ENTERTAINMENT

The best pop hooks of the 2010s

The best pop hooks of the 2010s

To celebrate the end of the 2010s, Entertainment Weekly is looking back at the best pop culture of the decade that changed movies, TV, music, and more. Today, we count down the best pop hooks of the last 10 years.
19. “Rather Be” – Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne (2014)

The real star of British electro outfit Clean Bandit’s 2014 collaboration with soul belter Jess Glynne isn’t the ginger singer — although she does contribute a powerhouse vocal — but the insistent violin line that recurs throughout the giddy banger. It’s an instrumental flourish that elegantly echoes the first-love blushes Glynne gushes over, and has a leap-out-of-speakers immediacy that not only stuck in listeners’ heads but stuck out, making “Rather Be” one of the most buoyant radio hits of the ’10s. —Maura Johnston

18. “Delicate” – Taylor Swift (2017)

Taylor Swift is no stranger to making memorable pop hooks. On Reputation’s “Delicate,” we get one of her best yet. While the album’s publicized singles largely grappled with Swift’s public persona through seething clapbacks, this electropop anthem was a shining moment of vulnerability, sans bravado. Using a vocoder, Swift created an unforgettable, floating, and overall minimalist hook where she sings, “Is it cool that I said all that?/ Is it chill that you’re in my head?/ ’Cause I know that it’s delicate.” Still gives us chills. —Ilana Kaplan

17. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers (2013)

Teased via trailers on SNL and then at Coachella, Daft Punk knew the blockbuster status of this hit so much so that they pre-empted its release in a manner reserved for action hero movies. The Pharrell Williams- and Nile Rodgers-featuring disco crusade of “Get Lucky” had the world in the palm of its hand, all thanks to a chorus so moreish it became impossible for anyone to talk about any song other than this one in the weeks following its drop. It also catapulted the French house pioneers back to relevance, while becoming another notch on Rodgers’ glittery belt. —Eve Barlow

16. “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars (2014)

Mark Ronson has crafted many hits over his career, but the horn-saturated “Uptown Funk” remains his biggest smash. For this old-school funk and hip-hop-indebted track, the hitmaker enlisted singer Bruno Mars to create a series of non-traditional pop hooks and a three-part breakdown that spans the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, and Chaka Khan. No doubt, “Uptown funk you up/Uptown funk you up uh” has been ingrained in your mind ever since. —IK

15. “Bad Guy” – Billie Eilish (2019)

Billie Eilish’s 2019 breakout single possesses no less than three hooks, which follow in quick succession during its chorus: The drawled refrain, in which Eilish revels in every vowel sound; the punctuative “duh!,” the sort of teenaged eye roll that made Eilish a Gen Z hero; and the spoopy keyboard line, the aural equivalent of her baggy, Mr. Yuk-green sweatshirts. Put ’em all together, mark ’em with a B, and you have one of the decade’s most oddly compelling sing-alongs. —MJ

14. Justin Bieber – “Sorry” (2015)

The Bieber hook of the decade is the one infused with the most real-life drama. He’d spent the prior year breaking apart his clean, child-star image, getting arrested for assault, seen on camera using a racial epithet, and generally becoming a noxious TMZ mainstay. That’s nothing a seemingly self-aware chorus can’t fix. “Yeah I know that I let you down/Is it too late to say I’m sorry now?” he sings, apologizing his way back to the top of the pop charts. —Brian Josephs

13. “Fancy” – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX (2014)

It’s hard to choose one Charli XCX-penned hook, such is the XCX never-ending carousel of pop bullseyes. But “Fancy” — a duet with Iggy Azalea — is to date one of her largest successes, and one of the first to put Charli in the conversation as a serious pop contender. Key to the appeal of “Fancy” was its accompanying music video, in which the pair re-enacted the movie “Clueless” with Azalea as Cher and Charli as her sidekick Tai. “Trash the hotel, let’s get drunk on the minibar,” were lyrics that introduced the party-loving enigma to an international audience, setting up a career built on the notion of zero-f—s-given aspirational living. —EB

12. “Edge of Glory” – Lady Gaga (2011)

Lady Gaga may have crash-landed into music as an electropop oddity, but the 2010s revealed a crucial fact about her artistic makeup: She loves big-tent arena rock. “The Edge of Glory,” from her sprawling 2011 album Born This Way, showed that she could thrash with the best of them. Assisted by Springsteen’s Big Man, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, she revels in bravado in a way that recalls jukebox heroes and other rock strivers, capped by a chorus that’s as lighter-ready as it is made for club remixes. —MJ

11. “Work” – Rihanna feat. Drake (2016)

ANTI featured Rihanna effortlessly spreading herself across a variety of styles, yet the album’s most recognizable moment — and its lone No. 1 hit — is the one where she returns to her Caribbean roots. With a flavor-filled hook that gets sweeter when she flips the melody into patois, “Work” immediately satisfied as the album’s lead single — a triumph because of the immense anticipation that built during Rihanna’s longest gap between albums. Both 2016 and 2017 saw a lot of pop songs attempting to re-create Caribbean vibes; unsurprisingly, few stuck like “Work” did. —BJ

10. “Cut to the Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen (2016)

“Call Me Maybe” has the Carly Rae Jepsen hook people unwillingly know by heart. In a better world, the palpable bliss of “Cut to the Feeling” would have that brief ubiquity. Yes the hook is a little harder to remember, but its emotional richness is easy to grasp. The way Jepsen’s fist-clenching determination looses to a plea — when she sings “I wanna cut to the feeling” with a sigh of descending notes — invites empathy. —BJ

9. “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee (2017)

Luis Fonsi came up with the melody of “Despacito” in a dream back in 2015. Two years later it was a global sensation. The sexy Spanish-language track has since become an unstoppable force, going more than 34-times platinum. Credit the song’s success to its hook — “Despacito/Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito/Deja que te diga cosas al oído/Para que te acuerdes si no estás conmigo — which was so indelible it helped pave the way for future Latin artists to start crossing over into the American market. –IK

8. “I Don’t Care” – Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX (2012)

Sometimes cliches become cliches because they’re actually true. Icona Pop’s lone hit proved “keep it simple” is legitimate advice. The Swedes don’t quite sing on the hook: “I don’t care/I love it” is delivered as a thrilling rebel cry, belted loudly and pridefully enough to blow back the screaming synths surrounding them. Even the music itself momentarily halts in front of a mantra the average pop listener can get behind. —BJ

7. “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” – Katy Perry (2011)

Katy Perry’s third album, Teenage Dream, was so jam-packed with hooks it almost felt like a greatest hits LP. That includes this timestamp party anthem for blackout drunk proverbial hot girls everywhere — one documenting skinny-dips, threesomes, and “epic fails.” More than just a showcase for pop production bells and whistles, the single was also a fabulous place for Perry to show off her vocal range, as she perfectly embodied the carefree California character to a tee. —EB

6. Taylor Swift- “We Are Never Getting Back Together” (2012)

Did you hear that Taylor Swift makes a lot of breakup songs? Thankfully her songwriting is versatile enough to keep one of her biggest tropes from growing stale. For “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the trick is economy. Swift manages to convey plenty with the repetition of those seven words: The “We” with at least three exclamation marks acknowledges a connection filled with history;  “Never ever” is sung as an exasperated, for-the-love-of-God plea; and the phrase closes with resolve. —BJ

5. Lorde – “Royals” (2013)

In 2012, Ella Yelich O’Connor was 17 and living in New Zealand, looking at the idea of fame through the lens of someone with no access. The song was a light-hearted poke at hip-hop. “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh,” she sang, opening her career with a wry observation about the difference between consuming pop culture and trying to embody it. The wordy rush of the song’s pre-choruses are rap-like in delivery as Lorde namechecks the riches she’s never known. Of course, the stardom she’d then experience would lead her to America and “luxe” parties. Despite her successes though, Lorde’s catchiest hit forever cemented her as the voice of an outsider looking in. —EB

4. “Love On Top” – Beyoncé (2011)

How many times does Beyoncé change key in “Love On Top”? Four. But it seems like more than that, as if she is just elevating higher and higher, to infinity and beyond. This 2011 track off 4 is Beyonce’s most traditional cut this decade, apparently inspired by her turn as Etta James in Cadillac Records. Most iconically, it was during her performance of “Love On Top” at the 2011 MTV VMAs in which we were provided with the most show-stopping pregnancy announcement of all time, with Beyonce confirming her first baby simply by unbuttoning her jacket and rubbing her belly. —EB

3. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen (2012)

Never mind that by early 2011, technological advances had resulted in texting beginning to supplant calling as the chief getting-to-know-you conversational medium. Carly Rae Jepsen’s winsome soprano and all-heart delivery of her bashful pickup line made “here’s my number, so call me maybe” one of the decade’s defining pop refrains. That it was surrounded by sugar-coated pop bliss — the disco strings! the hope-filled guitar line! Carly herself! — only made it more of a joyful singalong.  —MJ

2. “We Found Love” – Rihanna (2011)

The decade in Rihanna includes romps in traditional R&B, dancehall, Westerners, and psychedelic indie rock. But the queen was at her most immediately cathartic when she embraced EDM in the depth of its turn-of-the-decade boom. On “We Found Love,” with the world-beating repetition of the song’s title, Rihanna had completely given herself to bliss and took all within earshot with her. In a world full of hopeless places, this was a respite. —BJ

1. Robyn – “Dancing On My Own” (2010)

When the rush of being on a night out suddenly falls away, all your left with is the discomfort of “stilettos and broken bottles.” Robyn knows. The lyrics of inarguably the greatest song of the past decade became such a vital soundtrack to a generation that it’s hard to imagine they didn’t exist at the turn of the 2010s. Robyn’s most gargantuan belter belongs in the vault with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”; a floorfiller for the deepest heartache. There is rarely if ever a time when the song comes on in a public place and humanity doesn’t respond in unison with: “I’m in the corner watching you kiss her/Oh-woah-oh!” —EB
Related content:
The most overlooked albums of the 2010s
Best of the Decade: How Beyoncé defined the last 10 years of music

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