Today marks the beginning of Chorus Week here at Billboard, where we’ll be deep-diving into some of the greatest recent refrains that drive every successful karaoke night, concert encore and office desk hum-along. While most of the great choruses of the 20th century — from “Be My Baby” to “Livin’ on a Prayer” to “I Want It That Way” — have gotten their decades of due, we felt it was time that to start figuring out the new canon: Which choruses from this century will have the power to get a bar full of strangers singing in unison at the top of their lungs decades from now?
We voted, we debated, and we have our answers: Billboard‘s list of the 100 greatest choruses of the 21st century, ranked by no metric other than the songs that most immediately came to mind when thinking about everything that a great chorus should be — clever, catchy, singular, and utterly unforgettable. And perhaps most importantly: When you see the song title, does the chorus immediately jump to mind, not to leave anytime soon? If so, it’s the right song for this list. (We considered songs from near the turn of the millennium eligible as long as they peaked on the Hot 100 in the ’00s.)
Read on to see our ranking — skip right to the chorus of each song in our embedded YouTube link, and check out our full Spotify playlist at the bottom — but make sure your coworkers (or more judgmental friends) are out of earshot first: It’s only gonna get harder as we go to resist singing along.
100. LMFAO feat. Lil Jon, “Shots”
Has there ever been a more persuasive chorus — let alone one consisting almost entirely of a single word? We hope Redfoo and SkyBlu bought stock in Jagermeister before releasing this song, because the repetitive refrain serves as a siren call for the deep-pocketed member of your club-going crew to make a beeline for the bar and return with a tray full of regrets. Bottoms up! — KATIE ATKINSON
99. Christina Aguilera, “Beautiful”
Aguilera dominated the early 2000s with fun, frothy hooks, but her powerful voice gained unexpected gravitas when she released the show-stopping “Beautiful,” an anthem of inclusion that smartly bounces between pronouns (“I am beautiful” becomes “You are beautiful” becomes “We are beautiful”) to turn the personal into the universal. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
98. Yellowcard, “Ocean Avenue”
In the pop-punk realm, few songs evoke as much nostalgia as “Ocean Avenue,” and that’s only heightened by its familiar chorus, a heart-punching ode to young love, and the desire to escape your hometown and run for-ehh-verrrrrr. With a sentiment that’s powered classic refrains by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Katy Perry, it’s no wonder that it’s still a marvel every time the waves of Yellowcard’s best chorus crash down and take us away. — XANDER ZELLNER
97. Ashlee Simpson, “Pieces of Me”
Lip-sync SNL drama aside, you gotta give it up for the studio recording of “Pieces of Me,” whose climax finds Ashlee delivering a more emotionally raw vocal performance than most mid-’00s pop stars would dare, with a just-hard-enough-to-be-edgier-than-Jessica guitar riff helping sell the confessional love letter as, well, “something real.” — JOE LYNCH
96. The Lonely Island feat. Akon, “I Just Had Sex”
There aren’t many verses in The Lonely Island’s songbook that aren’t hilarious, and frankly, the verses in “I Just Had Sex” might be even funnier than the song’s chorus. But when it comes down to what the triumphant faux-rap is about at its core — unabashedly announcing to the world that you got some action — there’s nothing quite like yelling “AND IT FE-ELT SO GOOD!” with just a little bit too much passion. — TAYLOR WEATHERBY
95. Mika “Grace Kelly”
When Mika debuted with this theatrical track, nothing sounded like it — and nothing has since. The chorus is as challenging as the big bad in a video game, and our fearless hero — seamlessly switching in and out of his falsetto — levels up and goes in for a flawless kill. Every last Freddie Mercury comparison that Mika received for this vocal RPG was deserved. — PATRICK CROWLEY
94. Eve feat. Gwen Stefani, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”
Despite the somewhat surprising pairing, Eve and Gwen brim with swagger, like old friends toasting each other atop Dr. Dre’s bouncing beat. But “Mind” really shines in the alley-oop structure of Stefani’s hook: Gwen sets up listeners with the reveal that she knows they’re already hooked — “don’t fight that good s–t in ya ear,” before wrapping with “now let me blow ya mind” – and lets Eve pick right back up to double down on the goodness. — TREVOR ANDERSON
93. Christina Perri, “Jar of Hearts”
“Jar of Hearts” introduced Pennsylvania singer-songwriter Christina Perri to the Billboard Hot 100 top 40 with a chorus as strikingly bleak and grandly theatrical as its grotesque title image. “You’re gonna catch a cold/ From the ice inside your soul” she seethes over piercing minor chords with enough vitriol to make Tori Amos wince; listen too closely and you might catch second-hand frostbite yourself. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
92. The Knife, “Heartbeats”
The blissful single that first brought dark-pop duo The Knife to international prominence made a pronouncement of life-changing ecstasy from “To call for hands up above to lean on/ Wouldn’t be good enough for me, no” — it probably sounds more logical in Swedish, but significantly less magical. In any event, it’s hard to tell if those “yeah, yeahhhhh” cries that emerge from the final chorus are coming from singer Karin Dreijer Andersson or from your own ticker. — A.U.
91. Zac Brown Band, “Chicken Fried”
Who knew a song about fried chicken could be so… applicable? The song fits right in at a barbeque, a bar and essentially any group gathering where the people enjoy some fried food and a cold beer on a Friday night. A simple inversion of words and suddenly, a jangly, gorgeously harmonized chorus — that knows its audience and their not-overly-complicated desires — is made eternal. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
90. Maroon 5, “This Love”
While this is certainly not the only catchy chorus in Maroon 5’s catalog, it foreshadows the decade and a half of undeniable hooks that were to come from the group — and remains perhaps the most irresistible of them all. The fluctuation of the lyrics and the “oh oh oh, whoa oh oh”s at the end make “This Love” nearly impossible not to (at the very least) hum along with. — T.W.
89. Florence + the Machine, “Shake It Out”
“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Florence Welch declares on her Ceremonials lead single, before throwing the drapes open to let the song’s violently anthemic chorus bathe the song in blinding sunlight. “It’s hard to dance with the Devil on your back, so shake him off!” Welch instructs over pounding drums and seismic organs, and you’ll never be so elated to perform a self-exorcism in your life. — A.U.
88. City High, “What Would You Do?”
The only thing more impressive than the number of notes City High effortless slips into this quickie of a chorus is the fact that this track’s refrain brings to life a scenario more believable and emotionally nuanced than narratives some artists spend entire albums exploring. — J. Lynch
87. Bruno Mars, “Grenade”
Yes, yes, Bruno’s great in this; there’s a reason it’s the song that destroyed any notion of him being a solo one-hit wonder. But in true sum-of-all-parts fashion, it’s the complementary vocals from Mars’ backing crew on the chorus that ensure the melody won’t depart from your brain anytime soon. — KEVIN RUTHERFORD
86. Enrique Iglesias feat. Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona, “Bailando”
You know a chorus is impeccable if it has the ability to transcend language: This hook is just as strong in English as it is in its Spanish counterpart. Between the effortlessness that Enrique and his collaborators display with their casually traded-off vocals, the machine gun precision of the mid-chorus and the powerful way the second-to-last syllable in “con tremenda nota” is held for an unexpected click, it’s no wonder that this Latin crossover shot up the Hot 100 to No. 12. — P.C.
85. t.A.t.U., “All the Things She Said”
The whispered, racing “All the Things She Said” enlisted the clever production move of opening with its chorus, getting listeners on board right from the start. The hook of this cathartic song, which sounds like an inner voice refusing to be ignored, repeats only three phrases, the third of which is a declarative and rallying statement — “This is not enough” — that feels oh so good to admit. — L.H.
84. Sisqo, “The Thong Song”
Sisqo was living la vida loca in 2000 when his breakout solo track “Thong Song” became a booty-shaking partystarter. While R&B was known for its explicit wordplay, the Dru Hill singer’s direct and simple delivery in singling out his favorite type of women’s underwear made it a pop culture — and perhaps, club wardrobe — staple: “Girl I know you wanna show da na da na/ That thong-th-thong-thong-thong.” — ADELLE PLATON
83. LeAnn Rimes, “Can’t Fight the Moonlight”
One of the all-time great oh right, this song choruses — the verses throw a number of melodic red herrings at you before LeAnn Rimes finally busts the door down with her instantly recognizable reminder about the moon’s tyrannical hold on our emotions. You could say that this song is on our list despite its inextricable use within the plot of Coyote Ugly; conversely, you could also say that the association with Piper Perabo & Co. makes it an absolute must. — A.U.
82. Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”
This chorus perfectly captures the explosive energy of a carefree night out, with all its hand-throwing, life-living and club-rocking creating just the spark to light up the party. Plus, there’s something to be said for throwing in a shouted nonsense word (in this case “AAAAAAY-YO!”) to create instant dance-floor camaraderie.— K.A.
81. Rich Boy feat. Polow Da Don, “Throw Some D’s”
Whether or not you could name a song, an album, or even a Twitter feud belonging to Rich Boy from the past ten years, six words (five in the radio edit) and one heavenly ’80s R&B lift ensure he’ll never drift permanently from memory. By the end of 2007, rap aristocrats Kanye West and Lil Wayne had both put their spins on it, and even hip-hop brat Soulja Boy was responding to his F-strewn report card: “THROW SOME D’S ON IT!” — A.U.
80. Celine Dion, “That’s the Way It Is”
“Don’t give up on your faith!” pleads Celine in this booming turn-of-the-millennium chorus; but what kind of faith? The lyrics suggest romance, while the backing choir injects some heavenly faith, taking on the heavy lifting in the final chorus — just after a dramatic key change — and freeing up Dion for some stunning vocal gymnastics before the finish line. — CHRIS PAYNE
79. Fun. feat. Janelle Monae, “We Are Young”
Even if you aren’t that youthful anymore — it’s all a mindset, really — this song at least makes you feel pretty spry for four-plus minutes. And that’s all thanks to its anthemic chorus, with its jarring time change and Nate Ruess’ singular syllable-elongating way of wailing words that makes you stop, listen and believe that you are, indeed, forever young. — K.A.
78. Walk the Moon, “Shut Up and Dance”
Packing enough of a wallop to earn a marginally popular alt-rock band one of the most unavoidable hits of 2014, Walk the Moon’s forever-trademark chorus correctly deduced that listeners like being told to dance more than they dislike being told to shut up. Hell, even the shutting up sounds pretty good here: The gang vocals of the “Shut Up and Dance” refrain make a pretty good case that anything you’re doing with your head besides bopping it is a needless waste of energy. — A.U.
77. Michelle Branch, “Everywhere”
What does the second half of the chorus, “You’re everything I know that makes me believe / I’m not alone,” actually mean? Who cares? It’s a testament to this beast of a glossy pop-rock hook that, once Michelle’s voice tears through after the dramatic instrumental pause, we’ll still sing it at the top of our lungs. — P.C.
76. Stacie Orrico, “(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life”
The biggest smash from Orrico’s lone hit album finds the crossover Christian pop artist dashing through a sonic obstacle course of a chorus — crawling, leaping and scaling the heights of her guitar-drum-and-bass backing. It’s a soul-heavy vocal performance that demands out-of-breath exertion, echoing Orrico’s lyrics about soaring above earthly pleasures. — C.P.
75. Ludacris feat. Shawnna, “What’s Your Fantasy”
The lascivious hook that marked the arrival of one of the most personable voices in ’00s hip-hop, the refrain to Ludacris’ top 40 debut was notable for its friskiness, its boisterousness, and its li-li-li-liberal use of stuttering. But don’t forget what really set this one apart: Not only did Luda end his laundry list of sexual desires by asking “what’s your fantasy?,” he had his female doppelganger Shawnna repeat the whole chorus, instilling a gender balance even rarer in 2000 hip-hop than it is today. — A.U.
74. Samantha Mumba, “Gotta Tell You”
When the strings crescendo into the hook of the Dublin pop sensation’s 2000 hit, Mumba’s chorus flows in like a waterfall. The urgency of the message (“Don’t wanna tell you this now, but it wouldn’t be right/ If I didn’t tell you this tonight”) inspired turn-of-the-century teens to pump the brakes and listen to their conscience before jumping in the sheets. — A.P.
73. The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey, “Closer”
Sure, “Closer” has quite the earworm of a drop, but what comes before it is what’s really entrancing, as Chainsmoker Drew Taggart and duet partner Halsey sing in hypnotically even meter, “So baby pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover.” When you combine such an electrifying instrumental break with a captivating sequence of words into one chorus, of course you get a record-breaking hit — one that still hasn’t left your head nine months later. — T.W.
72. Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway”
From the haunting opening piano figure to the booming, ominous beat, this iconic track from ‘Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy served up a dense forest of signature Kanye contradiction. “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags/ Let’s have a toast for the assholes,” he sings on the chorus, offering up both a rebuke of said schmucks along with a sliver of winking self awareness — ah, who are we kidding? Regardless, you know you’ve seen plenty of d-bags in the club singing the hook like it’s their national anthem. — GIL KAUFMAN
71. Macy Gray, “I Try”
Macy strutted into the top 10 (and the Grammy winner’s circle) with this testament of the impossibility of letting love go. The chorus’ skill, though, lies in its irony: As Macy mumbles and croons through the verses, the one part of the song she fully commits to — vocally and emotionally — is the chorus, in which she bemoans her inability to remain resolute in abandoning her relationship, adding another gut-punch to an already heartbreaking situation. — T.A.
70. Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady”
There’s a lot going on in the lyrics to “The Real Slim Shady,” from Eminem spitting on onion rings to dissing a slew of TRL stars to an interpolation of a long-forgotten Tom Green joke song. But it all falls apart, of course, without the chorus, which has served as the central thesis of Em’s career: there’s only one artist quick-witted and reckless enough to lob the bombs that make your head nod. — J. Lipshutz
69. Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman”
The hook to this boastful declaration of country-bumpkin pride of begins by juxtaposing the words “redneck” and “high-class,” illustrating the song’s thesis. MuzikMafioso Gretchen Wilson then backs up her claims with shout-outs to Nashville legends Charlie Daniels, Tanya Tucker and ‘Ol Bocephus, while the hook culminates in a rowdy, well-earned call-and-response. Yee-haw, indeed. — P.C.
68. Sheryl Crow, “Soak Up the Sun”
While Crow croons about communists and economic struggles during the verses, the chorus is a breezy folk-rock rallying cry that finds the veteran singer-songwriter adopting a hard stance on taking it easy. You might think you don’t like this song, but one return listen will surely prove your memory inaccurate. — J. Lynch
67. Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma”
Before the Carters took over airwaves, Nelly and Kelly offered the world the first post-Destiny’s Child rap/sung collaboration, with this playful gem from the former’s blockbuster Nellyville set. It’s fun, flirtatious and easy to remember (“No matter what I do/ all I think about is you/ even when I’m with my boo/ You know I’m crazy over you”) — truth be told, very few of us can recall any of Nelly’s lyrics, but we all know Kelly’s part. — T.A.
66. Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert, “Bad and Boujee”
It seems like every superstar artist has that one call-and-response hook that everybody knows and can complete (Drake’s “Started From the Bottom”; Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)”; every Kanye hook from ’04-’07). But the genius of Migos’ “Rain drop/ Drop top” chorus is not just in its ubiquity, but in its simplicity — during its reign atop the charts, saying “Rain drop” would get an immediate response from everyone in the vicinity rushing to complete the couplet. The fact it became a meme certainly helped, but the hook itself would have been enough. — DAN RYS
65. Usher, “Burn”
Usher is the king of heartbreak anthems. No matter your relationship status, the R&B icon’s 2004 tearjerker “Burn” perfectly soundtracked every painful uncoupling with lines like “But you know you gotta let it go ‘cause the party ain’t jumping like it used to,” sung in a pinched falsetto from the depths of a torn-up heart. — A.P.
64. Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”
Sometimes, there’s nothing more effective than an extended “oooooo,” and Florida Georgia Line are currently conquering stadiums thanks in large part to that elongated vowel sound. The “Cruise” hook simply feels like a summertime drive with the top down — an uncomplicated pleasure, and to their credit, FGL didn’t get in the way of it. — J. Lipshutz
63. Kings of Leon, “Sex on Fire”
You don’t always get to pick the song that blows you up, and it’s likely that these southern familial rockers might have thought twice about releasing this unbelievably catchy, bare-bones jam as their fourth album’s lead single if given a second chance — they’ve even said in interviews that the title is actually a joke. But try to resist the urgent pull of singer Caleb Followill’s snarling come-on: “Youuuu-uu-uuuu/ YOUR SEX IS ON FIIIII-IIIIRE!!” Postscript: It worked — KoL are arena-rock mainstays, and Caleb is now married to the titular supermodel firestarter.– G.K.
62. Avril Lavigne, “Girlfriend”
After spending two albums documenting young love and its many pitfalls, Avril Lavigne came back with “Girlfriend,” clearly fed up with subtlety and nuance. The chorus is deliciously straightforward: Hey buddy, your girlfriend sucks, you need a new one, how about me? Presented as a cheer-squad declaration, the “Girlfriend” chorus was so effervescent that even the jilted titular girlfriend would have to sing along. — J. Lipshutz
61. Petey Pablo, “Raise Up”
Not a lot of expert musicologists would advise keying the hook of your debut single around your three-step instructions for how to toplessly represent North Carolina pride, but Petey Pablo howled ’em with enough hoarse-throated gusto to make an entire nation of honorary Tar Heels. Wondering who those wildly shirtless masses were helicoptering in the streets after UNC’s championship victory in early April? Us! Us! Us!, natch. — A.U.
60. The Strokes, “Hard to Explain”
Not even beginning until just under the two-minute mark, it almost feels like a surprise when that “I say the right things/ But act the wrong way” chorus finally rolls around — but it’s absolutely worth the wait, as in what feels like one long breath, Julian Casablancas runs through his list of reasons for why he (or the chorus, for that matter) is late. As great as the opening guitar solo and first verse are, “Hard To Explain” is one of those songs where you’re constantly waiting for that part. — X.Z.
59. JoJo, “Leave (Get Out)”
JoJo’s breakthrough hit is unlike any other song on this list, in that its chorus sounds more like a heated slam poetry riff than a pop hook. The refrain works, though, because it’s so direct — JoJo is taking the high road, breaking up with a boy who cheated on her and getting the final word during their final fight: “You were just a waste of time.” That originality is what helped launch JoJo’s career as a pop mainstay, and it’s why 12 years later, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a karaoke room that won’t happily provide the “LEAVE!” backing shouts for this one. — X.Z.
58. Lifehouse, “Hanging By a Moment”
L.A. righteous rockers Lifehouse begin the verses to their biggest hit “desperate for changing, searching for truth.” But whatever it is the band was really in pursuit of — love, religion, the perfect mac-and-cheese — they undoubtedly captured it on the chorus, as explosive, cathartic and satisfying a refrain as the early ’00s produced, going all the way from “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” to “It’s all right, she moves in mysterious ways” over the course of four bars. — A.U.
57. Vanessa Carlton, “A Thousand Miles”
The piano riff that launched a thousand Zales sales would seem too daunting to compete with for brainspace, but Vanessa Carlton still managed to do as much with her words as her fingers on her signature hit, vowing with all the romantic naivete she can muster, “You know I’d walk a thousand miles/ If I could just see you tonight.” Edwin Starr no doubt admired her dedication, while The Proclaimers were probably just impressed with her verbal efficiency. — A.U.
56. Estelle feat. Kanye West, “American Boy”
The rhyme structure in this chorus is truly masterful, painting an idyllic, simple picture of America and the song’s red-white-and-blue love interest. The words roll so easily off Estelle’s tongue (“I’d really like to/ Come kick it with you”) that it’s no wonder Kanye West was drawn to its laid-back charm, offering the then-unknown British chanteuse the feature that launched a surprise (but well-deserved) crossover hit. — K.A.
55. Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris, “Baby”
Of course, if you just look at the lyrics of “Baby,” there’s really not much to its chorus (hint: It’s literally “baby, baby, baby, ohh” on repeat, other than the closing line “I thought you’d always be mine”). But perhaps that’s what makes the song so hard to not belt out — in addition to the fact that the delivery is about as passionate as a 15-year-old pop star (who has no idea how weird things are about to get) can manage. — T.W.
54. P!nk, “Just Like a Pill”
Go ahead, you can have your party-starting lead single or its self-effacing follow-up. The chorus you found yourself humming after finishing M!ssundaztood, though, was undoubtedly this one. Is it the guitar? It might be the guitar. Pink sounds better with guitar. — K.R.
53. Cascada, “Everytime We Touch”
Don’t get it twisted: Cascada is a group, and their breakthrough 2006 hit (originally sung by Maggie Reilly) is a team effort between vocalist Natalie Horler and DJs Manuel Reuter and Yann Peifer. Like a lot of Eurodance-pop, the singer and beat battle for control of the hook, with the latter nearly stealing the prize this time. After establishing itself the first time around, the second chorus drops its bass thump and lets Horler solo over its high-end twinkle, as thunderous percussion plows its way in, taking the ears and hearts of America by force. — C.P.
52. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low”
Apple Bottom jeans. Boots with the fur. Baggy sweatpants and Reeboks with the straps. T-Pain’s hook on the 2008 club smash not only glorified the year’s hottest fashion trends (and established his Auto-Tuned warble as the defining voice of late-’00s top 40), fellas and ladies reported to the dance floor and dropped their knees — among other things — for a Step Up-style dance-off. — A.P.
51. Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago”
The most durable chorus of the mid-’00s indie-rock boom. Sufjan Stevens has the power to go minimalist, as on his devastating 2015 LP Carrie & Lowell, and grandiose, as he did with 2010’s psychedelic The Age of Adz; on “Chicago,” he wraps the lonely intimacy of the verses around a bleeding-heart refrain that explodes into a brass exaltation. — J. Lipshutz
50. Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”
Five months before “Born This Way” was officially released, Gaga gave the world a sneak peek at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, singing the opening half of the chorus a cappella. By the time the track arrived, the chorus had blossomed into one of the most anthemic pop declarations of all time, championing self-love and liberation in the face of insecurity and prejudice. Sure, Gaga may have catchier or easier-to-sing hooks in other songs, but none of Mother Monster’s choruses have ever been as important. — T.A.
49. S Club 7, “Never Had a Dream Come True”
The British pop group might be remembered stateside only for its string of TV series that always took place in the U.S., except there was that one song that actually made it onto pop radio. And with good reason, too — that chorus melody is an absolute monster. Get out your lighters. Yes, at an S Club party. — K.R.
48. Evanescence feat. Paul McCoy, “Bring Me to LIfe”
Evanescence’s biggest Hot 100 hit might also contain the nu-metal chorus: a chaotic back-and-forth between Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee and 12 Stones singer Paul McCoy, both vocals trying to lock arms and lift each other out of this treacherous sonic equivalent of Tim Burton’s mind. — C.P.
47. Destiny’s Child, “Bootylicious”
Before the term entered the Oxford English Dictionary, Destiny’s Child’s fictitious too-hot-to-handle phrase (co-penned of course by Beyonce), used to describe voluptuous lady lumps, had women getting in formation and singing the now-iconic “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly” taunt. Special shout out to the guitar riff, swiped from Stevie Nicks’ classic rock standard “Edge of Seventeen,” which helped the 2001 track ooze even more body confidence. — A.P.
46. Dr. Dre feat. Eminem, “Forgot About Dre”
Only Eminem could turn such a complex bit of rhythm and wordplay into a song’s signature hook. With an assist from Dre’s Addams Family-esque production creeping beneath, Em strings together a 29-word run-on sentence that somehow spills out of his mouth with playful poise, as if it’s completely natural to rhyme “move their lips” with “a bunch of gibberish.” No rhyming dictionary could have done what Slim Shady did here. – K.A.
45. 5 Seconds of Summer, “She Looks So Perfect”
A 10-out-of-10 juggernaut chorus that guaranteed the next boy band to take over America would be an actual band — one decked out in Misfits and Sex Pistols T-shirts, no less. The American Apparel underwear is what everyone remembers, for good reason, but don’t forget about brilliant details like the work-of-art lipstick stain or “mixtape straight outta ’94” — or the HEEYYYYYY-EY-EYYYYYs that ensured you didn’t have to actually be paying attention to the song to be overpowered by it. — A.U.
44. Shaggy feat. Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent, “It Wasn’t Me”
The cheating confession (and Shaggy’s unconvincing denial) that owned the first half of 2001, the “It Wasn’t Me” chorus was packed to the brim with unforgettable wordings and melodic phrasings (“Picture this: We were both buck na-ked!“) that made it as breezy and gleeful as Usher’s later chart-topper on the same topic, uh, wasn’t. If anyone tries to peddle an ’00s pop list to you without Ricardo “RikRok” Ducent on it, demand your money back. — A.U.
43. Gotye feat. Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
The “Somebody That I Used To Know” chorus is profoundly raw. Gotye spends two verses stewing in sadness and anger, breaking down and loading up, before the seething spills over into an uncontrolled bawl. On the first time, on the five hundredth, that reached boiling point is spectacular to hear — and even more fun to wail along with. — J. Lipshutz
42. Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. The Ying Yang Twins, “Get Low”
It may be impossible to explain to future generations just how huge a role Lil Jon played in 2003 pop culture; the best we could hope for is just to play them the “Get Low” chorus and trust that “TO THE WINDOOOWWWW / TO THE WAAAAALLLLLL!!!” will still hit their chest like a battering ram and have them speaking in crunk tongues by song’s end. — A.U.
41. Fall Out Boy, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”
The song that introduced these Chicago pop-punk kids to much of America packs a chorus that’s quintessential Fall Out Boy — Patrick Stump’s formidable pipes selling Pete Wentz’s knotty, lovelorn lyrics like the smoothest dealer, with the crunchy, stop-start rhythm paying homage to FOB’s hardcore roots. The first chorus hits hard enough; when Stump comes back for his second “We’re going doooowwwn, doooowwwwn” before verse number two, you know FOB ain’t playin’. — C.P.
40. Katy Perry, “Firework”
Katy Perry specializes in inspirational anthems, but “Firework” boasts an explosive chorus even by Perry’s sky-high standards, with her voice reaching deep into her church-music past to project the titular word into the stratosphere, where it bursts like a… well, you know. Amid all that, a pounding club beat makes sure the song stays close enough to earth for us mortals to at least glimpse. — J. Lynch
39. DMX, “Party Up (Up in Here)”
Going off like a nuclear alarm clock every goddamn time, DMX’s most famous chorus will likely hold as the closest sonic approximation of seeing red and blacking out as we’re likely to get until Russell Westbrook releases his debut single. Earl Simmons’ ensuing decade and a half of increasingly surreal IRL headlines only adds after-the-fact verisimilitude to his signature hit; it’s certainly not like we can say he didn’t warn us. — A.U.
38. Shakira, “Whenever, Wherever”
Shakira’s smash deserves a special shout-out for producing one of the memorable pre-choruses of any era: It launches the thrust of her first U.S. hit with a non-English lyric (“Le ro lo le lo le / Le ro lo le lo le”), but the structure shifts as drums pound to underscore the cry: “I’m at your feet!” Cue a flood of guitar, drums and a flute that anchors the song to its booming core. Based on its worldwide success, they’ll be singing this one everywhere, forever. — T.A.
37. Miley Cyrus, “Party in the U.S.A.”
The beauty of this chorus is not only its blanket relatability — because who hasn’t thrown their hands up to a Britney or Jay Z song? — but also its inescapable assurance that everything will be ok. The level-one rhyming scheme Cyrus makes use of here (away, ok, U.S.A.) makes it easy enough to follow along with, and near impossible to avoid nodding your head “like yeah” to. — L.H.
36. Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
Lots to like here — a jilted lover! Property damage! Carrie Underwood’s brawniest vocal performance yet! More property damage! Do yourself a favor next time you listen, though: pay attention to that swell of fiddle right before each chorus. Get hype. Repeat. — K.R.
35. Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
The Doggfather flossed like a capital G on this drum-heavy, Pharrell-produced (and -featuring!) hit. Even those with skimpy bank accounts and barely any ties to the ‘hood were posted in the club with a mean mug, responding to all possible scenarios “like it’s hot.” Got a pimp in the crib? A pig trying to get at ya? Checking a dude with an attitude? Just flaunt the bling on your arm, grab a bottle and roll a joint to bring this peerlessly hazy hook to life. — A.P.
34. Lorde, “Royals”
A debut single that most veteran artists would kill for, Lorde devised the hook to “Royals” in a matter of minutes, and the song ended up topping the Hot 100 for multiple months. The key is all in the juxtaposition with the pre-chorus: By rattling off the luxuries that most can’t afford to experience (“Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash” among them) and then pulling up and gliding on the hook (“And we’ll never be roooooyals”), the New Zealand then-teen crafted a first step too bright for any part of the world to disregard. — J. Lipshutz
33. Daft Punk feat. Pharrell, “Get Lucky”
This Grammy-winning smash had it all from the jump: a pair of French EDM robot superstars, one of Pharrell’s finest vocals and a classic guitar riff from Chic disco-funk legend Nile Rodgers. The result was one of the biggest hits of 2013, and a hands-in-the-air refrain that will be drunkenly shouted at bar mitzvahs and weddings for the rest of eternity: “We’re up all night to the sun/ We’re up all night to get some/ We’re up all night for good fun, we’re up all night to get lucky.” If that’s not the thesis statement for dance-pop, what is? — G.K.
32. Missy Elliott, “Work It”
Earlier in 2017 — 15 years after it’s release — “Work It” became a trending topic when the (ignorant) masses were still just discovering what music nerds figured out while the song was still bounding up the Hot 100: the gibberish throughout the chorus is just a backmasked Missy spitting “I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it,” in reverse. As casually innovative as only Missy singles were at the turn of the millennium. — P.C.
31. Kesha, “TiK ToK”
Considering the song’s first-person narrator has been drinking all day by the time she arrives at the throwdown in the chorus, it’s fitting there are so many pauses between notes in this refrain — as if the party-weary protagonist can’t quite muster a diva vocal showcase, so she settles for a sing-song chant directed at the DJ. With the cadence of the chorus conveying out-of-breath intoxication, the construction of “TiK Tok” is much sharper than you might realize on first (or 20th) listen. — J. Lynch
30. Idina Menzel, “Let It Go”
There was a time when “I-2-I” from A Goofy Movie was the greatest Disney chorus ever written (nope, don’t even comment, you’re wrong, you just are), but now you’re stuck with this one for the next few decades. And there’s nothing wrong with that: Menzel’s ice storm of a hook is as self-affirming, empowering and — especially in that finale — show-stopping as they come. — K.R.
29. 50 Cent, “In Da Club”
Birthday or not, 50 Cent’s breakthrough hit is a bottle-popping celebration each time it hits the speakers. On top of that menacing Mike Elizondo and Dr. Dre-produced beat, the Queens MC laid out the rules of his ideal night crystal clear: “You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub/ Look, mami, I got the X if you into taking drugs.” No place for romantic foreplay here either: “I’m into having sex, I ain’t into making love/So come give me a hug if you’re into getting rubbed,” the definitive sound bite of Curtis Jackson’s cold-blooded cool. — A.P.
28. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”
The seeds for a pop smash typically don’t involve lyrics about tourist-murdering thieves and a chorus made up mostly of gunshots and cash-register dings. And yet, unpredictable Maya Arulpragasam managed to mix them with a killer Clash sample as she dared us not to put our pistol fingers up with the requisite swagger and sing along: “All I wanna do is (bang bang bang bang)/ And (click, ka-ching) / And take your money.” Don’t front, you’ve done it. More than once. — G.K.
27. One Direction, “What Makes You Beautiful”
When you think of what a boy band song should sound like, this is pretty much the quintessential example for the 21st century. The whole damn thing is just one hook after the next, but “Beautiful” is still most grandiose in its chorus, where all five voices come together for some swoon-worthy harmonies backed by a booming power-pop beat. And if you’re too starry-eyed to look that deep into a 1D song, the Pixy Stix-sweet lyrics (“Baby you light up my world like nobody else/ The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed”) are certainly enough to make this an instant boy band classic. — T.W.
26. The Darkness, “I Believe In a Thing Called Love”
The Darkness may not have a long list of chart hits, but they crafted one of the best, most recognizable rock choruses of the 21st century with “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” It works so well because Justin Hawkins’ vocal range feels like a rollercoaster ride — taking us up and down with far-out musical pitches that feel impossible in tandem, almost sounding like two singers going back and forth (reminiscent of the band’s main influence, Queen). But that’s just frontman Justin Hawkins working his magic. — X.Z.
25. Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”
This 2006 hit from the late British soul singer is both her creative apex and, sadly, her grim epitaph. Unable to escape the pull of the alcohol and drugs that led to her demise, in happier days Winehouse’s Mark Ronson-produced, triple-Grammy-winning breakthrough introduced the world to the young lady who sneered, “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said ‘no, no no.’” Hurts to sing it now, but try humming the first few words and watch everyone in the room shake their heads three times. Every time. — G.K.
24. Beyonce feat. Jay Z, “Crazy in Love”
It was clear that Destiny was dust the moment Beyonce (singing lead vocal and backup) cooed and belted her way through the “Crazy In Love” chorus, which benefits greatly from a buoyant horn sample courtesy of The Chi-Lites. Even so, it’s her alluring delivery of the rolling refrain — packed with more notes than most of her peers would dare to tackle, and pop’s final great pager reference — that makes Bey the MVP here. — J. Lynch
23. Cam’ron feat. Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey and Toya, “Hey Ma”
If there was anything that established Cam’ron and the Diplomats crew as formidable players in hip-hop, it was the one-two punch of Cam’s “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma” in 2002. But the latter’s carefree, back-and-forth chorus flirtation, supported by an effortless Tuneheadz beat and slow-walking pace, made it a particularly perfect cut to soundtrack just about any party situation — and the video’s coda, with Cam decked out in pink playing air piano over the instrumental pre-chorus, is an iconic image in Dipset lore. — D.R.
22. Avril Lavigne, “Sk8er Boi”
The best part of this combustible kiss-off refrain is its satisfying end, in which the pronouns suddenly shift the narrative from an outsider observation to a first-person experience — and one rightfully deserved — allowing the song to be sung either about or at someone, a veritable Choose Your Own Adventure sort of chorus. Avril’s path led her to a victorious end: “Tough luck, that boy’s mine now,” she sings through a smirk, serving as both a warning and a lesson to be learned, before diving right back into the triumphant final chorus about her beloved Sk8er Boi. — L.H.
21. Fountains of Wayne, “Stacy’s Mom”
In a pop world where most songs about lust sounded as innocent as Mandy Moore’s “Crush,” Fountains of Wayne didn’t just bring a rock edge to the topic — they asked teenage listeners to skip right over their own age group. Obviously an ode to the MILFs of the world was going to resonate with a certain demographic, but apparently the idea of fantasizing over a friend’s parent was something that millions of people of all (or at least most) ages could relate to. While it’s fun enough to sing the phrase “Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on” — especially if you can replace Stacy with your appropriate friend’s name — there’s this little pause right before that line hits that makes the chorus all the more thrilling. — T.W.
20. Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
There were about a dozen moments over the course of her pre-1989 career you could point to as proof that Taylor Swift would one day become the biggest pop star in the world, but maybe none bigger than the immaculate chorus of Fearless smash “You Belong With Me,” which saw her playing the romantic underdog with a frontrunner’s brio and expertise. Listening to her cascading vocals on the climactic “Why can’t you see-ee-ee?/ You belong with me-ee-ee!,” there was no doubt: The boy would soon be hers, and so would the rest of us. — A.U.
19. Britney Spears, “Oops!… I Did It Again”
Britney’s 2000 Max Martin-produced gumdrop smash is practically all chorus: “Oops! I did it again/ I played with your heart, got lost in the game,” Britney hiccups in her Kewpie doll voice, before adding the guilt-inducing tag “I’m not that innocent.” Feeling bad never felt so good, and in a long list of memorable chart-slayers, this song reigns supreme because it boils all of Brit’s sex, longing, teasing and naivete into one unforgettable phrase. — G.K.
18. CeeLo Green, “F–k You”
Even if you haven’t lost a lover to a richer suitor the way CeeLo Green (or perhaps co-writer Bruno Mars) apparently did, you likely have someone you’d like nothing better than to flip the bird to… and there’s no better soundtrack to doing that than this. (Yes, “Forget You” was the version that overtook radio for censorship reasons, but for the full experience, you absolutely have to have the f-bomb.) As satisfying as a good “F–k you” sing-along is in just about any circumstance, CeeLo takes that furious invective to an even higher level with rolling piano and a danceable ’60s soul sound — as well as choir-like backing vocals to make the titular phrase just about as dynamic as it can (and should) be. — T.W.
17. Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
Gaga songs are often more about the hook than the chorus — her inventive vocal inflections and repetitions frequently steal the spotlight from the proper refrains — but “Bad Romance” boasts a sublime chorus that equals her iconic recurring “rah-rah ah-ah-ah” chant. On this one, Gaga sounds like she’s prostrate on the dance floor shouting to God for mercy… that is, if God were a lover too wrong to keep but too good to quit. — J. Lynch
16. O-Town, “All or Nothing”
If there’s one great kind of chorus the 21st century is largely lacking in, it’s the planet-sized power ballad with a refrain so sweeping and high-stakes that you have to raise an entire blowtorch to it; the kind of chorus you need to craft an entire summer blockbuster around just to have the appropriately dramatic moment for it to soundtrack. Well, O-Town’s “All or Nothing” didn’t get the hit movie — Pearl Harbor was already taken, sadly — but it certainly got the rest, with a chorus that peak Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams would’ve traded years off their life for, and a climactic key change that took the song higher than Scott Stapp could ever have dreamed. — A.U.
15. Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”
While most of us haven’t been blessed with pipes like the British powerhouse’s, the 2011 smash off her sophomore effort 21 is a foot-stomping farewell to an ain’t-sh-t ex that can turn the most reticent of us into cubicle divas. Listeners will always break out their best shower concert voice for Adele’s heart-pounding chorus, which nails the sound of sorrow turning into strength: “We could have had it all/ Rolling in the deep/ You had my heart inside of your hand/ And you played it, to the beat.” — A.P.
14. Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”
There’s no more heartbreaking chorus in pop music — especially in a song about dancing that’s meant to make you dance. But that juxtaposition is the power of the deceptively depressing song: The buoyant beat paired with the pleading lyrics is actually the right fit, because although Robyn keeps dancing on her own, she’s still dancing, after all. That means there’s still plenty of time to be the girl someone is taking home — just maybe not by her first pick. – K.A.
13. *NSYNC, “Bye Bye Bye”
One word, sung three times, and Justin Timberlake — one of the most decorated pop artists of the century — still hasn’t been able to top it. Following the high-water mark of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” *NSYNC tossed their own flash of genius into the 2000 bubblegum pop time capsule with “Bye Bye Bye,” which preceded the record-setting launch of their No Strings Attached album. There’s nothing particularly flashy about the hook here, but everything is so highly manicured — from the sticky-sweet production to the “bye! BYE!” vocal punctuations — that even your too-cool, rock-loving older brother couldn’t resist Justin, JC, Lance, Chris and Joey this time. — J. Lipshutz
12. Rihanna, “Umbrella”
Rihanna managed to provide an inanimate object with its very own theme song. Cloaked under the repeated sounds of “ella, ella, ella, ay ay ay” is a deep chorus lyric about staying true to what you say — “Took an oath, Imma stick it out ‘til the end” — and ultimately protecting those you care about by metaphorically letting them stand under your um-buh-rella. The vulnerable lyrics are emboldened by a driving drumbeat and heavily produced backing track that runs on loop, playing into the good girl gone bad juxtaposition Rihanna was exploring at the time — making it look (and sound) too appealing to ignore. — L.H.
11. Sia, “Chandelier”
No small feat for a veteran singer-songwriter who’d had her only major commercial success writing for others to finally have her first solo top 10 hit at age 38; while refusing to publicly show her face, no less. An intriguing back story and indelible music video helped, certainly, but really it was the vocal calisthenics of the “Chandelier” chorus — a trembling ode to the perilous thrill of drinking yourself into oblivion, ironically making for one of the all-time great try-and-fail drunken sing-alongs — that sealed the deal. Rihanna and Britney could do a lot of things with Sia’s pen providing their narration, but they couldn’t turn one night’s over-indulgence into Phantom of the Opera. — A.U.
10. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
The song’s title says it all: following verses that may comprise Miley’s most delicate vocal performance, this whopper chorus comes crashing in with abandon. The impact of this colossal hook is so strong, its force manages to shatter the word ‘wreck’ into three syllables, which Miley delivers with an exhausted rawness. Miley retreats back to fragility on the verses and the bridge, giving the chorus a perfect opportunity to crush your soul to rubble each time it repeats. Is it any surprise that this was the single that finally swung the former Disney brat to the top of the Hot 100? — P.C.
9. Nelly feat. City Spud, “Ride Wit Me”
The brilliance — yes, brilliance — of Nelly in the early ’00s was almost entirely borne out of his ability to deliver easily accessible, melodic hooks that were remorseless earworms; once you start, you just can’t stop. “Ride Wit Me” is his best because he achieves that level of universal familiarity in a way that doesn’t even require listeners to know all the words; even the uninitiated can fumble their way through the melody before chiming in with the kicker: “Heyyyy! Must be the mon-ayyyy!” For those that want to actually know what Nelly is saying, the reward is an ode to the lifestyle of someone who just can’t bother to give a damn about anything other than ridin’ around, relaxing and smoking up with their friends. The perfect summer jam — works in any other situation, too. — D.R.
8. R. Kelly, “Ignition (Remix)”
This would likely land even higher on our chorus list if the rest of the song wasn’t so stupidly ingenious as well — ask the average person what the chorus to “Ignition (Remix)” is and they might have to hum the entire first verse just to remind themselves where the official chorus starts. But even if it doesn’t tower over the rest, the refrain is still the high-water mark of “Ignition (Remix),” coining new parts of the pop lexicon with nearly every line — “It’s the freakin’ weekend,” “I’m like so what I’m drunk,” and of course, the fourth-wall-breaking innovation of starting the chorus to the remix to “Ignition” with “It’s the remix to ‘Ignition.”’ We take it all for granted now, but listen to a similarly sublime song with a less-supportive chorus — like, say, the non-remix to “Ignition” — and you’ll understand how the heavy lifting the “Ignition (Remix)” hook does allows the rest of the song to sound so weightless. — A.U.
7. Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”
This is a one-song master class in hit making. Vocally, Perry is seductive and breathy on the verses, so when she finally belts the chorus like it’s a manifesto, it bowls you over. There’s also the song construction trick of hammering one note three times (“YOU. MAKE. ME” and “TEE. NAGE. DREAM”) in the chorus, which grabs your attention and sticks in your brain instantaneously. Plus, the lyrics tap into rose-tinted collective memories of teenage romance, which stir up warm associations for anyone — even those whose adolescent attempts at love were closer to teenage nightmares. — J. Lynch
6. Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”
In a decades-long career studded with more hits than you can fit in a Fendi bag, this 2009 Jigga smash stands above the rest in sheer undeniability. A love letter to the two artists’ shared hometown, it drops refs to such Big Apple icons as the Yankees, Afrika Bambaataa, gypsy cabs, the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center, among others. But those verses are all just a wind up to a soaring refrain that has become the city’s de facto new millennium anthem. “New York, concrete jungle/ Where dreams are mad of/ There’s nothing you can’t do/ Now you’re in New York,” Keys sings in a grand, swelling vocal that captures the energy and promise of her hometown. The people’s champ, truly. — G.K.
5. Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”
This emo crossover hit was a mainstay in teen movie soundtracks back in 2002, and now, fifteen years later, it’s endured as a true millennial anthem — earnest, wide-eyed and positive, co-opted by Taylor Swift and still cool enough for the indie crowd. The chorus is pure bubblegum, the type of sing-along bliss that perks up in just the right moments, so savvy that it could’ve thrived in just about evvvry, evvvry historical pop-rock setting: ‘60s girl group, late-’70s power-pop, ‘80s new wave… 2010s Kelly Clarkson single? — C.P.
4. OutKast, “Ms. Jackson”
OutKast’s poppiest chorus of all – and yes, that even includes the indomitable “Hey Ya.” It wouldn’t exist without a deft melodic alteration of “Strawberry Letter 23” (made famous by The Brothers Johnson), but that’s just the cornerstone from which the song’s most beloved refrain is built. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve lived through-baby mama drama or not, because bellowing the words “I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson!” followed by your choicest falsetto “ooh!” is (forever ever) universal, thanks to misters Benjamin and Patton. — K.R.
3. The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
There are countless rock songs released this century that never quite reach the top of the mountain — that is, they gain momentum in the verse, keep climbing in the pre-chorus, but stumble back down upon reaching the hook. “Mr. Brightside” is not one of these songs. In fact, the first song that The Killers ever recorded heads upward throughout its first minute, teases a massive chorus to come, then ascends into the clouds with a word (“jeaaaa-lou-syyyy“) we never knew could be so much fun to sing. The chorus of “Mr. Brightside” is paranoid, overly dramatic and unapologetically self-aggrandizing, but it’s also sweeping, stylish and relatable to anyone who’s construed a minor betrayal as a major personal blow. The Killers often start their live sets with this song, and when they do, it always feels like a reminder: Oh, yeah, a perfect, world-conquering rock chorus WAS released after the ’90s ended and everyone declared the classic rock era over. — J. Lipshutz
2. Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
Alt-rock bands had been pairing musically minimalist verses with crushingly loud choruses since at least the ’80s, but Kelly Clarkson and Dr. Luke demonstrated the formula worked for top 40 pop, too, via the bare-bones verses and wall-of-sound refrain of “Since U Been Gone.” Sure, this expertly crafted anthem about exorcising an ex from your heart would have been a hit for almost anyone, but Clarkson’s voice soars above the cacophonous chorus with a mixture of fierce resolve and near desperation that elevated her from Alpha Idol to radio juggernaut. — J. Lynch
1. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”
How do we know that this is the best chorus of the 21st century? Well, maybe because “Call Me Maybe” spent nine weeks on top of the Hot 100, infiltrated every corner of pop culture from Sesame Street to the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, and made a girl-next-door pop superhero out of singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen — and yet, a large part of the song sounds almost purposefully unmemorable. Jepsen whisper-sings the verses in a near-monotone, like she’s trying not to wake the slumbering hook, hurrying over relatively innocuous lyrics like “I trade my soul for a wish/ Pennies and dimes for a kiss.” The song’s fuse only starts to crackle with the spark of the pre-chorus (“Your stare was holding…”), fully igniting with the “Where you think you’re goin’, baby?” lead-in. And then… ka-boom.
One string swipe into the “Call Me Maybe” chorus, and it’s all over. The song hits its disco strut, Carly Rae begins her pickup line, and before you look up the song’s already in the stratosphere, soaring from its first “Hey, I…” Aside from the fact that CRJ encapsulates everything you’ve ever felt in a post-crush rush in 17 words — maybe even just the three of the title — she delivers it with expert over-excited anxiousness, as if darting between the raindrops of the string stabs. And then, the perfectly paradoxical post-chorus: “Before you came into my life I missed you so bad.” All in all, the best part of the “Call Me Maybe” chorus was how it ended up summarizing our own feelings about the song — the giddiness, the awkward excitement, and the feeling of how we never knew how much we needed a song like it in our lives until it showed up. — A.U.