This is year 12 for my annual countdown of favorite pop hits. Here are the rules. I only considered songs that hit the Billboard Top 10 at any point in 2020. There were 80 Top 10 Hits this year. Six of the 80 songs were Christmas hits re-charting, and I did not consider those. I also eliminate any song that was in my top 10 in 2019.  That eliminates “Circles” by Post Malone, “Good As Hell” by Lizzo and “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi. That leaves only 69 songs from which to choose.

1. Blinding Lights, The Weeknd, XO/Republic
I remember hearing this for the first time on my car radio. It was around February and while the song sounded very 1980s, the voice was clearly recognizable as The Weeknd. I thought, hmm, that’s different. It turned out to dominate the year. Billboard ranked it as the most successful single of 2020. It spent four weeks at #1 beginning in March, and on the R&B chart, it was #1 for a record-breaking 39 weeks. He is scheduled to perform at the Super Bowl halftime in 2021. And for all that, not a single Grammy nomination, despite widespread critical acclaim for the song and the After Hours album. The snub is quite outrageous. Variety described it as, “in our many collective decades of Grammy watching, we have never witnessed an omission on the level of the one that the Recording Academy committees who decide the nominees have given to The Weeknd this year.”

Official video: YouTube link
Rosalia remix: YouTube link
From “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” December 2019: YouTube link
TikTok “experience” with Major Laser, August 2020: YouTube link
Pentatonix cover: YouTube link

2. Say So, Doja Cat, Kemosabe/RCA
There’s a lot to like here. “Say So” is a great disco-oriented track with some rap in it and for a while, I expected to list this at #1 for the year. One song eclipsed it in my mind, but why the hesitation on my part? I recently discovered that Dr. Luke produced it and had a hand in writing it. Given his alleged abuse of Kesha, this makes me uneasy. “Say So” began a 16-week run in the top 10 in early April, and peaked at #1 in mid-May, boosted by the release of a remix featuring Nicki Minaj. The remix was the A-side for two weeks, but the credit did give Minaj her first #1 hit. It’s Grammy-nominated for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the Grammys, and given Dr. Luke’s songwriting credit, I can only hope it wins Record but loses Song.

Official video: YouTube link
Remix with Nicki Minaj: YouTube link
From The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, February 2020: YouTube link
Korean cover by Luna: YouTube link
Japanese cover by Rainych: YouTube link

3. Dance Monkey, Tones and I, Bad Batch/Elektra/EMG
I probably should have included “Dance Monkey” on my 2019 list but it still qualifies in 2020 so here it is. It did spend 10 weeks in the top 10 this year compared to only one a year ago, so it’s all good. Internationally, it was a 2019 hit—11 weeks at number one in the U.K. and five weeks at #1 in Canada. Tones and I is the stage name of Australian singer Toni Watson. I presume that name is a nod to the spelling of Toni with an I? In any case, she wrote and recorded “Dance Monkey,” and after its May 2019 release, it hit #1 in 30 countries. She said that the lyrics refer to her days as a street performer, and that the repeated “dance for me” lines referred to people asking her to “sing for me.” The vocal style is unique and striking. Here’s a kind of sad stat. When “Dance Monkey” hit the top five in the United States, it became the first song written solely by a woman to hit the top five since March 2012, when “I Will Always Love You,” written by Dolly Parton, re-charted after Whitney Houston’s passing.  

Official video: YouTube link
Live in Yelgun, Australia: YouTube link
Jana Glawischnig audition, “The Voice of Germany:” YouTube link

4. Don’t Start Now, Dua Lipa, Warner
Dua Lipa won the Grammy for Best New Artist of 2018 but she really hit it big with her 2020 album, Future Nostalgia. The lead single was released prior to the album in October 2019. “Don’t Start Now” is song that would not be out of place at a 1970s disco party—and it has cowbell!  It hit the Billboard top 10 in February 2020 and stayed there for 20 weeks. It peaked at #2 behind the Roddy Ricch smash, “The Box.” It also hit number two in the U.K., behind “Dance Monkey,” by Tones and I. It did hit #1 in seven countries and the accolades are beginning to pile up. “Don’t Start Now” has already won the American Music Award for favorite pop song and it’s up for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Pop Solo Performance Grammys. Lipa performed both Don’t Start Now” and her current hit, “Levitating” on Saturday Night Live in December. Billboard ranked it the fourth most successful single of 2020.

Official video: YouTube link
Purple Disco Machine Remix: YouTube link
First televised performance, “Graham Norton Show:” YouTube link
“Saturday Night Live” performance: YouTube link
Keith Urban acoustic cover: YouTube link

5. Holy, Justin Bieber featuring Chance the Rapper, Raymond Braun/Def Jam
Justin Bieber’s Changes album was the long-awaited follow-up to his excellent Purpose album released in 2015. Sadly, it was nowhere near as good as Purpose. The lead single, “Yummy,” is a candidate for this year’s worst pop song. The second single, “Intentions,” was better, but not special. The third single failed to crack the top 20. Going back to the drawing board quickly, Bieber released “Holy,” a non-album collaboration with Chance the Rapper. Singer/songwriter rapper Jon Bellion is the primary songwriter on this Gospel-tinged track and he had originally planned to release it himself. He gave it to Bieber to reach a wider audience. Released in September 2020, it has been in the top 10 for seven weeks and is performing strong heading into 2021. For me, the melody, vocals and overall sound outshine the lyrics, which are a bit corny.

Official video: YouTube link
Acoustic version: YouTube link
“Saturday Night Live” performance: YouTube link
Charity release with the Lewisham and Greenwich HNS choir: YouTube link

6. Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat), Jawsh 685 & Jason Derulo, Columbia
This track started out as an instrumental called “Laxed – Siren Beat” by record producer Jawsh 685 from New Zealand. That instrumental took off on TikTok as a dance challenge. Jason Derulo added lyrics in April 2020 and the two of them came together to release the song with the hybrid title and co-billing. The collaboration reached the top 10 in early August after a June release. The collaboration reached number one in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland. It took a little help to reach the top spot in the United States. A remix featuring K-Pop superstars BTS was released on October 2, with new lyrics in Korean. That remix outsold the original version for exactly one week. The remix, credited to Jawsh 685, Jason Derulo and BTS, topped the charts for the week ending October 17. The following week, the credit reverted to Jawsh 685 and Derulo.

Official video: YouTube link
“Laxed – Siren Beat” official video: YouTube link
BTS remix: YouTube link
Televised performance by Derulo: YouTube link

7.  Therefore I Am, Billie Eilish, Darkroom/Interscope
Billie Eilish released “Therefore I Am” on November 12, 2020 and two weeks later it was #2 on the pop chart. As of now, it’s not on an album, but it may well wind up on a new LP release in 2021. As usual, Eilish co-wrote the song with her brother Phinneas O’Connell, who also produced the track. The title and lyrics are a nod to Rene Descartes, and the song is really about her doing her own thing. The video was reportedly shot on an iPhone in an empty mall.  It’s highly likely to re-enter the top 10 in 2021 after the Christmas songs fall off the chart. It could rival “Bad Guy” as her most successful single.

Official video: YouTube link
American Music Awards performance: YouTube link

8.  I Hope, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Warner Music Nashville/WAR
I had never heard of Gabby Barrett before this song, but the young singer does have a bit of a brief history. She finished third on “American Idol” at the age of 18 and a year later, she returned to the show to sing “I Hope,” which would go on to become her breakout hit. It would take a while, though. Barrett, who co-wrote it with Ross Copperman and Zachary Kale, self-released it and eventually, she signed with Warner Nashville, who released it on the label in July 2019. It caught on, but slowly. The song about a woman wishing crushing heartbreak on her ex entered the hot 100 in January 2020. By April, she had hit the top of the country streaming and airplay charts, but it was a much slower climb on the pop chart. “I Hope” cracked the top 20 in the final week of May and it popped in and out of the top 20 most of the summer. Enter Charlie Puth, who liked the song so much that he contacted her on Instagram asking to do a duet remix. That remixed version got some airplay and it helped push “I Hope” into the top 10 in mid-August. In early October the remix outsold the original and it became listed as Barrett featuring Puth. On the week of November 21, it shot up to #3 and broke the record for the slowest climb into the top five at 45 weeks. It ends the year in the top 20 and likely goes back into the top 10 once the Christmas songs disappear from the chart. Billboard ranked it the 12th biggest hit of 2020.

Official video (Barrett solo): YouTube link
Puth duet version (audio): YouTube link
Barrett and Puth at CMA Awards: YouTube link
Twinsthenewtrend reaction to duet version: YouTube link

9.  Before You Go, Lewis Capaldi, Vertigo/Capitol
Lewis Capaldi’s first hit, “Someone You Loved” was an international smash in 2019 that stayed in the top 10 into March 2020. “Before You Go” was his next single that peaked at #9 in late September after being in and out of the top 10 for several weeks. It did hit #1 in the U.K. Ireland and Czechia early in 2020. Like his first hit, “Before You Go” is an emotional tune, this one inspired by the suicide of his aunt. Capaldi placed two songs on the Billboard Year-End Chart for 2020. “Someone You Loved” from last year was strong enough to come in at #10 for this year, while “Before You Go” placed 21st. It was #6 for the year on both the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 charts.

Official video: YouTube link
Live from Brixton Academy: YouTube link
Cover by the Turtle (Jesse McCartney) on “The Masked Singer:” YouTube link

10. Mood, 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior, Records/Columbia
“Mood” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 shortly before 24kGoldn turned 20 on November 13. His birth name is Golden Landis Von Jones. His collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Iann Dior really crossed genres. It is the only song ever to have been #1 on the pop, rock & alternative, alternative and rap charts in the same week.   In a likely sign of the times, it first became popular on TikTok after a July release. The song, which essentially is about telling off a partner, quickly got the attention of radio, and broke Ed Sheeran’s record for mainstream radio airplay in a single week. It has hit #1 in the U.S.. the U.K, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. “Mood” shot back into the top 10 for the final week of 2020, buoyed by remixes that feature Justin Bieber and J Balvin. Billboard ranked it the 47th most successful song for the year 2020, and it is highly likely to make the 2021 list as well.

Official video: YouTube link
Justin Bieber/J Balvin remix lyrics video: YouTube link

Favorite Christmas Songs – 2020

This was a Christmas song countdown that I recently participated in. Here is my list and how it compared to a similar countdown I did in 2013. Last time, I made two lists, one pop and one traditional. I only did pop this year.

  1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (1963)
    2013 Countdown: #1

    The best song on the best Christmas album of all time. I miss her yearly appearances on David Letterman’s late night shows.
  2. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko/The Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (1971)
    2013 Countdown: #2

    So this is Christmas. For me, it’s not Christmas season until I hear this song.
  3. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey (1994)
    2013 Countdown – #7

    Mariah spent two nonconsecutive weeks at #1 this season, and her Christmas megahit will probably eventually break the record for total weeks at #1. Most pop Christmas classics date back to the 50s and 60s. Wham and Band Aid both had big ones in 1984, but since then, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is really the only major success. It has also made Mariah Carey the only artist ever to have #1 hits in four decades. Here is the 25th anniversary video.
  4. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee (1958)
    2013 Countdown: #4

    Brenda Lee recorded it when she was 12. Songwriter Johnny Marks also wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” It peaked at #3 this season according to Billboard.
  5. Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi (1965)
    2013 Countdown – #8

    Vince Guaraldi composed the music for the classic special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” There is an instrumental version and a shorter vocal version.
  6. Last Christmas – Wham (1984)
    2013 Countdown: #9

    I was a bit horrified when this song came out. Who were these punks with one hit thinking they’re big enough to have a Christmas song? Okay, George Michael turned out to be more than a one-hit wonder. The song is excellent, but I’ve been hot and cold over the years on it. My biggest issue is the incessant synth that really makes it sound dated. The song mostly overcomes that for me.
  7. Do They Know It’s Christmas – Band Aid (1984)
    2013 Countdown: #3

    This started the whole charity single movement that led to Live Aid in 1985. Some tidbits. Boy George was flown in from New York to do his lines and had to catch the afternoon Concorde after sleeping in and missing the morning flight. There were some Americans on the recording, notably James Taylor and Robert Bell of Kool and the Gang, and Jody Watley.
  8. Silver Bells – Stevie Wonder (1967)
    2013 Countdown: #5

    I’ve always liked this song and the images it conjures in my mind. The song dates back to 1950 and later became associated with Bob Hope Christmas specials. There are many good versions. I like the Stevie Wonder 1967 version.
  9. A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives (1965)
    2013 Countdown: #6

    Burl Ives first sang it on NBC’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer television show in 1964. He re-recorded a slower version the following year. It has become a radio staple, and reached the Billboard top 10 or the first time in 2018. It peaked at #4 last year and did the same this Christmas season.
  10. We Need A Little Christmas – The New Christy Minstrels (1966)
    2013 Countdown: #18

    The song was originally performed by Angela Lansbury in “Mame” in 1966. I used the Lansbury version in the previous countdown, but I’m going back to the one I’m more familiar with, by the New Christy Minstrels that same year.
  11. If We Make It Through December – Merle Haggard (1973)
    2013 Countdown: unranked

    Especially appropriate for this year. Haggard’s classic doesn’t sound festive like most Christmas music, which is a plus for me.
  12. Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes (1963)
    Last Countdown in 2013 – #12

    The Ronettes hold at #12 from the brilliant Phil Spector Christmas album.

Bob’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade: #20-#11

All songs taken from the Billboard Year-End top 100 lists for any year in the decade.

20. Circles – Post Malone
Billboard Year-End: #62 of 2019
“Circles” is one of two songs in my top 100 that is still on the charts – it’s at #3 for the week ending February 15, 2020. It was #1 for two weeks in 2019 and went back to #1 for another week in 2020. Post Malone is a singer and rapper whose early work leaned hip hop. His most recent album, Hollywood’s Bleeding, takes him in more of a rock direction. His vocals are good–I would have liked to have heard it without the vibrato voice effect–I don’t think it’s needed.

19. Royals – Lorde
Billboard Year-End: #15 of 2013 and #20 of 2014
This song about excesses, particularly about rap musicians, got its title from an unlikely source. Lorde was 15 years old when she wrote the lyrics, and living at home in New Zealand. She saw a picture in National Geographic of a baseball player signing autographs wearing a jersey that had the word “Royals” written on the front. After the song became a hit, it was discovered that the photograph was of now Hall of Fame player George Brett. “Royals” might be the most influential pop song of the decade, as Lorde influenced many female artists, notably Alessia Cara, Halsey and Billie Eilish. “Royals” was #1 for nine straight weeks beginning in October 2013.

18. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Billboard Year-End: #8 of 2010
I’ve always considered “Bad Romance” to be the quintessential Lady Gaga song. It was the first single from The Fame Monster, and went to number one in more than 20 countries, but not in the United States. “Bad Romance” spent seven nonconsecutive weeks at #2, some of them in 2009 and some in 2010. It was blocked by “Empire State Of Mind” in 2009 and “Tik Tok” in 2010. Despite not hitting the top, “Bad Romance” is one of the best selling singles of all time. The “roma-ma” chant is short for “romance.”

17. Finesse – Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B
Billboard Year-End: #14 of 2018
The target audience for “Finesse” is me. I loved the New Jack Swing Era of R&B and this is as good of a New Jack throwback as there is. The last single from the 24K Magic album was a remix that added two fine Cardi B rap verses to the album version. Released on January 4, 2018, “Finesse” was the #3 song in the country just two weeks later. It spent eight more nonconsecutive weeks at #3. its peak position. So this one goes out to BBD, Teddy Riley, Johnny Kemp, Tara Kemp (no relation), New Edition and Bobby Brown. New Jack was back, if only for this one song.

16. Chained To The Rhythm – Katy Perry featuring Skip Marley
Billboard Year-End: #73 of 2017
Katy Perry’s Witness album was a bit of a flop commercially but in my opinion, it’s among her best work. The lead single went to #1 in Hungary and Latvia, but underperformed in the United States. “Chained To The Rhythm” debuted at #4 in March 2017, and spent just that one week in the top 10. It did hang around the top 20 for about two months. It’s a great dance track, with lyrics that are a bit on the serious side, particularly for Perry. Skip Marley is Bob Marley’s grandson, who has a small role on this track. Sia, who co-wrote this song, also provided some backup vocals.

15. Down – Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne
Billboard Year-End: #41 of 2010
The title of the song is mentioned 63 time in the lyrics. That’s got to be a record for a song that hit #1, right? Jay Sean is a British R&B/pop singer who has been more popular in Asia than in Britain, particularly in India, from where his parents emigrated to London. “Dow” was his first major hit in the United States. It spent two weeks at #1 in October 2009, and was still in the top 10 for most of January 2010. For me, it’s a case of auto-tune done well, for mostly backup effect.

14. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
Billboard Year-End: #1 of 2015
“Uptown Funk” is one of the most successful singles of all time and was written as a throwback to the 1970s and 1980s era of R&B/funk. They might have borrowed a little too much. After the song’s release, some songwriters were added to the official list. Specifically, the repeated line “uptown funk you up” is very similar to the Gap Band’s “oops upside your head.” It was also the first of several Bruno Mars to reference the mysterious “Julio.” Released in October 2014, “Uptown Funk” was in the top 5 for the final week of that year. It went to #1 in mid-January (thankfully replacing “Blank Space”) . It spent 14 weeks on top and was the Grammy Record of the Year. In the U.K., seven weeks at #1 and the Brit award for British Single of the Year (Ronson’s presence qualified it).

13. Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake
Billboard Year-End: #9 of 2016 and #49 of 2017
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” was written to be a modern disco song for the animated movie “Trolls.” The single was released in May 2016, six months before the movie came out. It debuted at #1 for a week and stayed in the top five until late August. “Can’t Stop The Feeling” went to #1 in 20 countries and was the biggest selling single of the year. It re-entered the top 20 in the fall upon the movie release. The movie version was sung by the cast, notable Anna Kendrick and James Corden. Because of a technicality (since fixed), Timberlake’s version was ineligible for a Record of the Year Grammy, because the cast version had been submitted for a Grammy in another category. It was Oscar-nominated, which allowed it to spend another week in the top 20 in March 2017 after the Oscar telecast.

12. Brokenhearted – Karmin
Billboard Year-End: #59 of 2012
That’s right. Cheerio. Karmin was a husband-wife duo who met at Berklee College of Music. They became popular on YouTube and were signed to Epic. Their first release was their most successful in the U.S. and U.K. They did have two more hits in New Zealand. Singer-rapper Amy Heidemann Noonan is now releasing music under her rap alter-ego Qveen Herby. “Brokenhearted” was released in February 2012 and performed on SNL that month. It was in and out of the top 20 in spring and summer, peaking at #16 in June. High energy track with high energy vocals.

11. Señorita – Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
Billboard Year-End: #15 of 2019
The second collaboration between Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello produced an international smash that hit number one in 36 countries. In the United States, “Señorita” was one of a few songs stuck behind the record-setting “Old Town Road” for most of summer 2019. A week after Billie Eilish broke the Old Town Spell, “Señorita” finally hit the top in the final week of August 2019. It’s the first #1 for Mendes; the second for Cabello and it is still in the top 40 as of February 15, 2020. The video is more than a bit steamy.

10. Havana – Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug
Billboard Year-End: #96 of 2017 and #4 of 2018
I love it from the opening notes of the piano intro. “Havana” is the best steamy Latin dance song I’ve heard since the early 2000s. Camila Cabello was the featured artist on Machine Gun Kelly’s “Bad Things,” #92 in this countdown, around the time she was leaving Fifth Harmony. “Havana” was her big solo debut, released as a single in September 2017. It was so successful, that it became the lead single from the album, Camila, released in January 2018. The summer 2017 success of “Despacito” opened the door for some Latin-influenced hits and “Havana” crashed right through that door. It shot up the charts quickly and spent five weeks at #2 in November/December of that year.  It slipped to #3 for a few weeks, before the album release boost. After two weeks behind Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” “Havana” finally hit #1 at the end of January 2018, the first #1 hit for any member of Fifth Harmony.

9. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2012
Carly Rae Jepsen was a complete unknown in the United States until Justin Bieber heard this song on Canadian radio. Jepsen placed third on Canadian Idol in 2007. She was signed to a minor Canadian label founded by Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger. She released an album in 2008 that had some mild success in Canada. She and Tavish Crowe were writing material for her next album and came up with a folk song called “Call Me Maybe.” Producer Josh Ramsey, lead singer of Marianas Trench, transformed it into a pop song. Released in September 2011, it was on track to be a minor Canadian hit until Bieber heard it. He loved it enough to make a video of himself and Selena Gomez lip-synching to it. The video went viral, and Jepsen was signed to the much bigger Schoolboy Records. “Call Me Maybe” went to #1 in 17 countries and spent nine weeks at #1 in the summer 2012 in the U.S. It’s a pop song through and through, but a pop song done very well.

8. Get Lucky – Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
Billboard Year-End: #14 of 2013
Nile Rodgers really deserved featured artist credit here. Daft Punk can create great music and Pharrell Williams vocals are fine, but what really distinguishes “Get Lucky” is the guitar, unmistakably Rodgers to anyone remotely familiar with his large body of work. “Get Lucky” was the first single from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories album. Rodgers listened to the Daft Punk demo and improvised until finding a good fit. Daft Punk re-recorded the bass to fit Rodgers and Williams was later brought in to add vocals. Released in April 2013, “Get Lucky” reached its peak position (#2) in late June. It spent five straight weeks at #2 behind “Blurred Lines,” a song that also featured Williams on vocal. At the time, “Get Lucky” was Daft Punk’s highest charting song. It won the Grammy for Record of the Year. For the Daft Punk duo, they took home five Grammys, two for the single and three for the album.

7. Brave – Sara Bareilles
Billboard Year-End: #96 of 2013 and #74 of 2014
Sara Bareilles wrote “Brave” with Jack Antonoff (Fun), inspired by a gay friend coming out of the closet. It became somewhat of an inspirational song for anyone dealing with adversity. “Brave” was the lead single from the album, The Blessed Unrest. Released in April 2013, “Brave” climbed the charts very slowly, and peaked at #26 in December 2013. Bareilles performed “Brave” as part of a medley with Carole King at the Grammys, where it was up for Best Pop Solo Performance. The Grammy bounced pushed “Brave” to a new peak at #23 in February 2014. Bareilles did not win the Grammy (again), and for years, she declared herself award shows’ biggest loser. At one point, she had seven Grammy nominations, two Tony nominations and three Emmy nominations, all without a win. Despite its low chart performance on the Hot 100, “Brave” is hardly unknown–it went to #2 Adult Contemporary and #3 Adult Top 40. As for that losing streak, it ended a few weeks ago, when she won a Best American Roots Performance Grammy for her song “Saint Honesty.”

6. Tik Tok – Kesha
Billboard Year-End: #1 of 2010
“Tik Tok” was Kesha’s debut single and it still holds the record for most weeks at #1 for a debut single by a female artist. It spent the first nine weeks of the decade at the top. The rappish vocals of the verses were inspired by the Beastie Boys while the chorus is sung. To show how times change in 10 years, “Tik Tok” was originally offered as a free download from Kesha’s MySpace page. It’s basically a song about the aftermath of coming home half drunk, and is classic dance pop. The vocals, enhanced by Dr. Luke’s auto-tune, are delivered in a raunchy style that fits the lyrics. The Mick Jagger reference actually launched a widespread (false) rumor that Kesha was Jagger’s daughter. It does obscure that Kesha has a great voice. The formula did work; “Tik Tok” is one of the biggest selling singles of all time. Dr. Luke and Kesha had a major falling out years later. Kesha was accused of breach of contract while she accused Dr. Luke of sexual and mental abuse. After the lawsuits, Kesha’s fist single “Praying” was aimed at her former mentor.

5. Firework – Katy Perry
Billboard Year-End: #3 of 2011
When I went to see fireworks on July 4, I really never stopped to consider that “fireworks’ had a singular. this song has the high energy that you would expect for what has become an Independence Day classic. The song itself is more about empowerment. “Firework” was the third single from Teenage Dream, released in October 2010. It hit #1 in mid-December of that year and was her third of five straight #1 hits from that album. It stayed at #1 for five nonconsecutive weeks into early 2011. It’s definitely a high energy dance track with some significant vocal range at the high end–very difficult to perform live. “Firework” was nominated for a Record of the Year Grammy, but lost to Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” It did win the MTV Award for Video of the Year.

4. All Of Me – John Legend
Billboard Year-End: #3 of 2014
When John Legend and Toby Gad wrote “All Of Me,” Chrissy Teigen was Legend’s fiancée. A month after the song was released in August 2013, they were married. By the time it finally hit #1, they had already been married for eight months. The very slow climb to the top was supercharged by a January 2014 performance at the Grammys. The Grammy boost pushed it from #48 to #27 in its 16th week on the chart. It went on to spend six weeks at #2 behind “Happy” in April and May before finally topping the charts for three weeks in May. At 23 weeks in the top 10 and 59 on the Hot 100, it certainly had longevity. The song? It’s a beautiful piano ballad and Legend’s voice shines. I particularly love the “perfect imperfections” line. There was a remix released to some radio stations–that remix was an abomination. Stick with the original.

3. Fuckin’ Perfect/Perfect – Pink
Billboard Year-End: #19 of 2011
“Fuckin’ Perfect” is probably Pink’s edgiest single and in my opinion, her best. Pink, who co-wrote it with Max Martin and Shellback, has said that the inspiration was husband Carey Hart. I also recall interviews where she said it was dedicated to her future child. Although she was pregnant during the video shoot, she would not have been when it was written. It deals with mental health and suicidal tendencies. The second single from Greatest Hits..So Far!!!, “Fuckin’ Perfect” appeared to be a sure #1 hit, but the Pittsburgh Steelers got in the way. Billboard even predicted that Pink would be #1 the week of February 19, 2001, but the Steelers made it to Super Bowl XLV. “Black And Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa’s ode to Pittsburgh sports, grabbed that top spot for that week. The following week, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” debuted at #1 and became the 1000th #1 it on that chart. The video features Tina Majorino as a teen dealing with self-mutilation issues. Beyond the serious topic, it’s just a great song.

2. Love On The Brain – Rihanna
Billboard Year-End: #33 of 2017
Rihanna has a very large body of work in pop music. “Love On The Brain” is the kind of song that gained her much respect outside pop circles. Songwriters Fred Ball and Joseph Angel claimed to have been inspired by Prince and Al Green when composing the first version of the song in 2013. It eventually made its way to Rihanna, who loved it and added lyrics. “Love On The Brain” would be the first song designed for her 2016 album Anti. The result was a throwback to early 1960s R&B, the Etta James era, in 12/8 time. It deals with an abusive relationship, a common theme for Rihanna, and her vocals and stylings more than deliver. “Love On The Brain” was the fourth single released from Anti in September 2016. It bounced in and out of the top 20 in late 2016/early 2017. It picked up momentum in February and peaked at #5 in late March. With her 30th top 10 hit, Rihanna now trails only Madonna (38) and the Beatles (34).

1. All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
Billboard Year-End: #8 of 2014 and #28 of 2015
No treble. I liked it then and I think I like it even more now. Meghan Trainor was an accidental pop star in many ways. She and co-writer Kevin Kadish came up with this song early in 2013 when Trainor had been just a songwriter. She recorded a demo for record labels and when she played it for L.A. Reid, he signed her to Epic Records. They recorded four tracks and “All About That Bass” was released as her debut single on June 30, 2014. At the time, Trainor was a 20-year-old from Nantucket who had independently produced some of her own music. “All About That Bass” is a metaphor for body type and this song with some elements of doo-wop took off. It hit #1 in 58 countries and was at the top of the Billboard chart for eight weeks in Fall 2014. It inspired numerous parodies and Trainor was able to follow it up with a few other doo-wop inspired hits. For better or worse, Trainor will likely always be best known for this debut single.


Bob’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade: #40 – #21

Selected from among any song that made Billboard‘s top 100 of any single year of the decade.

40. Sorry – Justin Bieber
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2016
Justin Bieber has been a celebrity since he was discovered at age 13. His 2015 Purpose album really made him a superstar and earned him a lot more credibility as an artist. “Sorry” was the second single from Purpose that went to #1 in 13 countries. In the United States, “Sorry” spent seven straight weeks stuck at #2 behind Adele’s “Hello.” “Sorry” finally went to #1 in mid-January 2016 and stayed for three weeks before being replaced at the top by “Love Yourself,” the third single from Purpose. “Love Yourself” and “Sorry” were Billboard‘s top two songs of 2016, marking the first time a single artist ever did that. “Sorry” is reportedly about Bieber’s ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez.

39. Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars
Billboard Year-End: #18 of 2010 and #15 of 2011
Hard to believe, but “Just The Way You Are” was the first solo single from Bruno Mars. He had been a featured artists on others’ records. It’s one of the biggest hits of all time, and was the lead single from his debut album, Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Mars won a Grammy for pop performance for this song. Released in summer 2010, “Just The Way You Are,” went to #1 in the U.S., U.K, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In the United States, it spent its four weeks at the top in October 2010, but stuck around the charts long enough to be among the 20 biggest hits of both 2010 and 2011.

38. FourFiveSeconds – Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney
Billboard Year-End: #42 of 2015
Perhaps an unlikely combination, but a good song. McCartney does have some vocals but the production drowned him out with Kanye. Rihanna shines on this track. It marked her 26th top 10 hit in her chase to top all-time leader Madonna in that category. I haven’t confirmed this, but I think this song has the record for most total Grammys won by artists individually listed on any song. “FourFiveSeconds” hit #1 in six countries, including Australia. The organ and McCartney’s acoustic guitar give it a sound that is very unique for this decade.

37. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton
Billboard Year-End: #5 of 2013
“Can’t Hold Us” was a hit on the heels of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” however, it was actually released well before “Thrift Shop.” After the big success of “Thrift Shop,” previous Macklemore singles began to get more attention. Originally released in September 2011 from his first album, The Heist, “Can’t Hold Us” took off in the spring of 2013. It spent five weeks at #1 and was the most streamed song of the year. It’s an infectious dance track and Ray Dalton’s vocals work well with Macklemore’s rapping.

36. Home – Phillip Phillips
Billboard Year-End: #49 of 2012 and #43 of 2013
American Idol “coronation songs” have tended to be awful. Many went to #1 for exactly one week in the early years when the show was very popular. The song for season 11 winner Phillip Phillips was clearly the best of the bunch. “Home” debuted at #10 in June 2012 but would eventually outsell every other coronation song. Like all the rest, it was out of the top 20 the following week. This one had a second life. NBC used it in its coverage of women’s gymnastics at the London Olympics. “Home” quickly shot up the charts and spent two weeks at #9 in August. It slipped out of the top 20 again, until Phillips’ album The World From the Side of the Moon was released in November. This time, it peaked at #6 in January 2013.

35. Domino – Jessie J
Billboard Year-End: #46 of 2012
Yes, it’s sugary pop and sounds a bit too much like a couple of songs on Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream and Jessie J oversings it, but I still love this high energy track. “Domino” was the fifth single from British singer Jessie J’s Who You Are album, but only one of those prior releases made in impact in North America. “Domino” was released in August 2011 and spent two weeks at #1 in the U.K. in January 2012. It entered the top 10 in the United States in February 2012 and peaked at #6 two weeks later. It did better on the Dance Club Songs chart, where it hit #1.

34. Grenade – Bruno Mars
Billboard Year-End: #6 of 2011
The second single from Doo-Wops and Hooligans came close to matching the success of the first (“Just The Way You Are”). “Grenade” hit #1 in 15 countries. In the United States, it spent four nonconsecutive weeks at the top early in 2011. It’s a song about unrequited love and what the guy would do to hold win her over. “Grenade” was nominated for three Grammys, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Pop Solo Performance, but Bruno Mars lost to Adele in all three categories.

33. Hello – Adele
Billboard Year-End: #36 of 2015 and #7 of 2016
The first single from 25 broke quite a few records. “Hello” was the fastest YouTube video to reach one billion views and set the Vevo record for views in a day. It hit #1 just about everywhere it was released. On the Billboard chart, it debuted at #1 in November 2015 and stayed there for 10 weeks. A piano ballad about regret, “Hello” won Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Pop Solo Performance. Adele had previously swept the Record and Song categories a few years earlier with “Rolling In The Deep.” “Hello” also “saved Thanksgiving” in an SNL sketch about a family with deep political differences.

32. Next To Me – Emeli Sandé
Billboard Year-End: #88 of 2013
Emeli Sandé is still not very well-known in America. She is a Scottish R&B singer who hit hot big in the U.K. and Ireland with “Next To Me,” from her debut album, Our Version of Events. It was released in February 2012, and later crossed over to become a minor hit in North America. It peaked at #35 in June 2013, well over a year after it was first released. “Next To Me” is the only chart hit for Sandé in the United States.

31. I’m Not The Only One – Sam Smith
Billboard Year-End: #26 of 2015
Sam Smith swept the major Grammys due to “Stay With Me,” the first single from their debut album, In the Lonely Hour. I preferred the second single, “I’m Not The Only One.” Released at the end of the summer in 2014, it cracked the top 10 in late November that year. It peaked twice at #5 in it 15 weeks in the top 10. “I’m Not The Only One” is a piano ballad addressing a lover’s infidelity. It was an international hit that reached the top of the charts in South Africa.

30. Girls Like You – Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B
Billboard Year-End: #10 of 2018 and #22 of 2019
For me, the two biggest stars on this Maroon 5 track do not include Adam Levine, although he does a fine lead vocal. The muted guitar intro played by James Valentine is very distinctive and runs throughout the song. Cardi B’s rap verse is outstanding. “Girls Like You” was the fifth single from Red Pill Blues, and the album version does not include Cardi’s rap. It spent six straight weeks at #2 before hitting the top in late September 2018. It stayed at #1 for six weeks, 33 weeks in the top 10 and 36 weeks at #1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart. Internationally, it hot the top in 12 countries. There are a bunch of female celebrity cameos in the video.

29. The Edge Of Glory – Lady Gaga
Billboard Year-End: #29 of 2011
Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album marked the final recordings of Clarence Clemons. His sax solo is significant on “The Edge Of Glory,” the third single from the album. The single was released in May 2011, about six weeks before Clemons passed away. The vocals are particularly strong on this track, which spent 10 weeks in the top 10 in the summer of 2011. Five of those weeks were at its peak position (#6). It was Lady Gaga’s 10th straight top 10 hit; she became the second female artist ever to have her first 10 singles make the top 10.

28. Just A Dream – Nelly
Billboard Year-End: #35 of 2010
St. Louis-based rapper/singer Nelly had a bit of a comeback with “Just A Dream,” his first single release in more than two years. The lead single from 5.0, “Just A Dream marked the first time Nelly hit the top five since his 2006 release, “Grillz.” Released in August 2010, “Just A Dream” spent 17 weeks in the top 10 and two weeks at #3. It’s a midtempo heartbreak song, far more pop-friendly than a rap hit. The guitar intro could easily be an intro for country song.

27. We Are Young – Fun featuring Janelle Monáe
Billboard Year-End: #3 of 2012
Some Nights was Fun’s second album, but its most well-known. The lead single, “We Are Young,” was their biggest hit, and spent six weeks at #1 in Spring 2012. It was actually released in September 2011, and a cover version by the Glee cast gave it some attention.Fun’s version was used in a Chevrolet commercial in the 2012 Super Bowl, and it quickly rocketed up the charts. Janelle Monáe’s vocals are on the album version and were recorded at a studio in London. Nate Ruess claims that the lyrics were based on his worst drinking binge.

26. Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Billboard Year-End: #1 of 2011 and #71 of 2012
Adele’s first album, 19, was Grammy nominated and quite successful, but nowhere near as huge as her second album, 21. The first single, “Rolling In The Deep,” is one of the most decorated and most successful songs of all time. It spent seven weeks at #1 in late spring/early summer 2011, roughly half a year after it entered the Hot 100. It won Grammys for both Record of the Year and Song of the year, and those wins gave the song new chart life. The Grammy bounce helped it make it back up to #5 on the chart for a week in March 2012.

25. Starboy – The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
Billboard Year-End: #58 of 2016 and #20 of 2017
The Weeknd’s Starboy album featured several collaborations, including two tracks with Daft Punk. The title track was the first release and went to #1 for the first week of January 2017 after three weeks at #2. It was The Weeknd’s third #1 hit, and remarkably, the first for Daft Punk (“Get Lucky” spent a while at #2). The mix of R&B vocals with the electronic groove made for a great collaboration. “Starboy” reached the top in eight countries, including the native countries of the artists, Canada and France.

24. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2015
At the time, “Thinking Out Loud” was Ed Sheeran’s biggest hit and it did not go to #1 in the United States. “Thinking Out Loud” did spend 23 weeks in the top 10 and eight of those weeks stuck at #2 behind “Uptown Funk.” It was the first song ever to spend a full year on the British charts. Ed Sheeran has said that he spent a lot of time writing “Perfect” so that he would not just be know primarily for “Thinking Out Loud.” At this point, Sheeran has a pretty big body of work, but this one still might be the signature Sheeran song.

23. Happy – Pharrell Williams
Billboard Year-End: #1 of 2014
I doubt there are too many who have never heard this song–it was pretty ubiquitous in the Spring of 2014. It went to #1 in 24 countries and was the biggest hit of the year here and in the U.K. It spent 10 weeks at #1 in the U.S. Pharrell Williams, the lone songwriter, wrote it for Cee Lo Green, and Green recorded it. His record company decided that Cee Lo’s Christmas album was a bigger priority, so they passed on releasing the Green version. With its use in Despicable Me 2, “Happy” was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but it lost to “Let It Go” from Frozen.

22. Fuck You/Forget You – Cee Lo Green
Billboard Year-End: #7 of 2011
Obviously, “Forget You” was the version sent to radio. The song had two chart runs. It spent a week at #9 in early December 2010, but then slipped down the Hot 100. After falling out the top 20 for the month of January 2011, “Forget You” re-entered in early February and took off after a flamboyant performance at the Grammys. It spent four weeks at #2 in March, and became his biggest solo hit. Bruno Mars was one of the songwriters and played on the track as well.

21. I Gotta Feeling – The Black Eyed Peas
Billboard Year-End: #29 of 2010
“I Gotta Feeling” spent 14 weeks at #1 in the summer/fall 2009 and was the #4 hit of that year. It was still barely in the top 20 to start the new decade, enough to make the 2010 year-end list. Overplayed would be an understatement and I went through phases of being sick of it. The lyrics are very corny and the song seems like it was written to be played at weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. It’s undeniably catchy, for whatever that is worth. It was nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy and lost but won for Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

Bob’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade: #60-#41

Selected from any song the made one of the Billboard top 100 hits of the year list.

60. Despacito (Remix) – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2017
One of the biggest hits of all time, “Despacito” is the only song ever to stay on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for the entire summer months of June, July and August. Luis Fonsi wrote it with a Latin rhythm before bringing in Daddy Yankee to give it a reggaeton flavor. Released in January 2017, it became a worldwide hit. Before it took off in North America, Canadian singer Justin Bieber asked to do a remix version. A Spanish/English verse was added and it was easily the song of the summer in 2017. Here is the Bieber remixed version–the video without Bieber. The video for the original sans-Bieber version has more than 6 billion views and is the most watched video in YouTube history.

59. Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
Billboard Year-End: #73 of 2015
You probably know by now that Elle King is Rob Schneider’s daughter. Released in September 2014, “Ex’s & Oh’s” topped the rock chart before crossing over to pop radio. It peaked at #10 more than a year later, at the end of November 2015. Recorded at Sun studio in Memphis.

58. Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
Billboard Year-End: #87 of 2010
It’s on my 2010s countdown, but it was released in 2008 and won the Grammy for 2009 Record of the Year. “Use Somebody” peaked at #4 in September 2009 and was the 14th biggest hit of that year. It was still on the charts in 2010, enough to crack the top 100 for that year and making it eligible for this list. “Use Somebody” is the biggest pop hit by far from Kings of Leon, but the group is hardly a one-hit wonder. They have since topped the alternative rock chart three more times–giving them five chart-toppers in that genre.

57. 5 O’Clock – T-Pain featuring Wiz Khalifa & Lily Allen
Billboard Year-End: #86 of 2012
What happens when you mix a singer who uses auto-tune, a rapper and a British female singer-songwriter? It’s somewhat strange, but the voices work well. The first listed songwriter is Gary Barlow. Lily Allen’s “Who’d Have Known” is based on Take That’s hit “Shine.” Because “5 O’Clock” samples Allen’s vocals from “Who’d Have Known,” you could call it a grandchild of “Shine.” It was a minor hit in the U.S. which spent exactly one week in the Billboard Top 10 the final week of 2011. That was enough to carry it to a spot in the top 100 of 2012.

56. Bad Guy – Billie Eilish
Billboard Year-End: #4 of 2019
Duh. This is the song that just swept the major Grammys. Billie Eilish became the first artist born in the 21st century to have a #1 hit. It replaced “Old Town Road” at #1. She and her writer-producer brother Finneas won six Grammys each. Lyrics are a bit mumbled but very cutting. I particularly like the tempo change at the end. It will be interesting to see how her career goes from here.

55. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
Billboard Year-End: #3 of 2010
Very polarizing. Google reviews on “Hey, Soul Sister” and you’ll find claims that this was the worst song of the year, of the decade and of the 21st century. The “blow your mind” thing is a bit creepy, but in my mind, it’s good. Train spent four weeks at #3 in the Spring of 2010 and the song came in at #3 for the year. “Hey, Soul Sister” was a comeback hit for Train, who had not charted in over five years.

54. Sweet But Psycho – Ava Max
Billboard Year-End: #23 of 2019
“Sweet But Psycho” was a big international hit that spent the first four weeks of 2019 at #1 in the United Kingdom, and reached the top in 21 other countries. It only made it to #10 in the U.S. for the American singer, and to #11 in Canada. Some have criticized the use of the word “psycho” in that it stigmatizes people with mental health issues. I think it’s pretty clear what it means by “psycho” and it’s not about mental health.

53. I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber
Billboard Year-End: #16 of 2019
Ed Sheeran went full on partnership on his most recent album, No. 6 Collaborations Project. The most commercially successful of the collaborations in North America was “I Don’t Care,” with Justin Bieber. It went to #2 in a lot of countries, thanks to the incredible popularity of “Old Town Road.” “I Don’t Care” did set the Spotify record for single-day streaming in June 2019, breaking the record of Mariah Carey’s Christmas song. Both Sheeran and Bieber seem to think they don’t fit in at that party; fortunately, they’re okay with that.

52. Turn Down For What – DJ Snake and Lil Jon
Billboard Year-End: #15 of 2014
DJ Snake created the EDM groove and Lil Jon added some raspy vocals to create the infectious though repetitive “Turn Down For What” phenomenon. This track seemed to be everywhere that year. The 2014 Orioles took the field to this song for home games. Three movies and two movie trailers used it. AT&T used a snippet in a commercial. Michelle Obama released a short video of herself dancing to it. “Turn Down For What” spent two weeks at #4 in June 2014. The official video is a weird one.

51. Everybody Talks – Neon Trees
Billboard Year-End: #22 of 2012
“Everybody Talks” is the biggest hit by Utah-based Neon Trees. Lead singer and songwriter Tyler Glenn claims it was inspired by 1960s pop music, which seems a bit of a stretch to me. Released in December 2011, it did not crack the top 20 until July 2012, and finally broke into the top 10 in September. It really went nowhere outside the U.S., except as a minor hit in Australia and Czechia. Catchy song, and you know, everybody does talk.

50. Want To Want Me – Jason Derulo
Billboard Year-End: #17 of 2015
America singer/dancer Jason Derulo is bigger in the U.K. than he is in his native land. “Want To Want Me” spent four weeks at #1 and was his fourth number one hit over there. In America, it spent nine weeks in the top 10 and two weeks at #5 in late spring/early summer 2015. For me, it’s a very upbeat, turn your radio up type track. This one has an ’80s feel. One reviewer noted that the chord progression is very similar to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance WIth Somebody.”

49. Just Give Me A Reason – Pink featuring Nate Ruess
Billboard Year-End: #7 of 2013
Pink paired with Fun lead singer Nate Ruess for an international hit that went to number one in over 20 countries. It spent two weeks at the to in America in spring 2013. It’s written to be conversational–Pink sings the first verse and chorus, while Ruess sings the second verse before it becomes a duet. It’s a about a couple going through tough times and trying to work through.

48. Feel It Still – Portugal The Man
Billboard Year-End: #45 of 2017 and #33 of 2018
The success of “Feel It Still” probably makes the members of Portugal The Man the most famous people to come from Wasilla, Alaska, now that that other person’s 15 minutes are up. This was a sleeper pop hit that was an immediate success on the Billboard alternative music charts. After a March 2017 release, “Feel It Still” didn’t make the top 10 until October. It stayed there for 11 weeks, including two weeks at #4. This song has a very 1960s feel to it.

47. Cups (Pitch Perfect’s “When I’m Gone”) – Anna Kendrick
Billboard Year-End: #21 of 2013
When Anna Kendrick was not up in the air or doing Hilton commercials, she was taking this song that dates back to the 1930s up the charts. The Carter Family recorded “When I’m Gone” in 1931. It was re-made a few times before Lulu and the Lampshaders added the “cup game” to their YouTube version in 2009. Anna Kendrick learned it and it was incorporated into the movie Pitch Perfect, when her character auditions for the a capella group, Bellas. Pitch Perfect became a somewhat surprising huge hit at the box office and on cable. “Cups” peaked at #6 but stayed on the chart long enough to be the #21 hit of 2013.

46. Someone Like You – Adele
Billboard Year-End: #24 of 2011 and #43 of 2012
The second single from 21 spent a week at #1 in September 2011 and then a month later, went back to #1 for four more weeks. “Someone Like You,” the final track on the album, reached the top in many countries. The album dealt with a lot of heartbreak, and this song about coming to terms with a breakup fit right in. Adele won a pop solo performance Grammy for this song.

45. Perfect – Ed Sheeran or Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2018
“Perfect” is one of the most successful ballads of all time. The fourth single from ÷ set records in the U.K upon the album release–Sheeran had nine of the top ten songs that week. The single was released in September 2017 and climbed into the top five quickly in the U.K and in the U.S. A duet version with Beyoncé was released to radio in early December. The duet went to number one in a few short weeks. By the sixth week, the solo version was listed as the A side. Remarkably, “Perfect” was still in the top 20 in September 2018. A third version with Andrea Bocelli got quite a bit of video views, but little radio airplay.
Beyoncé duet version:

44. Carry On – Fun
Billboard Year-End: #76 of 2013
The third single from Some Nights was not a blockbuster hit for Fun; it peaked at #20 in March 2013. It did reach #2 on the Billboard Rock chart and got a lot of airplay in Mexico. It starts slow and builds into the kind of song you might expect to hear in an Irish pub. A lot to like, from Nate Ruess’s vocals, Jack Antonoff’s guitar riff and the sing-along chorus near the end.

43. Cake By The Ocean – DNCE
Billboard Year-End: #18 of 2016
When the Jonas Brothers were on hiatus, Joe Jonas formed the dance-rock band DNCE. It’s not an acronym; it’s just a shortened version of the word “dance.” They released one self-titled album in 2016 and “Cake By The Ocean” was the breakout hit. Supposedly the idea came from two of the Swedish songwriters mixing up the name of the “sex on the beach” cocktail. It spent six nonconsecutive weeks at #9 in spring 2016. DNCE never again had another top 40 hit, except in Japan, where “Cake By The Ocean” went to #1 and “Body Moves” went to #2. Now that the Jonas Brothers are reunited, DNCE is on hiatus.

42. Shut Up And Dance – Walk the Moon
Billboard Year-End: #6 of 2015
On the pop charts, Walk the Moon is a one-hit wonder but the band has been very successful on the alternative charts. The first track from the Talking Is Hard album, “Shut Up And Dance” was released in September 2014. It went to #1 on the alternative chart in late February 2015 and stayed there for four weeks. By April, it was just entering the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 10, where it would spend 18 weeks in the top 10. It spent 53 weeks on the chart and dominated the Hot Rock Songs chart, where it spent a then-record 27 weeks at #1. It’s based on a real-life incident in a nightclub when lead singer Nicholas Petricca’s girlfriend insisted they dance.

41. Ho Hey – The Lumineers
Billboard Year-End: #68 of 2012 and #12 of 2013
Supposedly this was written for people who were not so in to their concerts, hence the shouts that are the heart of this song. “Ho Hey” spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Rock Songs chart. On the Hot 100, it peaked at #3 for two weeks–the final week of 2012 and the first week of 2013. The Lumineers reside somewhere in the folk, rock and Americana neighborhoods. “Ho Hey” is by far their biggest pop success. Went to #1 in Portugal and Poland. At 2:41, it’s short by modern standards.


Bob’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade: #80-#61

Selected from the Billboard year-end top 100 lists.

80. Style – Taylor Swift
Billboard Year-End: #29 of 2015
Okay, if anyone thinks there will be any other Tay-Tay songs in this countdown, they’ll be disappointed–this is the only one. I do like this one though, even though it was not one of her bigger hits. Max Martin crafted a song with limited vocal range that requires good timing and some staccato. Style was the third single from the 1989 album and peaked at #6 in March 2015.

79: Slow Hands – Niall Horan
Billboard Year-End: #32 of 2017
This solo hit by the former member of One Direction peaked at #11 for two weeks in the fall of 2017. It was Horan’s second hit and has a funk edge it. A lot to like for me, the bass, the tune and Horan’s vocals. Supposedly, Horan was going for an ’80s Don Henley-type sound, so it’s little wonder this song contains the lyric, “Like sweat dripping down our dirty laundry.”

78. Without You – David Guetta featuring Usher
Billboard Year-End: #73 of 2011
French producer/DJ David Guetta came up with this song, in collaboration with Taio Cruz, Usher and others. He chose Usher to sing the vocals.The result was a worldwide hit that peaked at #4 in the United States. While the vocalist usually gets lead artist credit, this is a fine production and Guetta earned his billing.

77. New Rules – Dua Lipa
Billboard Year-End: #16 of 2018
In North America, New Rules was Dua Lipa’s breakout hit, and it led to a Best New Artist Grammy a year ago. It peaked at #6 in February 2018. Caroline Ailin, one of the songwriters, wrote it about the temptation of getting back with an old boyfriend. It has one of my all-time favorite lyrics: “If you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him.” The video has over 2 billion views.

76. Shallow – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Billboard Year-End: #19 of 2019
I’ve gone through phases of liking this more and liking it less. “Shallow” was released and charted in 2018, falling out of the top 20 by mid-November. It shot back up to #1 in March 2019, following an Best Song Oscar win. Good song, overplayed more than a little. Cooper holds his own, but this song is a vehicle for Lady Gaga in both the movie and in the real world.

75. Daylight – Maroon 5
Billboard Year-End: #35 of 2013
Maroon 5 had a string of big hits from their Overexposed album. “Daylight” was my favorite, although not the most successful commercially. “Daylight” appeared to peak at #14 on the Billboard chart, but a Grammy performance (in a medley with Alicia Keys) boosted it to a week in the top 10, at #7. I’m not posting the official video, as it includes the voices of fans singing along.

74. I Feel It Coming – The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
Billboard Year-End: #34 of 2017
“I Feel It Coming” was the second single from The Weeknd’s Starboy album after the highly successful title track. Both singles featured electronica giants Daft Punk. “I Feel It Coming” peaked at #4 in April 2017. It went to #1 in Daft Punk’s home country, France. While it lacked the power of “Starboy,” this song is a bit more smooth. .

73. Sugar – Maroon 5
Billboard Year-End: #5 of 2015
The third single from the V album was one of few songs to spend 20 or more weeks in the Billboard Top 10. It spent four weeks at #2 behind “Uptown Funk,” good enough to be the fifth most popular song of 2015. It has elements of dance pop and guitar funk and a very popular video with over 3 billion views.

72. Girl Crush – Little Big Town
Billboard Year-End: #63 of 2015
Fake controversy aside, this is a good song. Karen Fairchild’s lead vocals are particularly strong, backed by minimal instrumentation. Girl Crush peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 2015. On the country chart, it spent 13 straight weeks at #1 and was the #2 hit of 2015.

71. Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
Billboard Year-End: #27 of 2019
Lewis Capaldi was that guy in the Grammy audience Sunday who looked more like a troll than a pop singer. He gave his approval as host Alicia Keys re-wrote the lyrics to “Someone You Loved” to fit the occasion. “Someone You Loved” topped the British charts for seven weeks in Spring 2019. In the United States, it took a while longer–three weeks at #1 in November and its still in the top 10 headed into February 2020.

70. The Middle – Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey
Billboard Year-End: #8 of 2018
Producer Zedd auditioned a long list of female lead singers for this song, including Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bebe Rexha and Elle King. They chose Maren Morris, who had had a few country hits that hit the lower half of the Hot 100. “The Middle” was the first major pop hit for Morris. The song was featured in the long-form Target ad the debuted during the Grammys in 2018. It reached the top 10 in March, and stayed there for 16 weeks. It peaked three times at #5, for a week in April, another in May and two more weeks in June.

69. Rude – Magic
Billboard Year-End: #7 of 2014
This song was polarizing. Time magazine called “Rude” the worst song of 2014. It was certainly popular. “Rude” spent six weeks at #1 at the end of the summer in 2014. Magic is a Canadian reggae fusion band that has no other hits in the U.S. The band has a few minor hits in Canada, but “Rude” is be far their biggest, winning the Juno for Single of the Year in Canada for 2014.

68. Dancing With A Stranger – Sam Smith and Normani
Billboard Year-End: #14 of 2019
Forbes claims that “Dancing With A Stranger” received more airplay than any other song in 2019–another source states that if got the fourth-most play in the United States. This duet was a global hit that is nominated for Song of the Year at the Brit awards. It peaked at #3 in the U.K. and at #7 in the United States (May 2019).

67. Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
Billboard Year-End: #1 of 2016
“Love Yourself” was the third single from his Purpose album, the album that converted more than a few skeptics into acknowledging his talent. “Love Yourself” spent two nonconsecutive weeks at #1 in February 2016, and replaced his previous single, “Sorry” at the top position. For the year, Billboard listed “Love Yourself” and “Sorry” as the top two hits of 2016. “Love Yourself” is an in your face breakup song, and “Love” is essentially a substitute for another word with four letters.

66. Say Something – A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera
Billboard Year-End: #17 of 2014
This is not the same “Say Something” that was at #86 (Timberlake/Stapleton). This was originally a piano ballad sung by Ian Axel, half of the duo A Great Big World. Christina Aguilera heard it and asked to get involved. The re-recorded duet quickly made the top five and spent six weeks at #4. The collaborators won the Grammy for Pop Duo/Group Performance.

65. Story Of My Life – One Direction
Billboard Year-End: #24 of 2014
I didn’t really take One Direction too seriously until I heard this song. The second single from Midnight Memories debuted at its peak position (#6) in November 2013 and spent the next several months going in and out of the top 10. It was a worldwide hit that was bigger on adult contemporary radio in the United States. At the time, not what I had expected from this particular boy band.

64. It Will Rain – Bruno Mars
Billboard Year-End: #26 of 2012
From the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga Part 1 – Breaking Dawn, “It Will Rain” is a dramatic ballad from Bruno Mars. Released in October 2011, it entered the top 10 at the end of November, stayed in the top 10 for 13 weeks including five weeks at its peak position (#3). A bit similar in theme to “Grenade,” a megahit from Mars that was released a year prior.

63. Pray For Me – The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar
Billboard Year-End: #40 of 2018
From the Black Panther soundtrack, “Pray For Me” is a rap/song collaboration between Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd. The Weeknd had been nominated for an Oscar for a previous movie song (“Earned It”) from Fifty Shades of Grey. “Pray For Me” debuted at #7, its peak position in mid-February 2018 and hung around the chart for a few months. Lamar’s rap fits the movie well and The Weeknd’s voice goes well with the somewhat haunting sound.

62. You And I – Lady Gaga
Billboard Year-End: #71 of 2011
“You And I” was the fourth single from Born This Way, released in 2011. It peaked in mid-September at #6 and bounced in and out of the top 10 for several more weeks. It includes a percussion sample from Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” and the track features Brian May on guitar. Lady Gaga wrote it solo on the piano, intending for it to be a rock track that would by unlikely to be released as a single.

61. Boo’d Up – Ella Mai
Billboard Year-End: #61 of 2018
“Boo’d Up” was somewhat of a sleeper hit for British R&B singer Ella Mai. It was written by an American singer-songwriter named Joelle James, of whom I’m pretty unfamiliar. James thought Mai was the right singer–she was right. Its popularity was driven by social media and dance clubs. “Boo’d Up” peaked at #6 in June 2018 and was popular enough for Ella Mai to go on tour in the states and to get two Grammy nominations for songwriter James.

Bob’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade: 100-81

My list is limited to any song listed among the Billboard top 100 of each year of the decade.

100. The Fighter – Keith Urban featuring Carrie Underwood
Billboard Year End: #100 of 2017
I likely never would have discovered this song had they not performed it on the Grammy telecast in February 2017. It actually debuted in mid-2016 upon the album release, where it charted at #69 for only a week. The single was released around the Grammy performance, and peaked at #38. Went to #2 on the country chart. To me, it’s way more pop than country.

99. Breathin – Ariana Grande
Billboard Year-End: #72 of 2019
My favorite Ariana Grande song is one of her least successful of the past couple of years. “Breathin” was the third single from her Sweetener album, and did spend 25 weeks on the chart, but peaked only at #12 in mid-December of 2018. Grande co-wrote this song that deals with her anxiety after the Manchester concert bombing.

98. Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Bublé
Billboard Year-End: #39 of 2010
The first single from the Crazy Love album, it peaked at #24 but spent almost all of 2010 on the Hot 100 and went to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It went top five in Canada and the U.K. and top 10 in a few European countries and Australia. Bublé won the Juno award for Single of the Year in Canada. Probably his most recognizable non-cover.

97. Baby Shark – Pinkfong
Billboard Year-End: #75 of 2019
Not so much a song, but a phenomenon. The song itself has been around a for a few decades in various forms, but went viral in Asia after Korean “group” Pinkfong made a video in November 2015. Pinkfong is an education brand. It hit here in August 2018 and when a friend showed me the video not long after, my response was, “This is awesome!” One of the most successful children’s songs of all-time, it even made its way to the World Series, as Washington Nationals fans sang along to Gerardo Parra’s walk-up music. The video has over 4 billion views.

96. Uma Thurman – Fall Out Boy
Billboard Year-End: #60 of 2015
Okay, by far my favorite thing about this song is that it samples the Munsters theme. Apparently when they were playing with this sample, it brought to mind Quentin Tarantino, so they crafted the lyrics around the Uma Thurman dance in Pulp Fiction. Released in January 2015, it peaked at #22 and I recall it getting a fair amount of summer airplay.

95. Night Changes – One Direction
Billboard Year-End: #98 of 2015
One Direction broke up for solo projects right around the time they were getting good. “Night Changes” was their last single before Zayn went solo. It went to #7 in the U.K., but only hit #34 here in the U.S. Belgians liked it–it was a #1 hit there. Interesting video regarding dates gone wrong.

94. Truth Hurts – Lizzo
Billboard Year-End: #13 of 2019
Her new man on the Minnesota Vikings got smacked down by the 49ers. This is Lizzo’s only eligible song, as “Good As Hell” came out too late in the year to make the 2019 Top 100. Originally released in September 2017, “Truth Hurts” spent seven weeks at #1 in the Fall of 2019.

93. Marvin Gaye – Charlie Puth featuring Meghan Trainor
Billboard Year-End: #75 of 2015
The lyrics are more than a bit corny but I love the 1950s sound of this song. This was Puth’s first single, and it went to #1 in New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland and France. In the U.S., it got no radio play initially, as Puth was still unknown and “not on the list.” Puth later sang the chorus on Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again,” a tribute to that dead guy in the Fast Furious movies. At that point, “Marvin Gaye” got some airplay and peaked at #21 in late summer 2015.

92. Bad Things – Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello
Billboard Year-End: #41 of 2017
Camila Cabello was still a member of Fifth Harmony when the song was released, but not for long. “Bad Things” essentially is built around Cabello’s re-singing of the chorus of “Out Of My Head” by Fastball. Machine Gun Kelly provides the rap lyrics. Cabello carries this one. It hit the charts in November 2016 and made my year-end list for ’16. It darted in and out of the top 10 for over a month before finally taking off–spent two weeks at number four in February 2017.

91. The One That Got Away – Katy Perry
Billboard Year-End: #41 of 2012
“The One That Got Away” was the sixth single from Teenage Dream and the only one not to hit #1. It spent the first two weeks of 2012 at its peak of #3. Years later, Perry said the song was written with Josh Groban in mind.

90. Cheap Thrills – Sia featuring Sean Paul
Billboard Year-End: #11 of 2016
Sia’s first (and only) #1 hit was this reggae-influenced track with a samba rhythm. I did not know that it was written to be a track on Rihanna’s Anti album, but was turned down. Sia, who co-wrote it, sang it herself with Sean Paul. It spent four weeks at #1 in August 2016 and was a huge international smash, and the best selling single ever in Italy.

89. It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
Billboard Year-End: #91 of 2012 and #47 of 2013
“It’s Time” was the first hit single for Imagine Dragons. It entered the top 20 in the final week of 2012 and peaked at #15 in January 2013. It was strong enough to make the top 100 for both years. This song came well before the very similar sounding “Best Day Of My Life,” by American Authors. The use of mandolin by Daniel Wayne Sermon gives “It’s Time” its distinct sound right from the start.

88. Mirrors – Justin Timberlake
Billboard Year-End: #6 of 2013
Mirrors was the second single from The 20/20 Experience album and was inspired by his relationship with Jessica Biel as well as his grandparents’ marriage. It spent a good chunk of 2013 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #2 in June. The Timbaland-produced track was successful for Timberlake internationally–it hit number one in the U.K. and four other countries.

87. Strip That Down – Liam Payne featuring Quavo
Billboard Year-End: #36 of 2017
All five members of One Direction had solo hits in 2017. “Strip That Down” was the first hit for Liam Payne. Ed Sheeran was a strong contributor, as a co-writer who provided some backup vocals. Quavo provided the rap lyrics for this song that barely made the top 10–peaking there in September 2017.

86. Say Something – Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton
Billboard Year-End: #85 of 2018
This collaboration began when Justin Timberlake joined Chris Stapleton on stage at the 2015 Country Music Association awards. “Say Something” was a songwriting collaboration between the pair and they recorded it as a duet. The result is a song that doesn’t neatly fit into any genre.

85. Latch – Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
Billboard Year-End: #28 of 2014
When “Latch” peaked at #7 on the Billboard chart in August 2014, Sam Smith was also at #3 that week with his eventual Grammy-winning “Stay With Me.” Disclosure is an English electronic music duo who also produces other artists. This hit, “Latch,” peaked at number 11 in the U.K. in October 2012. Nearly two years later, it peaked in the U.S., hitting radio at a time when Smith was becoming popular on this side of the Atlantic.

84. Talk – Khalid
Billboard Year-End: #8 of 2019
Disclosure is the lead artist on my #85 song (“Latch”) and the producers of my #84 song, Khalid’s “Talk.” This song spent four weeks at #3 in summer 2019 and it #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B chart. It was nominated for Record of the Year, but was defeated by Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”

83. Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams
Billboard Year-End: #2 of 2013 and #83 of 2014
Warning: NSFW video. How problematic can lyrics and message be? Robin Thicke recorded a classic, and while it has elements of “Got To Give It Up,” it really is not the same song. Thicke took a financial hit from Marvin Gaye’s estate but the bigger problem for me is the “I know you want it” message. Not quite the “date rape” message that some critics have expressed, but this unrated video isn’t exactly feminist. The song still sounds great–it spent 11 weeks at #1 in the summer of 2013.

82. Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Billboard Year-End: #12 of 2012
The third single from 21 was released in November 2011 and hit the top 10 almost everywhere except in the U.K., where it peaked at #11. “Set Fire To The Rain” spent two weeks at number one in the United States in early February 2012. Because Adele underwent vocal chord surgery around the time of the release, there was no video other than this live performance for Royal Albert Hall. If I recall, that live performance got some limited radio airplay, which likely helped its chart performance.

81. Thunder – Imagine Dragons
Billboard Year-End: #22 of 2018
I still can’t explain why I like this song as much as I do. It’s repetitive, there is a weird voice alteration, but I turn up the radio whenever it comes on. “Thunder” spent 18 weeks in the top 10, including two weeks at #4 in early December 2017 and an additional week at that same spot in January 2018. On the Billboard Rock chart, it was the #2 song of the decade, although many have criticized the methodology that heavily favors crossover pop.

Next: 80-61 of the 2010s

Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2019

Well, it seems lately that I’ve been using this blog about once a year, for my annual pop countdown. Here’s how it works. For a song to be eligible, it must have hit the Billboard Top 10 at any point in 2019.  There were 63 Top 10 Hits this year. Then there are the songs I don’t consider. Five songs were old Christmas classics, all recorded more than 25 years ago. I also choose not to include any song that was in my top 10 last year. That eliminates Girls Like You by Maroon 5 with Cardi B, and Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Finally, Lucid Dreams from Juice Wrld re-charted for a week this year after the rapper’s tragic death. That was a 2018 song. That leaves only 55 songs from which to choose.

I’ll start on December 26 with my #10 song and then do two a day and I’ll reveal my number one song on New Year’s Eve. It probably will not be difficult to guess my number one song this year.

This year in pop was quite a bit better than last year–I feel as though I had about 18 solid contenders. There will be songs I like that will not make my top 10–sorry in advance.

I welcome criticism, but please be aware that this is a pop countdown. Yes, I like genres outside of pop–that’s just not this countdown. This is a snapshot of what pop music was like, and what I like personally. I will reveal two songs a day until getting to the #1 song on New Year’s Eve.


1. Señorita, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, Syco/Island/Echo/Republic
It’s true, la la la. Canadian Shawn Mendes and Cuban-born Camila Cabello have had their share of success on their own, and this Latin pop duet became the fist #1 hit for Mendes and the second for Cabello. There had been rumors that the two were a couple, and the steamy video certainly added to that speculation. There’s a lot for me to like here. The retro-sounding guitar reminds me of Brasil ’66 (fronted by another Mendes),  though producer Andrew Watt likened it to Jose Feliciano and Fleetwood Mac. There’s the cha-cha (or fast rhumba) dance rhythm–there is even a bachata remix. I love Cabello’s fast-talking line about it being a long time coming. The strong chemistry goes beyond the video and into this infectious song. My apologies to anyone who had to endure my singing it out the car window this year. “Señorita” was a global smash on all continents and spent one week atop the Billboard chart at the end of August. It was one of the songs stuck behind “Old Town Road,” which broke the record for weeks at #1 and barely missed this countdown. As for my year-end countdowns, this is the first appearance for Mendes and the third for Cabello.

Official video: YouTube link
Live at the 2019 American Music Awards: YouTube link
Cabello live solo performance: YouTube link
Nick and daughter Sienna on Ellen: YouTube link
DJ Tronky Bachata remix: YouTube link

2. Circles, Post Malone, Republic
When Post Malone burst onto the music scene in 2015 with his debut hit, “White Iverson,” my thoughts were along the lines of “who the hell is this joker?” Now he has a song that I really like and so does the public. “Circles” spent two week at #1 late in 2019 and is currently the most popular non-Christmas song headed into 2020. What drives this track from the start is its rhythm, and the vocals are (to me at least) surprisingly strong. There is a strange vibrato effect added, but subtle enough to not be too distracting. I don’t think it’s needed, Post’s singing is good enough to carry the song. “Circles” is the fourth single from his Hollywood’s Bleeding album. In addition to hitting #1 in the United States, “Circles” has gone to #1 in Iceland, Malaysia and New Zealand. The links below include covers by two former members of One Direction.

Official video: YouTube link
Post Malone live on the Runaway tour: YouTube link
Niall Horan cover in BBC Live Lounge:
YouTube link
Liam Payne cover from Sirius XM: YouTube link
First to Eleven cover: YouTube link
Rizki remix: YouTube link

3. Good As Hell, Lizzo, Nice Life/Atlantic
Do your hair toss! Lizzo’s “follow-up” to “Truth Hurts” was recorded and released first–actually in October 2016, from the EP Coconut Oil. Her 2017 tour was called the Good as Hell tour, although Lizzo was not quite the household name that she has since become. It never charted in 2016, but went to #3 late this year on its re-release. It’s still in the top 10 and should rise again, as four Christmas songs are currently ahead of it. “Good As Hell” had already been used in five movies before its re-release. There are two “official videos,” one released in 2016, tied in with its use in Barbershop: The Next Cut. The second was released in December 2019 and features Lizzo performing with the Southern University Marching Band. The song has topped four Billboard charts–two dance charts, Mainstream Top 40 and R&B/Hip-Hop. In the U.K., it went to #4 and to the top of their R&B chart.

Official video (2016 version): YouTube link
Official video (2019 version): YouTube link
Live on Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
Live at SXSW 2017 (definitely NSFW!): YouTube link
Kevin McHale cover: YouTube link
Remix with Ariana Grande (audio): YouTube link

4. I Don’t Care, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, Schoolboy/Raymond Braun/Atlantic/Def Jam
Ed Sheeran’s fourth album was all collaborations with some of the biggest names in music today. Pairing with Justin Bieber is likely going to be popular, and “I Don’t Care” went to #1 in 26 countries. In the United States and six other countries, it peaked at #2 behind the runaway train that was “Old Town Road.” On the day it was released in May, it set the all-time record for Spotify streams on a single day with 10.9 million. So far in the U.K., three of Sheeran’s collaborations have topped the charts, while in the U.S., “I Don’t Care has been the far most successful thus far. It’s a light dance pop tune about two people who don’t fit in at a party, and would much rather be with their partners.

Official video: YouTube link
Ed Sheeran live at Abbey Road: YouTube link
Ed Sheeran live in Lyon, France: YouTube link
Leroy Sanchez cover: YouTube link
Emma Heesters cover: YouTube link
Mitch Paulsen on the finals of The Voice Australia: YouTube link

5. Sweet But Psycho, Ava Max, Atlantic
Ava Max is an American singer whose first hit did way better in Europe than it did in North America. “Sweet But Psycho” was released in August 2018 and reached number one in the U.K. the first week of January 2019, staying at the top for four weeks. It hit #1 in 22 countries, mostly in Europe. In the United States it finally entered the chart in the final week of 2018 and hit #10 in its 23rd week on the chart. That would be as high as it would get, although it stayed at #10 for three weeks. In Canada, “Sweet But Psycho” peaked at #11. I consider it a humorous look at an enticing but scary relationship. Some mental health professionals have criticized Ava Max for demeaning mental illness. The singer, who co-wrote the song, has suggested that it’s actually a criticism of men who blame a woman’s “craziness” on the failure of a relationship. In any case, it’s quite catchy and for those who don’t like it, “run, don’t walk away.”

Official video: YouTube link
Acoustic version: YouTube link
Live on Ellen: YouTube link
Live at the Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball: YouTube link
Siar Yildiz cover on The Voice Germany: YouTube link

6. Bad Guy, Billie Eilish, Darkroom/Interscope
What a year for Billie Eilish. Before her 18th birthday in December, Eilish had a number one hit and the number one album of the entire year. “Bad Guy” was her biggest to date. After nine nonconsecutive weeks at #2 on the Billboard chart stuck behind the record-breaking “Old Town Road,” Eilish hit the top spot in late August. Eilish co-wrote the song with her older brother Finneas O’Connell. It’s unique–I can’t say I’ve heard a smash hit anything like it. The tempo changes from fast to very slow late in the song, and the lyrics are somewhat stream of consciousness in style. Its iconic lyric is simply, “Duh.” The awards are beginning to pile up. “Bad Guy” has already won Best Song from MTV Europe and the is up for three Grammys:  Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Pop Solo Performance. She has already won the American Music Award for Best New Artist, and the Grammy race in that category is shaping up to be a battle between Eilish and Lizzo. Finally, “Bad Guy” was a smash internationally, hitting #1 in Australia, Canada, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway and Slovakia.

Official video: YouTube link
Remix with Justin Bieber vocals (audio): YouTube link
Live on Jimmy Kimmel Live!: YouTube link
Live on Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
Two Door Cinema Club cover in BBC Live Lounge: YouTube link
Alexandra Stan cover from Virgin Radio Romania: YouTube link

7. Dancing With A Stranger, Sam Smith and Normani, Capitol
Although it only went to #3 in the U.K. and #7 in the U.S., Forbes lists “Dancing With A Stranger” as the song with the most radio airplay in 2019. The so-called Best New Artist Grammy jinx has not affected Sam Smith’s career. This is his third appearance on my yer-end lists. Normani is an American singer who was part of the fabricated group Fifth Harmony. Her breakthrough outside the group was “Love Lies,” with Khalid. She has yet to release a solo album and has thus far only released one solo single, “Motivation,” which peaked at #33 this fall. The two met by chance in Los Angeles in a recording studio. This pairing works well. Normani’s vocals are a nice contrast with the emotional heartbreak that Smith delivers. It’s a song about heartbreak, but has a strong retro dance groove. It became a worldwide hit, reaching the top 10 almost everywhere, while hitting #1 in Iceland and Lebanon. It did top the Adult Pop Songs chart in America. This song is not on an album and is only available through streaming, download or 12-inch vinyl.

Official video: YouTube link
Acoustic version (audio): YouTube link
Cheat Codes remix (audio): YouTube link
Smith solo at Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball: YouTube link
5 Seconds of Summer cover in BBC’s Live Lounge: YouTube link

8. Someone You Loved, Lewis Capaldi, Vertigo/Capitol
Lewis Capaldi’s breakup ballad was his introduction to the United States audience. The 23-year-old Scottish singer/songwriter had already had a few hits in the United Kingdom, but “Someone You Loved” was by far his biggest. It topped the British chart for seven weeks beginning in early March. Capaldi’s journey was quite different in America. “Someone You Loved,” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #85 in late May and slowly climbed. It seemed to peak a few times, but bounced back and after 24 weeks, he finally hit #1 and spent three nonconsecutive weeks at the top in November. One video features actor Peter Capaldi, a distant relative who is one of several actors to have portrayed “Doctor Who.” This song was a top 10 hit in most of Europe and a #1 hit in Canada, Ireland and Malaysia.

Official video: YouTube link
The Rottweiler (Chris Daughtry) on Fox’s “The Masked Singer:” YouTube link
Alternate video with Peter Capaldi: YouTube link
Live performance on “Ellen:” YouTube link
Davina Michelle cover: YouTube link

9. Talk, Khalid, Right Hand/RCA
Khalid makes his first appearance on my top 10 lists with his smash, “Talk,” produced by English duo Disclosure. It was released in early February and entered the top 10 the first week of May, becoming his fourth top 10 hit at the age of 21. This one stuck around a while, spending 19 of the next 20 weeks in the top 10, four of them at its peak position at #3. Talk went to #1 on the Pop Songs, Rhythmic Songs and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts and spent 11 weeks on top of the Hot 100 Airplay charts. It finished 2019 as the #8 song of the year, according to Billboard.  The pairing of Khalid with Disclosure works well. Disclosure provides a nice synth backing that doesn’t overwhelm Khalid’s R&B vocals. Khalid could have had two songs on my top 10, but his “Beautiful People” duet with Ed Sheeran has not (yet) cracked the top 10. Maybe next year.

Official video: YouTube link
Remix with Megan Thee Stallion and Yo Gotti (audio): YouTube link
Disclosure VIP Remix (audio):
YouTube link
Live performance at Billboard Music Awards: YouTube link

10. Truth Hurts, Lizzo, Nice Life/Atlantic
This song that really made Lizzo a superstar was recorded and released in September 2017. “Truth Hurts” has essentially the same melody of the Rae Sremmurd smash “Black Beatles,” but the songs share some of the same songwriters so they sort of plagiarized themselves. “Truth Hurts” finally hit the pop charts in May and climbed slowly throughout the summer. It was one of three major hit songs stuck behind “Old Town Road” for most of the summer–all three hit eventually number one. “Truth Hurts” spent the longest of them at the top, for seven nonconsecutive weeks beginning in September. It also topped the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, the Mainstream Top 40 chart and the Rhythmic chart. It went top 10 in Canada and New Zealand. One radio station, WIXX in Green Bay, Wisc., plays an edited version. Seems as though folks in Green Bay don’t like that reference to her new man on the Minnesota Vikings.

Official video: YouTube link
DaBaby remix (audio – NSFW): YouTube link
AB6IX remix: YouTube link
Tiny Ass Desk Concert (“Truth Hurts is 2nd): YouTube link
SNL performance: YouTube link


Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2018

This is Year 10. Since 2009, I have been counting down my top 10 pop songs of the year, so why stop now? Well, in my opinion, 2018 was not a strong year in pop, after a very strong 2017. Maybe my age is showing, but a lot of this year’s hip-hop sounds very monotone and fits a new style that I’ve never quite taken to. Oh well.

There are rules. This is a pop countdown, not a favorite music countdown. Plenty of great music never sees the pop chart but that’s for another list. I find it entertaining to discuss and debate music that people are familiar with, and that people will look back on.

So, any song that made the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 at any time in 2018 is eligible. There were 77 Top 10 Hits by my count this year.  A record 13 of them were by Drake as a lead or featured artist. There were only 66 a year ago.

There are several ineligible songs. As usual, any song that made my previous year’s list will not be considered this year. So scratch three songs, all with one word titles: “Havana” by Camila Cabello, “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran and “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. I also do not consider old Christmas songs that chart repeatedly every year. There were two Christmas songs that hit the top 10 this year–the ones by Mariah Carey and Andy Williams. So that leaves 72 songs from which to choose.

As usual, I welcome comments and criticism, so bring it on. I will add songs in this space beginning with #10 and ending with my top song of the year on New Year’s Eve.

1. Finesse, Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B, Atlantic
“Finesse” is a throwback song reminiscent of the New Jack Swing R&B sound that was big in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a big fan of New Jack, I love this song. It first appeared on the 2016 album 24K Magic that did very well at last year’s Grammys. It got limited if any release as a single, but did manage to peak at #199 on the French chart. Enter Cardi B. A remix featuring a Cardi B rap was released with an accompanying video in early January 2018. The remix took off and two weeks later was sitting at #3 behind two megahits–‘Perfect” and “Havana.” It stayed in the top 10 for 14 weeks, eight of them at #3. It hit number one on four charts: Dance Club Songs, R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Mainstream Top 40 and Rhythmic Tracks. Only the video is up for a Grammy, as the song dates back to before the eligibility period. So raise a glass to Bell Biv DeVoe, Teddy Riley, Bobby Brown, New Edition, TLC, Tony! Toni! Toné!, the late Johnny Kemp and other New Jack giants. Oh, and Cardi B got it going on.

Official video: YouTube link
Lyrics video: YouTube link
Bruno Mars & Cardi B live at the Grammys: YouTube link
Mars solo Live at the Apollo: YouTube link
Cardi B medley at iHeart awards: YouTube link
Pentatonix cover (audio): YouTube link

2. Girls Like You, Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B, 222/Interscope
“Girls Like You” comes from Maroon 5’s 2017 album Red Pill Blues. It was released as the album’s third single in April, but a remixed version with a rap verse by Cardi B was what really took off on radio, and wow, did it take off! Its 16-week run on top of the Radio Songs chart is tied with Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” for the longest run of this century. “Girls Like You” is immediately recognizable for its guitar picking pattern that includes six consecutive muted notes. That pattern plays through most of the song. The pattern may even be more infectious than the melody or lyrics. “Girls Like You” first entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #94 in early June 2018 and jumped all the way to #4 the following week. It spent the next three months in the top five knocking on the door of the top spot, including six straight weeks behind Drake’s “In My Feelings.” It finally went to #1 in late September and stayed there for six weeks. It remains in the top 20 at year’s end. “Girls Like You” gives Maroon 5 four number one hits and that’s Cardi B’s third. Internationally, it has topped the charts in 12 countries. It was chosen international song of the year by France’s NRJ Music Awards and is up for the Pop Duo/Group Performance Grammy. The video features many celebrity cameos.

Official video: YouTube link
Alternate (“Volume 2”) video: YouTube link
Lyrics video: YouTube link
Boyce Avenue acoustic cover: YouTube link
Jono & Ben parody video: YouTube link
Chipmunk version: YouTube link
Use in Miss Universe pageant: YouTube link

3. Say Something, Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton, RCA
A different song called “Say Something” was my #7 song in 2013. That one was also a collaboration, between A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera. This year’s “Say Something” was between pop superstar Justin Timberlake and one of country’s biggest talents, Chris Stapleton. The collaboration started with Stapleton working with Timberlake to write songs. On “Say Something,” Timberlake suggested that Stapleton sing some sections. The result was a worldwide hit that went to #1 in  Slovakia and Slovenia. In the United States, it debuted at #9 in mid-February, its only week in the top 10. That followed a post-Super Bowl performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. That short run was enough for Say Something to come in at #85 for the year.

Official video: YouTube link
Lyrics video: YouTube link
Live Performance BRITS 2018 (starts at 2:20): YouTube link
Live performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: YouTube link

4. Shallow, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper,  Interscope 
“Shallow” is likely the favorite for Best Original Song at the Oscars even before the nominations have come out. From the most recent iteration of “A Star Is Born,” “Shallow” plays a few times during the movie, notably when Gaga’s character joins Cooper’s on stage, as shown in the video. It has gone to #1 in many countries and is up for four Grammys: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Pop Duo/Group Performance and Song for Visual Media. In the United States, following a September release,  Shallow went to #5 in mid-October after the movie’s wide release. It fell out of the top 20 three weeks later but remains on the chart at year-end. The one Billboard chart in which it did hit #1 was the Dance Club chart–presumably a remix. I don’t recall having ever heard Bradley Cooper sing, but he does well here performing with a superstar.

Official video: YouTube link
Ania Deko & Grzegorz Hyży on The Voice Poland: YouTube link
Allie Sherlock cover: YouTube link
Moniqué, Justinas Jarutis cover: YouTube link
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (Nesco remix): YouTube link
DJ Tronky bachata remix: YouTube link

5. Pray For Me, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Republic/Interscope
This song is probably best known from the movie, “Black Panther,” but I have yet to see it. In the film, it plays as the characters enter a casino. The song has a sound similar to some very successful recent collaborations between The Weeknd and Daft Punk. That sound seems to suit Kendrick Lamar, whose rap verses fit very well. Both Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Lamar are listed as the first two songwriters. “Pray For Me” was released on February 1, 2018. It peaked at #7 in mid-February and spent six weeks in the top 10. Billboard ranked it as the 40th biggest song of 2018 and the 19th biggest on the year-end R&B chart. The Weeknd has performed it live, pairing it with his previous #1 hit “Starboy” at Coachella, Lollapalooza and in Asia.

Official video: YouTube link
The Weeknd live at Coachella: YouTube link
Davina Michelle cover: YouTube link
Aydan Calafiore competing on The Voice Australia: YouTube link

6. Boo’d Up, Ella Mai, 10 Summers/Interscope
Ella Mai is an English singer/songwriter. Her breakthrough hit “Boo’d Up” is nominate for two Grammys: Song of the Year and Best R&B Song. Although Ella Mai is listed as a songwriter on “Boo’d Up,” it was originally written by Joelle James in 2014.  The Ella Mai track originally appeared on a 2017 EP, and garnered some attention in dance clubs. It was released as a single in February 2018 and began to pick up airplay through the spring. It entered the top 10 in the first wee of June, stayed in the top 10 the entire summer, peaking at #5 in mid-July.  The success of Boo’d Up led to an appearance on Saturday Night Live in November 2018 and a full album, her first, was released in October. It has been remixed by several producers and rappers, with varying success–one with Nicki Minaj and Quavo was a hit in Belgium and New Zealand.  Strangely, “Boo’d Up” was only a big hit in America. It failed to make the top 40 anywhere else, including her native United Kingdom.

Official video: YouTube link
Live performance at the BET Awards: YouTube link
Ella Mai, Nicki Minaj and Quavo Remix (audio): YouTube link
Vedo cover: YouTube link
Fetty Wap remix/cover: YouTube link

7. The Middle, Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey, Interscope
“The Middle” was this year’s Target commercial song for the Grammy telecast. For the past few years, Target does a long commercial featuring a relatively new release. The collaboration that put this song together took quite some time. Zedd is a music producer and Grey as an electronic music duo. Together with  Australian songwriter Sarah Aarons, they wrote “The Middle” and cut a demo in the summer 2017. They auditioned many singers to handle the lead vocals, including Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Tove Lo, Carly Rae Jepsen and Elle King. They went with country singer Maren Morris. That version was released five days before the Grammy telecast on January 28, 2018. By mid-March, it was in the top 10 and stayed there for 15 weeks. Its peak position was #5, which it hit on three separate occasions for four total weeks. It’s up for three major Grammys this year: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Official video: YouTube link
Use in a shorter Target commercial: YouTube link
Zedd and Maren Morris live at the Omnia, Las Vegas: YouTube link
Official lyrics video: YouTube link
Boyce Avenue featuring Andie Case acoustic cover: YouTube link
Rebecca Black, Alex Goot, KHS cover: YouTube link

8. New Rules, Dua Lipa, Warner Brothers

Dua Lipa (that is her real name) is a newcomer in the United States but has had prior success in Europe. She was born in England after her parents moved there from Kosovo. “New Rules” is actually the sixth single from her self-titled album. It was released in July 2017 and spent two weeks at number one in the U.K. in late August 2017. In America, it was a slower climb. New Rules entered the top 20 in December 2017 but stayed outside the top 10 until January 2018 before peaking at #6 in mid-February. It did top the Dance Chart here. It’s an empowering breakup song with a dance-y house sound with a bit of a 1990s influence. The lyrics are not subtle. I particularly like, “If you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him.” The video is quite good and has been cited as a significant factor in the song’s success.

Official video: YouTube link
Live performance on Ellen: YouTube link
Dua Lipa with the finalists of La Voz Spain: YouTube link
Dua Lipa live at the BRIT Awards 2018: YouTube link
J. Fla cover: YouTube link
Alexander Stewart cover: YouTube link

9. Too Good At Goodbyes, Sam Smith, Capitol
Sam Smith’s first album, In The Lonely Hour, was an award-winning smash hit in 2014. He waited three years to release his second album, The Thrill Of It All. Although it debuted at number one, it didn’t sell as well as his debut album, in spite of mostly positive reviews. The lead single, “Too Good At Goodbyes,” was released in September 2017 and immediately went to number one for three weeks in the United Kingdom. It debuted at number five in America, and dropped out of the top 10 the following week. It slowly climbed to its peak position (#4) in late November 2017, and hung around the top 10 through all of January 2018. It missed my top 10 a year ago, so it is eligible again this year. It’s a breakup song backed by a gospel choir.

Official video: YouTube link
BBC Radio Live Lounge: YouTube link
Live performance at the BRIT Awards: YouTube link
Live at Hackney Round Chapel: YouTube link
Samantha Harvey & Emma Heesters cover: YouTube link
Sofia Karlberg cover: YouTube link

10. Mia, Bad Bunny featuring Drake, IMAS/Ovo Sound/Warner Brothers/Warner Latina
Mia was recorded early in 2018 and released in October. It jumped quickly to #5 on the Billboard chart and then slowly dropped, spending the one week in the top 10. On the Hot Latin Songs Chart, “Mia” has spent four nonconsecutive weeks at #1. It has battled back and forth with DJ Snake’s “Taki Taki” for the the top spot on that chart for the last three months of 2018. “Mia” has gone top 10 in seven countries and hit #1 in Spain (three weeks). I believe it is the only song in which Drake performs in Spanish.

Official video: YouTube link
Lyrics video with Spanish lyrics and English translation: YouTube link

Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2017

Here we go again. This is my 9th annual countdown of the top pop hits of the year.

Some frequently asked questions that recur:

1. Why is it all pop music?
I chose to do a pop music countdown because I wanted to limit to songs that most readers have heard. For that reason, it’s not necessarily my favorite songs of the year–that would be a different countdown.

2.  Do you not like other genres? 
I do enjoy songs that are off the beaten chart and genres other than pop. I’d love to hear your selections in those areas.

3. Which songs are eligible?
I start with any song that made the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in any week of 2017. This year, there were 66 songs that qualify. Then I start to eliminate some from consideration. Any song that made last year’s top 10 is ineligible for this year’s top 10. There are four such songs: “Starboy” by The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk, “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, “Closer” by the Chainsmokers ft. Halsey and “Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello.

Okay, that leaves 62 songs for consideration, including one song released in 1994 that just hit the top 10 for the first time. While I did not make that song officially ineligible, I decided against ranking Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” because it just feel right to put it among the top songs of this year.

4. Which songs are ineligible?
If it didn’t make the top 10 at any time this year, it does not make this countdown. Some of this year’s biggest songs were near misses. There were three big hits that peaked at #11: James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” “Issues” by Julia Michaels and “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan. Other big hits that didn’t quite make it are “Redbone” by Childish Gambino and Kesha’s comeback hit, “Praying.”

Beginning on December 26, I will reveal my number 10 song, followed by two more songs each day in this space. I will reveal my number one song on New Year’s Eve.

On the whole, 2017 was a mixed year. There were quite a few songs I don’t like, but my top five songs this year would be strong contenders for number one in just about any other year I have done this. If I had to describe 2017, I’d call it the year of former band members going solo.

As usual, I welcome comments and criticism, and feel free to bring it. So, without further babbling, here is my list:

1. Love On The Brain, Rihanna, Westbury Road/Roc Nation
I have long thought that Rihanna has a great voice, but doesn’t always use it on many of her records. “Love On The Brain” allows her to shine. Adele’s 25 and Beyonce’s Lemonade got a lot of attention in 2016, but Rihanna’s Anti album was quite good—her best. The fourth single from Anti, “Love On The Brain” was released in September 2016. I was well aware of the song last year, but it didn’t hit the top 10 until March 2017. It’s a throwback—a song you might have heard from a pop-jazz diva back in the doo-wop era. Like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” it has a 12/8 time signature, unusual in modern pop. Written mainly by producer Fred Ball, ‘Love On The Brain” details the excruciating highs and lows of a tumultuous relationship. It allows Rihanna to pour in some emotion and belt it out at times. Her timing and phrasing is exquisite, a potential defining moment in her career. In most countries, it took some time to catch on, perhaps due to not sounding like a pop hit from this era. It did take off in Poland, where it spent four weeks at number one in 2016. In the USA, it was originally released to urban R&B radio. Pop radio discovered it over time, and “Love On the Brain” took off in March 2017 and peaked at #5 later that month, more than six months after the single’s release and more than a year after the album release. Rihanna first performed the song on television for the Billboard Music Awards in May 2016. This is Rihanna’s third appearance on my year-end top 10 lists, following “Take Care” with Drake in 2012 and ‘FourFiveSeconds” with Kanye West and Paul McCartney in 2015.

Official video: YouTube link
Alternate black & white video: YouTube link
Live at 2016 Billboard Music Awards: YouTube link
Stay/Diamonds/Love On The Brain medley, 2016 MTV Music Awards: YouTube link
Jessie James Decker cover: YouTube link
Little Mix live cover: YouTube link
Kelly Clarkson cover from Facebook live: YouTube link

2. Chained To The Rhythm, Katy Perry featuring Skip Marley, Capitol
Katy Perry’s fifth album, Witness, is a departure from her past adult pop sound. Unfortunately, in trying to be different, she would up with an album that’s uneven and really all over the place. The first single from Witness is easily my favorite Katy Perry song. You can hear the influence of four major songwriters. Perry came up with the concept and prolific Swedish writer Max Martin gives it a strong dance melody. Skip Marley, grandson of the great Bob Marley, adds the Jamaican dancehall feel. He is a featured artist on “Chained To The Rhythm.” Another songwriter is Sia, who also provides uncredited backup vocals. Sia gives the song a little of her edge. The collaborative effort is outstanding. On the surface, it’s a catchy dance tune about dancing to a favorite song. Dig deeper into the lyrics, and there’s a clear message about living in a bubble and ignoring troubles. According to Perry, the song concept was borne out of her frustration with the 2016 presidential election, however, the lyrics are not at all specific to any individual. “Chained To The Rhythm” was released in February and hit number one in Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Serbia. It peaked at number five in the U.K. and number four in the U.S. This is Skip Marley’s first appearance on my year-end top 10 lists and Perry’s second. “Firework” made my 2010 favorites.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the BRIT Awards: YouTube link
Perry singing with the semifinalists of The Voice France: YouTube link
Boyce Avenue acoustic cover: YouTube link
Cover by Rebecca Black with Adam Goot: YouTube link
Alexander Stewart cover: YouTube link


3. Havana, Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, Syco/Epic
I was obsessed with this song the first time I heard it. The bouncy piano, the Latin groove, the understated brass, and well, I just love a good cha-cha rhythm. Camila Cabello is a 20-year-old Cuban-born singer who first gained fame as a member of Fifth Harmony, a girl band put together by Simon Cowell on The X Factor. She released two collaboration singles on her own in 2016—one (“Bad Things”) hit #4 and made my year-end list for that year. In December 2016, Fifth Harmony announced Cabello’s departure. Going solo appears to have been a great decision. “Havana,” co-written by Pharrell Williams, who also sings backup, has hit number one in six countries, including Australia, Canada and the U.K. In the United States, “Havana” shot up the charts in November and spent five weeks at number two behind “Rockstar” by Post Malone. Now I don’t quite understand this but reportedly, a YouTube hack artificially (but legally) inflated the chart position of “Rockstar,” likely preventing “Havana” from hitting number one. It marks the biggest hit for either Cabello or for Young Thug, who performs the rap verse. Young Thug is an Atlanta-based rapper who has had considerable success with mixtapes and has recently done well as a featured artist on pop hits. There is a rap-free solo version that excludes Young Thug designed for play on radio stations that avoid playing rap, but I prefer the version with Young Thug. The video, which features a young woman obsessed with telenovelas, delightfully captures the steamy sultry nature of this track. “Havana” is still at number three headed into 2018, behind “Perfect” and “Rockstar.” It’s still one of the songs I actively search for on my car radio.

Official video: Vevo link
Live on NBC’s Today: YouTube link
European Music Awards performance: MTV UK link
Spanglish version, Latin American Music Awards, Los Angeles: YouTube link
Spanglish remix with Cabello and Daddy Yankee (audio): YouTube link


4. Perfect, Ed Sheeran or Ed Sheeran Duet with Beyoncé, Atlantic
I can’t remember the last number one hit with a time signature of 12/8. Ed Sheeran’s love ballad, written for his girlfriend Cherry Seaborn, seems more suited to a Viennese waltz dance floor than pop radio. Sheeran manages to pull it off. Originally a solo hit from his ÷ (Divide) album, “Perfect” was a top ten hit worldwide, including in the United Kingdom and the United States. A duet version with Beyoncé was released on December 1. Billboard treats an alternate version as the equivalent of the flip side of a record. In some cases, the B-side becomes the A-side. The December 16 issue listed the solo version at #3 as the A-side. The following week, the duet was the A-side, giving Sheeran had his second #1 hit. It’s Beyoncé’s seventh #1 and her tenth if you include Destiny’s Child songs. The duet remains #1 headed into 2018 and has reached #1 in 16 countries. In the UK, Sheeran’s duet version also boosted “Perfect” to #1, giving Sheeran and Beyoncé the prestigious Christmas Number One status. More recently, a version with Andrea Bocelli has been released, but the bulk of American airplay is divided between the solo version and the Beyoncé duet. One more trivia chart fact—in the UK in March 2017, Sheeran had all the top five songs, and 16 of the top 20 the week his album debuted. “Perfect” spent a week at number 4 long before its chart run near the end of the year. On my year-end lists, “Perfect” is the second appearance for both Sheeran and Beyoncé. I’ll end with a misheard lyric. When I first heard this song, I wondered what was up with the “barefoot on the cross” line, before eventually coming to realize it was Sheeran’s pronunciation of “grass” that had me confused.

Official video: Vevo link
Official audio with Beyoncé: YouTube link
Official video with Andrea Bocelli: Vevo link
“Live” duet with Beyoncé: YouTube video
Live performance on X-Factor Italy finale: YouTube link
Anthony Alexander cover on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link


5. Feel It Still, Portugal. The Man., Atlantic
Portugal. The Man. is not just a man, and not from Portugal. It’s actually a five-man band from Wasilla, Alaska. Yes, that Wasilla. Their breakout hit, “Feel It Still,” was a major airplay hit in America before it really took off on the Billboard Hot 100. The retro-sounding lead single from the band’s Woodstock album borrows just enough from “Please Mr. Postman” to give the song a clear 1960s feel while still sounding original. “Feel It Still” originally hit big on rock and alternative stations. After a mid-March release, “Feel It Still” was number one on the Adult Alternative chart by the week ending May 9. It took a bit longer on the Alternative Songs chart, but spent a record-breaking 20 weeks at the top of that chart. Eventually, pop radio got in on the act. “Feel It Still” entered the Billboard Top 20 in mid-September. The band’s first big hit went on to spend nine weeks in the Top 10, two of them at its peak position of four. The lyrics are intentionally vague (“am I coming out of left field”) and are reportedly somewhat of a political statement, mainly frustration with the whole political party structure. Some of the better songs of recent years have a retro-feel; I suspect that trend will continue. “Feel It Still” was one of few songs to top six different Billboard airplay charts, but did not hit number one on the Hot 100. It was successful worldwide, but only reached number one in one country: Slovenia.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the American Music Awards: YouTube link
Stripped down studio version: YouTube link
London rooftop performance: YouTube link
Acoustic cover by Megan Davies: YouTube link

6. Despacito, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber, Universal Music Latino/Raymond Braun/Schoolboy/Def Jam/UMLE/Republic
I’ll pre-emptively state that the version with Justin Bieber is the only one eligible for this countdown. “Despacito” was a record-breaking hit in so many ways that it’s hard to list them all. A chart-topper in at least 47 countries, “Despacito” was a clear winner of Billboard’s official Song of the Summer competition, and is the only song in history to spent all of June, July and August at number one. It’s tied for the longest-running number one hit with “One Sweet Day,” at 16 weeks. Luis Fonsi is a Puerto Rican superstar who is well-known in the Latin music community. Daddy Yankee is also from Puerto Rico and is a reggaeton star, mostly known to U.S. listeners for his 2004 hit, “Gasolina.” “Despacito” was originally released in January 2017 and immediately took off on the Latin charts. Starting in mid-February, “Despacito” spent 35 straight weeks atop the Billboard Hot Latin songs chart. In mid-April, a remix featuring Justin Bieber was released, subsequently, sales and airplay surged dramatically in English-speaking countries. By August, its original YouTube video, without Bieber, became the first video ever to hit 3 billion views. It has since reached 4.5 billion. Perhaps surprisingly, “Despacito” was only the second-biggest hit of 2017, according to Billboard, however, that is mainly because Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” came out well before the Bieber remix, giving Sheeran’s hit a big head start. “Despacito” has already won four Latin Grammys, and is nominated for three more Grammy Awards, for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. This is the first appearance for Fonsi and Daddy Yankee on my top 10 lists, and the third for Bieber.

Official video (without Bieber): YouTube link
Official video (with Bieber): YouTube link
Merengue cover by Antony Santos (audio): YouTube link
Croatian duo 2Cellos: YouTube link
Peter Bence piano cover: YouTube link
Postmodern Jukebox Broadway-style cover: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and others at the Latin Grammys: YouTube link
Daddy Yankee in Merida, Mexico: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee at the Billboard Latin Music Awards: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber in Puerto Rico: YouTube link

7. I Feel It Coming, The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk, XO/Republic
The Weeknd makes the list for the third straight year with this year’s entry, “I Feel It Coming,” his second straight single to feature French electronic duo Daft Punk. Their previous collaborative single was the title track to the Starboy album, which opened 2017 at number one. “I Feel It Coming” was released in November 2016 and is a little less edgy and more dance pop than “Starboy.” “I Feel It Coming” entered the Billboard top 20 as “Starboy” was falling down the chart. It peaked at number four in April and spent just four weeks in the top 10. It was a number one hit in France and Mexico. Daft Punk appears on my lists for the third time, following last year’s “Starboy” and my number one song of 2013, “Get Lucky.” Both “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” were nominated but lost in the Top R&B Collaboration category at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards  Starboy is nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards in January 2018.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater: YouTube link
Anthony Alexander and Michael Kight on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link
Spanish cover by Chilean singer Kevin Vasquez: YouTube link
English cover by K-Pop star J. Fla: YouTube link

8. Million Reasons, Lady Gaga, Streamline/Interscope
I could probably not give you a million reasons why I think you’ve at least heard this song, but since Lady Gaga performed “Million Reasons” at halftime of the Super Bowl, odds are that you have heard it at least once. “Perfect Illusion” was the first single from Lady Gaga’s album, Joanne, released in September 2016. Although it hit number one in France and Spain, it was a bit of a disappointment here, peaking at #15. “Million Reasons,” the second single is a minimalist ballad written by Lady Gaga with Mark Ronson and country songwriter Hillary Lindsey. I credit Lady Gaga for taking what is a so-so country-tinged ballad and adding a little funk to it. It still didn’t chart very well initially. “Million Reasons” peaked at number 52 in December 2016, but re-entered the chart at #4 following her performance at the Super Bowl in Houston. “Million Reasons” was never intended to be a single. It was supposed to be a promotional extra for people pre-ordering the Joanne album. After performing “Million Reasons” on a carpool karaoke segment with James Corden, demand for the song led to its official release as the album’s second single. “Million Reasons” also earned Lady Gaga a Grammy nomination for Pop Solo Performance. This marks the fifth song for Lady Gaga on my year-end top 10 lists and the first since 2011.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at Super Bowl 51: YouTube link 
Carpool Karaoke segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden: YouTube link
Live from Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
Royal Variety Performance (orchestral backing), Hammersmith Apollo in London, December 2016: YouTube link
Cover version by Bob Weir and Trey Anastasio, Wanee Music Festival: YouTube link

9. Thunder, Imagine Dragons, Kidinakorner/Interscope
It would be difficult to rationally explain why I like “Thunder.” The target audience seems to be around ages 6-8. It’s very repetitive, the synthetic voice shift is corny, the synthesizer bridge is weird and the transition into that bridge is not at all smooth. It has shown up already on more than a few worst songs of the year lists, however, it was among the most requested songs on radio at the end of 2017. “Thunder” topped the charts in Belarus, the Czech Republic and Latvia and was truly an international sensation. Released in April as the second single from the Evolve album, “Thunder” hit the Billboard top 10 in late October and remained in the top 10 for the rest of the year. It spent two weeks at #4 and seven additional weeks at the #5 position. “Thunder” has topped some of Billboard‘s other charts, including Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs, Mainstream Top 40 and Hot Rock Songs. Perhaps the “so silly it’s good” strategy is working. “Thunder is nominated for a Grammy in the Pop Duo/Group Performance category. “Thunder” is also the first Imagine Dragons song to make any of my year-end Top 10 lists.

Official video: Vevo link
Live from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: YouTube link
Live at the Wind Music Awards at Verona, Italy: YouTube link
Live mashup at the Billboard Music Awards with Khalid’s “Young Dumb and Broke:” YouTube link

10. Strip That Down, Liam Payne featuring Quavo, Hampton/Republic
All five former members of One Direction hit the top 40 in 2017. Three of them had top-10 hits and Niall Horan just missed (“Slow Hands” peaked at #11).  Payne’s first big hit takes him into more of a dance/hip-hop direction than that of his former bandmates. “Strip That Down” is a result of a collaboration between Payne and Ed Sheeran along with producer Steve Mac. They wrote the song in the summer of 2016 and brought in Quavo to perform the hip hop verses. Quavo, who seemed to be the featured artist of 2017, is listed as a songwriter with Payne, Sheeran and Mac along with a slew of other songwriters. The writers of “Strip That Down” borrowed from Shaggy’s hit “It Wasn’t Me,” which itself borrowed from a War song called “Smile Happy.” Every credited writer on both of those songs is credited on “Strip That Down.” Released in May 2017, “Strip That Down” was intended to be the first single from Payne’s first album, although that album has yet to be released. It began to pick up airplay throughout the summer and hit the top 20 in August. Although it hung around for some time, it only spent one week at #10 in September. I chose this as my number 10 song of the year after going back-and-forth with another song that peaked at #10, “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus. I settled on “Strip That Down” as recently as December 26. In addition to the songwriting credit, Ed Sheeran’s vocals are on “Strip That Down,” but uncredited.

Official video: Vevo link
Performance from BBC’s The Graham Norton ShowYouTube link
Live performance at the Capital FM Summertime Ball at Wembley: YouTube link