Although it only reached #21 on the pop singles chart in the US, "Beautiful Day" has become a signature song for the rock band U2. It was sung by the band in a highly emotional performance at the first Super Bowl Game following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bono has said the song is about, "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has." "Beautiful Day" was used extensively by Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign.
At heart "Take On Me" is just a simple synth pop song. However, in the course of the song the singer ranges nearly 2 1/2 octaves soaring to high notes that are exhilarating to the listener. It became a #1 pop smash around the world and featured a highly memorable video using pencil sketch animation. The video took home six awards from the MTV Video Music Awards.
This protest against rigid schooling was one of the most surprising hit songs of all time. It is one of the songs used to set up the withdrawal and depression of the main character in the rock band Pink Floyd's The Wall. The song was banned in South Africa. "Another Brick In the Wall (Part II)" features vocals from the Islington Green School choir. A distinctive component of the song are the shouted orders and mocking statements by presumed teachers. The song became Pink Floyd's only #1 pop single in the US and the UK.
Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blasted grunge into the mainstream pop world. The band's Kurt Cobain says he was trying to write the ultimate pop song by ripping off the Pixies, his favorite band. The shouted and muddy lyrics mystified some and was seen as an anarchic celebration by others. The song was promoted with one of the most celebrated videos of all time depicting a frightening, anarchic high school pep rally. The song became a top 10 smash hit in the US.
This song featured in the film The Graduate also speaks about American culture memorably in the form of Joe DiMaggio. "Mrs. Robinson" details the hidden lives of upper middle class families in the late 1960's. It was a #1 hit single for Simon & Garfunkel. The song itself is almost hushed in tone until the chorus breaks through referencing a nation looking for a hero.
This song introduced the world to Britney Spears as a pop artist. It is also a landmark hit in the career of songwriter and producer Max Martin. Although Britney Spears was only 16 at the time of recording, the song has a decidedly sexual tone enhanced by the sexy schoolgirl theme of the accompanying music video. "...Baby One More Time" has been very frequently covered by other artists including Fountains of Wayne and Panic at the Disco. The song was a #1 smash in the US and became a chart-topping hit in more than a dozen countries around the world.
"Since U Been Gone" was written for Kelly Clarkson's album Breakaway by Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Kelly Clarkson has stated that she insisted on adding the rock feel to the recording. The result was a record that captured the prevailing sound of mainstream pop with near perfection. "Since U Been Gone" went to #1 on the US pop singles chart and was a top 10 hit around the world. The reputation of the song has grown since its original release, and it is frequently covered by other artists.
"I Love Rock 'n Roll" was first recorded in 1975 by British-American band the Arrows. Joan Jett heard the song when she was touring the UK with her band the Runaways. Her later recording with her band the Blackhearts became a huge success at home in the US. It topped the pop singles charts for seven weeks. It remains one of the hardest rocking songs to spend such a long time at the top of the pop chart.
"Like a Rolling Stone" is Bob Dylan's pop epic. It had its origin in a short story Bob Dylan wrote. The over six minute length is extraordinary for a pop hit of the time. The subject matter of the lyrics has been frequently discussed and may be seen simply as a rant and warning about excessive materialism. However, closer observation unveils the stunning poetry throughout Dylan's best material. Musically, Al Kooper's organ work is highly prominent and lends an air of gathering storm clouds to the entire song. "Like a Rolling Stone" reached #2 on the pop singles chart and remains Bob Dylan's biggest pop hit.