Krzysztof is a 10+ year YouTube researcher who spends hours researching, analyzing, and uncovering YouTube trends, challenges, and media.
Top Songs From the Billboard Hot 100 Playlist
These are 30 Billboard Hot 100 singles from 30 popular musicians from the 2000s to the 2010s that have defined their artistic status. Even if you don't like these modern artists, you have to appreciate what they overcame to get to where they are. These songs are their brand, and they're what young people focus on when they talk about their favorite musicians.
(Note: The songs chosen are not my favorites in order to avoid bias.)
30. Rihanna "Umbrella"
I'll be the first to say that I completely detest this song for many reasons. Let's just say your feelings change about a song when it's playing before and during a car accident, but to be fair I didn't like this tune to begin with.
However, a lot of people enjoyed this song and it was a career defining track for the young Rihanna in 2007. The accompanied music video gave everyone a glimpse into her mature, darker style that took her out of the more playful pop genre she previously owned.
It didn't hurt that artist Jay-Z played a background role and that YouTube was growing rapidly, giving this song mass play ability and popularity.
In my opinion, this song is more enjoyable to listen to, and it's partially why I'm including it in the runner-up category. The vocals are solid, but the best part is the tone that comes through.
There's a lot of pain and vulnerability invested in the song, and you can hear it within the first few seconds.
It was a terrific early entry into the long lasting career of Rihanna.
29. Kanye West "Love Lockdown"
Before Kanye West completely lost his mind, (well there was that 2005 Hurricane Katrina incident) he produced high quality works that made him stand out from the crowd. There are a multitude of early songs to put up, but I believe this song speaks to who he really is.
The song and video are very creative, and the use of auto-tune isn't used as a crutch but rather a piece of the creative process. You can hear the sounds of drums and a constant pulsating heartbeat throughout that reeks of pretentious usability (in a good way).
This tune defined him because it was out of the box, imaginative, and made everyone notice him before he did it on purpose.
This song had mass commercial appeal along with a cool message. It felt very new age and futuristic in sound, and the video complimented it artistically.
I thought the lyrics were pretty good and it was good enough to garner some positive feedback from a lot of his haters.
28. Usher "Love in This Club"
Usher already had a successful career with a ton of hits before this song came out, and I could've easily put his song "Yeah" on here because of its widespread appeal, but this song marked a smooth transition to where he is now.
It used his R&B talents and molded them flawlessly into a song a lot of people could get into. There was a tenderness to it and the sound mixing was excellent. It's likely this song was the peak of his career before he became more of a music mogul than an artist.
The song will hold up for many years, and it's one of the artist's best tunes.
Runner-Up: "Confessions Part II"
It's one of his more well-known singles, but it's more than that. The song has mass sex appeal in its tone and sound. There's an easy transition between the music and lyrics, and it became popular for a reason.
Usher always played the R&B card well and this song showed us how good he was.
27. Bruno Mars "Locked Out of Heaven"
The vocals were very strong, the song was a lot of fun to listen to, and its melody transcended various musical eras. If you don't know what Bruno Mars is all about, then just listen to this song and you'll find out.
Some have called him the next Michael Jackson, but it's clear that he has his own voice, style, and is not a copycat version of the king of pop. You can hear the funky tones and the happiness spewing from this song that makes it highly addicting.
The artist continues to evolve and his sound is becoming better than ever. A lot of these other musicians better look out because he's a talent that still on the up and up.
The song and video feel very retro and funkadelic. Personally, it reminds me of Jackson's "Rock With You" video/song and it's fantastic. I mentioned that Bruno is not a copycat and even though the style sounds similar, it really isn't when you listen to it a couple times.
And you got to love the matching ensembles from the video.
26. Lady Gaga "Bad Romance"
We know Lady Gaga seems a little bit crazy (okay a lot), controversial, and a trend-setter, but this song was the first glimpse into her world. The song sounds insane, but you can't stop listening to it.
The style feels so different but it's captivating. The music video is one of the most creative, visually stunning, and nuanced that I've seen lately. I'll say it's not for everyone, however; the way everything blends together is perfection.
I haven't seen anything as good as this hit from her since, and that's unfortunate because there's so much more talent to be explored. She could be the new wave Madonna we've been looking for.
Runner-Up: "Poker Face"
It was a robust early hit from her because of its memorability, club beat, and commercial appeal. Listeners bought what she was selling, and that's why she's so successful today. It was the beginning of the mad world she lived in, we all got a taste, and we wanted more.
25. Katy Perry "Roar"
It's the next one billion viewed song on YouTube, and I'm thankful for that because this one has a fantastic message. Katy Perry has had so many hits, but few have captured such wide appeal than this gem.
The video looks beautiful and the set pieces are cool to look it. The message is also played out in a very fun and visual way that anyone from kids to adults will understand and enjoy. The artist was never one of my favorites, but I can appreciate the work she put into this.
The tune is catchy, fun, and is a career defining single from a powerful pop artist.
Runner-Up: "Teenage Dream"
I was tempted to use "California Girls" as the runner-up because that song is Katy Perry, but I didn't want to exclude her more serious side. This song isn't dark by any means, but it's a lot more subtle and subdued than many of her pop songs.
Vulnerability isn't a bad thing to listen to.
24. Avicii "Wake Me Up"
This entry is different from its predecessors because the artist wasn't a lyricist. The late Avicii was a DJ who produced the melody and song while other singers usually join in to sing the short verses and chorus.
However, that doesn't mean he shouldn't be on this list because the popularity speaks for itself. This song, in particular, showcases a masterful technique of blending genres to create a unique sound.
You hear a little bit of country, some pop, and electronic dance music blended into one. The mixture isn't off-putting because of the vocal talents within the song and the effortless transition from verse to chorus.
It's also incredibly melodious.
Runner-Up: "Fade Into Darkness"
It's not as well known as some of his later songs, but the style is very much Avicii. The song sounds a lot softer than his more upbeat tracks, and it's akin to a dance ballad.
This song is part of that joyous variety the artist loved to give us, and I'm buying into it.
23. Beyoncé "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)"
According to Kanye, this was "one of the best videos of all time", so how can I not put it on the list. I don't think the music video is spectacular, but the song is powerful and forceful. It's very in your face, and her singing abilities are amazing.
You can't escape the power of this song, and it's almost like she's saying you better like this song or else. The passion behind this piece is enticing, and it'll make you listen whether you like her or not.
Beyonce has evolved so much since Destiny's Child, and this song broke the mold.
"To the left, to the left" is what most people remember when they think of this song (it should've been the song's title), but it's deeper than that.
It's a memorable, inspirational pop ballad that made people appreciate her talent, and her abilities are undeniable when you listen to this song.
22. Drake "Over"
If you're not a fan of explicit language, then I wouldn't listen to this song. Drake is a rap artist, so most of his songs aren't going to be clean.
However unlike rap artists who only rap about women and money, Drake is saying a lot about how the world works. If you can appreciate rap music for what it is and really listen, then you'll notice that the lyrics in this song are well put together.
The song isn't over-done and in your face like most rap songs, and the artist's message never gets lost.
Sometimes I can't distinguish "Over" from "Headlines", but that's not a bad thing. Once you listen to them, they sound great and you want to keep it going. These songs really pushed the artist forward while leaving his contemporaries in the dust.
In other words, Drake did his thing.
21. Kelly Clarkson "Since You Been Gone"
Can you believe it's been well over a decade since Kelly Clarkson was crowned the first American Idol? Yeah I bet you're feeling a little bit older now huh.
Well she's one of the few Idol contestants who has triumphed and created her own brand of music, and part of that began with this number. This is the song that launched her into stardom and out of the reality show spotlight, which is a good thing by the way.
The song is edgy, vengeful, and a hardcore pop anthem for those who've been cheated on or led on by someone. She wasn't afraid to let it all hang out and we're glad she did.
Runner-Up: "Never Again"
Very underrated and under appreciated single from her album My December, which was her venture into personal exploration. It was a risque move on her part, but it was one of those songs that told everyone she wasn't afraid to be herself.
It was the definition of self growth and a stance in what she believed in, and that's why we still love her today.
20. Eminem "Lose Yourself"
It was the 8 mile song that took this white rapper from Detroit and made him a legend. There were other memorable choices to pick including "The Real Slim Shady", but it was this song that became the anthem of triumph over obstacles in the early 2000's.
The irresistible beat and entry verse is one of the best to ever come out of a rap song, and it's unforgettable in its delivery. No modern day rapper has managed to come anywhere close to this song, and I don't think they ever will.
There's too much strength and verisimilitude in this to overcome. This was the peak of Eminem's career, but it won't be forgotten.
It was dark and gritty in tone, and let everyone listening realize that Eminem was more than just a comedic rapper. His songs had inner monologues and nothing was more revealing than this song.
It was a fantastic balance between the artist, the message, and the music that still can induce shivers upon listening.
19. Britney Spears "Toxic"
"Baby One More Time" was very distinctive, but this song summed up Britney perfectly with some nice video choreography, visuals, and an electrifying beat to match. She proved with this song that she wasn't a pop princess that would go away quickly.
Britney Spears has managed to navigate through a series of road blocks and is still producing occasional hit singles. Her sound and music have become a genre within themselves, and artists have tried to emulate what she has perfected.
Whether you like her or not, she was ahead of her time and defined a new generation of pop artists.
Runner-Up: "Oops . . . I Did It Again"
People know right away what this song is or who sings it from the title alone, and that's pretty darn impressive for an artist. It's a classic for this pop star, and a tune that's still as unforgettable as it was when it first came out.
The was the beginning of an era for Britney, and she's still bringing it today.
18. Taylor Swift "You Belong With Me"
Poor Taylor...she's been parodied so many times and everyone knows about her boyfriend issues, but this song takes us back to a sweeter time that let us in on Swift's early life and career. She began as a little more country before transitioning into pop, and this song may have started it.
Since then, she's had a slew of hits and has become one of the most successful modern day female artists of all time with singles consistently at the top of the Billboard charts.
However this sweet, melodic, and harmless song is what we knew Taylor by, and that's why we all felt bad when "her moment" was taken away from her at the VMAs.
Runner-Up: "Blank Space"
It surpassed a billion views on YouTube, which is an incredible achievement, and it'll continue to grab even more hits. This song pulls in listeners right away because it's a fantastic parody of a person who's been judged harshly by millions of people.
She doesn't care what anybody thinks, and most importantly is able to make fun of herself throughout the song.
17. Ed Sheeran "Thinking Out Loud"
This artist will have a long music career if he keeps making singles like this. The song and video are charming, his vocals are off the charts, and it's so moving. The tune is very poetic when you listen to it and it doesn't feel pretentious.
There's a lot of heart and passion that makes you feel relaxed and at home. The artist's additional appeal is that he doesn't look intimidating. He's just an average looking guy with an amazingly talented voice, and it's nice to see talent win out over the glitz and glamour.
Music should be about a talented artist instead of one with a gimmick and vanity, and Ed Sheeran has restored some faith in today's music.
Runner-Up: "Lego House"
It's serenity at its finest. The sound is soothing, the vocals are calming, and it's an overall great tune to listen to on the way to work or something. It's an instant pick me up and a launching point for an artist who's only gotten better and better.
I look forward to hearing what he comes up with next.
16. Maroon 5 "This Love"
If you want to know who and what Maroon 5 is all about, then listen to this 2002 hit. Lead singer Adam Levine's high, unique vocals are pulsating throughout this addicting tune. The best part of the song is that it still holds up today.
The band has gone through its ups and down, but they've managed to become hugely successful and relevant through it all. They've created and cultivated their own sound and music, and it all began with this song.
I don't see them going away anytime soon and nobody wants them to go away, which is rare to hear when a group has been doing the same thing for over 10 years.
Runner-Up: "Moves Like Jagger"
It's such an addicting tune and a fun single to keep replaying on an on until you're literally sick of it. It's so creative in its approach, and it definitely pays a homage to one Mick Jagger.
The video is flirty, eccentric, and introduces a cool modern day twist based on the legendary icon himself while remaining true to Maroon 5's brand. (Christina Aguilera's cameo doesn't hurt either)
15. Nicki Minaj "Moment 4 Life"
For all of Nicki Minaj's wacky antics, we tend to forget why people fell in love with her in the first place. Some have called her the new Lil' Kim or the next greatest female rapper, and I'm sure many were convinced she was after listening to this song.
It's not a song you think of anymore when you hear her name, but it generated a musician that's since become impossible to forget. The tune itself has some fantastic rap phrases with a melodic chorus that represents her marque and talent.
With songs like "Anaconda", we've forgotten just how talented she is and how much potential she has. Personally I hope she goes back to her roots and lets her abilities (not body) shine.
Runner-Ups: "Super Bass" and "Starships"
I've included both of these because they completely define the artist we know today. They're very addicting to listen to with a mix of rap, pop, and hip-hop that make for a slew of summer hits.
They're obviously not for everyone and if you don't like her style, then I doubt you'll like these songs regardless. However more people than not enjoy listening to them.
14. Ke$ha "Tik Tok"
Yes I included the dollar sign in the artist's name because hey that's her calling card. Anyway when this 2010 song came out it became a massive hit from a previously unknown singer.
I hate this song personally, but I can see why so many people couldn't escape it. The sounds and chorus are hard to resist, and the video makes you face palm because of how ridiculous it looks.
She definitely isn't your cookie cutter female artist, and I do respect her for stepping out of the box.
I just hope no one tries to emulate her party image to the extent she does here, and please don't brush your teeth with a bottle of jack.
Runner-Up: "We R Who We R"
It's not a ground-breaking single by any means, but there's nothing particularly offensive about it (it could be worse). At least she knows who she is as an artist, and that's kind of what this song represents.
There is a message here that some of her other hits lack and it's nice to hear.
13. Jason Derulo "In My Head"
If you ignore the "Jason Derulo" intro in most of his songs, then you'll appreciate this song for what it is. The sound is pretty good and definitely gets in your head like the song title entails. For a dance/hip-hop song, it's not a bad thing to listen to.
I don't think it's memorable by any means, but I immediately think of the artist when I hear it. It completely defines who he is and what the style of his songs will be. They aren't meant to be memorable, but they do their job for the average listener.
He also samples a lot of older songs if you enjoy that sort of thing.
Runner-Up: "Whatcha Say"
This is a perfect example of the sampling I've mentioned with the entry above. This song samples Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" but not in an offensive way.
He wouldn't be nearly as successful if it weren't for these early entries along with his niche style, sound, and occasional tidbits from past artists.
12. Ariana Grande "Problem ft. Iggy Azalea"
Is she the next Mariah Carey? I'm going to say no, but you can definitely hear the resemblance when listening to this song. Her vocal talents are impressive, and this song has a mix of cool sounds, rap lyrics, and powerful vocals that instantly become addictive.
I don't find the music video particularly interesting, and it made a lot of people feel uncomfortable because she looks so young (even though Britney did worse things years ago).
But if you ignore the video, then at least appreciate that the singer is very talented and holds a lot of promise.
She could learn to be more humble though, but that's a different issue altogether.
Runner-Up: "One Last Time"
This song takes away from some of the gimmicks in "Problem" and focuses mostly on her abilities. Her singing talents are more subtle and sleeker than in other singles, and you can hear the different facets of her voice.
Besides her vocals, the song is innocent and tuneful enough for listeners to gravitate towards.
11. Chris Brown "Forever"
Before all of the drama and controversy with Chris Brown, he was a teenager/young adult with scores of potential. His potential and talents were showcased nicely with this unforgettable 2008 hit.
It's an addicting, dance tune that's still fun to listen to, and it's innocent enough for anyone to listen to before he became more risque. The music video looks like a lot of fun too, and some of the choreography is enjoyable to watch.
There's a sadness though because it's tough to appreciate this tune if you know some of the things the artist has done, but it's still a good track to listen to. This song was the pinnacle of his potential and remains one of his best singles.
This song won't be for everyone, but I included it because I feel this song has defined Chris Brown once his innocent persona was shattered. It's far more edgy and controversial than the songs he produced years ago, but that's his present style.
You may not like it, but that's who he is now.
10. Fall Out Boy "Thanks for the Memories"
The music has a lot of range to it, which provides an intriguing contrast for the listener. The verses are fine, but it's really the chorus that completely pulls you in even if you may not be a fan of the genre.
The genre itself is a mix of alternative and punk rock, and I don't mind it breaking away from the typical pop mainstream that plagues our radio stations and billboard charts. I think the singing talents are also fairly strong, and they don't sound overbearing.
The band has been able to stand the test of time because they do have a more commercial appeal that other bands of this genre don't, and that's important if you want to stay relative.
I like "Dance, Dance" myself but this newer entry holds up strongly too. It sounds epic in scope, and it doesn't elude the Fall Out Boy brand.
The song transcends several genres, and it represents what the band is and how they've evolved over the years.
9. Sam Smith "Stay With Me"
Talk about talent and vocal ability. The range in the vocals, the soulful sound pouring through, and the powerful tone is unreal. I'll admit I'm biased this time, but I love listening to someone that has god-given singing abilities.
The auto-tune, catchy songs may be fun to listen to, but they usually don't hold up well over time. I mean think about the memorable songs of the past. They weren't modified and auto-tuned, and that says a lot about our perceptions of them.
Runner-Up: "Lay Me Down"
I was close to choosing this single for the entry above, but it's not quite as defining and recognizable yet. Personally, this is my favorite song of his because there's so much depth and passion that I've rarely heard before (especially in today's musical era).
The vocal range is by far the strongest of all his songs, and it's a testament to his insane capabilities.
8. One Republic "Counting Stars"
I was tempted to put "Apologize" up here because that's the first song that comes to mind when I think of this band, but ultimately this song is more defining. It accurately represents who they are as musicians, and the music has a very out of place sound to it.
When you listen to it, you're almost unsure which genre this belongs to, but they own it. If you're a long time listener, then you'll immediately know who sings this because they've defined their own niche as well.
The lyrics are addicting and it's easy to sing to when you're in the car or shower. It's also lyrically clean giving it additional appeal.
One of the problems with musicians like OneRepublic is that they have a plethora of pleasant, nice songs to listen to but most of them are forgettable. This might be one of their few songs that breaks the mold a bit, and it was one of their earlier hit singles.
The most interesting part of the song is that it sounds sorrowful with the lyrics suggesting it should be, but it's more upbeat than you'd think because of lead Ryan Tedder's charismatic vocals.
7. Ellie Goulding "Love Me Like You Do"
I feel like she's one of those artists we've all heard of but fail to recognize who she is. Hopefully this song will be a turning point in her career, so she becomes the celebrity musician she deserves to be.
Her voice is very unique and it sticks with you. This song in particular has the ability to draw you in towards the replay button several times. Let's just remember to ignore that it was part of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" soundtrack.
This artist has a lot of potential based on what I've heard from her so far, and I think she'll eventually become a star musician.
Isn't it funny that some of the most career-defining singles are the artist's first hits. We were essentially introduced to Ellie Goulding through this song because it was creative, intriguing, and had a combination of future/retro sound.
The music's uniqueness is raised to the next level when we include her unusual vocal sound.
6. Ne-Yo "So Sick"
To me Ne-Yo has always felt like a second banana to Chris Brown or Usher and is very unappreciated compared to some of the artists that don't have half the talent he does.
His vocals have always been classic R&B and sound very pleasant to the ear. He's also been one of those artists that has had a successful career with a ton of hits, but they seem to come and go very quickly (especially newer hits).
"So Sick" is probably one of his most iconic singles that fans will remember, and he became the artist known as Ne-Yo because of it. R&B have been harder to come by lately, so I'm glad artists like Ne-Yo are still around to give us more.
Runner-Up: "Because of You"
This song holds up nicely when you listen to it. When you think of Ne-Yo, this song will eventually come to mind. It takes that soulful, smooth R&B sound and ups the tempo a bit increasing its marketability.
I also enjoy the meaning within the song, and that it's not trying to pound it into your head due to the softness of the melody.
5. Adele "Someone Like You"
She's off the map somewhat (personal reasons) and that's unfortunate because we could use more strong, vocally brilliant females in today's era. Most of the complaints I hear about music today is that it's all synthesized, unoriginal, and full of empty-headed pop songs.
Adele definitely doesn't fit into any of those categories and this soulful masterpiece proved it. It's one of the saddest songs I've heard, but you feel a cathartic release when listening to it. You appreciate how well it's put together and how amazing this young women is.
She's vulnerable, she's hurting, and there's a lot of angst in her voice. I haven't heard such a sad song this striking in a long time.
Runner-Up: "Rolling in the Deep"
When I first heard this song, I didn't get it. I didn't know why it was so popular and why everyone loved it, but it quickly grew on me. This was the first intro into Adele's brilliant singing abilities, and that's honestly good enough for someone to enjoy it.
The other factors like the music and overall sound with the heart pounding beats throughout only raises the bar higher.
4. Demi Lovato "Skyscraper"
She was a Disney star and has become an advocate for bullying, mental illness, and the LGBT community. She also dealt with her own bullying and suicidal issues, so it makes her positive campaigning even more genuine.
I included that little tidbit because she doesn't get the credit she deserves when it comes to her music, and she's not just a second rate Selena Gomez either. Her vocals and songs are much stronger than Gomez's, and this song showcases that power beautifully.
I particularly love the message that it invokes, and there's so much incredible potential here that I wish she stuck with. I'm not a fan of her more generic pop tracks because although they're catchy, they don't stick with you as much as these songs do.
Runner-Up: "Heart Attack"
It's a bit of a plain Jane song, but at least her vocals shine through nicely. Personally I think "Give Your Heart a Break" is the better track, but this one has become more recognizable and is her current brand.
The best part are her vocals, and there's a good deal of passion when she sings that's nice to hear.
3. Justin Bieber "Baby"
The first video to hit a billion views on YouTube is also the most disliked song on the video sharing site by default, so there's no need to show the video this time.
I actually don't understand why the song gets so much hate, but I assume it's because people hated Bieber himself. Clearly this is nowhere near his best song, but it's the one that put him on the map and has since defined him.
He's been trying to escape the persona this song embodied for several years now, and it's slowly paying off. I do think the hate for this Canadian singer is subsiding as he becomes more mature, and maybe he'll reinvent himself the way Justin Timberlake did.
I oddly enjoy more of these runner-up songs than their defining single listed, and this one's no exception. It is a much better track than "Baby" because it sounds more mature, his vocals are better, and it's a huge step up from the bowl-haired kid we knew from years back.
This song was the first step into his nuanced style, and I think it'll only get better from here on out.
2. One Direction "What Makes You Beautiful"
This might be a fleeting entry especially now that one of the group members has left, but I'll include it for now.
Just like Bieber, this group gets a lot of hate because they're rich, famous, and have millions of fan girls fawning all over them. I actually think it's their fan base that's making people dislike these guys instead of the group itself.
They're also part of that manufactured boy band that Simon Cowell created on the X Factor, so some people don't like that either, but there's nothing offensive about them. The songs are cute, catchy, and decent enough to not make your ears cringe.
At least the message is about telling girls they're all beautiful on the inside instead of the opposite.
Runner-Up: "Story of My Life"
This is definitely one of their better songs, and if you don't already have deep hatred for this group, then you can appreciate the song for what it is.
It's an okay song with a pleasant sound and beat. The singing isn't bad, and there's a more mournful tone showcased here than in their previous singles.
1. Miley Cyrus "We Can't Stop"
I don't want to list this song, but it completely changed people's minds about her. Her Hannah Montana character was metaphorically stabbed when this song and video came out.
The amount of parodies for this song on YouTube had to be earth shattering, but the music video already looks like a parody of itself. It was so creepy, strange, and bizarre that it made Lady Gaga look like Mother Theresa.
For all of the hate and gasps this song and others like "Wrecking Ball" generated, she clearly knew what she was doing. The attention she got after those songs was spectacular to witness, and all the sudden everyone was talking about Miley again.
Runner-Up: "The Climb"
It was either this song or "Party in the USA", but I wanted to include this song to highlight that Miley Cyrus isn't just a one trick pony.
I will say that her vocals are not very good and I've listened to covers that sound much better, but the sound, message, and lyrics are quite strong. This was the transitional stage between her Disney character and the Miley we know today.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 14, 2015:
i like katy and rihanna, lovely songs from the ladies