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Top 40 Essential Pop Songs

Songs That Define Pop Music Today


These are the 40 current songs that the world is hearing. They are the current definition of pop music.

1. Pharrell Williams - "Happy"

Pharrell Williams - Happy
Courtesy Back Lot

At first listen, Pharrell Williams' smash hit "Happy" might seem like a simple ditty for the animated film Despicable Me 2.  However, its jazz-soul fusion sound is a breath of fresh air on mainstream top 40 radio.  The song has touched a chord around the world becoming a huge pop smash, and it has earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

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2. Katy Perry - "Dark Horse"

Katy Perrry - Dark Horse
Courtesy Capitol

Katy Perry turns to a darker, trap influenced sound on the third single from the album Prism.  This is one of the first songs introducing trap into the mainstream.  The accompanying music video features the star in a colorful version of ancient Egypt as Katypatra.

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3. Jason Derulo - "Talk Dirty" featuring 2 Chainz

Jason Derulo - "Talk Dirty"
Courtesy Warner Bros.

The release of Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty" was delayed in the US while his single "Marry Me" became a moderate hit.  Meanwhile, "Talk Dirty" went to #1 in the UK.  Back here in the US, the catchy, sexy, horn-driven song has roared on to the charts to become Jason Derulo's biggest hit since his debut "Whatcha Say."

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4. Beyonce - "Drunk In Love" featuring Jay-Z

Beyonce - Beyonce
Courtesy Columbia

This is the song that insisted on being a major hit regardless of publicity patterns.  "Drunk In Love" received early radio airplay from Beyonce's "surprise" release of her most recent album.  The accompanying video shows a romantic update to her previous Jay-Z collaboration "Crazy In Love" that helped kick off Beyonce's solo career.  She performed "Drunk In Love" live to open this year's Grammy Awards.

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5. Aloe Blacc - "The Man"

Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up EP
Courtesy Interscope

Aloe Blacc first came to widespread attention in the US as the voice of Avicii's hit "Wake Me Up."  "The Man" is his pop breakthrough here and includes a distinctive instrumental arrangement that echoes pop-soul of the late 1960s.

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6. A Great Big World - "Say Something" featuring Christina Aguilera

A Great Big World - Say Something featuring Christina Aguilera
Courtesy Epic

The melancholy breakup ballad "Say Something" first gained major exposure on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.  However, it really took off when Christina Aguilera, coach on The Voice, decided to record a new version featuring her vocal contributions.  The song is part of what might be a new small wave of slow ballads to hit the pop charts after being nearly absent for a number of years.

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7. Lorde - "Team"

Lorde - "Team"
Courtesy Lava Music

This single proves that Lorde's success with the single "Royals" is no fluke. Here she is in a slightly more mainstream pop mood. By the end of the first time through you will likely be singing along here. While Lorde easily maintains her distinctiveness, Lana Del Rey fans might think some of "Team" visits familiar territory.

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8. John Legend - "All Of Me"

John Legend - All Of Me
Courtesy Columbia

This piano driven ballad was a moderate R&B hit for John Legend until he performed it live at the Grammy Awards just in time for Valentine's Day.  Now the romantic song has taken off to become the biggest pop hit single of John Legend's career.

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9. OneRepublic - "Counting Stars"

OneRepublic - "Counting Stars"
Courtesy Interscope

OneRepublic have earned a major worldwide pop smash with "Counting Stars." It is a top 10 hit across Europe. It is a single from the album Native. Like any OneRepublic hit, the song is distinctly percussive in the mix and this time features influence from the recent folk rock trend in mainstream pop.

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10. Idina Menzel - "Let It Go"

Soundtrack - Frozen
Courtesy Walt Disney Records

Broadway star Idina Menzel has landed her first major mainstream pop hit single with this performance from the hit animated film Frozen. The song has also earned a nomination for Best Original Song at the 2014 Academy Awards.

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