The Most Influential Songs By Decade

Music can have a powerful impact on the events that happen within a decade. It can either be due to events that surrounded the release of the song or how the song became popular and an important part of that decade’s pop culture. It’s tough to narrow down a whole decade to one song, but here are the songs that encompass the events and other happenings from the 1960s to today.

1960s: “Revolution” by The Beatles

During the early 1960s, the British Invasion took over the world with bands such as The Beatles and Rolling Stones touring internationally and getting numerous singles on American radio stations. Towards the end of the decade, the country was split on a various number of issues, including civil rights and whether or not the country should get involved in the Vietnam War. This song was able to capture the sentiments that some felt against the Vietnam War with lines such as “But when you talk about destruction, Don’t you know that you can count me out,” followed by “Don’t you know it’s gonna be, alright (3x).” It served as a message of hope in a tumultuous time.

1970s: “Staying Alive” by The Bee Gees

When you think of the ’70s, chances are you think of disco. This song was originally written for the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, which became one of the most popular movies from this decade. While it originally was not going to be released as a single, it became number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for all of February 1978 starting on the week of February 4, 1978.

1980s: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Thriller was iconic for a few reasons. First, the music video for this song ran at 14 minutes and was one of the first Hollywood-style production music videos, featuring actress Ola Ray and voice-over by Vincent Price, who was a popular actor in many horror films such as House of Wax and The Mad Magician. With the rise of cable TV and specifically MTV, the music video got noticed and was nominated for six awards during MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMA’s). The video won three awards.

Second, it reached the top ten in many other countries, including France and Belgium. This became Jackson’s signature song and the album of the same name is still considered one of the top grossing albums of all time.

1990s: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

This song would change the face of rock music and eventually become an anthem for Generation X. In late 1991, this song took a rocket to the top, becoming the first alternative rock song to reach the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, and the music video received heavy rotation on MTV. This would open the door to other rock artists like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden to get airplay on various radio stations.

2000s: “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” by Alan Jackson

Although many artists like Beyoncé, Outkast, and Lady Gaga really broke out and had numerous chart toppers throughout this decade, this song is the most influential due to its ties to the terrorist attacks that happened on September 11, 2001. It was written in the form of questions addressed to listeners to reflect on the events of that day. Alan Jackson debuted the song during the CMA Awards on November 7, 2001 and received a standing ovation when finished.

2010s (so far): “Gangnam Style” by Psy

If you’ve been to a wedding in the past couple of years, chances are you have seen someone dancing to this song by making the motion of a galloping horse. The music video for this Korean pop hit went viral in the summer of 2012 and became the most liked video on YouTube. This song would then be featured in various parodies and reaction videos on YouTube.

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