The bridge holds a special place in the hearts of music fans. It’s not the most immediate part of a song, nor usually the stickiest or most recognizable — in fact, it might be the toughest part for you to remember at karaoke. But very often, it’s the part that ends up being the most revealing, the hardest hitting, the least shakeable. If nothing else, it’s the most singular part of a song, appearing after the second chorus like a late-breaking curveball and usually not returning until you go back and play the song all over again.
But in contemporary pop music, the bridge might be disappearing. Not totally, of course: Pop songs will almost always have opportunity for a late-arriving breakdown section that offers some sort of new element to contrast from the first couple verses and choruses, before hitting you once more with the main hook. “I think it is such a key part of pop song form,” says David Penn, co-founder of Hit Songs Deconstructed, which provides compositional analytics for top 10 Hot 100 hits. “You have to provide that departure, [because] you can do so much with it… it’s such a component to pop songwriting that I don’t see it going anywhere at all.”
In the more clipped era of streaming and TikTok, though, the fully fleshed-out, narrative-oriented bridge — what Penn and Hit Songs Deconstructed refers to as a “storytelling bridge” — might be a somewhat endangered species. As the song length of the average hit continues to shrink, there may just not be the same kind of room for the bigger bridges of earlier pop eras. “It might not be as pronounced as it was in the past,” Penn says of the future of the classic storytelling bridge. “But in some manifestation, [the bridge] will always serve as a role. Because otherwise, the song can wind up being too predictable, or too one-dimensional. You need to provide that variation to keep the listener engaged.”
For bridge purists, there is hope to be found in a few of the biggest pop hits of 2021: most notably, Olivia Rodrigo‘s Billboard Hot 100-topping “Drivers License,” whose bridge towers so mightily over the rest of the song that it even got specifically shouted out in the February SNL skit centered around the song. “A bridge is a great example of taking a song that’s really good and making it great,” Rodrigo says. “And just giving it that extra sort of intensity, and bringing in something that hasn’t been said before.” (Both she and collaborator Dan Nigro are avowed students and supporters of the bridge, saying they “never cop out” when writing one together.)
To salute the shot in the arm our latest cover star has given the bridge form — and to highlight some of the other best examples of recent years — Billboard is counting down our 100 favorite song bridges of the 21st century. What makes a bridge at all, let alone a good bridge, is of course subjective, and we had to make some tough calls about what song sections do and don’t count as bridges. The only hard-and-fast rules we used were that the bridge has to occur after at least one chorus (though in a few rare cases, they come before the second verse), has to include some vocal element (though not all have lyrics, strictly speaking), has to introduce new musical and/or thematic elements to the song, and has to be followed by some kind of return of the song’s main refrain.
With all that in mind, let Billboard take you to the bridge with our list below, with a playlist of all 100 songs at the very bottom. (Before you ask, though: No, “SexyBack” isn’t on here — that’s the pre-chorus you’re taking us to, JT and Tim, not the bridge.)
100. RAE SREMMURD, “BLACK BEATLES”
How It Starts: “She’s a big teaser/ And we’re blowin’ reefer”
The Part You Definitely Remember: That beginning to Swae Lee’s interlude before Slxm Jxmmi’s third verse, in which he gives the slyest of sly nods to the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” before issuing one of hip-hop’s great combo come-ons/warnings: “Your body like a work of art, baby/ Don’t f–k with me, I’ll break your heart, baby.”
Why It Works: “Black Beatles” plays it perfectly with callbacks to its titular inspiration: Short, quick glances that enrich the song if you’re Beatlemaniac enough to get them, and don’t distract from the song’s extremely 2016 perfection if you aren’t. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
99. ANNIE, “CHEWING GUM”
How It Starts: “I don’t want to settle down, I just wanna have fun”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When Annie drops her cutesy delivery and speak-sings “I don’t want to settle down” in a more serious, seductive tone, she really drives home the fact that she’s probably not just talking about gum.
Why It Works: Though the bridge is a touch more subdued than the rest of the song, the Norwegian singer-songwriter pops in a gleeful “wee!” between each line, keeping things tooth-achingly sweet as she reminds listeners that she’s here for a good time, not a long time. — CHRISTINE WERTHMAN
98. TREY SONGZ, “NEIGHBORS KNOW MY NAME”
How It Starts: “While I’ll be banging on your body, they be banging on our wall”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Songz’s wryly grinning “Sometimes she call me Trey/ Sometimes she say Tremaine,” taken to the next level at bridge’s end with his yelped “Sometimes she call me Trigga ’cause I make her body bust.”
Why It Works: “Neighbors” is a sex jam gleeful and silly enough to be crying out for a bridge to really put it over the top, and this one — replete with repeat knocking sound effects, of course — more than does the trick. — A.U.
97. SELENA GOMEZ, “HANDS TO MYSELF”
How It Starts: “I want it all, no, nothing else…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: After two and a half minutes of insisting that she couldn’t possibly keep her hands to herself, Gomez cheekily admits at the end of the bridge: “I mean I could, but why would I want to?” It’s the shrug emoji come to sultry musical life.
Why It Works: The yearning “I want it all” bridge adds some emotional punch to the sexy pop confection, but it’s that frisky final line that leaves the biggest impression and proves the onetime Disney teen is all grown up. — KATIE ATKINSON
96. ARCTIC MONKEYS, “WHY’D YOU ONLY CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE HIGH?”
How It Starts: “And I can’t see you here, wonder where I might…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: What sticks out in this bridge is the rejection of ‘You said gotta be up in the morning/ Gonna have an early night.” Alex Turner’s swift recital of a common excuse eases the sting of a flat out “no.”
Why It Works: It’s good self-deprecating humor, as the song’s love interest firmly shuts down Turner, calling him a bore for being stoned and lonely at 3:00 in the morning. The well-earned checking of the singer in the bridge turns the AM single from a brazen booty call to a commendation of his foolishness. — TAYLOR MIMS
95. FAR*EAST MOVEMENT FEAT. DEV, “LIKE A G6”
How It Starts: “It’s that 808 bump make you put your hands up”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The clear, repeat instruction of “put your hands up” is most memorable and triggers a sensory, flashback scene of a packed SoCal club brimming with ABGs (Asian Baby Girls) on the dancefloor. See music video for reference.
Why It Works: Though the song is punctuated with a few hell yeah‘s, the beginning of the bridge revs it up for the most satisfying heeeeell yeah in the track, in which you pause from your two-step dancing, throw your arms up, and build up the energy for the final chorus of: “Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard…” — MIA NAZARENO
94. SZA, “DREW BARRYMORE”
How It Starts: “Sorry, I just need to see you…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: SZA’s feigned chill throughout “Drew Barrymore” begins to crumble right at the start of this stream-of-consciousness bridge, but it falls away marvelously in the last two lines, where she asks point-blank: “Do you really love me? Or just wanna love me down, down, down, down?”
Why It Works: Listening to SZA recount her struggles with self-esteem at a party, all you want to do is shake her — and the subject of her admiration — into recognizing her worth. Enter this cathartic bridge, where SZA cuts through the B.S. and delivers all the searing jabs we’ve been waiting for, from the way her vocal takes on a cartoonish sarcasm when she blurts “I don’t mean to be A LOT!” leading up to her frank question in the final line. — TATIANA CIRISANO
93. MISSY ELLIOTT FEAT. LUDACRIS, “GOSSIP FOLKS”
How It Starts: “I don’t go out my house shorty you just waitin’ to see”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When Missy, already two minutes into one of the wildest rides of a brilliantly warped career, “You just wanna see who I am f—king boy, sniffin’ some coke/ I know by the time I finish this line, I’ma hear this on the radio.”
Why It Works: A lesser songwriter would opt for a simple boast about why they’re the best, but Missy, like a true lyrical giant, sets the scene: She’s so talented and prolific, you are going to hear this song (which she’s not yet finished rapping) on the airwaves before she’s done with the damn bridge (which incidentally, tees up a career highlight guest verse from Luda). — JOE LYNCH
92. P!NK FEAT. NATE RUESS, “JUST GIVE ME A REASON”
How It Starts: “Oh tear ducts and rust/ I’ll fix it for us”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When P!nk wails “We’ll come clean” at the end of the bridge, it’s as if the dam in their fractured relationship bursts, and every hurt comes spilling out as they long for a fresh start.
Why It Works: In a song that’s filled with he said/she said, the bridge is the climactic turning point, where the two characters finally start talking to each other instead of at each other, and realize they can move forward. — MELINDA NEWMAN
91. SOPHIE, “JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE”
How It Starts: “We were young/ We had everything we wanted”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Apart from the song’s signature pitched-up vocals, there’s no way to listen to “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye” without immediately feeling a rush of dopamine as thunder crashes in the background, the synths kick into overdrive, and the disembodied voice sings “It makes me feel” over and over again.
Why It Works: On paper, it shouldn’t work: The segment builds musical tension without ever releasing it in a joyous, dopamine-inducing drop. But that’s arguably the point — throughout their career, SOPHIE made a habit of creating music that not only pushed the boundaries of what was deemed “acceptable” in pop, but also by simply pushing the limits of the music itself. The fact that the song’s bridge refuses to let you feel that release lets you in on a very different feeling of inner tension, and it’s one that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. — STEPHEN DAW
90. MADONNA, “HUNG UP”
How It Starts: “I can’t keep on waiting for you”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Is there a more Ciccone-esque couplet than the BDE of “Don’t cry for me, ’cause I’ll find my way/ You’ll wake up one day, but it’ll be too late”?
Why It Works: Some bridges serve as a breather before a soaring chorus, but Madonna and co-producer Stuart Price know that when you’re crafting a club classic, you can’t leave the listener hanging on the dancefloor without a beat. This bridge keeps up the throbbing energy, throwing just enough of a melodic curveball that when the chorus swings back around, it’s a seamless transition from an 8.5 to a 10 on the Disco Inferno scale. — J. Lynch
89. ERYKAH BADU, “…& ON”
How It Starts: “I remember when I went with momma to the Washateria…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: After Badu introduces the jazzy bridge to this Mama’s Gun sequel to her 1997 breakout hit by calling out “bridge!,” she segues to a few snapshots from her childhood, including the line, “Remember how I felt the day I first started my period.”
Why It Works: Badu’s lyric shouldn’t stand out given how commonplace menstruation is, but thanks to society-induced shame about our bodies’ most basic functions, it resonates — and goes a long way toward normalizing something that happens to billions of people every month. — J. Lynch
88. THE WALKMEN, “THE RAT”
How It Starts: “When I used to go out, I’d know everyone I saw”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge is just that first line and its follow-up, “Now I go out alone, if I go out at all,” repeated over and over with increasing intensity by singer Hamilton Leithauser until the song’s guitar and drum attack crashes its way back into the third verse.
Why It Works: It’s an extremely sobering two-line encapsulation of early-onset washedness that just about anyone between a quarter- and mid-life crisis can relate to, and a break in one of the most enthralling indie rock songs of the ’00s that casts all the lyrical urgency before and after it in an entirely new light. — A.U.
87. RIHANNA FEAT. JEEZY, “HARD”
How It Starts: “Where them girls talking trash? Where them girls talking trash?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The way Rihanna repeats “Where they at? Where they at? Where they at?” every other line in the bridge is definitely her island-bred BadGyalRiRi coming out.
Why It Works: The title “Hard” is pretty self-evident of how hard Rihanna’s braggadocious hip-hop anthem goes, but where you might find a hand-clapping section for a pop song or a foot-stomping portion for a rock anthem, this bridge holds the power to part the dance floor for a freestyle battle. — HERAN MAMO
86. THE 1975, “SOMEBODY ELSE”
How It Starts: “Get someone you love? Get someone you need?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge’s rejoinder “F–K that, get money!” lyric has grown so popular among fans, that The 1975 sells merch with the love diss written across the front.
Why It Works: “Somebody Else” moves through the melancholy, grieving part of a breakup in the chorus and verses, but the bridge adds another dimension to the heartbreak by capturing singer Matty Healy’s inevitable bitterness around intimacy. — RANIA ANIFTOS
85. DEMI LOVATO, “HEART ATTACK”
How it Starts: “The feelings got lost in my lungs”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge is where Demi finally explodes, demonstrating musically and lyrically what’s meant to be a “heart attack” — especially at the ending where she cries (in increasingly layered self-harmony) that she’ll “burst into flames.”
Why It Works: The intense pop-rock beat transitions beautifully into an acoustic version of the chorus, while Lovato’s impeccable vocals make the bridge and chorus possibly the best part of the song. — JESSICA ROIZ
84. SUM 41, “FAT LIP”
How It Starts: “Don’t count on me to let you know when”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Though each of the four lines in the bridge starts with “don’t count on me,” frontman Deryck Whibley’s “’cause I’m not listenin’!” yelp after the last one serves as the perfect record-scratching moment that flips the otherwise reflective bridge back to the rebellious lyrical headspace that accompanies the rest of the song.
Why It Works: Whibley told Billboard recently that “Fat Lip” is still a favorite and that he doesn’t “get sick of it, ever.” The bridge has a lot to do with why listeners don’t, either – its subdued sonic shift gives everyone just enough time to catch their breath and share a melancholy moment of camaraderie before dialing it back up to a 10 for the final minute of the track. — JOSH GLICKSMAN
83. THE BAND PERRY, “IF I DIE YOUNG”
How It Starts: “So put on your best boys, and I’ll wear my pearls”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The jolt and the finality of Kimberly Perry singing “What I never did is done.”
Why It Works: It sets up the last third of the song, which turns from an almost inexplicably peaceful treatise on dying young to a sharp-edged rejoinder as Perry sings, “Funny when you’re dead, how people start listening.” — M. Newman
82. THE-DREAM, “I LUV YOUR GIRL”
How It Starts: “Usually, you won’t see me hate on another dude…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Nothing quite like the bridge’s joyously guilty (and strangely touching) finale, where the singer-songwriter born Terius Nash proclaims, “Oooh, I want her in the worst way/ Plus, I just found out that it’s her birthday!”
Why It Works: The entirety of The-Dream’s third Love/Hate single is sublime, but it’s the near-free-associative ravings of the bridge that really lets you inside the man’s head, the song’s most brilliant illustration of his feeling (as he later states explicitly) “bad… but ohhhh, not that bad.” — A.U.
81. MAROON 5, “THIS LOVE”
How It Starts: “I’ll fix these broken things, repair your broken wings”
The Part You Definitely Remember: “My pressure on your hips/ Sinking my finger tips/ Into every inch of you/ ’cause I know that’s what you want me to do” make for visceral lyrics that hit deep.
Why It Works: For the entirety of “This Love,” the frustration of a jilted lover shines through. Then, the clipped verses and chorus give way to a more fluid bridge, signaling perhaps a triumphant encounter. But it’s not meant to be, and all that’s left is delightful disappointment. — DENISE WARNER
80. BILLIE EILISH, “COPYCAT”
How It Starts: “I would hate to see you go, hate to be the one that told you so”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Long before the “duh” heard ‘round the world on “Bad Guy,” there was the sinister “sike.” Eilish managed to funnel the entire attitude and meaning of a whole song into one performative, sassy whisper at the end of her bridge, making it arguably the most essential part of the song.
Why It Works: Billie Eilish is a master of creating excellent pop songs that also sound threatening, but the bridge to “Copycat” hits different — all of the menace and calculated coldness that permeates throughout the track briefly melts away into a harmonious, piano-driven melody, only for Billie to throw you right back into the blown-out, creepy chorus. — S.D.
79. AALIYAH, “TRY AGAIN”
How it Starts: “See, you don’t want to throw it all away…”
The part you definitely remember: A’s warning that she might be shy on the first date, but “what about the next date?” That sly come-on is followed by the wordless “huh, huh, huh, huh (Oh)” that you and your friends definitely harmonized on like crazy at karaoke with way too much attitude for the room.
Why it works: This whole song is Aaliyah’s step-by-step instructions on how to win your way into her shy heart despite what seems like a hard “no” on going forward…. until she crucially lets her guard down in the bridge and is like, “c’mon, man! you know how this game is played! Hang in there!” — GIL KAUFMAN
78. KESHA, “YOUR LOVE IS MY DRUG”
How It Starts:“I don’t care what people say, the rush is worth the price I pay”
The Part You Definitely Remember: It’s the moment when something stronger kicks in: The beat slows, the lights dim, and Kesha’s voice takes on a sudden urgency.
Why It Works: With flippant references to rehab, back-alley deals and crackheads, “Your Love Is My Drug” is all silliness until this show-stealing bridge — which shines even brighter on the Dave Audé remix — adds some emotional depth to Kesha’s playful taunts. It’s the same jolt of realizing that a crush is maybe turning into something more. — NOLAN FEENEY
77. VANCE JOY, “RIPTIDE”
How It Starts: “I just wanna, I just wanna know…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The moment the Aussie singer connects his hodgepodge of obscure references by shouting “I swear she’s destined for the screen/ Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve even seen.” It’s an odd reference, made even odder when Joy eventually admits the line is an call out to the absurd 1992 sequel Batman Returns, with Pfeiffer playing Cat Woman.
Why It Works: There’s a sweetness in the odd pop culture of “Riptide,” but’s Joy’s decision to switch from second person to third person at the high point of the bridge shows he likely isn’t addressing his love interest – he’s talking to a friend, or maybe even just himself. And so we leave the song wondering if Joy will find the courage to tell her how he feels, or waiver and blow his chance to be her “left-hand man.” — DAVE BROOKS
76. THE LONELY ISLAND FEAT. T-PAIN, “I’M ON A BOAT”
How It Starts: “Yeah, never thought I’d be on a booooaaaattt”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Though it’s hard to ignore a quality Poseidon namecheck, it has to be the bridge closer “believe me when I say, I f–ked a mermaid.” Unfortunately for the nautical lovers, if the mermaid tried to follow up later with an Instagram DM, T-Pain probably didn’t see the message until just recently.
Why It Works: Many of The Lonely Island’s biggest hits rely on a star-studded guest performance that not only shines in its own right but plays well in tandem (or in some cases, in opposition) to the rest of the song. T-Pain’s patented Auto-Tune provides the perfect balance to the rap-focused verses — and, well, who can ignore a guy bragging about f–king a mermaid? — J.G.
75. EVANESCENCE, “CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE SOBER”
How It Starts: “You never call me when you’re soberrrrr….”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The vocal flourish on the back half of that opening line, in which Evanescence’s Amy Lee wraps her full throat around the word “sober” and unleashes polysyllabic hell on her ex for his drunk dials. That little twinge at the end of the word? That’s full-bodied disappointed right here.
Why It Works: Always a cool move to save a song’s titular phrase for a lynchpin bridge, and on “Call Me When You’re Sober,” Evanescence saves its heaviest drama for those five words — the guitars drop out, the piano twinkles fade away, and we’re left with just Lee’s operatic wounds and a few snare taps prodding at them. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
74. TORI ALAMAZE, “DON’T CHA”
How It Starts: “I know I’m on your mind, I know we’d have a good time”
The Part You Definitely Remember: You might remember it a little better from the Pussycat Dolls’ No. 2 Hot 100 hit version, but Alamaze’s solo original rendition of the Cee Lo-penned cut is sultrier, nastier and funnier as she teases, “I’m your friend, I’m fun and I’m fine/ I ain’t lyin!”
Why It Works: The entire song is a delicious taunt, but a sung-spoken breakdown was needed, and a sung-spoken breakdown was delivered, with pitch-perfect dispassionate cool. — A.U.
73. DRAKE FEAT. MAJID JORDAN, “HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME”
How It Starts: “You’re the girl…you’re the one…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: That starry-eyed first line, which is just as enjoyable to belt melodramatically at karaoke night with your friends as it is to play for yourself on an actual drive home.
Why It Works: This Nothing Was the Same single is Drizzy at peak sadboy, and while the rest of the song keeps things upbeat with its synth-layered R&B groove, the dreamy, indulgent bridge — courtesy of collaborator Majid Al Maskati — is pure heart. — T.C.
72. TEGAN AND SARA, “NINETEEN”
How It Starts: “Flew home, back to where we met”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Tegan’s wounded pleas as she questioning her memories of flatlining relationship — “I was yours right? I was yours, right?!” — set up a blistering drum fill, courtesy of Death Cab for Cutie’s Jason McGerr.
Why It Works: There sheer loneliness of the scene she conjures up here — inconsolable, in self-imposed exile, scheming up some grand gestures to make it all OK again — is enough to make you feel like a desperate teenager again, too. — N.F.
71. BEYONCÉ, “IF I WERE A BOY”
How It Starts: “It’s a little too late for you to come back.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Ever the master of turning emotional pain into beautiful pop music, Beyoncé’s wail of “If you thought I would wait for you/ You thought WROOOOOONG!” at the end of this bridge still chills over a decade later.
Why It Works: The rest of “If I Were A Boy” works as a great “what if” scenario for Beyoncé, but the bridge brings the song to its emotional conclusion. Gone are the metaphors and the hypothetical scenarios — the bridge leaves us with a woman who is enraged and in pain, giving every word preceding it and every note following it the sentimental context it needs to send a powerful message. — S.D.
70. CARLY RAE JEPSEN, “CUT TO THE FEELING”
How It Starts: “Take me to emotion, I want to go all the way (Hey!)”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The name-drop of Emotion, the 2015 album that turned Carly Rae Jepsen into an cult-pop queen; “Cut To The Feeling” was originally intended for the album, but instead became a fan-beloved, critic-lauded B-side two years later. (As it stands, “Take me to emotion!” remains a fun way to command someone to start blasting Emotion in its entirety.)
Why It Works: “Cut To The Feeling” is a song about unbridled joy without artifice, and its bridge strips down that search for euphoria to its foundation. The way Jepsen repeats “I want to go all the way” and “Take me all the way” underlines the song’s no-half-measures mission statement — that carefree, uninhibited rush could be about any number of things, including Jepsen’s sugary brand of pop itself. — J. Lipshutz
69. TAMIA, “STRANGER IN MY HOUSE”
How It Starts: “POP! QUIZ! Tell me where we first kissed!”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The Sixth Sense-inspired twist ending — no, really — in which R&B powerhouse Tamia reveals, in appropriately wailing fashion, that it is in fact her who has become the unknown presence of the song’s title.
Why It Works: No bridge that starts “POP! QUIZ!” has ever gone on to disappoint — but it’s still mostly about that game-changing twist. It doesn’t even feel gimmicky, just a very real comment on how emotional distance in a relationship is always a matter of perspective. — A.U.
68. VANESSA CARLTON, “WHITE HOUSES”
How It Starts: “My first time, hard to explain…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge’s unexpected ending, in which Carlton concludes about her first sexual partner, “He’s… my?… First… mistake.” It’s a gut punch in a song about young love, hope for forging everlasting bonds and doubt about actions that take place too soon; with the word “mistake,” Carlton confirms those doubts, after letting her listeners initially wonder how it all turned out.
Why It Works: As an engrossing, evocative story, “White Houses” makes its bridge crucial in advancing and understanding that story. Carlton uses exactly 30 words in the bridge to reflect on the physical experience of her first time, the emotional fallout, and the widespread nature of that regret: “On a cloudy day/ It’s more common than you think.” — J. Lipshutz
67. COLDPLAY, “CLOCKS”
How It Starts: “And nothing else compares”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The entire lyrical content of the bridge is a trio of “nothing else compares” variations, and we guarantee you know the melody just by reading those three words.
Why It Works: “Clocks” can be a disorienting song, with its cyclical piano riff, existential lyrics and laser-soaked music video, so there’s something comforting about the purely romantic sentiment of the bridge to explain why Chris Martin stays in a clearly dysfunctional situation. Why stick around? Because “nothing else compares.” — K.A.
66. TAYLOR SWIFT, “WILDEST DREAMS”
How It Starts: “You see me in hindsight, tangled up with you all night”
The Part You Remember: With the drama she imbues on the words “BURNIN’! IT! DOWN!” Swift practically sings this rapid-fire bridge in italics.
Why It Works: She spends most of “Wildest Dreams” trying to pre-write an obituary for her fling, curating the exact snapshot she hopes to leave a lover with. But memory doesn’t work like that, and by the two-minute mark, she’s throwing her hands up at the sky in resignation — what we carry from our past is never entirely up to us. — N.F.
65. JEREMIH, “BIRTHDAY SEX”
How It Starts: “First, I’m gonna take a dive into the water…”
The Part You Remember: Probably the “awoo” backing vocal that punctuates the opening lines, at the end of a long percussion roll — or maybe Jeremih’s proposed roadmap of household locations for the titular activity (“my water bed… kitchen stoves and tables”).
Why It Works: You don’t come to a song titled “Birthday Sex” for subtlety; you want Jeremih to dive all the way in — and on this acrobatic-in-multiple-ways bridge, he’s more than happy to oblige. — A.U.
64. CREED, “WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN”
How It Starts: “If I had just one wish/ Only one demand”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Scott Stapp, clenched and guttural though his vocal may always be, gives a measured performance on this one — up until he bum-rushes the bridge and barks out his greatest hopes for his kid. The chest-thumping delivery of “IF I HAD JUST ONE WISH” makes it infinitely fun to impersonate, even decades later.
Why It Works: The charged instrumental section that rises right before the bridge ratchets up the angst before Stapp’s big moment of self-loathing (“I hope he’s not like me”), allowing him space to unleash. But perhaps realizing that he will pop a blood vessel if he maintains this level of intensity, Stapp has the good sense to take things down a couple notches when the chorus returns. — C.W.
63. MIRANDA LAMBERT, “LITTLE RED WAGON”
How It Starts: “Oh, you only love me for my big sunglasses”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Though the bridge starts off as a repetition of the song’s opening verse, it soon veers into extremely quotable “let me tell y’all a little about myself” spoken word, peaking with the country superstar drawling delectably about her “looooonnnng…. blooooonnnnnde….. haiiiiiiirrrr…..“
Why It Works: “Little Red Wagon” is one of Lambert’s most playful singles, and the breakdown on the bridge sounds more like something you’d hear in an extended concert vamp than on country radio — though it was extra exciting to hear on the latter as a result. — A.U.
62. ARIANA GRANDE, “BREAK UP WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND, I’M BORED”
How It Starts: “You could say I’m hating if you want to”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Honestly, the bridge is recognizable as a whole, thanks in part to its interpolation of *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached deep cut “It Makes Me Ill,” which gives it a catchy, nostalgic flair.
Why It Works: Though “Break Up With Your Girlfriend” finds Grande lusting over a taken man, the bridge drives home her certainty that they belong together, capped with the with the simple yet effective argument, “You without me ain’t nice.” — R.A.
61. BRUNO MARS FEAT. CARDI B, “FINESSE” (REMIX)
How It Starts: “Fellas grab your ladies if your lady fine”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Bruno playing Cupid, giving advice to both ladies and fellas on how to get it goin’ on (“Tell her she the one, she the one for life”).
Why It Works: This romantic interlude balances the streetwise edginess of Cardi’s rap segments, leading perfectly back into Cardi’s “Yeah, we got it goin’ on, got it goin’ on!” chant. – PAUL GREIN
60. CEELO GREEN, “F**K YOU!”
How It Starts: “Now baby, baby, baby, why you wanna, wanna hurt me so bad?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The part where CeeLo transitions from his pristine vocal to something of a joint sobbing-singing effort. Each “why?” gets a bit more muddled than the one before it.
Why It Works: While “F–k You” joins the ranks of “Hey Ya!” in the category of hit upbeat, dance-ready songs about heartbreak, the former thrives in the all-too-relatable moment when CeeLo ultimately falters. Anyone who has experienced a similar situation knows that under all the anger, shoulder-shrugging or wry humor – or some combination of the three – is pure sadness. — J.G.
59. KATY PERRY, “FIREWORK”
How It Starts: “Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon”
The Part You Definitely Remember: If you’ve seen an Independence Day fireworks display within the last 10 years, the aforementioned Boom x 3 has absolutely gone through your head as you watched the rockets’ red glare.
Why It Works: In a song exploding with great moments (hell, the pre-chorus is iconic), this victory lap of a bridge might be the third-most memorable part of “Firework“… which still makes it an essential, inescapable piece of 21st century pop culture. — J. Lynch
58. ASHANTI, “FOOLISH”
How It Starts: “See, when I get the strength to leave you…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The tail-end of the bridge when she sings “you ain’t never gonna change.” The line hits super-hard — and the repeating echo of the last three words gives it the extra sauce it needs to drive home that Ashanti is finally ready to walk out the door once and for all.
Why It Works: The bridge serves as a searing declaration for those looking to close the door on trifling relationships. After pledging that oath, you regain a sense of swagger, and a better nose for bulls–t partners. — CARL LAMARRE
57. PLAIN WHITE T’S, “HEY THERE DELILAH”
How It Starts: “A thousand miles seems pretty far.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Just vocals and acoustic guitar, the purity of this song’s arrangement is breathtaking, as frontman/songwriter Tom Higgenson pledges his future to the beloved Delilah. Her life in far-off New York City sets up the tempo-shifting bridge and the singer’s determination to be with his loved one: “they’ve got planes and trains and cars / I’d walk to you if I had no other way.”
Why It Works: The theme of devoted, misunderstood lovers against the world is a perennial, which songwriter Higgenson mines here as he sings: “our friends would all make fun of us” but “by the time we get through/ the world will never, ever be the same.” Charmingly, for the rhyme, he adds: “And you’re to blame.” — THOM DUFFY
56. MARY J. BLIGE, “BE WITHOUT YOU”
How It Starts: “See this is real talk, I’ma always stay.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: At the end of the bridge’s first part — and you better believe it’s a two-parter — when Mary trades vocals back and forth with a small army of her own backing harmonies: “Good or bad / (Thick and thin)/ Right or wrong/ (All day everydayyyyyy…..)”
Why It Works: An anthem of devotion already as skyscraping as “Be Without You” needs a mighty bridge to elevate it — which is no problem for Mary and her Marettes, who’ll have your hands raised towards the heavens long before they start directly instructing you to put them there. — A.U.
55. MUMFORD & SONS, “LITTLE LION MAN”
How It Starts: “Ahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhhhhhhhh“
The Part You Definitely Remember: After all these years, every listener knows the first few reps of “Ahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhhhhhhhh”s are just the warm-up for the layers of harmonies that keep reaching just a touch higher — and has everyone off the ground by its end.
Why It Works: The ferocious crescendoing of the vocals and instrumentation is the one and only reason why this series of repeated and prolonged “ahhhs” works so well here. There’s really nothing more communal — and forever bonding — than sing-screaming over a banjo and upright bass. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
54. TOVE LO, “HABITS (STAY HIGH)”
How It Starts: “Staying in my play pretend, where the fun ain’t got no end”
The Part You Definitely Remember: A two-liner bridge (with “Can’t go home alone again, need someone to numb the pain” following its opening) that’s repeated twice is hard to forget, particularly this one, where Tove Lo is at her most vulnerable. She’s going through a low point in her life and she’s asking for help — it’s become a relatable phrase.
Why It Works: “Habits” is such a hazy and dense pop jam, but on the bridge, almost all the song’s melodies come to a halt — focusing on the powerful, emotional lyrics. The drum beats amp back up for the return to a climactic chorus, a reminder that nothing has really changed. — J.R.
53. MONICA, “SIDELINE HO”
How It Starts: “Do you got benefits? No.“
The Part You Definitely Remember: Monica’s entire checklist for sidepiece status — which the Other Woman being taken to task in the song certainly fails with flying colors, to the singer’s unmistakable disgust.
Why It Works: The mercilessly no-frills way in which Monica breaks it down is one of the great closing arguments in R&B in-song conflict — you can practically hear her briefcase slamming shut after the final “If you don’t make his breakfast, you’s a sideline ho.” — A.U.
52. 50 CENT, “IN DA CLUB”
How It Starts: “My flow, my show brought me the dough”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The entirety of 50’s cadence and change-up in flow on the melodic bridge — very unorthodox compared to the rest of his delivery — which provides the perfect build-up for his monstrous second verse.
Why It Works: The bridge was the perfect alley-oop to himself, and in typical 50 fashion, he completed the play with a thunderous finish. — C.L.
51. AMY WINEHOUSE, “BACK TO BLACK”
How it starts: “Black…. Black….“
The part you definitely remember: Who can’t relate to this otherwise bouncy girl group homage, in which Winehouse — over a half-time piano and maudlin strings — mourns love’s dark demise by solemnly intoning “black” over and over, the long-delayed first appearance of the song title’s final word?
Why it works: The electric combination of Winehouse‘s tattoo sleeve of broken hearts delivery and producer Mark Ronson’s vintage arrangement. The duo has the daring chutzpah to slow things to a heart-stopping crawl — complete with a faint echo of Hal Blaine’s iconic “Be My Baby” drum beat, presented like a distant memory — before revving up again, further proof that the pairing of her darkness and his light was a once-in-a-lifetime supernova. — G.K.
50. LADY GAGA, “MARRY THE NIGHT”
How It Starts: “Nothing’s too cool to take me from you”
The Part You Definitely Remember: At the end of an already-busy, already-urgent bridge saluting her loves and her city, Gaga simply busts out of all constraints of rhythm and meter to proclaim from the back of an El Camino: “Won’t poke holes in the seats with my heels/ ‘COZ THAT’S WHERE WE MAKE LOOOOVE!!”
Why It Works: The Born This Way leadoff is one of Gaga’s most barnstorming singles — less of an album opener than a theatrical curtain-raiser — and the bridge makes sure that it doesn’t spend so much time on the dancefloor it forgets its streetwise roots, giving it a little Bon Jovi muscle to match its Donna Summer sheen. — A.U.
49. LIZZO, “TRUTH HURTS”
How It Starts: “I’ma hit you back in a mi-nuuuute“
The Part You Definitely Remember: Lizzo nails the thesis of her hype anthem when she sings “I don’t play tag, b–ch I been it.” In case the rest of “Truth Hurts” didn’t solidify that she knows she’s better than her lover’s nonsense, the bridge cements that she’s always known that.
Why It Works: It becomes painfully clear by “We just keep it pushing like aye, aye, aye” that Lizzo is moving on and demanding better. The track grandstands, showcasing how the rapper knows what she has to offer and doesn’t dwell on people who aren’t worth her time. — T.M.
48. ROBYN, “DANCING ON MY OWN”
How It Starts: “So far away, but still so near…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The pulsating beat of “Dancing” drops out, and is replaced with a more dreamy tone, as if to give the protagonist hope of being acknowledged. Then, Robyn pierces our souls with “You don’t see me standing here/ I just came to say goodbye.”
Why It Works: If drunkenly dancing in a corner to dull the pain of watching your crush make out with someone else isn’t bad enough, when the party is over and the object of your affection still doesn’t even notice you? Heartbreaking. — D.W.
47. WEEZER, “ISLAND IN THE SUN”
How It Starts: “We’ll run away together”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Rivers Cuomo dragging out the last line, “We’ll never feel bad anymoooooore” — which also repeats in the outro — is his way of creating a personal paradise any listener can run away to and extend their stay at, so they don’t have to think about their problems ever again.
Why It Works: The distorted guitar that jumpstarts the bridge seems to elevate Cuomo’s desire to run away and stay away from all his troubles — like this vacation to an “Island in the Sun” is an act of resistance to living a normal, bleak life. — H.M.
46. LUIS FONSI & DADDY YANKEE, “DESPACITO”
How It Starts: “Pasito a pasito, suave suavecito.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: That first line — as memorable, and as melodical, as the actual “Despacito.” It could be the rhyming element, but the fact is, get a crowd together to sing “Despacito” and there are two parts they will all sing to: The title and this bridge opener.
Why It Works: One thing is to bring a reggaetonero into a pop track. Quite another is to make it sound organic and right. When Luis Fonsi invited Daddy Yankee to rap in his track, he expected an interruption that brought in an element of urban sound. And Yankee does that, bringing his flair to the song from the beginning — and then, prior to the bridge, a big improv, chanteo moment, where he sings/raps. But “Pasito a pasito” was a bonafide addition to the song that somehow manages to tie everything together. — LEILA COBO
45. JILL SCOTT, “GETTIN’ IN THE WAY”
How It Starts: “You better go on, get out my face, girl”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The oft-repeated warning of “You better back down, before you get smacked down, you better chill,” turning Scott’s caution to her man’s ex about the dangers of overstepping her boundaries into a stadium-worthy singalong.
Why It Works: While Scott herself is far from patient on “Gettin’ in the Way,” the actual track is much happier to take things slow and easy — but when it means business, it means business, and the bridge is able proof that neither singer nor song is to be trifled with. — A.U.
44. TAME IMPALA, “NEW PERSON, SAME OLD MISTAKES”
How It Starts: “Man, I know that it’s hard to digest”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Kevin Parker’s falsetto when he repeatedly sings, “But you’ve got your demons, and she’s got her regrets” is the little flicker before the song bursts into a fury of synths.
Why It Works: Tame Impala songs tend to settle into a low groove before Parker takes it to a new level shortly before they’re over, and the key change switch-up on “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” is particularly striking. But the regretful closing track of his 2015 magnum opus Currents is most memorable for him coming face-to-face with the conclusion that he’s not the only one struggling to transform himself, as he croons, “Maybe your story ain’t so different from the rest.” — H.M.
43. MILEY CYRUS, “WE CAN’T STOP”
How It Starts: “It’s our party, WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT TO!“
The Part You Definitely Remember: Admit it, you’ve probably scream-sang “WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT TO!” along with Miley when the bridge kicks off. Who doesn’t love the feeling of empowerment with no apologies that this line evokes, even in a song about partying?
Why It Works: While Cyrus may be singing about enjoying a rager of a bash and maybe indulging in some not-so-legal substances, the song doesn’t have to be about that, which the pre-chorus and bridge illustrate: “We can do what we want to… We can love who we want to.. I can say what I want to.” If those can’t be words of encouragement to be and accept yourself, well, bring a wrecking ball down on us. — ANNA CHAN
42. BRITNEY SPEARS, “HOLD IT AGAINST ME”
How It Starts: “Gimme something good/ Don’t hold back, I want it now”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When the final word of Britney’s “I want it now” exhortation gets progressively more warped with each of four successive “nowwwwww” repetitions, as synth-bass bombs explode on all sides of it.
Why It Works: The Femme Fatale lead single packed one of the most historically notable bridges of the 2010s, as in early 2011, “Hold It” became the first song to ride a dubstep drop to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — opening the floodgates for about two years’ worth of subsequent pop hits to find similar success doing the same. — A.U.
41. AUDIOSLAVE, “LIKE A STONE”
How It Starts: “And on I read, until the day was gone”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The late, great frontman Chris Cornell belting out “I WILL WANDER ON!” as he gnarls out of the final elongated note of the bridge, connecting Tom Morello’s grimy guitar solo to a powerful final run through the chorus.
Why It Works: With “Stone,” released six years after the breakup of his band Soundgarden, Cornell needed a way to connect his legacy with a newer, harder-driving style. And so he built a bridge that connected the two sounds, and amplified the dark themes of his music, without surrendering any of its edge. — D.B.
40. TWEET FEAT. MISSY ELLIOTT, “OOPS (OH MY)”
How It Starts: “I looked over to the left…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The song’s superstar co-writer, Missy Elliott, voicing Tweet’s R-rated impulses as the R&B singer catches a glimpse of her body in the mirror: “I was feeling so good, I had to touch myself.”
Why It Works: Pop history is littered with classic songs about both spiritual and physical self-love, but the “Oops” bridge takes it one step further — by having its vocalists be so turned on by their own bodies that they just have to, well, do something about it — to intoxicating effect. Combined with Timbaland’s slithering, spell-binding beat, all you can really say is oh my. — A.U.
39. PHOENIX, “LISZTOMANIA”
How It Starts: “Oooooh, this is showtime, this is showtime”
The Part You Definitely Remember: If you’re wondering, ‘what is showtime?’ Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars would like to kindly remind you, well, it’s “time to show it off.” That doesn’t help much in the way of clarity, but in both instances when Mars dials it up and yells “tiiiiiiime,” nothing else really seems to matter other than singing along to words.
Why It Works: The bridge yearns for spontaneity, and there’s nothing better than music that makes you feel like a kid finally mustering up enough courage to join the fun after spending most of the middle school dance along the wall. — J.G.
38. JAY-Z FEAT. ALICIA KEYS, “EMPIRE STATE OF MIND”
How It Starts: “One hand in the air for the big city.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Coming out of the third reprise of that killer chorus, during which Alicia Keys’ soulful voice soars like a jet out of LaGuardia, she briefly drops here to a hush to detail images of “street lights, big dreams, all lookin’ pretty” — softly evoking musical Big Apple forerunners from the Drifters to Sinatra. Then she jacks up the energy once more: “Put your lighters in the air/ Everybody say, ‘Yeah, yeah!’”
Why It Works: Aside from recalling a time when some fans still held lighters, not cell phones, aloft at concerts, the bridge transforms the track from Jay-Z’s gritty, detail-packed personal memoir to a communal celebration — a declaration that when it comes to NY, “no place in the world could compare.” — T.D.
37. TWENTY ONE PILOTS, “TEAR IN MY HEART”
How It Starts: “You fell asleep in my/ Car I drove the whole time”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The second time through the four-line stanza, where singer Tyler Joseph’s voice jumps at the end of his “You fell asleep in MY!” opening, a jarring but inspired singalong moment that ensures the Blurryface single remains a must in their live setlists.
Why It Works: The entire bridge is a major diversion from the song’s primary melody and narrative, with Joseph venting over a jaunty piano saunter about how bumpiness from the street’s potholes risks disrupting his girlfriend’s slumber. But its distinctive combination of playfulness, flair and tunefulness is the thing that makes the song instantly unforgettable, and helped make it the breakout-hit-before-the-breakout-hit that ultimately catapulted the duo to stardom. — A.U.
36. USHER, “U REMIND ME”
How It Starts: “I know it’s so unfair to you.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The runs at the end of the bridge when he drags out “remi-i-i-i-i-ind” was godly. It’s a good reminder of why Usher was at the apex of pop and R&B at the turn of the century: He could even make dumping someone sound angelic.
Why It Works: It’s a great precursor for a break-up conversation. If you think about it, it’s a slick way of saying, “It’s not you, it’s me” — but with additional harmonies. — C.L.
35. SUGARLAND, “STAY”
How It Starts: “I can’t take it any longer, but my will is getting stronger”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge is the moment the protagonist, who is the “other woman,” finds the courage to break it off with the married man with whom she has been having an affair. After repeatedly begging the man to stay with her, by the end of the bridge, she takes the opposite approach: “So next time you find you want to leave her bed for mine/ Why don’t you stay.”
Why It Works: That inspired twist is the best moment in Jennifer Nettles’ song, which won a Grammy, CMA Award and ACM Award as the year’s best country song. — P.G.
34. YELLOWCARD, “OCEAN AVENUE”
How It Starts: “I remember the look in your eyes when I told you that this was goodbye”
The Part You Definitely Remember: If you were a pop-punk fan in the mid-’00s, you can still recite all eight measures like they were the Pledge of Allegiance. But the most brain-sticking part is the heart-bursting romantic futility of singer Ryan Key’s “We’re looking up at the same night sky/ We’re both pretending the sun will not rise” couplet — drilled home, of course, by some right-on-time “Ah-ah-ah” backing vocals.
Why It Works: Though the rest of “Ocean Avenue” is told as a memory of young love long lost, the bridge brilliantly flashes back to when that memory was still present tense, with unseen forces stamping an end-date on the couple’s idyllic romance. It probably soundtracked thousands of overnight camp romances in 2004, and might still get you pulling out the old yearbook. — A.U.
33. CHRISTINA AGUILERA, “BEAUTIFUL”
How It Starts: “No matter what we do, no matter what we say…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The call and response of a backing choir and Aguilera echoing each other, buoyed by anthemic strings and piano as the song lifts like a hot air balloon, finally untethered.
Why It Works: It takes the present affirmations of the shifting “I/you/we are beautiful” chorus and plants them firmly in a bright future full of hope, with Aguilera ending the bridge singing, “The sun will always shine/ And tomorrow we might wake on the other side.” — M. Newman
32. IGGY AZALEA FEAT. CHARLI XCX, “FANCY”
How It Starts: “Trash the hotel, let’s get drunk on the minibar”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Featured guest (and “Fancy” co-writer) Charli XCX rolling up to Iggy’s party with that matter-of-fact opening exhortation to go GNR on a hotel room.
Why It Works: For a song about boasting, Charli‘s bridge might be the biggest flex of all — her sing-song, blunt delivery oozes confidence and zero sweat; she sounds like she’s about the tear the roof off the sucka without even lifting a finger. — J. Lynch
31. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, “MIRRORS”
How It Starts: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The sense of vulnerability in Timberlake’s voice, in both the vocal run of “Tomorrow’s a mystery” and the repeated “Keep your eyes on me” allows for a bridge meant for belting your heart out and not leaving a dry eye in the house.
Why It Works: The bridge’s grand, hopelessly romantic nature gives way just in time for an equally powerful, stripped-back chorus that ties Timberlake’s ode to his twin flame together. — R.A.
30. TRAIN, “DROPS OF JUPITER (TELL ME)”
How It Starts: “Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The “deep-friend chicken,” for the delightful non-sequitur.
Why It Works: While the rest of the song deals with celestial planet-tripping across the Milky Way, the bridge focuses squarely on earthbound delights—whether it’s deep-fried chicken, the best soy latte you ever had, or five-hour long conversations. It’s a juxtaposition that’s undeniably jarring, yet feels oh so right. — M. Newman
29. LUDACRIS FEAT. NATE DOGG, “AREA CODES”
How It Starts: “Is it ‘coz they like my gangsta walk?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The late great Nate Dogg, asking those rhetorical questions (“Is it ‘coz they like my handsome face? Is it ‘coz they like my gangsta face?”) of his coast-to-coast regulars, before throwing up his hands and shrugging “Whatever it is, they love it, and they just won’t let me be!”
Why It Works: Nate Dogg always works, but particularly in contrast to Ludacris’ typically frenetic spitting, the G-funk GOAT taking it easy and letting those Qs answer themselves remains the essence of laid-back cool. — A.U.
28. THE WEEKND, “THE HILLS”
How It Starts: “Hills have eyes, the hills have eyes”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Aside from the eerie picture it paints from the start, the alternating lyrics build cleverly, from “Hills have eyes” in the first line to “Hide your lies” in the third line and again from “Who are you to judge?” in the second line to “Only you to trust” in the fourth line.
Why It Works: Abel Tesfaye ditches his growling, drugged out vocals in the verses and picks up his signature piercing falsetto for the bridge — providing a brief respite from the sinister angst of the song’s first half, before launching you right back into the searing climax. — H.M.
27. THE HOLD STEADY, “STUCK BETWEEN STATIONS”
How It Starts: “We drink and we dry up and now we crumble into dust”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The way every one of singer Craig Finn’s lines on the bridge are responded to with a blistering full-band mini-attack, an entire epic’s worth of guitar-led melodrama and adventure in every four-bar phrase.
Why It Works: There’s been no shortage of 21st century indie bands who wanted to be The Boss, but the “Station” bridge — separated from the proper song via heavenly piano interlude — is as close as any of them ever got to actually being Born to Run-worthy. — A.U.
26. DUA LIPA, “LEVITATING”
How It Starts: “My love is like a rocket watch it blast off”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Only in a song this playful can you get away with rhyming “watch it blast off” with “dance my ass off.”
Why It Works: If you only hear Dua Lipa singing, you might occasionally forget that she’s British — but this buoyant spoken-word bridge puts her accent front and center. — K.A.
25. BEYONCÉ FEAT. JAY-Z, “CRAZY IN LOVE”
How It Starts: “Got me looookiiiin’… so crazy, my baby”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The way Beyoncé holds the note on “looookin'” before rhyming “baby” with “crazy,” then disclosing that due to object of affection in question — her then boyfriend and future husband, Jay Z — she’s “not myself, lately I’m foolish, I don’t do this.”
Why It Works: Bey spends the first two thirds of the song recapping how she knows she’s especially hot for Jay but it’s not until the bridge that we really feel how unhinged she actually is, with Bey ditching the relative reserve of the verses and letting her voice loose on big vocal runs and harmonies — all given extra punch by the song’s iconic Chi-Lites-sampled drum-and-brass hook. — KATIE BAIN
24. THE CHICKS, “NOT READY TO MAKE NICE”
How It Starts: “I made my bed and I sleep like a baby”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When Natalie Maines reveals that someone wrote her a letter telling her to “Shut up and sing/ Or my life will be over,” it drives home the amount of vitriol the Chicks faced after Maine’s 2003 criticism of then-president George W. Bush.
Why It Works: The first single off their 2006 comeback triumph Taking the Long Way, “Not Ready to Make Nice” tells the story of how overwhelmed The Chicks were with hate from Country music fans and radio. But when Maines belts out that she’s not losing any shuteye over the fallout, it’s a triumphant middle finger to the haters, reminding fans why they fell in love with the unshakable trio. — T.M.
23. LIMP BIZKIT, “BREAK STUFF”
How It Starts: “I feel like s–t, my advice is to keep your distance”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The simple, unfussy threat of “I pack a chainsaw/ I’ll skin your ass raw!” is hard to forget, especially as Fred Durst keeps repeating the rhyme and those chunky guitars ratchet up in intensity. The “Give me something to break!” crescendo may be the song’s payoff, but you could get away with yelling unintelligibly along with that; every nu-metal nerd remembers the chainsaw line.
Why It Works: For a gloriously dumb song about being pissed enough to want to destroy various items and/or humans, “Break Stuff” is remarkably calculated in its tension-building. As the production stacks up around Durst’s sneer, he can’t take it any more, and all safeguards against violence collapse for his a cappella promise to “BREAK YOUR F–KING FACE TONIGHT!” It may be a relic of a painfully hyper-masculine time in popular music, but reaching that all-hell-breaks-loose point after a long, awful day will always be relatable. — J. Lipshutz
22. ADELE, “RUMOUR HAS IT”
How It Starts: “All of these words whispered in my ear…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: You can’t miss this bridge, as the song’s stomping beat completely drops out to make way for impossibly melodramatic piano, strings and Adele’s pleading vocals — but “People say cray-ee-zee thi-ings” has to be her most memorable delivery.
Why It Works: Tucked into a rare uptempo song from the British singer, fans are gifted a baby ballad because: A) There’s often deep, cinematic emotions behind the juicy gossip, and B) She just can’t stay away from her comfort BPM. — K.A.
21. FUN FEAT. JANELLE MONÁE, “WE ARE YOUNG”
How It Starts: “Carry me home tonight”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The part in which Monáe’s lone line, “Carry me home tonight,” is answered by the members of fun. singing “na-na-na-na-na.” (Monáe doesn’t have a lot else to do in this song, yet the one line was still important enough to earn her a featured credit on one of 2012’s biggest hits.)
Why It Works: The bridge has a light, playful quality which balances that big, booming chorus. – P.G.
20. KATY PERRY, “TEENAGE DREAM”
How It Starts: “I’ma get your heart racing in my skin tight jeans, be your teenage dream tonight.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The run of ascending notes leading out of the chorus and into the bridge, where Katy gleefully lets you know that the fun is not over yet with “I’ma get your heart racing,” still just as effective at amping us up 10 years later.
Why It Works: In a song about the ecstasy and combustive energy of young love, the bridge to “Teenage Dream” stands apart as an explosion of sugary vocal mini-melodies, designed to worm their way into your head and never leave. From the imagery of putting your hands on a pair of skin-tight jeans, to the pure exultation in Perry’s vocal, the bridge serves as an extra boost to the song’s already tightly-distilled injection of joy. — S.D.
19. ENRIQUE IGLESIAS FEAT. DESCEMER BUENO & GENTE DE ZONA, “BAILANDO”
How It Starts: “Yo quiero estar contigo, vivir contigo, bailar contigo.”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Contigo, contigo, contigo (With you). Get into the song and you may forget the verbs, but you won’t forget who you’re with.
Why It Works: “Bailando” wasn’t conceived as a multi-artist collaboration, but it very organically evolved into one — with Gente de Zona the final addition. The then-unknown Cuban duo had never broken into the U.S. and “Bailando” served as the entry to the gravel-voiced Alexander Delgado and the more crooning Randy Malcom. Together with Descemer they trade verses with Iglesias — but as writers, they contributed this bridge, the improvement no one thought the track needed, until they heard it. Sung by Iglesias, it adds a new, unforgettable rhythmic layer to a song that was already obviously a hit. — L.C.
18. RIHANNA FEAT. DRAKE, “WHAT’S MY NAME?”
How It Starts: “You’re so amazing, you took the time to figure me out”
The Part You Definitely Remember: We’d dare to say that the entire bridge of “What’s My Name?” is memorable: Not only does it lace heavy reggae beats with strobe synths, but it’s also the part where Rihanna goes all out and flaunts her high-pitched vocals.
Why It Works: The rest of “What’s My Name” has RiRi singing as a girl who’s playing hard to get, despite the guy in the song being totally her type. But the bridge ultimately marks a turning point: After all the going back and forth, she’s so amazed at the guy’s determination to completely sweep her off her feet that she gives in — and we end up swooning as well. — J.R.
17. CARLY RAE JEPSEN, “CALL ME MAYBE”
How It Starts: “Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Jepsen’s repetition of that first line plays a large part in “Call Me Maybe” being a top contender for the catchiest pop song of all time.
Why It Works: “Call Me Maybe” is quintessential pop down to its core, and the bridge keeps the song bubbling with a memorable — if seemingly paradoxical — lyric that instantly latches itself into your brain. — R.A.
16. IMOGEN HEAP, “HIDE AND SEEK”
How It Starts: “Mmm whatcha say, mmmm that you only meant well?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Certainly the “whatcha say” part — which was not only featured prominently in an O.C. season finale (and ensuing SNL parody), but was also the rare song bridge to become another song’s chorus, after Jason Derulo rode a sample of the “Hide and Seek” bridge to the top of the Hot 100 four years after the 2005 original with “Whatcha Say.”
Why It Works: “Hide and Seek” tells a story of devastating loss through a bare-bones vocoder showcase, and the pairing of style and content somehow proved astonishingly poignant. Yet the song’s bridge is where its momentum rests, Heap spitting out rhetorical questions and eye-roll answers while providing a quiet song with a pace that turns briefly urgent — then simmers back down to defeat. — J. Lipshutz
15. ROBYN, “BE MINE!”
How It Starts: “I saw you at the station / You had your arm around what’s-her-name”
The part you remember: The appearance of the second-most legendary scarf in pop music history, just after the one in Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well.”
Why It Works: It should be no surprise that the patron saint of dance-crying pop anthems excels at emotional nuance, and this spoken-word monologue nails a tricky mixture of the mournful and the magnanimous: “You looked happy, and that’s great — I just miss you, that’s all.” — N.F.
14. KANYE WEST, BIG SEAN, PUSHA T & 2 CHAINZ, “MERCY”
How It Starts: “Let the suicide doors up…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Kanye boasting that “my b—- make your b—- look like Precious” is a particularly egregious and indelible diss.
Why It Works: Pacing. The tension of the production builds over the course of Kanye’s 16 lines, becoming more hectic and intense until lyrics about being at a party start to feel more like a panic attack. By the end, Kanye is basically shouting about “loiterin’ just to feel important,” as the whole things escalates to a breaking point — until 2 Chainz announces his presence, providing much-needed relief with what’s basically the song’s drop. — K.B.
13. PARAMORE, “AIN’T IT FUN”
How It Starts: “Don’t go cryin’ to your mama”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The bridge repeats the same line over and over, but Hayley Williams layers each pass with more feeling (“This is the real world!”) — especially when the bridge returns as an outro and Williams trades vocal riffs with members of the backing gospel choir. Take ’em to church, Hayley!
Why It Works: The high-energy hit (which peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100) takes a risk by switching gears on the bridge, but the band effectively channels that pop-punk energy into handclaps and a singalong, showing that musical jubilance and lyrical pragmatism translate across genres. — C.W.
12. AVRIL LAVIGNE, “SK8ER BOI”
How It Starts: “Sorry girl but you missed out”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The second part of this opening line — “Well tough luck, that boy’s mine now” — helps this song go from a third-person recounting of someone else’s “what could have been” to an epic first-person kiss-off.
Why It Works: There’s a subtle genius in the way Lavigne flips the script with this bridge, drawing the listener in by snapping them out of the story that’s been told so far by speaking on it from a more personal perspective — making it particularly gratifying when she reveals shortly after that she and the Sk8er Boi have a happy ending together. — L.H.
11. TAYLOR SWIFT, “CRUEL SUMMER”
How It Starts: “I’m drunk in the back of a car…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Everyone has had those nights in the back seat where they “cried like a baby coming home from the bar” over someone. We are simultaneously seen and attacked by Swift’s words, and can’t help but scream along.
Why It Works: Swift employs the talk-sing tool to great effect here for what she’s referred to as a “ranting bridge,” disrupting the Antonoff-ian flow of the verses and chorus. All the agony and disappointment of a seasonal love story get stuffed into eight pulse-racing bars, and it’s pretty far from “the worst thing we’ve ever heard.” — D.W.
10. LINKIN PARK, “ONE STEP CLOSER”
How It Starts: “SHUT UP WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Aside from various “SHUT UP!” repetitions, that first line comprises the totality of the bridge’s lyrics — but if you heard Chester Bennington shriek it even once, its frayed rasp has stuck in your head for the 20 years since.
Why It Works: The angst of “One Step Closer” was plenty visceral from verse and chorus alone, but the bridge breaks it down with such intestine-twisting fury that it was clear right away that Linkin Park was simply operating at a different level than their nu-metal peers. — A.U.
9. DESTINY’S CHILD, “SURVIVOR”
How It Starts: “Wishing you the best / Pray that you are blessed”
The part you remember: Michelle Williams announcing “I’m better than that!” as Kelly Rowland enumerates all the ways the current lineup could hypothetically go about sabotaging, say, the group’s former members.
Why It Works: Ex-bandmates LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Robertson did sue over the song, alleging that its lyrics violated a settlement agreement barring the involved parties from publicly disparaging one another. But the “Survivor” bridge is basically pettiness with plausible deniability — there’s no greater flex against your haters than bragging about all the nasty things you could do, if you weren’t such an upstanding role model. — N.F.
8. GWEN STEFANI, “HOLLABACK GIRL”
How It Starts: “Let me hear you say, ‘This s–t is bananas'”
The Part You Definitely Remember: If — for some reason? — you didn’t know how to spell “bananas” before this song came out, you definitely did after hearing it once: B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Why It Works: Before you even get to the bridge, the song’s pep-rally inspiration is obvious, with its bleacher-stomping beat and high school marching band horns, so it’s only appropriate that it also include a full-on cheerleader breakdown — one with an instantly iconic spelling lesson. — K.A.
7. FRANK OCEAN, “THINKIN BOUT YOU”
How It Starts: “Yes, of course, I remember, how could I forget”
The Part You Definitely Remember: “You know you were my first time, a new feel” is the most gut-wrenching lyric Frank Ocean sings in his lower register — compared to the haunted-yet-beautiful falsetto he uses throughout the chorus — about the person who took his virginity, stole his heart and escaped without a trace of Frank on their mind.
Why It Works: While “Thinkin Bout You” is about Frank never letting go of the possibility that his ex-lover also still has him in the back of their mind, you could also read the bridge as a hard reality check — with the singer reminiscing on his first time so many times that it’ll ultimately wear him out, and he’ll tire of it before he’s able to move on: “We’ll go down this road ‘til it turns from color to black and white.” — H.M.
6. LADY GAGA & BRADLEY COOPER, “SHALLOW”
How It Starts: “AHHHAHHHAHHHAHHHHH….”
The Part You Definitely Remember: There can be 100 bridges in a room… and Gaga’s otherworldly wailing is always gonna be the one that stands out. And hey, when you hear it once (like, say, in a particular trailer for a hit movie) you just want to take another listen.
Why It Works: The Oscar and Grammy winner starts off as a sweet, yet somber back and forth between a boy and a girl. But the guttural bridge launches “Shallow” off the deep end and into iconic territory. In the film, it’s the precise moment that Ally’s star is born. In the real world, it further cemented Gaga’s legacy. — D.W.
5. KELLY CLARKSON, “SINCE U BEEN GONE”
How It Starts: “You had your chance, you blew it”
The Part You Definitely Remember: Clarkson screeching out “Shut your mouth, I just can’t take it” marks a breaking point in her dealings with her former flame, and brings a release that many hoping to escape such a toxic relationship can relate to.
Why It Works: Improbably raising the stakes on an already incredibly cathartic hook, the bridge serves as an empowering unequivocal kiss-off to Clarkson’s ex, letting him know that he truly “blew it” — before she allows herself to move on with one final heartfelt chorus. — R.A.
4. KESHA, “PRAYING”
How It Starts: “Sometimes, I pray for you at night…”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The Note. If you’ve heard “Praying,” you know what we’re talking about. The song starts off as a somber piano ballad, then reveals its percussive stomp and multi-voice hook, but by the end of the bridge, Kesha’s emotions have reached a fever pitch — resulting in a chill-inducing, aimed-at-the-heavens scream that immediately defines the song and changes our collective perception of Kesha as a vocalist. There’s a final chorus after The Note, of course, but it’s almost businesslike, since nothing can rival that moment.
Why It Works: The power of “Praying” rests in its backstory: after a pair of anthem-packed turbo-pop albums that made her a star in the early 2010s, Kesha’s career came to a halt thanks to a legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, whom the singer accused of emotional abuse and sexual assault. If “Praying” was Kesha’s opportunity to reclaim her narrative by addressing her alleged abuser in ballad form, its bridge represents its stirring, unflinching zenith: “Some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give, “ she spits, “but some things only God can forgive.” Even before that bridge-capping wail, we are enraptured by Kesha’s return — and then, in one note, she brings the emotional hammer down upon a society that has failed her. — J. Lipshutz
3. OLIVIA RODRIGO, “DRIVERS LICENSE”
How It Starts: “Red lights, stop signs”
The Part You Definitely Remember: The gut-wrenching “‘Cause I still f–king love you” line, I mean… c’mon! You can’t not clench your fists and hunch over when you sing along to it.
Why It Works: Not only does it immediately break from the previous pacing of the track, but more importantly it showcases the range and power of Rodrigo’s voice by putting it, for lack of a better term, in the driver’s seat. The way in which she slowly delivers the lyrics across the near one-minute-long bridge — as if speaking her pain aloud makes it almost too real — is effectively chilling and provides the perfect assist for the stripped down, piano-backed slam-dunk of a close. — L.H.
2. THE KILLERS, “ALL THESE THINGS THAT I’VE DONE”
How It Starts: “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”
The Part You Definitely Remember: When the gospel choir enters, belting the bridge’s single line for seven out of the ten times it’s repeated, with increasing verve and urgency on each delivery. (These choir duties were handled by The Sweet Inspirations, a girl group who did backing vocals for artists including Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin during their primetime years in the ’60s and ’70s.)
Why It Works: Lyrics that at first might just seem like wordplay earn generational anthem status as the vibe transitions from solo lamentation to collective catharsis. You can feel this song lift off, with the bridge helping deliver “All These Things That I’ve Done” to the canon of 21st century rock, and not just because of how it sounds but also how it emphasizes a certain righteous defiance — against conformity, complacency and the war machine zeitgeist that permeated the post-9/11 era when the song was released. And as much as this bridge emphasizes identifying and standing up against what you are not, it also provides an opportunity to scream along and actually experience the depths to which you, too, have got soul. — K.B.
1. OUTKAST, “HEY YA!”
How It Starts: “All right now, fellas, what’s cooler than being cool?”
The Part You Definitely Remember: All of it? From the fellas shouting “ICE COLD!” to Andre 3000 hammering on “alright alright alright” like a glitching robot Matthew McConaughey to the Prince-esque request for sugar (“I AM your neighbor!”), who cares if you ever get to the other side of a bridge this delightful?
Why It Works: From the moment it first went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 to the last wedding you heard it played at, “Hey Ya!” has remained a ubiquitous part of culture. That’s certainly in no small part thanks to this delirious, brilliantly silly bridge — which deftly leads into an equally iconic refrain with some unfortunately misguided advice about Polaroids. — J. Lynch