Top 100 Pop Songs 2009

This is admittedly a subjective list based on judgments of quality instead of sales figures or radio airplay. A number of songs have expanded reviews - click on the word 'Review' to read more information about the song.

This list should be a great conversation starter and feel free to agree or disagree. Either way there is a lot of great pop music to be found here.

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Katy Perry - "Thinking Of You"

Courtesy Capitol Records

Katy Perry turned to ballad territory for her third single from the album One of the Boys. It was a pleasing diversion, but the song does not hold up to the quality level of her uptempo singles.

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Jay-Z - "D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune)"

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3. Courtesy Roc Nation

Auto-tune did seem to be an overdone musical technology in 2009. Jay-Z decided to take it head on in his first single from the album The Blueprint 3.

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Flo Rida featuring Nelly Furtado - "Jump"

Flo Rida - R.O.O.T.S.
Flo Rida - R.O.O.T.S. Courtesy Atlantic

Flo Rida continued his inimitable blend of pop and hip hop with this energetic single. He brought Nelly Furtado along to help perk up the interest of pop fans.

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Jessie James - "Wanted"

Jessie James - Wanted
Jessie James - Wanted. Courtesy Mercury Records

Someone must have been thinking there is more gold to mine in pop-country crossover beyond Taylor Swift's massive success. Shania Twain did it in the late 90's and early part of this decade. Jessie James went looking for stardom with this appealing rock-edged take on country-pop.

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The Fray - "Never Say Never"

The Fray - Never Say Never
The Fray - Never Say Never. Courtesy Epic

Colorado pop-rock band The Fray will tug at heartstrings with this big power ballad. The song helped the group overcome any fears of a sophomore jinx with their second album.

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Jesse McCartney featuring T-Pain - "Body Language"

Jesse McCartney featuring T-Pain -
Jesse McCartney featuring T-Pain - "Body Language". Courtesy Hollywood Records

If you have a good formula working, why change. Jesse McCartney built here on a foundation provided by his breakthrough hit "Leavin'" from the album Departure.

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Whitney Houston - "Million Dollar Bill"

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston. Courtesy Arista Records

There is no particular new ground broken here, but the sound is clearly that of the Whitney Houston pop fans fell in love with in the past. A smooth midtempo dance groove lets that voice glide over the song in effortless fashion.

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Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat - "Lucky"

Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz. Photo by Larry Busacca / Getty Images

There are no grand musical fireworks here from these two stars. Instead, it is the laidback, feel good tune you would expect from the individual work of both Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat.

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Linkin Park - "New Divide"

Linkin Park - New Divide
Linkin Park - New Divide. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Linkin Park was the perfect band to choose for music accompanying a movie about the toy robots Transformers. This became one of the top rock radio hits of the year.

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Soulja Boy Tell 'Em feat. Sammie - "Kiss Me Thru the Phone"

Soulja Boy Tell 'Em - isouljaboytellem
Soulja Boy Tell 'Em - isouljaboytellem. Courtesy Interscope

Soulja Boy proved here that he is a bit more than simply a rap novelty act. He is in smooth R&B loverboy mode here.

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Timbaland featuring Justin Timberlake - "Carry Out"

Timbaland - Shock Value II
Timbaland - Shock Value II. Courtesy Interscope

It really doesn't match the quality of some of their past collaborations, but any time Timbaland and Justin Timberlake combine forces in the studio, the result is worth hearing.


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Daughtry - "No Surprise

Daughtry. Courtesy RCA

Daughtry are the sound of mainstream rock today, and "No Surprise" is possibly stronger than any of the singles off their four million selling debut album. A wall of guitar is topped off by Chris Daughtry's gravelly but clear vocals and skillfully crafted lyrics.

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Ciara featuring Justin Timberlake - "Love Sex Magic"

Ciara featuring Justin Timberlake -
Ciara featuring Justin Timberlake - "Love Sex Magic". Courtesy Jive Records

A spare dance beat bathed in funky, retro 70's style R&B guitar is a great foundation for the two stars to play off each other. This doesn't have the lyrical potency of Ciara's "Like a Boy," but fans of sparkling dance-pop were smiling.

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Nickelback - "If Today Was Your Last Day"

Nickelback -
Nickelback - "If Today Was Your Last Day". Courtesy Roadrunner Records

Nickelback's thoughtful meditation on living every moment like it's your last looks destined to be an instant graduation day classic.

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Jesse McCartney featuring Ludacris - "How Do You Sleep?"

Jesse McCartney - Departure: Recharged
Jesse McCartney - Departure: Recharged. Courtesy Hollywood Records

Jesse McCartney may be one of the most underrated artists in pop music today. "How Do You Sleep?" is another solid example of why pop fans should pay attention to this former child actor. Sweet pop-soul really doesn't get a whole lot better than this.

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Iyaz - "Replay"

Iyaz - Replay
Iyaz - Replay. Courtesy Reprise Records

Iyaz followed Sean Kingston out of the Caribbean with this big debut. Now I'm sure more than a few fans' iPods are stuck on replay.

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Asher Roth - "I Love College"

Asher Roth -
Asher Roth - "I Love College". Courtesy Universal Motown

Yes, it's gimmicky, and it can be terribly annoying. However, the debut from rapper Asher Roth is also memorable whether you are nodding in agreement or offended by the sentiments of the song.

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Beyonce - "Diva"

Beyonce - I Am...Sasha Fierce
Beyonce - I Am...Sasha Fierce. Courtesy Columbia Records

One of the quirkiest songs from Beyonce's phenomenal I Am...Sasha Fierce album. The kinetic energy is positively infectious, and don't forget to check out the video.

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Eminem - "Beautiful"

Eminem - Relapse
Eminem - Relapse. Courtesy Interscope

Eminem heads for inspiration territory here. It was one of the first songs he finished after pulling himself together in rehab.

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Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce - "Telephone"

Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster
Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster. Courtesy Interscope

Lady Gaga joins superstar Beyonce in one of two collaborations this year between the pair. This song is a club stomper sure to get fans on the dance floor.


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Kristinia Debarge - "Goodbye"

Kristinia DeBarge -
Kristinia DeBarge - "Goodbye". Courtesy Island Def Jam

The song is built around the hook of Steam's classic #1 pop hit "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." It is a perfect light vehicle to launch the career of 19 year old Kristinia Debarge of the legendary R&B recording family.

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Eminem - "We Made You"

Eminem -
Eminem - "We Made You". Courtesy Aftermath

Here Eminem takes on societal celebrity obsession. The video is colorful but seems a little too much like following the same ground as he has explored in the past.

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Flo Rida featuring Wynter - "Sugar"

Flo Rida featuring Wynter -
Flo Rida featuring Wynter - "Sugar". Courtesy Atlantic Records

It's light, sweet, and it's another irresistible smash from Flo Rida. Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" has one of those hooks that grabbed everyone instantaneously the first time around. This type of sample-based froth is not the peak of pop artistry, but in the right mood, it certainly hits the spot.

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Justin Bieber - "One Time"

Justin Bieber - One Time
Justin Bieber - One Time. Courtesy Island Records

The effect here is of a younger Chris Brown for pre-teens. The-Dream contributes songwriting and "Tricky" Stewart handles the production which makes it all sound contemporary and commercial. The song itself is somewhat ordinary, but it does show that 15 year old Justin Bieber does have vocal chops. Look for better things to come.

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Uncle Kracker - "Smile"

Uncle Kracker - Happy Hour
Uncle Kracker - Happy Hour. Courtesy Atlantic

Six years after Uncle Kracker was last in the pop spotlight, he returned. He came back with one of the top feel good songs of the year. It will make you "Smile." Buy from Amazon »

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Selena Gomez - "Magic"

Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez. Photo by Jason Merritt / Getty Images

The latest Disney pop princess is one of the most talented yet. 17 year old Selena Gomez headed up the pop charts this year with a new cover of Pilot's classic 1974 pop hit "Magic." It charms pre-teens and their parents alike. Buy from Amazon »

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Jay Sean featuring Sean Paul and Lil' Jon - "Do You Remember"

Jay Sean -
Jay Sean - "Do You Remember". Courtesy Cash Money

Jay Sean followed his first #1 smash in the US with a touch of dancehall and hip hop. It is nearly as irresistible as "Down" and became a late year top 20 hit.

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Demi Lovato - "Here We Go Again"

Demi Lovato - Here We Go Again
Demi Lovato - Here We Go Again. Courtesy Hollywood Records

Disney artist Demi Lovato rolled into the pop top 20 this year for the first time with this hit. Uptempo, energetic pop is the reason.

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Adam Lambert - "Whataya Want From Me"

Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment
Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment. Courtesy RCA

Adam Lambert got a boost here from Pink and Max Martin. It can be seen as a bit of an answer to his critics in catchy, crunch pop-rock form.


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Train - "Hey, Soul Sister"

Train - Save Me San Francisco
Train - Save Me San Francisco. Courtesy Sony

Pop-rock band Train released their biggest pop hit in six years. It is a genial, laidback sound that is very appealing to fans of Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson.

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Alicia Keys - "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart"

Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom
Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom. Courtesy J Records

Alicia Keys returned with all of her elegant soulfulness intact. This song has a unique sway that catches a listener's attention instantly.

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Mariah Carey - "Obsessed"

Mariah Carey - Obsessed
Mariah Carey - Obsessed. Courtesy Island Records

Although never confirmed, the best guess is that Mariah Carey is settling scores with Eminem here. The song is memorable and includes clever lyrics, but it was a commercial disappointment.

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Taylor Swift - "Fifteen"

Taylor Swift - Fearless Platinum Edition
Taylor Swift - Fearless Platinum Edition. Courtesy Big Machine

Taylor Swift warns fellow teens here to not invest too much in boys and instead focus on building their own potential. This song was reportedly inspired by Taylor Swift's best friend Abigail Anderson.

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Pitbull - "Hotel Room Service"

Pitbull - Hotel Room Service
Pitbull - Hotel Room Service. Courtesy Sony

Sure, this song is not far removed from Pitbull's breakthrough "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," but it is an irresistible groove. This song ranks among the top party music of the year.

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Miley Cyrus - "The Climb"

Miley Cyrus -
Miley Cyrus - "The Climb". Courtesy Hollywood Records

Although it doesn't rank among the top inspirational pop ballads of all time, Miley Cyrus did prove she can handle slower songs here. Reportedly, this song became a favorite audition piece for the ninth season of American Idol.

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The Fray - "You Found Me"

The Fray -
The Fray - "You Found Me". Courtesy Epic

Lyrically "You Found Me" is solid and emotional. It's loosely based around the concept of questions of why bad things happen to good people. The Fray's lyrics are some of the best and most thought provoking in mainstream pop music today.

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Drake - "Best I Ever Had"

Drake - Best I Ever Had
Drake - Best I Ever Had. Courtesy FD Entertainment

Drake is the musician name used by Aubrey Drake Graham, an actor best known for an ongoing role in the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation. Here he makes a strong crossover into the pop market.

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Madonna - "Celebration"

Madonna - Celebration
Madonna - Celebration. Courtesy Warner Bros.

If you are looking for an effortlessly breezy dance tune to support your own celebratory party, "Celebration" will perfectly fit the bill. It even features a slightly naughty spoken word section, "I don't recognize you with your clothes on." Madonna might be marking time, but this is a reminder that she has no parallels among other dance-pop artists.

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Rihanna featuring Jeezy - "Hard"

Rihanna - Rated R
Rihanna - Rated R. Courtesy Def Jam

This is about as upbeat as Rihanna's chilling album Rated R album gets. She is proud and forthright and "so hard."

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Britney Spears - "3"

Britney Spears -
Britney Spears - "3". Courtesy Jive Records

Yes, she is again courting controversy here with lyrical content, but the bottom line is this is another irresistibly catchy pop confection that beats out most everything else on pop radio today. Britney Spears and producer Max Martin are an unbeatable pop combination.

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Orianthi - "According to You"

Orianthi - Believe
Orianthi - Believe. Courtesy Geffen Records

Orianthi would have been a guitarist on Michael Jackson's comeback This Is It concert tour. Despite the missed opportunity, she released her first solo album Believe and stormed the pop charts with this catchy guitar-based pop song.

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Black Eyed Peas - "Meet Me Halfway"

Black Eyed Peas -
Black Eyed Peas - "Meet Me Halfway". Courtesy Interscope

So what do you do to follow up two enormous hit singles that amount to the longest string of consecutive weeks at the top of the pop singles chart for any recording act? If you are the Black Eyed Peas you release another effortlessly melodic song that would sound equally outstanding on the radio or listening at home.

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Allison Iraheta - "Friday I'll Be Over U"

Allison Iraheta -
Allison Iraheta - "Friday I'll Be Over U". Courtesy Jive Records

Allison Iraheta's throaty voice is used effectively from the first "Oh yeah!" through the falling apart of a romantic relationship in the course of a week. Snappy drum and guitar figures make the song instantly memorable, and you will be singing along the first time through.

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Lady Gaga - "LoveGame"

Lady GaGa - Lovegame
Lady GaGa - Lovegame. Courtesy Interscope

It isn't as memorable as her top hits of the year, but given time to sink in Lady Gaga's "LoveGame" has its own charms. Among those are the obvious sense of humor in the lyrics.

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A.R. Rahman & the Pussycat Dolls feat. Nicole Scherzinger - "Jai Ho!"

"Jai Ho!" (You Are My Destiny)" - A R Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls featuring Nicole Scherzinger. Courtesy Interscope

The addition of the Pussycat Dolls to the song may have seemed a questional decision at first glance, but it is this move that is likely to get the joyful explosion on to pop radio playlists. "Jai Ho!" abundantly deserves its place, and the vocals of head Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger will have pop fans singing as well as dancing along.

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Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West - "Run This Town"

Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West - Run This Town
Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West - Run This Town. Courtesy Roc Nation

The biggest star here is the stunning imagery of the accompanying music video. It makes a rather ordinary rap-singing collaboration highly memorable.

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Seether - "Careless Whisper"

Seether - Careless Whisper
Seether - Careless Whisper. Courtesy Wind-Up Records

Would a metal remake of a classic George Michael song work? The band Seether say yes, and, after listening, I agree.

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Jeremih - "Birthday Sex"

Jeremih -
Jeremih - "Birthday Sex". Courtesy Def Jam

Jeremih wins this year's prize for audacious debuts. However, it does raise the issue of why no one else came up with the idea of building a song around the concept of hot sex on one's birthday?

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3OH!3 - "Don't Trust Me"

3OH!3 -
3OH!3 - "Don't Trust Me". Courtesy Photo Finish Recordings

Bratty, insolent and irreverent, this song does actually work. You can be offended, but I suggest dancing instead...oh, and while you're at it, "do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips."

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Kelly Clarkson - "I Do Not Hook Up"

Kelly Clarkson -
Kelly Clarkson - "I Do Not Hook Up". Courtesy RCA Records

There really can't be too many rousing rock hits about the healing power of a solid romantic relationship. Some guy has been driven to drink, and the slow pursuit of Kelly Clarkson can heal the pain. That's the message here, and it seems a plausible one.

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Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain - "Blame It"

Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain -
Jamie Foxx featuring T-Pain - "Blame It". Courtesy J Records

Jamie Foxx's smash hit single "Blame It" raises the question of whether too much auto-tune is ever really too much. Millions of pop fans seemed to think the answer was "no."

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Rob Thomas - "Her Diamonds"

Rob Thomas -
Rob Thomas - "Her Diamonds". Courtesy Atlantic Records

The percussion pattern kicking off "Her Diamonds" carries the song forward with a gentle push and a bit of swing as the tune progresses. Thomas' soulful and smooth vocals deliver the lyrics on the feelings of powerlessness when seeing a loved one in pain with subtlety. The imagery of "tears like diamonds on the floor" is a powerful one.

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Michael Franti & Spearhead feat. Cherine Anderson - "Say Hey (I Love You)"

Michael Franti and Spearhead - Say Hey (I Love You)
Michael Franti and Spearhead - Say Hey (I Love You). Courtesy Anti

Franti doesn't drop his social consciousness entirely for the sake of a simple love song here. References to his travels and embrace of people around the world give "Say Hey (I Love You)" an engaging international feel. The back catalog of Michael Franti and his band Spearhead is one well worth exposing to a wider audience.

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Shakira featuring Lil Wayne - "Give It Up to Me"

Shakira -
Shakira - "Give It Up to Me". Courtesy Epic

Shakira collaborates here with producer Timbaland and rapper Lil Wayne. The result is both strongly uplifting and irresistibly funky.

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Adam Lambert - "Time for Miracles"

Adam Lambert -
Adam Lambert - "Time for Miracles". Courtesy RCA

Perhaps Adam Lambert's single from the soundtrack to the epic disaster movie 2012 should be titled, "Maybe It's Time for a Power Ballad." The current pop music environment is so dominated by uptempo music at the moment, a true classic power ballad feels like an exhilarating breath of fresh air. Add to that feeling that this is also a very very good one that I suspect would make Jim Steinman and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler proud.

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Maxwell - "Pretty Wings"

Maxwell - Blacksummers' Night
Maxwell - Blacksummers' Night. Courtesy Columbia Records

Maxwell is a master of smooth R&B vocals. He returns here with his first top 40 pop hit in eight years to show us all how it's done.

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Muse - "Uprising"

Muse - The Resistance
Muse - The Resistance. Courtesy Warner Bros.

British rock band Muse released one of the top rock songs of the year with Uprising. Its irresistible forward momentum pulls pop fans in. The song features the usual warnings of conspiracy and talk of revolution familiar to Muse fans.

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Plain White T's - "1,2,3,4"

Plain White T's -
Plain White T's - "1,2,3,4". Courtesy Hollywood Records

Love songs don't get much more simply charming than this. Don't miss the video of real-life lovers that accompany this song that argues for the staying power of Plain White T's.

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Flo Rida featuring Kesha - "Right Round"

Flo Rida -
Flo Rida - "Right Round". Courtesy Atlantic

Flo Rida, more than any rapper of the moment, has a genius, along with his producers, for crafting incredibly hooky slabs of pop hip hop. On "Right Round," Dr. Luke steps into the production role and they create 3 1/2 minutes of tremendous fun. You will hear echoes of another pop classic, but this song stands on its own feet.

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Colbie Caillat - "Fallin' for You"

Colbie Caillat - Falling for You
Colbie Caillat - Falling for You. Courtesy Universal

Colbie Caillat proved here she is no one-hit wonder. "Fallin' for You" will please any fan of laidback, soft, sweet pop music. Relax and enjoy.

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Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz - "I Can Transform Ya"

Chris Brown -
Chris Brown - "I Can Transform Ya". Courtesy Jive Records

Chris Brown's legal troubles didn't dim the catchiness of his music. One listen and this may be stuck in your head all day.

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Green Day - "Know Your Enemy"

Green Day -
Green Day - "Know Your Enemy". Courtesy Reprise Records

Green Day returned with rousing anthemic rock on "Know Your Enemy" from the album 21st Century Breakdown. According to lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong the song is a clarion call to liberate yourself from televised crap. The lyrics aren't quite so explicit, but there is plenty of fist-pumping energy.

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Jordin Sparks - "Battlefield"

Jordin Sparks - Battlefield
Jordin Sparks - Battlefield. Courtesy Jive Records

"Battlefield" is the kind of song that screams instant hit from the first time you listen. Major credit goes both to producer and co-songwriter Ryan Tedder and Jordin Sparks herself who is a stellar singer with a golden personality to match.

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Pink - "Please Don't Leave Me"

Pink -
Pink - "Please Don't Leave Me". Courtesy La Face Records

Lyrically, "Please Don't Leave Me" is a fascinating Pink song. She sings about simultaneously being a horrifically difficult lover while begging to not be left in the lurch. The desperate tone of the words is brilliantly undercut by the sing-song backing vocal loop that almost taunts the song's protagonist. It is a tension that is almost sub-conscious but present even if you aren't listening closely.

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David Guetta featuring Akon - "Sexy Chick"

David Guetta - One Love
David Guetta - One Love. Courtesy Astralwerks

David Guetta made his major US chart breakthrough with this sexy, slinky hit. Akon's vocals glide effortlessly in his attempt to not be "disrespectful."

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Pitbull - "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"

Pitbull -
Pitbull - "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)". Courtesy The Orchard

This is the Latin party hit of the year. It will take a few times through for Pitbull's breakthrough to really grow on you, and then it does not let go. In a year of great celebratory party music, this one stands out.

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T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake - "Dead and Gone"

T.I. - Paper Trail
T.I. - Paper Trail. Courtesy Atlantic Records

Inspired by the untimely death of a close friend, T.I.'s lament is made even more haunting by the gorgeous backing vocals of Justin Timberlake.

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Britney Spears - "If U Seek Amy"

Britney Spears -
Britney Spears - "If U Seek Amy". Courtesy Jive Records

Just as the cutesy wordplay of "If U Seek Amy" may seem somewhat absurd, Britney Spears gives as good as she gets here. The song amounts to a clever kiss-off of her critics. She is exactly right. Any time Britney Spears is attacked in the press, there will always be plenty of people waiting to get close to her.

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Lily Allen - "The Fear"

Lily Allen -
Lily Allen - "The Fear". Courtesy Regal

Lily Allen is one of the top lyricists in pop music today. Her year seemed to swirl in and out of controversies, but another listen to "The Fear" will demonstrate exactly why she draws so much attention.

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Boys Like Girls - "Love Drunk"

Boys Like Girls - Love Drunk
Boys Like Girls - Love Drunk. Courtesy Columbia Records

Boys Like Girls swing for the fences here and very nearly hit a grand slam. Boys Like Girls lean more strongly to the pop end than most of their punkish colleagues. They wear their debt to Jimmy Eat World on their sleeves.

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David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland - "When Love Takes Over"

David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over
David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over. Courtesy Astralwerks

There is more than a faint whiff of classic disco about the record. The accompanying video accentuates the feel of diva-centered disco. Kelly Rowland and her vocals are the total focus with glimpses of David Guetta to the side putting together all of the supporting elements for the song.

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Susan Boyle - "Wild Horses"

Susan Boyle - I Dreamed a Dream
Susan Boyle - I Dreamed a Dream. Courtesy Syco

A tremendous achievement of this recording of "Wild Horses" is it takes Susan Boyle's already familiar vocal approach out of the realm of show tunes and pop standards into material emerging out of rock. This effort is undertaken without compromise and the results are impressive.

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John Mayer - "Who Says"

John Mayer -
John Mayer - "Who Says". Courtesy Columbia Records

The intimate production takes listeners back to the singer-songwriter and California-based light rock of the early 70's and possibly even further back to folk-pop of the 60's. The melody is instantly memorable and feels a bit like a warm quilt wrapped around on a cool fall night. "Who Says" is a reminder that a well-written song, simple arrangement and quiet delivery can create some of the most powerful pop music.

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OneRepublic - "All the Right Moves"

OneRepublic - All the Right Moves
OneRepublic - All the Right Moves. Courtesy RCA Records

Ryan Tedder and the band seem to have an endless inventory of sounds to use and layer as the song progresses. This structure prevents any possible boredom from the repetitive nature of the chorus. "All the Right Moves" is a recording lovingly structured by an expert at work. Tedder has spent much of the past year creating hit recordings for other artists as songwriter and/or producer. Here he shows that he did save some exciting "moves" for his own band.

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Kris Allen - "Live Like We're Dying"

Kris Allen -
Kris Allen - "Live Like We're Dying". Courtesy Jive Records

This record demonstrates again that one of the primary keys to the success of Kris Allen as a performer and now recording artist is almost uncanny skill at selecting material to sing that maximizes the presentation of his talents. It's very easy here to envision Kris Allen giving an energetic and engaging live performance.

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Rihanna - "Russian Roulette"

Rihanna -
Rihanna - "Russian Roulette". Courtesy Island Def Jam

"Russian Roulette" will never be the crowd-pleaser that Rihanna's mega-hit "Umbrella" is. However, it is a work of gorgeous melancholy and dread. Frequent collaborator Ne-Yo helps take Rihanna into uncompromisingly adult territory in the wake of the domestic violence in her relationship with Chris Brown. "Russian Roulette" is dark, but there is beauty here as well.

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Kelly Clarkson - "Already Gone"

Kelly Clarkson - Already Gone
Kelly Clarkson - Already Gone. Courtesy RCA

The powerful irony contained in "Already Gone" is that its stately backing track and slow, but steady beat would make it perfect for a slow dance. However, the tone and sentiment of the song would make it the most heartbreaking of songs for sharing a dance with a lover. This irony alone would put "Already Gone" on the short list of great breakup songs.

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Cobra Starship featuring Leighton Meester - "Good Girls Go Bad"

Cobra Starship - Good Girls Go Bad
Cobra Starship - Good Girls Go Bad. Courtesy Fueled By Ramen

This is Cobra Starship's big pop breakthrough. Gabe Saporta's vocals are engaging, and look for crowds to be having a great time with this on the dance floor. The lyrics are silly but they really aren't much more than a draw to the song and then add to the sound collage. Leighton Meester has a slightly tough edge to her voice that draws us in as well.

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Lady Gaga - "Poker Face"

Lady GaGa - Poker Face
Lady GaGa - Poker Face. Courtesy Interscope

This is the song that took the Lady Gaga bandwagon to the next level. Borrowing from sounds of synth pop performers like Goldfrapp and an old hook from bubblegum pop stars Boney M, "Poker Face" made her a superstar.

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Sean Kingston - "Fire Burning"

Sean Kingston - Fire Burning
Sean Kingston - Fire Burning. Courtesy Beluga Heights

Many fans and critics saw Sean Kingston's rise as little more than a novelty, but "Fire Burning" is a strong statement for sticking around. Due to his unique voice, there is no mistaking this is a Sean Kingston record. However, this is a move forward and no hint of sameness with his first album.

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Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow"

Black Eyed Peas -
Black Eyed Peas - "Boom Boom Pow". Courtesy A&M Records

"Boom Boom Pow" is simply a hot, beat crazy party track in the best tradition of the Black Eyed Peas. The break will drive you to the dance floor. "Boom Boom Pow" very effectively joins together the best elements of the Black Eyed Peas while avoiding heading over the top.

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Kings of Leon - "Use Somebody"

Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
Kings of Leon - Use Somebody. Courtesy RCA

Lyrically, "Use Somebody" is far from complex. However, the pleading for someone to make life complete is perfectly matched with a sound akin to roaming the streets that may bring to mind for listeners something like U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Kings of Leon have been criticized by some fans for their strong embrace of anthemic rock at the expanse of their earlier garage-based sound. However, that shift is the pop fan's gain.

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Kid Cudi - "Day 'n Nite"

Kid Cudi -
Kid Cudi - "Day 'n' Nite". Courtesy Fool's Gold

Kid Cudi blasted on to the hip hop and pop scene with this irresistibly catchy tale of the "lonely stoner." There is a darker side to the song, but it is also likely to bring any party to life.

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Katy Perry - "Waking Up In Vegas"

Katy Perry -
Katy Perry - "Waking Up In Vegas". Courtesy Capitol Records

This is a return to uptempo form for Perry after the slow down of the previous single "Thinking Of You." Energetic pop is clearly the best at delivering her clever and witty words. The video that accompanies "Waking Up In Vegas" is of special note. It was directed by Joseph Kahn, one of the most experienced and decortated of video directors. Actor Joel David Moore co-stars with Katy Perry in the short visual story of a couple caught up in the world of Vegas. The clip is lush and filled with visual energy.

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Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name"

The Ting Tings -
The Ting Tings - "That's Not My Name". Courtesy Columbia Records

Lyrically, the Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name" is an anthem for those who struggle to make enough impact on those around them that someone remembers their name. The song could be packaged as a painful lament but instead comes out as an accusatory howl against those who don't pay attention. The elemental beginning of "That's Not My Name" leaves plenty of room for layered sound as the song progresses but, despite two tracks of vocals in counterpoint, crunchy guitars, and a wall of sound roar to close the track it is always minimalist in its visceral impact.

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Beyonce - "Halo"

Beyonce -
Beyonce - "Halo". Courtesy Columbia Records

"Halo" is a clear nominee for love song of 2009. Beyonce delivered a majestic song that clearly defines appreciation for the all encompassing love of a life partner.

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Lady Gaga - "Paparazzi"

Lady GaGa - Paparazzi
Lady GaGa - Paparazzi. Courtesy Interscope

Despite the phenomenal commercial success of Lady Gaga's three earlier singles from The Fame, this is easily the top artistic achievement yet. Bathed in warm chords that communicate a swirl of emotion, the song is a tribute of sorts to the symbiotic but ultimately fake and "plastic" relationship between stars and their trailing paparazzi. The accompanying music video takes the song to another level entirely.

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Kesha - "Tik Tok"

Kesha -
Kesha - "Tik Tok". Courtesy RCA

She started off the year as a support act for Flo Rida, and Kesha closed it out as a party girl star in her own right. Few singers show more attitude with their debut singles.

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Shakira - "She Wolf"

Shakira - She Wolf
Shakira - She Wolf. Courtesy Epic

The retro disco sound wrapped in scratchy 70's dance guitars is arresting and with a set of lyrics detailing an ignored partner's desires to transform into a "she wolf," the song is masterful. Shakira is clearly an artist with a world of pop styles at her command.

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Kelly Clarkson - "My Life Would Suck Without You"

Kelly Clarkson -
Kelly Clarkson - "My Life Would Suck Without You". Courtesy Sony BMG

Elbowing her way into the independent female territory of Katy Perry and Pink, Kelly Clarkson adds just enough sugary bubblegum to the mix to leave listeners with a sweet smile on their face. A key element that sets "My Life Would Suck Without You" above the competition is Clarkson's vocals. She once again displays the clear, resonant pipes that took her to the top of the first season of American Idol.

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Owl City - "Fireflies"

Owl City - Ocean Eyes
Owl City - Ocean Eyes. Courtesy Republic

From the first synthesizer blips that kick off "Fireflies," you feel yourself being taken off to a playful and fanciful musical world. It's no surprise then that the song's lyrics unveil thoughts about such unlikely top 40 songs topics as lightning bugs, dancing, and insomnia. Adam Young, who records as Owl City, turned his homemade sound into one of the biggest left-field hits of the decade.

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Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne - "Down"

Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne -
Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne - "Down". Courtesy Cash Money Records

British R&B artist Jay Sean holds the honor of knocking the Black Eyed Peas from a 26 week reign at #1 with this song. It is also Jay Sean's first hit after signing with US rap label Cash Money. Interestingly, the song is primarily R&B and pop with just a rap break from Lil' Wayne.

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Beyonce - "Sweet Dreams"

Beyonce - Sweet Dreams
Beyonce - "Sweet Dreams". Courtesy Columbia

"Sweet Dreams" is one of the most adventurous tracks from Beyonce's stellar album I Am...Sasha Fierce. She heads into heavy electronic pop territory delivering a memorable, slightly creepy, chorus.

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Taylor Swift - "You Belong With Me"

Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me
Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me. Courtesy Big Machine Music

Somehow teenager Taylor Swift made teen love, angst, and romance sound incredibly fresh again with this song. It became the first country song to top Billboard Hot 100 radio airplay chart. The song itself is like a mini movie which is played out even more explicitly in the video.

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Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind"

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys -
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind". Courtesy Atlantic Records

This is the "New York New York" of hip hop made even more explicit by the live performance at the 2009 American Music Awards. "Empire State of Mind" became Jay-Z's very first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Miley Cyrus - "Party in the USA"

Miley Cyrus - Time Of Our Lives
Miley Cyrus - Time Of Our Lives. Courtesy Hollywood

"Party In the USA" is a midtempo reflective song on the experiences of an out of town success arriving in the seat of her new stardom. Miley Cyrus proved she was a mainstream pop star to be reckoned with on her best single so far in her career.

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Jason DeRulo - "Whatcha Say"

Jason DeRulo - Whatcha Say
Jason DeRulo - Whatcha Say. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Jason DeRulo croons here like a confident, established R&B pop singer. In the more emotional sections of this musical plea for reconciliation, DeRulo spits out the words with a spirit appropriate for the moment. He pledges paradise when he becomes a star. This debut single went all the way to #1 for Jason Derulo.

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Keri Hilson featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo - "Knock You Down"

Keri Hilson - Knock You Down
Keri Hilson - Knock You Down. Courtesy Interscope

Songwriter Keri Hilson continued her emergence as a solo singing star with this top 3 pop single. The record was a true group effort with contributions from Ne-Yo, Kanye West, and Danja among others.

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Black Eyed Peas - "I Gotta Feeling"

Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feelin'
Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feelin'. Courtesy Interscope

Perhaps the perfect song for going out on a weekend night, "I Gotta Feeling" spent fourteen weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 helping to give the Black Eyed Peas a stunning combined 26 consecutive weeks at the top. The song has an indescribable sense of joy that is ultimately powerfully infectious.

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Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance"

Lady GaGa -
Lady GaGa - "Bad Romance". Courtesy Interscope

Lady Gaga capped a stunning debut year by letting the love monsters out of the closet. The song is an intense litany of nearly pathological romantic entanglements all set to beats designed to crowd the dance floor. Lady Gaga's singing moves from snarling threats to floating sweetness and back again.

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