Perfect Pop Songs

Those with the kind of music, lyrics, performance, arrangement and production that you could easily repeat all day.

How about starting with this one? Somewhat outside of her usual cannon and none the worse for it. Perhaps also a contender for the sexiest vocals ever?

Louie Louie  by Julie London
@cd318 - Thanks for starting the thread. I love great pop songs. But I don't like that version of Louie Louie, by Julie London. Nope, not at all. Destroyed all that was good about that song. I agree that Julie London has a great voice. Love her sultry style. Just not fitting for this song.

Try this one. The opposite of the Julie London selection you posted.

Them (Featuring Van Morrison) - "My Lonely Sad Eyes"

Post removed 
Fran Healy "Wreckorder"  the entire album. 

When I first heard it, couldn't get these songs outta my head for weeks.
Tom Petty, Southern Accents. The whole album. You will probably have to get a White Hot Stamper to understand what a masterpiece this is. But if you do, wow! 

I've remarked on this lp many times but I personally don't view it as pop.
The thing about pop, although it might be hard to define what exactly pop is, now that the singles charts is seen to have become irrelevant (not that all great pop songs charted, many like Louie Louie didn't) is that it had the ability to appeal to a wide an audience as possible. 

Let's not forget the sheer variety of genres that made an appearance in the charts between 1950 - 2010. I would for example argue that both I Want To Hold Your Hand and Get Back are pop records. 

So what isn't a pop record?

I would say it's something that either wasn't or could ever be a big hit. For example out of all the great tracks on Astral Weeks the closest to a pure pop record (charts/airplay) I guess would be The Way Young Lovers Do. The other songs are all classics but that's the one you'd think Morrison would look to for singles chart success if he had wanted it.

@reubent , yes My Lonely Sad Eyes is a great pop record.

Despite never being released as a 45 here in the UK, I think it's up there with Here Comes the Night and Brown Eyed Girl as one of Van Morrison's best efforts at pop. 

Some of these suggestions do seem to be great examples of missed single releases. Such as Wyatt Funderberk's Bluer Than Blue.

On the other hand when I think of Tom Petty and obvious pop record, it's always going to be I Won't Back Down.

Anyway here's another example of a great pop record. A sure fire hit if there ever was one. At least it was in the UK giving the band their first number one in almost 20 years. For some inexplicable reason it barely broke the US top 100.

Maria  by Blondie
It's on the OP to define their definition of pop.

Tom Petty comes under the Rock category 
Keep 'em coming..... Here's my Monday morning offering......

The Association - " Wantin' Ain't Gettin' "

@slaw ,

It’s actually quite difficult to define what pop is.

For example what might have been considered popular back in the 1920s might not today.

You’re not likely to hear Fats Waller, Bing Crosby, Jimmie Rodgers, Eddie Cantor of even Louis Armstrong much on the radio today.

Then there’s the question of geography. I’ve little idea of what was popular in Germany or Mexico in the period 1950 to 2010.

So maybe we could go with commercial (and potentially commercial) music recorded in the US and the UK between 1950 and 2010.

Attempts at greater precision are likely to suffer the curse of academia as the fun quickly disappears into the spaces between the words.

Keeping it simple as possible, here’s one of the greatest pop records cut in the past 30 years. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like this.

Electrolyte by R.E.M
It’s actually quite difficult to define what pop is. Anyone remember when Smells Like Teen Spirit was grunge? Heard it the other day in Whole Foods. Probably playing in an elevator somewhere this very minute. From cult rock to Muzak. Somewhere along in there surely it was pop. 

Probably some day even this will be pop. Surely we all can admit within its genre its about as perfect as perfect can be?

Pop is imo any song with a good melody and "hooky" (sing-along) chorus refrain. Pop songs have traditionally also followed a classic structure (though they don’t necessarily have to): Intro/1st verse/chorus/2nd verse/chorus/bridge (called middle 8 in England)/verse/last chorus/outro. The bridge/middle 8 is employed less frequently now, often ignored by Rock Bands that don’t have a superior songwriter (most ;-). During the Psychedelic period (starting in 1966), Lennon & McCartney started "messing" with the Pop song structure. They---being more-talented songwriters than most in Rock Bands---could pull it off; most didn’t, leading to some of the worst "songs" I’ve ever heard.

A sterling example of a Pop song is "When You Walk In The Room", written by Jackie DeShannon and released by her as a single in 1963. The Searchers covered it in ’64, and was the first time I heard this majestic masterpiece. Springsteen has included the song in his live show, though he as always bludgeons the song to death. Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA (now THERE’S a fantastic Pop Group!) does a great version, found on her My Coloring Book album.

Then there is "What becomes Of The Brokenhearted", originally done by Jimmy Ruffin (Joan Osborne stole the show with her version at the tribute concert for the Motown house band). Written by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean (not the actor, of course), it is a breathtakingly great Pop song.

Another at the very top of the form is "God Only Knows", written by Brian Wilson (music) and Tony Asher (lyrics), and first recorded by The Beach Boys and included on their Pet Sounds album. Paul McCartney, a pretty fair songwriter himself, has said he considers it the best song he has ever heard. Another stunner by Wilson (music and lyrics) is "Til I Die"---melancholy beauty rarely heard (found on the 1971 album Surf’s Up).

Is Tom Petty Pop? Well, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are a Rock Band, not a Pop Group. The Mamas & Papas were a Pop Group, as were ABBA, The Carpenters, and most other Vocal Groups. But a Rock Group can make a Pop record, and many of the best do. Cheap Trick are very Poppy ("Surrender"), but are obviously a Rock Group. The Ramones were also very Poppy (and proud of it. They were thrilled to be produced by Phil Spector---that is, until he locked them in his castle and wouldn’t let them leave), but no one’s going to mistake them for The Association.

A Rock Band performing Poppy material is commonly referred to as Pop-Rock in music criticism, a category that includes a lot of people. Guys like Emitt Rhodes (easily McCartney’s equal in songwriting and singing, and a better drummer ;-), Squeeze, Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe, hundreds of others. Pop songs performed in the Rock style. Though they were about as far from being a Pop Group as is possible, "The Weight" by The Band is a perfect Pop song.

Aren't we overthinking this?  

  • Gary Puckett and the Union Gap - 'Woman, Woman'
  • Marshall Crenshaw - 'Whenever You're On My Mind'
  • Richard Thompson or Marshall Crenshaw - 'Valerie'
  • Rita & the Tiaras - Gone With The Wind is My Love



"A sterling example of a Pop song is "When You Walk In The Room", written by Jackie DeShannon and released by her as a single in 1963."

Jackie's version certainly is. I think it's a mark of a great pop record that it can be a hit for different artists at different times. The charts are littered with such cover versions. There's probably even a few songs that have been hits for three or more artists! 

I always found it a little odd that my audiophile friends would tend to look down on pop. I know some people say they don't like bands 'selling out' (?) but my friends never articulated just what it was about pop they didn't like.

Or maybe it was the fact that pop didn't always have the highest sound quality in mind that often caused it to be overlooked by audiophiles?  For many other people pop is the goto whenever they get the urge to want the musical equivalent of a sugar hit.

Anyway, in return I would resort to calling  them 'musos'. You know the kind of musicians who fret about dropping a bum note whilst strangely being unaware that 99% of the audience didn't notice and couldn't care less even if they did.

In any case, why does it matter that musicians have to maintain a priest like devotion to their art? Isn't music also supposed to be fun?

Is 'selling out' even such a bad thing after all? Didn't the Clash, the Smiths, and the Ramones all 'sell out'. Even Steely Dan and the Floyd released the odd single, didn't they?

Or is this something that only affects the mindset mainly the most devoted (possibly over-identifying) of fans? 
In my case I was pleased  to be an early Joy Division fan and watching their gradual acceptance into the rock pantheon only went to confirm my taste. I certainly didn't feel disgruntled or let down by that. I don't own any part of Joy Division, and they owe me nothing.

For sure there are some worthy bands who almost only ever made pop music - the Mamas and Papas, the Association, Abba, the Beach Boys etc.

Herman's Hermits were another such great pop band. With so many hits they hardly ever strayed from safe pop territory. On a couple of notable occasions when they did the results were interesting.

Marcel's was certainly a great b side ( but perhaps their greatest pop song was this one.

Silhouettes  by Herman's Hermits
Janis Ian songs on her earlier albums are very well recorded and the music is very nice.  

Rickie Lee Jones' first album titled the same is just fantastic sounding and musically.

"I always found it a little odd that my audiophile friends would tend to look down on pop."
I have no idea if it is pop, or not, but my system-testing track is Victims by Culture Club. Drum around 2:15 is make-it-or-break-it moment. I compare everything to the way it sounds in my 
"don't touch me there" by The Tubes, perfect mix of stereophonic sound and "wall of sound" production technique. 

Man, some great Pop listed just above! I’ve been a "song pusher" my entire adult life. That’s the thing about Pop music: It’s all about the song. I have a nice little 7" 45 RPM collection, about 800 singles. I had a lot of 45’s before getting my first album, as did all my contemporaries. This was before the album format for "teenage" music was commonplace.

My first albums were those by The Ventures and the instrumental Surf Bands (I had all by The Astronauts, out of Denver Colorado), Chuck Berry (his greatest hits album on Chess Records), early Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Beach Boys. As everyone knows, the British Invasion changed everything. The album became THE format, the single just a tool to sell an album.

Along with the change to the album format, what sold the records of Rock Bands was not necessarily their songs, but the "sound" the Band/Group made. That is of course too broad a generalization to be literally true, but it was the direction Rock music took as the decade progressed. Eventually, having a Pop "sound" was considered uncool. Okay, Herman’s Hermits weren’t cool, but their recording of "I’m Into Something Good" (written by Carole King & Gerry Goffin) is GREAT! (produced by Mickie Most, who believe it or not also did Jeff Beck’s first album, Truth). So is "Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat". Great, that is, if you like Pop.

Marshall Crenshaw obviously knows a good song when he hears (or writes) one, and his recording of "I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)"---written by Ben Vaughn---is glorious beyond words.

I’ve loved Freedy Johnson from the moment I first heard him. How ’bout Don Dixon? Great Pop songwriter and producer (including the records of his woman, Marti Jones).

You Pop lovers, keep a lookout for the second album by Julianna Raye (Something Peculiar), produced by Jeff Lynne. An utter delight!

Dave Edmunds recorded a lot of great Pop on his second album---Subtle As A Flying Mallet, and produced it in the Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound style. His recording of "Maybe" (a hit for The Chantels in the 50’s) is Pop to the max! He does some Spector material on the album, and a great version of The Everly Brothers’ "Let It Be Me" (Dylan included his version on the Self Portrait album), and "Born To be With You" (a hit for Dion before anyone had heard of The Beatles). Each album side ends with a Chuck Berry song recorded live in an English pub, Dave backed by the UK band Brinsley Schwartz, whose bassist was a very young Nick Lowe. Dave and Nick later formed the great, great band Rockpile (also the title of Dave’s first album).

I had the pleasure of working with two masters of the Pop song---Emitt Rhodes and John Wicks of The Records (a great Pop Group). They’re both dead now, so perhaps you shouldn’t hire me for your next project. ;-)

Almost all McCartney songs in the first three years are the very epitome of the pop song.  Simple, catchy, short.  The SQ of the original records is not bad either.

Annoyingly they can stick in your head for days on end.
After 60 years in the game, McCartney is the archetypal pop composer.
My criteria for this subject is what songs are so good (in all or most of the five areas the OP mentions) that you cannot become tired of it, even if it was massively overplayed. The first few songs that immediately came to mind were:

Tired of Waiting - The Kinks
Nothing But a Heartache - The Flirtations
There She Goes - The La's
All I Want - Toad The Wet Sprocket 

Kudos for mentioning Emmitt Rhodes, along with Don Dixon & Marti Jones; so, I'll add:

"Praying Mantis" & I Can See the River" - Don Dixon
"Walk Away" & "Tourist Town" - Marti Jones  
@reubent ,

Freedy Johnston - "Bad Reputation" is one cool record. Great video too.


Victims is most certainly a pop song. It has to be by the fact that it topped the UK charts for several weeks around the winter of 1983/4. I can remember watching it on the yearly roundup pop video show back then.

Culture Club was the kind of band you couldn’t admit to liking but you couldn’t ignore either. Quite a few good singles though.

@clearthinker, of course McCartney was the great pop writer. Without him, Mickie Most and Tony Hatch the 1960s pop scene would have looked entirely different. Certainly in the UK.


There She Goes by The La’s is certainly a quintessential pop song.

It could probably be a hit for anyone and it’s not surprising that Sixpence None the Richer had similar success with their own version a little later.
@mitchagain  - I like these two........

There She Goes - The La's
All I Want - Toad The Wet Sprocket

If you can find it (I have it on the v/a collection International Pop Overthrow Vol.6), listen to "One Hit Wonders Of The World Unite" by Canadian Group The Badgers (available for hearing on a YouTube video). Hooky as hell, with a killer sing-along chorus.
When I hear "pop song", Katrina and the Waves "Walking on Sunshine" is what comes immediately to mind.  Sticks in the head all day.  I haven't heard of half the stuff you guys are listing.
Crimson and Clover - Tommy James & The Shondells
She's Not There - The Zombies
Pretty Lady - Lighthouse
I'm On Fire - Dwight Twilley Band
I Wanted To Tell You - Matthew Sweet
Wake Up Sleeping - The Saw Doctors

Another vote for "God Only Knows"; I'd also add "Day After Day" by Badfinger.
A lot of great suggestions but--how about the most obvious. To me, the quintessential pop tunes as expressions of rebellion, teenage angst and/or lust are:

I Saw Her Standing There
 Like a Rolling Stone

Unlike many great pop songs, I have never tired of hearing these.

For a great sleeper:

Tighter, Tighter
by Alive and Kicking--Co-written, co-produced  and sung (one of the two vocalists on the record) by Tommy James
(Likely deleted/blocked before seen by some....)

Something About You ~ Level 42

Violet ~ Hole

By Myself ~ Linkin Park

Disappear ~ INXS

Everywhere I Go ~ The Call

Clocks ~ Coldplay

Six Underground ~ Sneaker Pimps (Neliee Hoopers' remix is better, tho...)

(There She Goes is on my playlist as well, just to be transparent 'n all/...)

"Pop song", as in ’popular’ debatable....

Luka ~ Suzanne Vega is lush with wonderous clarity, but the subject is painful in it's way....

'Popular".....with some of us, and if it's only me....your loss.
Just Another Tricky Day (The Who)...for all of us.... ;)

...but I like this, just because it gets the blood moving...
POP!. Was and is music that crosses from category to category and ALL music preferences goes out the window. Ya just want to listen to it.

When I was a kid, POP, was what I listened to. So "Elephant walk", was POP, just like "Ruby" , "Born to be Wild", "Girls just want to have fun", "Whip It", and "A boy named Sue". All POP! Just like a lot of the folks said. "You’ll know it when you hear it."

@reubent ,

Wow, my favourite Beat record. Great video but muted sound. It normally sounds a lot more punchy. 
Here's a slightly cleaner version with lyrics.

The early 80s were a great time for UK singles. Here's one that went straight to number 1 in its first week by the group that were being seen then as the new Beatles.

The Jam - Going Underground
Great thread @cd318  - I hope it continues to grow and promote great pop songs.

@mitchagain: The Dwight Twilley Band! Their first album (Sincerely) is full of great Pop-Rock. It's like Elvis crossed with The Beatles. Bill Pitcock's flurry of guitar notes in the break midsong in "I'm On Fire" is astounding! Their second album (Twilley Don't Mind) is great too, but then drummer/singer Phil Seymour left the Group to go solo, and his absence really hurt. Future albums were no longer credited to The Dwight Twilley Band (their name was originally going to be Oyster), but just Dwight Twilley. Phil's albums on Boardwalk are real good too. By the way, Pitcock and my ex were a couple for a few years, and he offered to teach our son guitar. What a missed opportunity! An early DTB video (on American Bandstand, I believe) shows Tom Petty playing bass.

Speaking of Tommy James (as someone did above), his "Mony Mony" is a great one. In a similar vein is The Guess Who's version of "Shakin' All Over", my favorite rendition (superior imo to The Who's).

@reubent, do you like the Paul Collins (U.S.) Beat? Their s/t debut is killer Pop-Rock, and they were one of the best live bands I ever saw and heard (at The Whiskey Au Go Go in late '79/early '80). Bristling with kinetic energy, at The Who levels! Pre-The Beat, Paul Collins was the drummer in The Nerves, a trio whose other members were Peter Case (later in The Plimsouls) , and Jack Lee (writer of the Blondie hit "Hanging On The Telephone"). Their single release--a 7" EP, has become collectable, selling for close to $200. My copy is staying in my collection. ;-)

Here's a great one: "Shake Some Action" by The Flamin' Groovies, produced by Dave Edmunds.