Top Pop Songs of the 21st Century – So Far

Pop music has come a long way since the days of diner jukeboxes. It has expanded into a genre that has a little bit of everything. From traditional nonsensical pop music to mainstream hip hop and even rock, the 21st century has pushed to broaden the genre even further. With that, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane as we take a look at the top pop songs from each year of the 21st century – so far. Starting with 2001, let’s go!

2001: “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child

Only one ‘Harry Potter’ movie existed this year, and while Dido had us politely singing “Thank You” and Lifehouse had us “Hanging by a Moment,” no one could deny Destiny’s Child and “Bootylicious.” Not only was this one of the biggest songs that year, but it also gave everyone a new term. Three years after taking over airwaves, the term was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary following the addition of “Bling Bling” in 2003.

2002: “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton

When one thinks back to 2002, their mind goes to “Hot in Herre” from Nelly, and while that song is as iconic as the initial season of ‘American Idol’ that year but thanks to ‘White Chicks,’ this song will live on forever.

2003: “Hey Ya” by OutKast

Polaroid pictures were kind of dying out when OutKast dropped this song due to digital cameras being on the rise (oh MySpace angles, we miss you), but this song made them anything but a thing of the past. Today, no one can think of a polaroid without this song popping into their head.

2004: “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson

Back in the day ‘American Idol’ made stars, household names. Now? The show is just kind of there like an infomercial during primetime. Nevertheless, the original Idol came out swinging with “Since U Been Gone” and in the years since its release, has solidified itself as a premier pop song amongst the best of best.

2005: “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani

This was an insane year for music. We had Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” giving us a hook that could not quit, and Mariah Carey returned to the top of the charts with “We Belong Together.” And while those two are forever bops, there is no denying that the spelling lesson displayed in Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” has not been cemented into the pop music landscape.

2006: “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake

Whenever a song can give way to a term that goes above and beyond the song, much like “Bootylicious” did at the start of the century, it is always going to be an everlasting jam.

2007: “Umbrella” by Rihanna”

‘Spider-Man’s’ Tom Holland breathed new life into “Umbrella” by lip-syncing his behind off to it on ‘Lip Sync Battle’ in 2017, but those who were around a decade prior know all too well how inescapable this song was. To this day, whenever someone says “umbrella” one cannot help but go, “eh, eh, eh.”

2008: “Single Ladies” by Beyonce

Pop music fans were truly blessed this year as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga dropped perfect debut albums, but in a year that also gave way to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” it’s hard for anyone to compete with Queen Bey. The song, the video, the dance – all iconic.

2009: “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

Still waiting on the US government to just make this the new National Anthem…

2010: “Forget You” by CeeLo

There wasn’t anywhere one could go in 2010 and NOT hear this song by CeeLo Green

2011: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye feat. Kimbra

Remember when Charlie Sheen went off the deep end and was going on too much about tiger blood? Perhaps you blocked that out when it comes to 2011, but while Sheen’s meltdowns are in the depths of your memories what’s not is this one-hit-wonder by Gotye. Of course, years later this song is not only memorable but a meme as the singer never had another song quite as big and sadly become someone that we used to know.

2012: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

A good pop song captures audiences for a while, a great pop song lives on forever and that is “Call Me Maybe.” Infectious to the point that it’s almost annoying, but in the best way possible. Carly Rae Jepsen created not only the best pop song of that year but possibly of all time with this one.

2013: “Happy” by Pharrell

One thing this century will be known for is minions. The ‘Despicable Me’ franchise is a force, so pairing that with Pharrell could only lead to a hit single that made the world instantaneously happy.

2014: “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

Meghan Trainor has some stiff competition that year from another move-your-body anthem, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” but she remained untouchable with this chart-topping fan favorite.

2015: “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

Every so often a song comes along that becomes a wedding party staple and in 2015 Mark Ronson, with the help of Bruno Mars, delivered just that.

2016: “Closer” by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey

There is a joke that states any two white men could be The Chainsmokers because really, who are they? Five years later and many still couldn’t spot them in a crowd but thanks to a catchy summer song with Halsey attached, they’ll forever have one of the best pop songs of the 21st century.

2017: “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber had long since ditched his signature swiped hair when he hopped on this track by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and really – it could’ve done well with or without him. Nevertheless, this remix did go above and beyond the original to become THE song that year.

2018: “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande

If we’re going to give Carly Rae Jepsen her flowers for “Call Me Maybe” we have to give Ariana Grande a whole garden for “Thank U, Next.” As far as pop songs go, this is as close to perfect as one can get. She took her real-life relationships and pieced them together in a truly timeless song. Not to mention the video paid homage to movies from the ‘00s that are as classic as her song became like ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Legally Blonde.’

2019: “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus

Technically this song dropped at the end of 2018, but it went on to absolutely OWN the following year, even taking down Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s long-standing Billboard record they’d had since “One Sweet Day” made everyone weep in the ‘90s.

2020: “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

In a year that was as dismal as could be, Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgic’ was a glimmer of musical hope that resonated with not only Gen X, but millennials and beyond for the respect it paid to the pop that came before it, and “Don’t Start Now” was the shiny cherry on top.

Written by Kendra Beltran

Related Posts

“Dusk” – Mitchell Kersley

Mitchell Kersley’s single “Dusk” off of his EP of the same name is a beautiful, poetic song capturing the longing and acceptance associated with a

“Half Hearted” – We Three

Not every band can pull off the stripped-down set with a vocal performance so strong, it causes audiences to react with fervor. Especially nowadays when

Featuring Vera Blue


Our free newsletter is jampacked with our favorite music discoveries, trends, and industry insight to keep you in the loop