Finding songs everyone knows is harder than you think. Sure, everyone in the world sings the happy birthday song in their language, but that’s not fun for a party playlist or singing karaoke. For a list of songs everyone knows, you would need a mix of old and new songs, especially when multiple generations are involved. Here are our picks for songs that everyone knows.
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Our Top Picks: Songs Everyone Knows
Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
Everyone knows Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” At 2.8 billion downloads, “Shape of You” is the most-streamed song on Spotify. And it’s no wonder since it hit the #1 spot on charts in 34 countries in 2017.
The first time I heard “Shape of You” on the radio, I was intrigued by its complicated tropical, pop, and dance sound. The syncopated backbeat gets in your head and won’t let go.
If you haven’t heard “Shape of You” on the radio, you possibly caught the song in the game Just Dance 2018 or as the ringtone for Ed Sheeran’s phone in the movie Yesterday.
Blinding Lights by The Weekend
“Blinding Lights” is one of the newest songs everyone knows. This catchy song by The Weeknd reached #1 in 34 countries in 2019. It is currently Spotify’s second-most streamed song, with 2.2 billion listens.
“Blinding Lights” is a song about missing someone that appeals across generations. It fits in with today’s sound while also having a 1980s throwback feel. The voice and keyboard meld together into a dark aural magic that is infinitely replayable.
The Weeknd played the song live on several late shows, and you can hear it in a German Mercedes commercial. But you’re most likely to have heard it during the Weeknd’s odd pandemic-masked halftime performance during Super Bowl LV.
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is among the songs everyone knows and loves. It’s the most-streamed song from the 20th century, with over 1.6 billion listens.
Bohemian Rhapsody has hooked listeners with its storytelling since 1975. And we love every eccentric musical twist as the song switches from acapella to ballad and then from opera to hard rock.
Queen is known for fun call and response songs. You hear, “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me. And you feel compelled to sing back. Go ahead. You know what to say.
Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin’” is one of the love songs everyone knows. Strangely, it never hit #1 when Journey released it in 1989 (only #9). However, it managed to become the most downloaded digital single of the 20th century.
Because people have never stopped believing in this song, it still has a presence in pop culture. We heard it in The Sopranos series finale. It’s also played during or after Detroit sports games. “Don’t Stop Believin’” has been covered many times. It grew most in popularity when the Glee cast covered it in their 2010 pilot episode and it hit #6.
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
“Smells Like Teen Spirit is among songs everyone knows but not the name. You might not even know the lyrics. But if you hear the music, you recognize it, whether you used to be an apathetic Gen Xer wearing 90s grunge or not. The song hit big on charts around the world between 1991 and 1992.
When Kurt Cobain wrote “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for Nirvana, he said he was trying to rip off the Pixies and write the “ultimate pop song.” It’s certainly stood the test of time.
You may have heard the song in films like Moulin Rouge!, The Muppets, The Gallows, or Pan.
Happy by Pharrell Williams
Among the 2000s songs everyone knows is Pharrel Williams’ “Happy.” You can’t help but “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” It peaked at #1 on music charts in six countries after people heard it in the movie Despicable Me 2.
Happy is an uptempo neo-soul song that will get your feet moving, your hands clapping, or at least a smile from your face every time you hear it. Whether you can sing along depends on whether your voice ranges from F3 to C5 like Pharrell Williams’ falsetto.
We Will Rock You by Queen
Queen gets two songs on our list because they have the most popular songs that people love to sing along to. When someone starts up “We Will Rock You,” a crowd of all ages is likely to start singing, clapping, and stomping along acapella-style.
Stomp, stomp, clap, pause, stomp, stomp, clap, pause. Yeah. We see you over there doing it.
“We Will Rock You” has been covered, parodied, remixed, and used in media and film worldwide since its debut in 1977.
Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
“Call Me Maybe” is on every playlist of songs everyone knows. Even if you’re not a fan of teen bubblegum pop, you’ve still heard the song or its lyrics somewhere. It topped the charts in 14 different countries in 2012 and gave timid daters everywhere a line for their new crush: “Call me maybe.”
The song has a catchy beat with memorable lyrics that become an earworm for days. It’s been covered and remixed everywhere from Sesame Street to Glee. The list of tv shows and films it has appeared in is impressively long.
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
What is the most universally known song by The Beatles? It’s hard to choose. “Come Together,” “Let It Be,” and “Yesterday,” are all contenders as well. But “Here Comes the Sun,” has been streamed on Spotify more than any other Beatles song with over 640 million plays.
Despite debuting in 1969, “Here Comes the Sun,” is still recognizable, even by younger generations. It has a meditative feel, influenced by Indian music. But the bright and hopeful feeling it evokes is timeless.
“Here Comes the Sun” has been used for presidential campaigns and at the Olympics. A long list of artists has covered it.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
We couldn’t make a list of the top 10 songs of all time without including “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” It was first recorded in 1979 by Robert Hazard, but Cyndi Lauper put the fun in it in 1983. It was an instant hit in 25 countries.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” has made a lasting impression on pop culture and is as fresh now as in the 1980s.
The song has been featured and parodied everywhere from Sesame Street and the Chipettes to movies like Clueless, To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You, and in numerous television shows. It’s likely to keep appearing in movies and tv shows as long as girls seek freedom and fun.
Eye Of the Tiger by Survivor
Dave Bickler was the lead vocals on this smash hit from the movie Rocky III. The inspiration came from guitarist Frankie Sullivan and keyboardist Jim Peterik and helped launch their career.
It stayed number one on the music charts for over six weeks. Since its release in 1982, it’s still widely used in movies and television. The catchy beat and motivating words make it one of the songs everyone knows.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen
Who can forget the film The Wizard of Oz? Dorthey sings this hallmark song in her greatest career presentation. Interestingly, executives almost cut the song because they felt it slowed down the movie, but it showcased Garland’s talents.
The song that has a bit of hope and anxiety mixed in became her life’s ballet. The 1939 musical put both Garland and MGM on the maps.
Old Time Rock n’ Roll by Bob Seager
If you ask anyone, almost all will know Bob Seager’s famous hit. Who can forget Tom Cruise’s memorable lip-sync routine he did in the popular movie Risky Business?
George Jackson helped Seager write this song, and Seager believed it was the dumbest song he ever wrote, so he took no credit for it. He was sure it would flop as many of his other tunes. The song was released in March 1979, but it didn’t have near the cult following as a solo as it did on the stage.
Risky Businessput the song on the map with the help of Tom Cruise. Once Cruise did his famous dance with a broom and white underwear, the rest was history.
Lady In Red by Chris de Burgh
In 1986, Chris de Burgh released this song on his second album. The British-Irish singer-songwriter wasn’t well known until this ballad put him on the map.
He wrote the music for his true love, Dianne. When interviewed, de Burgh said that most men could not even remember what their wife was wearing when they first met, but he remembered everything.
Even the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was touched by the passion of the song, as it was rumored it made her cry. Lady in Red is a story of true love.
Hello by Adelle
When it comes to songs everyone knows, “Hello” by Adelle certainly tops the list. It’s been used in more paradoxes and shows than one could count. While the song seems to be about love gone wrong, it’s actually written about Adelle’s vulnerabilities and fears.
People commonly think Adelle lives in America, but England is her home. She talks of the insecurities she feels when she’s away from her country, hence the words “Hello from the other side.”
Currently, the album has sold more than 140 thousand copies, and it’s been number one on the pop charts in 37 countries.
Unchained Melodies by The Righteous Brothers
This popular song was written for the 1955 movie Unchained. The movie’s premise was regarding a man stuck in a medium-security prison who was longing to see his wife. Many artists have recorded the song, and shockingly four versions have made the top 40. It’s one of the most beloved tunes of all time.
Bad To the Bone by George Thorogood and the Destroyers
In 1982, this song hit the MTV airways. While it got a fair amount of praise, it wasn’t trendy when it first came out. However, over time, movie producers began using it to add bravado to certain scenes. Currently, it’s been used in over 27 movies, and it’s still popular.
The song never made it to the top of the billboards, but it certainly has a spot in many peoples’ hearts. It’s one of the most popular and recognized songs around, not to mention it’s been recorded by numerous artists.
Hot Stuff by Donna Summers
Donna Summers had to step into the role of a sensual vixen to do the video for her hit song “Hot Stuff.” This monster hit in the disco era was released in 1979. The music has also been a classic used in movies and television.
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
Dolly Parton is the original singer and songwriter for “I Will Always Love You” in 1973. Though Parton made it popular enough to climb the billboards, nothing would smash the charts like the version recorded by Whitney Houston in 1992. The song was recreated for the movie The Bodyguard with Houston and Kevin Costner.
It’s still considered one of the best love songs of all time, and it’s often sung at weddings, graduations, and on TV and movies.
…Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
As the Britney Spears’ hit debut single, “…Baby One More Time” was and probably always will be as popular as ever. At the time it came out, Britney wanted to be a star and clearly this tune shows how talented she was.
Back then, this song meant everything in the world of pop music because it changed the entire music scene. Additionally, those who were in high school at the time are probably reminded of dating, homework and best friends.
Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus expresses her admirable singing abilities when she belts out “Party in the USA”. Indeed, she’s young, beautiful and wears the latest fashion trends. Young women emulated her with the utmost adoration while many adolescent boys were secretly in love with her. This song is an ideal summer melody to motivate nearly anyone to head to the mall or just enjoy the sunshine outdoors. Moreover, Miley Cyrus was a splendid role model for women who wanted to be singers.
Milkshake by Kelis
While not everyone wants to attract the wrong boys to their yards, almost no one can deny the popularity of the hit “Milkshake”. The video features Kelis tasting a milkshake in a diner and being a bad girl. Kelis makes drinking a milkshake appear more imaginative than it actually is.
And she’s one of the most entertaining artists around. Furthermore, she doesn’t mind her fans or anyone else coming up with interpretations of their own as to the song’s meaning.
Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
Ms. Swift’s tune “Shake it Off” is upbeat and can put listeners in a better mood. In fact, you don’t have to be a Taylor Swift fan to admit this song can make you want to live life to the fullest. Taylor’s music is often described as “legendary”, “memorable” and “a masterpiece”, among other things. The music video features an exciting cast of characters including ballerinas, trumpet players, and Taylor herself. The talented vocalist must have had fun amusing herself.
No Scrubs by TLC
Since every woman has probably met a loser, TLC decided to write “No Scrubs”. It’s reminiscent of love gone wrong and high school days. According to the music video, each member of TLC clearly expresses her feelings about scrubs.
When the song debuted, music lovers were excited to hear an ultra-hip single from one of pop music’s leading groups. Fans of TLC would love to stop time and go back to those days.
Single Ladies by Beyonce
Beyonce truly defined what it means to be a single lady when she came out with this fabulous girl’s night out song. Of course, getting dressed up and having fun can be what’s life’s all about. Plus, it can be the perfect revenge to be happy alone. Although almost no one stays single forever, this tune can make every woman who enjoys being alone want to stay that way for a long time.
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
While plenty of people have this song on their list of all-time favorites, others despise it. Either way, Gloria Gaynor created a hit that continues to make fans stand up and sing whenever it comes on. Besides this, “I Will Survive” is one of the most memorable breakup songs for anyone who’s ever had their heartbroken. Those who frequent the dance floor might often see someone beside them mouthing every single word as they dance the night away.
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
As the queen of fantastic self-expression, Lady Gaga appears in the music video donning strange costumes, wearing outrageous makeup and singing in a language seemingly all her own. She can make a person feel as though being stuck in a bad romance is exciting and completely worth it. While not everyone can agree with her form of self-expression, ignoring her eccentricity can be impossible.
All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
With all of the controversy Mariah Carey’s capable of bringing, she does have a singing voice like no other. This fact is obvious when she sings “All I Want for Christmas is You”. Mariah Carey can be the brightest superstar on the Christmas tree whether it’s July or December. And in the music video, she holds a tiny dog and wears a feminine Santa outfit.
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
Those who’ve survived abuse, divorce, depression or any other serious problems will likely relate to “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. Before Beyonce was a household name on her own, she was an important part of her former group Destiny’s Child. The hit single is empowering because it encourages people to remain strong throughout every hardship they face.