Have you ever wondered what the absolute best songs spanning across the generations are? There are so many lists out there where would you even start? Well we have done the research, so you don’t have to wonder anymore.
Baby Boomers: 1944-1964
‘Swinging On A Star’ by Bing Crosby – 1944
This song topped both American and Australian charts in 1944/45. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1944 in the film Going My Way and was awarded a position in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
‘Sentimental Journey’ by Les Brown and Doris Day – 1945
‘Sentimental Journey’ spent 23 weeks in the Billboard charts, peaking when it hit the #1 spot. It has featured in an episode of M*A*S*H, The Muppet Show and was the theme for the ABC Radio program Sentimental Journey.
‘Buttons And Bows’ by Dinah Shore – 1948
This song also received an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1947 for its appearance in the film, The Paleface. It was in the Billboard charts for 24 weeks and peaked at #1 and ranked #87 in the American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 songs.
‘Too Young’ by Nat King Cole – 1951
One of Nat King Cole’s favourite records, ‘Too Young’ sold over a million copies. It reached number #1 on the Billboard charts and remained there for five weeks with 29 weeks on the bestseller charts overall.
‘You Belong To Me’ by Jo Stafford – 1952
This song was the first sung by a female singer to top the UK singles chart. It remained in the US charts for 24 weeks and in the UK charts for 19 weeks. In popular culture it has appeared in the 2018 film, The Nun.
‘Mister Sandman’ by The Chordettes – 1954
‘Mister Sandman’ reached #1 on Billboards Honour Roll of Hits and topped all three Billboard popular music charts, Most Played by jockeys, Most Played in Juke Boxes and Best Sellers in Stores.
‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley And His Comets – 1955
This song was the first rock’n’roll song to top Billboard’s Pop charts and stayed at the top for eight weeks. It has re-entered both UK and US charts since and went on to be the UK’s first million selling single with over 1.4 million copies sold.
‘Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)’ by Doris Day – 1956
Finishing at #48 in the American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 songs ‘Que Sera Sera’ also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for its appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
‘Jailhouse Rock’ by Elvis Presley – 1957
The song was named #67 in Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was number #21 on the American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 songs. It spent seven weeks as a US number one hit and was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.
‘Let’s Twist Again’ by Chubby Checker – 1961
‘Let’s Twist Again’ received a Grammy Award for Best Rock & Roll Recording. It topped the charts in the UK and peaked at #8 in the US. The song features in the 2011 film, The Help.
Gen X: 1965-1980
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones – 1965
‘Satisfaction’ was the first Stones song that reached #1 in the US and was on the Billboard charts for 14 weeks. In 1998 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
‘Strangers In The Night’ by Frank Sinatra – 1966
Frank Sinatra won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Grammy Award for Record of the Year and the song won Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts.
‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles – 1968
‘Hey Jude’ was the number one selling single in the UK, US, Australia and Canada in 1968. It was at the top of the Billboard charts for nine weeks and has sold approximately eight million copies. It was ranked #9 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and has been inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
‘American Pie’ by Don Mclean – 1972
This sing was #1 for four weeks in the US and also topped the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand charts. It has sold over a million copies and is in the top five in the RIAA Songs on the Century project.
‘Kung Fu Fighting’ by Carl Douglas – 1974
‘Kung Fu Fighting’ reached the top of the US, UK, Canadian and Australian charts and is one of the best-selling singles of all time with 11 million copies sold worldwide. It has featured on several of the Best One Hit Wonders lists. It has been covered several times for the Kung Fu Panda film franchise.
‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA – 1976
‘Dancing Queen’ topped the charts in 14 countries including Australia, the US and the UK and spent up to 32 weeks in the charts in some countries. It was the only ABBA song to top the charts in the US. It is #174 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and has been inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
‘Hotel California’ by Eagles – 1977
This song was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Three months after it’s release it has sold one million copies and has sold three million downloads since. It ranks #49 on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for one week.
‘Stayin’ Alive’ by Bee Gees – 1978
‘Stayin’ Alive’ climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed for four weeks as well as topping charts in Australia, Canada and Europe. It features in the film, Saturday Night Fever. It ranks in both Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 songs.
‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie – 1979
This song ranks in the top 100 best selling singles of all time in the UK with 1.32 million copies. It topped charts in the US and the UK as well as Australia, Canada and more. It topped the end of year chart in New Zealand and was in the top five for more countries.
‘Another Brick In The Wall (pt. 2)’ by Pink Floyd – 1980
‘Another Brick In The Wall (pt. 2)’ has sold over 4 million copies worldwide. It was Pink Floyd’s only #1 single in the US, UK and more. It was nominated for a Grammy Award and ranks on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Gen Y (Millennials): 1981-1996
‘Eye Of The Tiger’ by Survivor – 1982
‘Eye Of The Tiger’ ranked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks and spent 15 weeks in the top ten. It topped the UK charts for four weeks and sold over nine million copies. It also won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group With Vocal.
‘Flashdance… What A Feeling’ by Irene Cara – 1983
This song topped 16 charts across the world including Australia and the US, spent six weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 and is ranked #34 in the Billboard Top 100 of All Time. It features in the film Flashdance and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael – 1984
‘Careless Whisper’ was #1 in nearly 25 countries and has sold more thank six million copies. It topped the Billboard Top 100 for three weeks and was the fifth best-selling single in 1984 in the UK.
‘We Are The World’ by USA For Africa – 1985
This song was the first ever single to be certified multi-platinum and has over 20 million copies sold. It topped the charts in 11 countries and is the eighth best-selling physical single of all time. It has won three Grammy Awards in its time.
‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ by Phil Collins – 1988
‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ topped the charts in nine countries. It is the only song by Phil Collins that reached #1 in both the US and the UK. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.
‘Like A Prayer’ by Madonna – 1989
In 1989 ‘Like A Prayer’ was the top selling single in Australia and was at the top of the ARAIA charts for four weeks. It also topped the charts in the UK, US and Canada, peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. It ranks on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ by Sinead O’Connor – 1990
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ topped the charts in 13 countries including Australia, UK and the US and spent four weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100. At the MTV music awards this song was awarded Video of the Year, O’Connor being the first female artist to be awarded it, Best Female Video and Best Post-Modern Video.
‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston – 1992
This song won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year Won Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide which makes it the best-selling song by a female artist of all time and one of the best-selling songs ever. It spent 14 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and ranks #65 American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 songs. It also features in the film, The Bodyguard.
‘Gangsta’s Paradise (feat. L.V.)’ by Coolio – 1995
‘Gangsta’a Paradise’ is ranked #85 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All-Time and was the biggest selling single of 1995 on the U.S. Billboard. It won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance, two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Rap Video and Best Video from a Film and a Billboard Music Award for the song/album. Topping the charts in 14 countries spending 12 weeks on top of Billboard Hot 100 and 14 weeks on top of the charts in Australia, it has sold over six million copies worldwide.
‘Macarena’ by Los Del Rio – 1996
‘Macarena’ held the record, until 2015, for the longest rein among #1 songs to stay in the Billboard Hot 100 at 60 weeks. It remained at #1 for 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, ranks 7 on Billboard’s All Time Top 100 and is ranked at #1 on Billboard’s All Time Latin Songs. It has sold over 11 million copies worldwide.
Gen Z: 1997-2015
‘Something About the Way You Look Tonight/Candle in the Wind’ by Elton John – 1997
This double A-side song is the best-selling single of all time according to the Guinness World Records selling 33 million copies worldwide. It remained at number one in the UK for five weeks and 14 weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
‘Believe’ by Cher – 1999
‘Believe’ topped 20 charts across the world including in Australia, the US, and the UK. The song earned Cher a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest female solo artist to top Billboard 100 and became the highest selling single by a female solo artist in the UK. It has sold 11 million copies worldwide making it one of the best-selling singles ever.
‘How You Remind Me’ by Nickelback – 2002
This song is named fourth on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of the Decade and Billboard rated it the #1 Rock Song of the Decade. In some countries it remained in the charts for up to 30 weeks and it topped the charts in the UK, US and more.
‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent – 2003
This song was 50 Cent’s first number one single on the Hot 100. It was nominated for the Grammy Awards for Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song. At the MTV Music Video Awards, it won Best Rap Video and Best New Artist. Rolling Stone ranked it in the Best Songs of the Decade and 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
‘Yeah (feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris)’ by Usher – 2004
‘Yeah’ topped Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks and topped the charts in 12 other countries. It is ranked in multiple Best Songs of 2004 and Best Songs of 2000s lists. It was nominated for Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
‘The Prayer’ by Anthony Callea – 2005
This song was the highest selling single in Australia in 2005 and second highest for the 2000’s. It topped the ARIA charts for five weeks and was the fastest selling single by an Australian artist.
‘Irreplaceable’ by Beyoncé – 2007
Columbia Records, Pitchfork Media and Rolling Stone rank ‘Irreplaceable’ in the top songs of the 2000’s. It topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for ten weeks and peaked at #1 in Australia, Hungary, Ireland and New Zealand. It has sold over 4.6 million copies worldwide.
‘Boom Boom Pow’ by The Black Eyed Peas – 2009
This Black Eyed Peas hit stayed at the top of the ARIA charts for six weeks and spent 27 weeks in Top 20. It was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US for 12 weeks and topped the charts in the UK on two occasions. It has sold over 6.9 million downloads in the US.
‘Tik Tok’ by Ke$ha – 2010
‘Tik Tok’ topped charts in 11 countries and for 9 weeks topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It broke the US record for most sold copies or downloads of a song in a single week by a female artist. It has sold over 25 million copies and is ranked #61 on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs of All time.
‘Rolling In The Deep’ by Adele – 2011
‘Rolling In The Deep’ was #1 in 12 countries and spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It is the best-selling digital song by a female artist and spent 65 weeks in the charts. It has sold 20.6 million copies worldwide.