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Friends and neighbours, I’ve got a theory. My thinking is this: pop songs, when executed to such a high degree we can basically round up to saying they’re perfect, achieve a level of embedded, canonised love in the minds of the public that no other genre can really hope to accomplish, partly due to pop’s pre-established advantage of being ever-present on radios and TV. In other words: perfect pop songs are better (or at the very least, more effective) than perfect songs of other genres. Of course the very thing that gives good pop songs their boost is the same thing that makes bad ones so insufferable – the fact that radio will pound them into the ground for months after release, their seemingly simplistic or shallow arrangements, and the ability (if not explicit goal) to stay stuck in your head for days on end. Pop has maybe the largest gap of any genre between its good stuff and its “Shape Of You”‘s, and this dichotomy is what causes ‘pop’ to be a dirty word in the minds of many even in the year of our Lorde 2017. But when a tune is done perfectly, with respect to the form and real feeling, it can become a symbol to represent entire periods of time, feelings or entire sub-cultures of people in a way that puts other genres to shame. Go on and have a small list of perfect pop songs, then, and tell me how hard you disagree.

 

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows MI0002433952

Of course, almost every song from Pet Sounds deserves a look in here, with it essentially being the Illmatic of pop music in the 60s that completely upped the stakes on what music could be, do and sound like. But ahead of close contenders “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “God Only Knows” makes the cut due to something spiritual, and impossible to consciously recreate; the feeling of real serenity and ataraxia that simply pours from its every note. A big part of this is the Carl Wilson vocal, easily the Beach Boy who was most capable of delivering on real emotion; and his more straightforward work on “God Only Knows” cuts to the heart in the way a more technically brilliant performance wouldn’t have. Quotes from those present have attested to a sort of magic in the air on the day of recording this song; sure, I could record a grunge rock cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Audacity and then claim there was magic in the air on the day of recording, but c’mon, listen to that chorus and tell me you don’t feel the beginning of a few goosebumps.

 

The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun

Beatles_-_Abbey_Road

Let’s get the big one out of the way first – George Harrison was the best Beatle. Okay? Cool, onto the good stuff. Abbey Road‘s greatest asset is its effortfless flow, the way 7-minute proto-psych jams sit hand in hand with Paul’s minute-long piano ditties and neither feel remotely out of place. The record runs the risk of losing its soul within all the genre-flexing, but as always George was the one to remind us that the Beatles were, in the end, just four human dudes making some pretty damn good music. “Something” could easily be here too – you don’t get the nod from Frank Sinatra for writing “the greatest love song of the past 50 years” for just any old jam – but “Here Comes the Sun”‘s simple, wide-eyed beauty at the English summer is one of the most entrancing qualities to ever grace a Beatles record, or indeed any pop song. After all, these are designed to be songs you can play every single day – what better gift to your audience than to remind them of the beauty of the everyday?

 

Tears For Fears – Head Over Heels

Tears_for_Fears_Songs_from_the_Big_Chair

In which Tears for Fears twist every negative stereotype about 80s cheese pop into a genuine, marble-carved masterpiece of scream-along catchiness – complete with a surprising, genuinely blistering guitar jam leading into “Broken (live)”. Sure, I found this song through Donnie Darko like a true millennial, but how else would “Head Over Heels” be burned into my childhood like a perfect pop hit should be? On some days I think this might be the finest pop song ever recorded – and on the other days, I just listen to it again to remind myself that it is.

 

Crowded House – Weather With You

Crowded_House-Woodface_(album_cover)

As my rambling diatribe of a Woodface review attempted to get across, this album means a lot to me. It doesn’t have the emotional sucker punch of “Better Be Home Soon”, sure, but what Woodface does have instead is Tim Finn, possibly the finest singer to ever come out of our little corner of the world where New Zealand and Australia reside; even better, it’s got Tim singing songs written by his brother Neil, the best/most consistent pop songwriter of all time. Lot of talent for one family, but Woodface never gets too full of itself; whenever songs like “All I Ask” threaten to get overly sentimental and moody, the silly humour of “Chocolate Cake” and “Italian Plastic” brings it back down to earth. Bang in the middle you have “Weather With You”, a song that cruelly reserves its chorus entirely for its second half, instead serving up clever musings on laziness and depressive moods for its first. Drop a needle on these harmonies and one of the most listenable guitar noodles of all time, and drift into the stratosphere.

 

OutKast – Hey Ya!

Outkast-speakerboxx-lovebelow

When I said that a good pop song can be everywhere, this and “Ms. Jackson” are what I was thinking of – songs that seem to be permanently embedded on any iPod to ever be plugged into a speaker on a uni campus anywhere, mainstays of every drunken sing-along when you’re young and dumb. Except, as it should be, “Hey Ya!” is neither as naïve nor as silly as it first appears. I’m not beholden here to some fancy objective idea of ‘depth’, but the way 3 Stacks takes a depressing cautionary tale about the trust issues that eat a relationship from the inside and couches it in a song made of warm sunshine and daisies is pretty close to a masterstroke. Andre is one of the best to ever rap to a beat, after all, but he cuts to the core just as effectively by singing the blues on “Hey Ya!”.





Ovrot
07.18.17
Pos'd love ya rowbro

Rigma
07.18.17
cool beans

clavier
07.18.17
excellent job

superluminals
07.18.17
pop isn't anymore inconsistent than any other genre

Rowan5215
07.18.17
*in my best Sowing voice* what the fuck are perfect places

anyway??

DoofusWainwright
07.18.17
My conclusion, perfect pop songs aren't my favourite type of songs...though Head Over Heels is a good 'un. Then again I'd say it has a quirkiness to it that makes it a non-standard pop song though.

Mort.
07.18.17
couldnt agree with you more regarding Head Over Heels, that song is perf

AND THIS IS MYYYYYYYYYY

verdant
07.18.17
awwww yis good writing very good writing good choices very good choices niceeee

Dewinged
07.18.17
I love all of these

ScuroFantasma
07.18.17
Cool list, and great choices

Rowan5215
07.18.17
@Mort FOUURRRR LEAF CLOOVAHHHHHHHHH

thanks a bunch all, good vibes all round

SowingSeason
07.18.17
Man look at this guy acting like a perfect pop list would be complete without Taylor Swift

Naw but seriously these are incredible choices; all are honestly pretty indisputably perfect. Great first blog post.

Rowan5215
07.18.17
thanks sowbro - Blank Space is a jam but hardly a mainstay of my life or something that's stuck with me since childhood lol

list could've easily been longer and incorporated stuff like Heroes?, Feel Good Inc. etc but decided to keep it short n sweet

Demon of the Fall
07.18.17
'Hey Ya' is definitely a song which I've gotten strange looks for admitting I like, people who know me pigeonhole my music taste & have certain expectations I guess, so it's incomprehensible that I could like a pop song... usually they'd be right of course, but this is one of the exceptions.

SowingSeason
07.18.17
Nah this is perfect and I was just pulling your leg / pitching for my bae

Rowan5215
07.18.17
unfortunately as a Kanye fan I'm required by meme law to believe Taylor is a snek (don't demote me pls)

verdant
07.18.17
im not a fan of either but taylor is the most vacuous pop-star posing as meaningful like in the history of ever in my inarguable, expert opinion

manosg
07.18.17
Nice picks Row, even I love 2-3 of them. Still remember the first time I heard Hey Ya! when it came out and thinking what kind of annoying shit that was but then realized that the damn thing was ingrained to my brain to the point I actually kinda enjoyed it. Little did I know that a few years later it would be part of a "Perfect Pop Songs" list lol.

Flugmorph
07.18.17
great article rowbro, keep it up!

onionbubs
07.18.17
george was the best beatle agreed. great article, like id expect anything less.

Rowan5215
07.18.17
thanks all, good feedback fulfills my intense need to be validated

@manosg hah which songs do you enjoy? I may come down a little hard on the side of "hey ya is an emotional masterpiece" rather than "hey ya is a fun jam", but I will die on this hill if necessary

Demon of the Fall
07.18.17
'taylor is the most vacuous pop-star posing as meaningful like in the history of ever.'

Correct.

manosg
07.18.17
"@manosg hah which songs do you enjoy?"

I absolutely love God Only Knows and Here Comes the Sun and really enjoy Head Over Heels. Have never heard Weather With You but will do because of your description of the song.

Dewinged
07.18.17
Manosg how the hell have you managed to avoid Weather with you all this time? lol

AsleepInTheBack
07.18.17
Great piece. Much love for God Only Knows

manosg
07.18.17
haha dunno Dewi but I like what I'm listening. I really enjoy the '90s atmosphere of the song but I also pick up some Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young vibes from the vocal harmonies.Really nice song.

Ryus
07.18.17
head over heels and god only knows yeah

Rowan5215
07.18.17
God Only Knows is something special I'm glad we all agree

manosg give all of Woodface a spin sometime, it's a truly beautiful and occasionally breathtaking album. stone cold 5

Voivod
07.18.17
Crowded House and Tears For Fears for the win!

bloc
07.18.17
Excellent pick for Tears For Fears. It's literally in my top songs ever.

theBoneyKing
07.18.17
Hey Ya is a terrible song though

TVC15
07.18.17
Head Over Heels YES

BlushfulHippocrene
07.18.17
Hey Ya! is an excellent song. As are the rest of these. JT didn't make the cut, though, mate? Fantastic writing as usual.

pjorn
07.18.17
smh at no droppin plates

Rowan5215
07.18.17
oh yeah didn't include this decade because it ain't over yet but Mirrors is def the standout thus far

droppin' plates would kinda overshadow the whole list don't you think

Atari
07.18.17
awesome work Rowan, hope to see more stuff like this from you





SandwichBubble
07.18.17
Nice work. These are all really good picks :)

DoofusWainwright
07.18.17
'Hey Ya is a terrible song though'

Don't feel quite as strongly but it falls only just the safe side of Pharrell Williams 'Happy' and I'd certainly never choose to spin it for my own enjoyment. It doesn't make me run out of the room though, it's harmless enough.

theBoneyKing
07.18.17
Ok "terrible" is a bit of an exaggeration but I certainly wouldn't call it "perfect pop", I mean it's not even a pop song really. Either way it's pretty irritating to me.

Artuma
07.18.17
too uplifting. neg.

DoofusWainwright
07.18.17
Boney agreed, I think it's a strange choice for 'perfectly written pop' - I'd say it leans on vibes/atmosphere a lot for its appeal, rather than songcraft

mifzal
07.18.17
There's at least one Simon and Garfunkel song out there, Don't you think?

Atari
07.18.17
sounds of silence is the best song ever agreed

TheMrAlexK
07.18.17
Hey Ya def belongs here yall are cray

GhostOfSarcasticBtrd
07.18.17
No Avril.
No Michelle Branch.
2/10 list

bloc
07.18.17
Good God is Michelle Branch ever hot

Sinternet
07.18.17
i thought this would be about actual pop music

TVC15
07.18.17
How dare you compare a harmless, pop rap song like Hey Ya to that abysmal nails on chalkboard Happy

Conmaniac
07.18.17
hey ya is a perfect song agreed

Rowan5215
07.19.17
"i thought this would be about actual pop music"

???

(actually dunno why I'm surprised that's the most sinternet comment to ever be sinternetted)

Dewinged
07.19.17
Hey Ya made me actually like happy music. Great song (and fun video).

Slex
07.19.17
Hi Rowan yr great and this list is great, cheers

tommygun
07.21.17
beach boys are shite but sweet list otherwise :D

Cygnatti
07.21.17
Hey ya isnt rap at all, its all pop. Yallre dumb.

bloc
07.21.17
They know pop though

Cygnatti
07.21.17
The people who say hey ya is rap of any kind are the same type of people to think every drake song is pop rap.

tommygun
07.21.17
every drake song is just drake mumbling nonsense over boring beatz :]

bloc
07.21.17
Talking about his mom and feelings n shit

Matmusic
07.24.17
I'd add a couple to this list.
1) Elton John - Tiny Dancer.
2) Arethra Franklin - I Say A Little Prayer For You.
3) Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive. Inescapable disco track that is still infectiously funky today. The bassline in particular makes this work.
4) Earth Wind and Fire - September
5) America - A Horse With No Name. The harmonies and progression take you on a magical journey.
6) The Human League - Don't You Want Me?
7) A-ha - Take On Me.
8) The Police - Every Breath You Take. A perfect pop list without the Police would almost be criminal. This one is smooth as silk with a very effective chord progression.
9) CeeLo Green - F*ck You. For a song with expletives, this one has a lot of flair.
10) Empire of the Sun - We Are The People. Dazzling, electropop perfection.
11) Roxy Music - More Than This. This song probably isn't as well known, not even charting top 100 in America, but most listeners can't help but admire the 'freshness' as the track starts. It is almost difficult to pinpoint this as an 80s track. Bryan Ferry's vocals (see also the likes of "Slave To Love") may not to everyone's taste but is unmistakably smooth. Chorus is softer than the verse, incidentally, but the overall mood is quite pensieve and ethereal, and even romantic, but brighter than the title track, Avalon. The synthwork and instrumental is also sublime.
12) Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights. The delivery and the mood of the track is hard to match. Overall, there is just something very attractive and alluring, and best of all, unique about this track.
13) Toto - Africa. It is such a 'cute' but professional track, with plenty of neat melodic runs, and a powerful vocal cannon. It certainly conveys a sense of awe and mystery about the great continent.
14) Tina Turner - What's Love Got To Do With It?
The singer really puts her heart into this one and I think that's why it comes out so well.
15) ABBA - Knowing Me, Knowing You. There are many fond classic hits they churn, but this particular one stands out as the peak of their powers where they nail the pop formula to a T.


literallyzach
07.24.17
no ariana grande? im out

TheMrAlexK
07.24.17
Where's HUMBLE.?

guitarded_chuck
07.24.17
love outkast but hey ya makes me want to shoot myself

Keyblade
07.24.17
cassie - me & u

Keyblade
07.24.17
also rowbro penning staff blogs, we made it

Rowan5215
07.25.17
"HUMBLE." lol nah

key I was expecting you itt earlier lol, surprised you didn't go straight for Ignition (remix)

Keyblade
07.25.17
shit, ur right bro LOL

i was just jamming it in someone's car the other day. universally accepted goat pop song

Tyler.
07.25.17
i wanted to be with you alone

Rowan5215
07.25.17
shame R. Kelly is literally the worst POS on the planet but we won't go into that here anyway. will do a second list of 2000s pop/R&B bangers just for you man lol

AND TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER

bloc
07.25.17
"i wanted to be with you alone"

Ugh so good

theacademy
08.26.17
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyV8NENXbiA

topical

VaxXi
08.26.17
where's lovefool

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