering storm clouds to the entire song. "Like a
Rolling Stone" reached #2 on the pop singles chart and remains
Bob Dylan's biggest pop hit.




10. OutKast - "Hey Ya!" (2003)
"Hey Ya" was released as one of the two lead singles, along with
"The Way You Move," from OutKast's double disc set Speakerboxxx
/ The Love Below. Its catchy uplifting pastiche of Rock, Pop, Hip
Hop and R&B was instantly celebrated as brilliant work. The song
reached #1 on the pop singles chart and ended the year as a
frequent mention in critics' choices for the top single of the year.
The video that accompanies the song references the Beatles's
historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The song's memorable
line, "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," was later used in advertising
by Polaroid.




9. Carly Simon - "You're So Vain" (1972)
Despite the fact that the true subject of this song is still not known,
it is one of the most devastating portraits of conceit ever recorded.
Speculation of whom Carly Simon was thinking about include Mick
Jagger, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson and James Taylor. Various
clues to the identity have come out over time. Musically, "You're So
Vain" is one of the best examples of a confessional style of singer-
songwriter pop. The song is Carly Simon's only #1 pop single.
8. Rod Stewart - "Maggie May" (1971)
Rod Stewart's tale of a manipulative romance with an older woman
is believed to be autobiographical. It became Stewart's first #1 pop
single and is given credit for launching his career as a solo star.
"Maggie May" brought a British folk-pop style and Stewart's
trademark raspy vocals into the pop mainstream. Rod Stewart has
said he's not sure why it became such a big hit because it has no
melody.

7. Righteous Brothers - "Unchained Melody" (1965)
"Unchained Melody" began its recorded life as a theme song for an
obscure 1955 prison film Unchained. It hit the pop charts shortly
after in an instrumental version by Les Baxter and a vocal version
by Al Hibbler. The song was nominated for an Academy Award as
Best Song from a Motion Picture. Produced Phil Spector recorded
the best known version of "Unchained Melody" as a solo
performance by the Righteous Brothers' Bobby Hatfield but it was
still credited to the duo upon release. Their version of the song was
a top five pop hit, and it returned to the charts in 1990 after being
included on the soundtrack to the film Ghost. "Unchained Melody"
remains one of the most romantic pop songs of all time.

6. Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations" (1966)
"Good Vibrations" is the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson's magnum opus.
It became the band's third #1 pop single. Some consider the song
to be a mini-symphony of sorts in multiple sections. Production of
the song is reported to have taken seventeeen sessions and
ultimately cost over $50,000, a phenomenal cost at that time. The
final segments of the song feature the electronic instrument the
theremin. "Good Vibrations" is considered to have broken entirely
new ground in what could be done in the recording studio with
splicing together a wide range of discreet recorded components to
create the final work.


5. Beatles - "Yesterday" (1965)
The Guinness Book of Records claims no song has inspired more
cover versions than "Yesterday." It is a melancholy ballad recorded
with simply the voice of Paul McCartney over a string quartet. It
details the aftermath of a relationship gone sour. However, when
something so simple is done so perfectly it becomes a classic. The
other Beatles members were at first adamantly against including
the song on a Beatles album because the sound was so different
from their other work. They did veto its release as a single at home
in the UK. In the US the song was a #1 hit. A 1999 BBC poll voted
"Yesterday" the Best Song of the 20th Century.
4. Judy Garland - "Over the Rainbow" (1939)
"Over the Rainbow" was written specifically for the movie The
Wizard Of Oz by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Judy Garland
singing the song was originally deleted from the movie, but
insistence from Harold Arlen and executive producer Arthur Freed
lobbied to get it back in the film. The version from the Wizard of Oz
remains the best known recording, but other cover versions,
particularly the one by Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole,
are well known. The "Songs of the Century" list compiled by the
Recording Industry Association of America and the National
Endowment for the Arts listed "Over the Rainbow" as #1 based on
its historical significance.
3. Rolling Stones - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965)
The Rolling Stones topped the US pop singles chart for the first time
with this song. It has all of the components of a classic Rolling
Stones hit including an arresting guitar introduction from Keith
Richards as well as classic preening vocals from Mick Jagger. The
song was recorded at the Chess Studios in Chicago. "(I Can't Get
No) Satisfaction" was seen as subversive and threatening due to its
sexual suggestiveness and attacks on commercialism. It was the
song that turned the Rolling Stones into superstars.

2. Bruce Springsteen - "Born to Run" (1975)
Bruce Springsteen has stated that he wrote "Born to Run" as a last-
ditch effort to become a true star. His first two albums had been
critically acclaimed but didn't sell particularly well. The song is
essentially a passionate, heroic love letter to a girl named Wendy.
The imagery in the song is powerful with "kids huddled on the
beach in a mist" and "highways jammed with broken heroes." The
song, along with the rest of the album Born to Run did help make
Bruce Springsteen into a star. He appeared on the covers of Time
and Newsweek and the album hit #3 on the charts. Neither of his
first two albums had placed inside the top 50. The song itself
reached #23 on the pop singles chart in the US.
1. John Lennon - "Imagine" (1971)
John Lennon himself stated that "Imagine" is as good as anything
he wrote with the Beatles. The song remains one of the most
powerful and poignant requests in song to imagine a peaceful world.
It reached the top 10 in both the US and the UK upon initial release.