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The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

For the first time in 17 years, we’ve completely remade our list of the best songs ever. More than 250 artists, writers, and industry figures helped us choose a brand-new list full of historic favourites, world-changing anthems, and new classics

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In 2004, Rolling Stone published its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s one of the most widely read stories in our history, viewed hundreds of millions of times on this site. But a lot has changed since 2004; back then the iPod was relatively new, and Billie Eilish was three years old. So we’ve decided to give the list a total reboot. To create the new version of the RS 500 we convened a poll of more than 250 artists, musicians, and producers — from Angelique Kidjo to Zedd, Sam Smith to Megan Thee Stallion, M. Ward to Bill Ward — as well as figures from the music industry and leading critics and journalists. They each sent in a ranked list of their top 50 songs, and we tabulated the results.

How We Made the List and Who Voted

Nearly 4,000 songs received votes. Where the 2004 version of the list was dominated by early rock and soul, the new edition contains more hip-hop, modern country, indie rock, Latin pop, reggae, and R&B. More than half the songs here — 254 in all — weren’t present on the old list, including a third of the Top 100. The result is a more expansive, inclusive vision of pop, music that keeps rewriting its history with every beat.

From Rolling Stone US


Sister Nancy, ‘Bam Bam’

Nancy (a.k.a. Ophlin Russell) was the DJ (mic controller) for Kingston’s Stereophonic sound system when she met reggae producer Winston Riley in the late Seventies. “I really admired how he took recording serious,” Nancy said. “You couldn’t go into his studio and do any foolishness.” Their peak, “Bam Bam,” is one of the great early dancehall anthems, booming but bright, tough but playful — and it’s been sampled extensively by everyone from Lauryn Hill to Kanye West.


Missy Elliot, ‘The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)’

As producers, Elliott and Timbaland had already made their rhythmic impact on hip-hop and R&B before Missy’s first single. And some high-profile features had even introduced Elliott’s bobbing, whizzing rap style to audiences. But still, no one could have predicted “The Rain,” with its ghostly sample of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” memorable Beenie Man misquote (“Who got the keys to the jeep?”), and twitchy yet sleek beat. It made Elliott a star, and she and Tim the producers to beat.


Toto, ‘Africa’

“It’s funny,” Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro said in 1985. “We thought ‘Africa’ was bold, and it did pretty good, but lyrically it didn’t make a dime of sense.” No matter — that instantly calming synthesizer riff, played on a Yamaha GS-1 “dialed in [to] those kalimba, marimba kind of sounds,” as Porcaro described it, does most of the talking, along with that soaring chorus. It hit Number One and has lived on as a yacht-rock touchstone; in 2019, Weezer’s affectionate cover made it ubiquitous all over again — a favor Toto returned by covering Weezer’s “Hash Pipe.”


Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert, ‘Bad and Boujee’

If cellphones gave rise to ringtone rap, social media gave us meme rap. The Atlanta trio Migos’ opus “Bad and Boujee” has become the latter’s keynote anthem, its “Raindrop, drop-top” hook inspiring scores of Twitter memes and Vine clips, and even showing up at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C. The trio’s Offset wrote the song’s hook, he told Rolling Stone, while “I had some little situations going on with life, family stuff going down, so I went downstairs to record. Sometimes that’s the best time to get music off — you might be mad, make some crazy shit.”