Some of these songs have gone down in the history books for breaking records and reaching new heights. Others might have been terribly received by critics, but are still adored by the masses to this day. There might even be a few underrated goodies that you’ve never heard of.
We took the songs with the highest ratings, biggest sales, most awards, and top ranks on radio charts and included them alongside some of our newsroom’s favorite picks to create a definitive list of the 100 songs everyone should listen to in their lifetime.
Here they are, in no specific order.
“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
This epic is 31st on Rolling Stone’s list of “500 greatest songs of all time.” It’s also named the number three greatest rock song of all time by VH1.
“Highway to Hell” by AC/DC
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included this heavy metal song in its list of “500 songs that shaped rock and roll.“
“Beautiful Day” by U2
The song won three Grammy Awards in 2001 — record of the year, song of the year, and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal.
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
Not only is it one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 songs that shaped rock and roll,” it’s also number 21 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 greatest songs of all time.”
“Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” by Modjo
“The Twist” by Chubby Checker
This 1960 song sits at the very top of Billboard’s greatest of all time Hot 100 singles list.
“Smooth” by Santana ft. Rob Thomas
This song, which was released in 1999, is right behind “The Twist” at number two on Billboard’s list. It was also the number one song on Billboard’s list of greatest adult pop songs of all time.
“Drops of Jupiter” by Train
This song holds the number two spot on Billboard’s greatest adult pop songs of all time list.
“Hey Jude” by The Beatles
This was one of three songs that held the highest total number of weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 in the 1960s (technically from the start of Billboard in 1958 to 1969).
It’s also number eight on Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time” list.
“That’s Alright” by Elvis Presley
“The number features Elvis and his original guitarist, Scotty Moore, in a great stomping rock ‘n’ roll throw down that shows what a wild thing that music was in the very beginning. Always blows my mind,” Business Insider’s Matthew DeBord says.
“Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy
This classical tune is a movie favorite. It’s been featured in “Twilight,” “Giant,” and “Ocean’s Eleven” to name a few.
“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone
This 1977 song topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for the highest total number of weeks during the 1970s.
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John
This “Grease” alum’s hit topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for the highest total number of weeks during the 1980s.
“One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Released in 1995, “One Sweet Day” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for the highest total number of weeks during the 1990s.
“We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey
Carey kept her reign with “We Belong Together,” which topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for the highest total number of weeks during the 2000s.
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
This pretty recent song is currently holding the top spot on Billboards Hot 100 chart for the highest total number of weeks during the 2010s.
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their list of the “500 greatest songs of all time,” and it’s the highest-ranking song that was both written and performed by a female artist.
“An American Elegy” by Frank Ticheli
Ticheli described the song as such: “‘An American Elegy’ is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings.”
It’s also a favorite of Business Insider author Biz Carson.
“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
This karaoke classic is the most liked song on Pandora with over 20.2 million thumbs up.
“The Motto” by Drake
Following Journey is Drake with 19.0 million thumbs up on Pandora.
“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
“Radioactive” rounds out the top three with 18.3 million thumbs up.
“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Despite the fact that people openly hate on this song, it landed the number one spot on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 50 greatest hip-hop songs of all time” list.
“Be Without You” by Mary J. Blige
This song sits at the very top of Billboard’s “Greatest hip-hop and R&B songs of all time” list.
“Candle in the Wind 1977″/”Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Elton John
Aside from Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” song, this double A-side single is the bestselling single of all time. It was recorded as a tribute to the late Princess Diana.
“Walk this Way” by RUN-D.M.C. ft. Aerosmith
“This song fused hip hop with rock ‘n’ roll and is iconic. Also the first song I performed in front of an audience as a young girl,” INSIDER’s Jay Higgs says.
“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash
This 1956 song earned the top spot on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 greatest country songs of all time.”
“Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line
This song holds the number one spot on Billboard’s “Greatest country music of all time list.”
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
This song is the King of Pop’s highest-grossing single. It was also Rolling Stone’s pick for the best Michael Jackson song.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
This six-minute song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It’s also the UK’s third bestselling single of all time.
“Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers Band
“It cheers me up whenever I need it,” INSIDER’s Julie Zeveloff says.
“Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
This song was Rolling Stone’s number one pick for their “500 greatest songs of all time” list.
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
This “Titanic” favorite won a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and four Grammys.
“La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
This was the only non-English song to land on Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time” list. It made place 345.
“Green Onions” by Booker T. and the M.G.’s
“Green Onions” made the 181st spot on the list, and was the only instrumental song to make the cut.
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys
“It fueled my love for New York City when I was a high-school sophomore. And ultimately, it led me to now living out my dreams as a full-time Brooklynite,” INSIDER author Brianna Arps says.
“Ready or Not” by The Fugees
This is Barack Obama’s favorite song.
“Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee
This is Donald Trump’s favorite song.
“Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
This is the number one song on Billboard’s list of “The most romantic songs.”
“One Dance” by Drake ft. WizKid and Kyla
This is the most-streamed song on Spotify, and, as of April 2017, the first and only song to ever hit one billion streams on Spotify.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
This was chosen as the best Pink Floyd Song by Rolling Stone readers, but “Another Brick In the Wall” was the band’s only number one single.
“Dancing on my Own” by Robyn
“Greatest breakup song of all time. It’s sad, but it makes you feel strong and also causes spontaneous dancing wherever it’s played,” INSIDER author Caroline Praderio says.
“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
Those same readers voted this track the saddest song ever.
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police
It’s number 84 on Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time list,” one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “songs that shaped rock and roll” and sits at number 25 on Billboard’s Hot 100 all time top songs.
“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
According to a poll in the UK and Ireland, this song is the best feel-good song ever.
“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths
“‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ is everything that’s so wonderful about The Smiths packed into slightly over four minutes of music. It’s the quintessential Smiths song. Lyricist Morrissey is at his ingenious best, taking the morbid image of a lovesick subject being squashed by a HGV and turning into one of the most poignant and memorable declarations of affection in the history of pop,” says Business Insider UK’s Adam Payne.
“How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes
This is the highest-ranking song by a female artist on Billboard’s greatest songs of all time list.
“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses
Muscle & Fitness named this song the best workout song of all time.
“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
This 1969 hit was named “the best boy band song of all time” by Rolling Stone.
“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5
The number two spot on Rolling Stone’s list of “the best boy band songs of all time” also went to Jackson 5.
“Glósóli” by Sigur Ros
“I’ve seen them perform this song live three times, and it never fails to bring me to tears,” Business Insider’s John Ore says.
“One More Time” by Daft Punk
Rolling Stone placed it at number 33 of their top 100 songs of the 2000s and it holds number 307 on Rolling Stone’s amended “500 greatest songs of all time” list, which came out in May 2010.
This song was also voted “the best dance song ever” by Rolling Stone readers.
“Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
This theme song from “Shaft” was ranked the best Oscar-winning original song by Spin in their 2015 round up.
“Not Ready to Make Nice” by The Dixie Chicks
The music video for this song spent the longest amount of consecutive time (14 weeks) at the top of VH1’s “Top 20 Video Countdown.”
“Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls
This song and its video spent the most weeks in the VH1 countdown with a total of 35 weeks.
“Bonita Applebum” by A Tribe Called Quest
“To me, it’s not only one of the greatest hip-hop love songs, but also one of the great love songs period. It’s a flirty, subtle ode to that special someone with the use of jazz funk in the background,” INSIDER’s Corina Pintado says. “Absolute perfection!”
“Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
Absolute Radio named this song the number one song of the 2000s. It was also named the millennial “Stairway to Heaven” in an intense bracket tournament by Noisey.
“Fix You” by Coldplay
This sentimental song was runner-up in Noisey’s bracket tournament.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
This was named the most iconic song according to science.
“Imagine” by John Lennon
The second most iconic song according to science is this John Lennon classic.
“Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac
“‘Tusk’ is everything: beautiful, intense, creepy, sexy, catchy, and a perfect song for any mood. It has made me laugh, and it has made me cry. The first time I heard the live version when I was 19 I didn’t shut up about it for, like, twelve weeks. It was super annoying, but hopefully I changed some lives,” Business Insider’s Carrie Wittmer says.
“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World
This coming-of-age song is one of T-Swift’s favorites.
“I remember listening to this on the bus to school. I felt comforted by it, because I never felt like I really fit perfectly into any clique at school. I wish every kid who goes through those same feelings of loneliness could hear how Jim Adkins sings, ‘Don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away,'” she told Rolling Stone.
“Cannonball” by Damien Rice
This is another celeb favorite.
“Seeing Damien Rice perform when I was 11 changed my life forever,” Ed Sheeran said to Rolling Stone. “After seeing him play this small club in Ireland, I was able to meet him, and he was unbelievably cool. I went straight home and started writing songs. I would not be doing what I’m doing now if he’d been a jerk.”
“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley
When Rolling Stone revamped their “Greatest 500 songs of all time” list in 2010, this song was the highest-placed newcomer, landing at number 100.
“99 Problems” by Jay-Z
It’s one of the most referenced and quoted songs ever, and, therefore, deserves a listen. It’s also 127th on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 greatest songs of all time.”
“New Slang” by The Shins
The song skyrocketed after being featured in the film “Garden State.” It was even named one of the 100 best songs of the 2000s.
“Baby” by Justin Bieber
This was named one of the most annoying songs ever, and is the most disliked song on YouTube. You have to listen to it at least once to know why.
“Hello” by Adele
This sweet song’s music video broke the Vevo record for most views in 24 hours with over 27.7 million views. It also won the Grammys for song of the year and record of the year in 2017.
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
This is one of the only three hip-hop songs included on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 greatest songs of all time.” It also won two Grammys and an Oscar.
“No Surprises” by Radiohead
NME named this one of the best 150 tracks in the past 15 years.
“Outro” by M83
“There aren’t many lyrics, but in a short verse it portrays the idea you own your life and can make whatever you want out of it. Plus, the instrumentation is epic,” says Business Insider’s Maddie Bensinger.
“Blue Monday” by New Order
This was named the best song of the ’80s by NME.
“Best of My Love” by The Emotions
According to Billboard, this is the best girl group song ever.
“Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child
This song landed on Billboard’s same list at number two.
“All Night” by Beyoncé
During her “Lemonade” tour, Queen B announced that this was her favorite song off the iconic album, which was named album of the year by Rolling Stone.
“Oh Comely” by Neutral Milk Hotel
“This song is a roller coaster. It perfectly captures the album with the mix of innocence, raunchiness, hope, and resignation. The imagery and flow of the lyrics is fantastic and it wouldn’t be a Neutral Milk Hotel song without some powerful brass,” INSIDER’s Lyndsey Schley says.
“So What” by Miles Davis
This 1959 classic was named the best jazz song of all time by Spinditty.
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
This track earned the number six spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 greatest songs of all time.”
“Purple Rain” by Prince
This is the song that launched Prince’s hugely successful career, so of course it’s a must-hear.
“Crazy Game of Poker” by O.A.R.
“The eight-minute classic is a whole story! And the start of O.A.R.’s rise to fame,” INSIDER’s Ally Giannini says.
“Gangnam Style” by PSY
This is the most-watched YouTube video of all time with over 2.8 billion views.
“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth
With 2.6 billion views, this is the second most-watched YouTube video of all time.
“Vienna” by Billy Joel
You’ve probably heard “Piano Man”a million times over, but “Vienna” is actually one of Joel’s favorite songs.
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
This 1978 breakup song was named the second-best disco song by Rolling Stone readers and was VH1’s number one dance song when they released a list in 2000.
“24/7” by Kehlani
“It gets me through hard times because the lyrics are all about how it’s ok to not be ok, plus it’s a smooth jam,” INSIDER’s Hannah Goldstein says.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
It’s on MTV’s list of “100 greatest songs from the ’80s” and was accompanied by one of the greatest music videos of all time, according to Rolling Stone and VH1.
“Believe” by Cher
This iconic tune and karaoke favorite is the highest-selling single by a solo female artist in the UK.
“Heavenly Father” by Bon Iver
This song was made for Zach Braff’s movie “Wish you were here,” and is a popular choice for acapella cover bands.
“Changes” by David Bowie
“The lyrics are always relevant — it’s about moving forward and realizing that you become a different person as you get older, and you won’t always want the same things and that’s ok,” say INSIDER’s Natalie Fennell.
“Life On Mars?” by David Bowie
This Bowie song earned the number one spot on the Telegraph’s “greatest songs of all time list.”
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
This was the second-greatest song of all time according to the Telegraph.
“Alexander Hamilton” from “Hamilton”
“Hamilton” has the most Tony nominations of any Broadway play or musical ever. Its opening song blows audiences away within minutes of the curtains opening.
“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
The original by Leonard Cohen is just as beautiful, but Buckley’s version landed a spot on Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time.”
“Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin
The original version was recorded by Aretha Franklin’s sister, Erma Franklin, but Joplin’s track made Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 greatest songs of all tim,” and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 songs that shaped rock and roll.”
“All of My Days” by Alexi Murdoch
The album this song is on, “Time Without Consequence,” is one of the most licensed albums of the decade. This song and others from the album, including “Orange Sky,” have been in “The O.C.,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “Prison Break,” and “One Tree Hill,” to name a few.
“To Zion” by Lauryn Hill
“She talks about the uncertainty she felt while being pregnant and the happiness after she had her first son, Zion. I just love how she expresses her love for her first child. You can truly feel it in the song,” says INSIDER’s Arius Bevins.
“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
This romantic song was the singer’s biggest Billboard hit.
“One Love/People Get Ready” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
This is Marley’s best-known song for a reason. It was voted the best Bob Marley song by Complex in 2012.
“River” by Joni Mitchell
This is one of Joni Mitchell’s most iconic songs, and has been covered over 200 times.
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
For one of the final choices, a personal favorite and an anthem of the feminist movement. Not only is it empowering, it’s also fifth on Rolling Stone’s “500 greatest songs of all time,” and one of the 500 songs that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says shaped rock ‘n’ roll.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones.
This classic is the 100th greatest song of all time according to Rolling Stone’s epic list.
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