12 Most Groundbreaking Pop Songs Ever

Pop Music in the 2010s is a pretty well groomed and developed beast. You have to look outside the Top 40 to find the most boundary-pushing jams in the form of Frank Ocean, Grimes or Niki & The Dove. But before then, there was a whole host of tracks which broke new ground and made pop music what it is now. Let’s take a look back at 12 of them now.

12 MIA- ‘Galang’

Its roots were in the dying embers of Electroclash (MIA adopted the Roland MC-505 drum machine after seeing what Peaches did with it on ‘The Teaches Of Peaches’) and Elastica (it was co-written by Justine Frischmann and originally intended for the band), but ‘Galang’ was game changing, bringing elements of dancehall into collision with hip-hop, pop culture references undercut with a pan-global feel.
Released: June, 2003
Find it: ‘Arular’
Highest UK chart position: 77

11 The Human League – ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’

Or rather: the sound of the Disco turning claustrophobic and inward. Perhaps The League’s finest moment, this track perfectly mirrored the moment when krautrock, disco and new wave merged and found keyboards being played with a shark-like minimalism, mirroring the dark, urban landscape that they were singing about.
Released: June, 1981
Find it: ‘Dare’
Highest UK chart position: 12

10 Girls Aloud – ‘Biology’

Just when you thought the pop song couldn’t get any weirder, ‘Biology’ plied us with two choruses (one a galloping jerk, the second a jet powered drivetime rocker), throwing out the rulebook and adding a much needed deft eccentric touch to the charts. Girls Aloud’s finest moment.
Released: November, 2005
Find it: ‘Chemistry’
Highest UK chart position: 4

9 New Order – ‘Confusion’

Pairing up geographical opposites Arthur Baker and New Order was a masterstroke; it’s the perfect meeting of New York street beats and a darker, guitar-driven Manchester aesthetic. At the middle point was ‘Confusion’ with its sense of urbanity, bearing its beating disco heart in the middle of the mean streets.
Released: August, 1983
Find it: ‘Substance’
Highest UK chart position: 12

8 Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood

The arch-funk of Talking Heads was exchanged for a high pitched, meshing of playground chants and incessant hooks when Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz went off to form the Tom Tom Club. ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ was their sleek, Upper West Side jam, paving the way for Scandipop and the vanilla tuneage of Britney and friends.
Released: June, 1981
Find it: ‘Tom Tom Club’
Highest UK chart position: 7

7 David Bowie – ‘Ashes To Ashes’


With a bracing sense of modernity, Bowie toasted his ‘Space Oddity’ compadre Major Tom with the sound of blushing pianos and a squelching wall of sound which pre-dated Eno-assisted arty stadium rock (U2, Coldplay).
Released: August, 1980
Find it: ‘Scary Monsters And Super Creeps’
Highest UK chart position: 1

6 Kraftwerk – ‘The Model’


The dull, glorious ache of the synth, the clock-ticking beat and Ralf Hutter’s disengaged vocal set the scene for coldwave and all the icy electronica which would frost up the charts, decades later.
Released: December, 1981
Find it: ‘The Man Machine’
Highest UK chart position: 1

5 Dizzee Rascal – ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’

With its sloping, slurping beat and Dizzee’s vexed and mad-ass rapping, ‘Fix Up…’ found the first crown prince of British hip-hop paving the sound for a new decade. Urban pop was born and it had a brilliant sting in its tale.
Released: August, 2003
Find it: ‘Boy in da Corner’
Highest UK chart position: 17

4 Blondie – ‘Rapture’

Skimmed the surface of proto-rap (Debbie Harry’s manic “man from mars” flow was paired with the girlish guile of the verses) but also opened a door of musical possibilities for pop music. This seemed the perfect way to usher the 80s in, as music morphed into bounding, polymorphous shapes.
Released: January, 1981
Find it: ‘Autoamerican’
Highest UK chart position: 5

3 Laurie Anderson – ‘O Superman’

Technology as armoury. ‘O Superman’ was a brilliant masking of multiple themes under a blanket of minimal electronica. Familial ties blurred into the dark wing of patriotism and surveillance culture (along with a deft shot of humour) on this expertly crafted, massively influential Number Two hit.
Released: March, 1981
Find it: ‘Big Science’
Highest UK chart position: 2

2 Missy Elliot – ‘Get Ur Freak On’

Missy and Timbaland’s wildest experiment was also their most successful. This late period classic continued their trademark run of trailblazing beats and jams, with a Bhangra-sampling gallop of wicked, wild proportions.
Released: March, 2001
Find it: ‘Miss E… So Addictive’
Highest UK chart position: 4

1 Donna Summer – ‘I Feel Love’

It seems ridiculously simple now, but with this number Giorgio Moroder helped usher in a European electronic aesthetic to American music, changing the sound of pop forever. The flood of G-spot rhythms clustered on Summer’s knee-trembling falsetto and the result was a non-stop, forever gold classic.
Released: July, 1977
Find it: ‘I Remember Yesterday’
Highest UK chart position: 1

Groundbreaking pop songs – Spotify playlist


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