The 50 Best Britpop Songs

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The 50 Best Britpop Songs

For a good chunk of the ’90s, a handful of bands from across the pond managed to rule the world. Influenced by guitar pop forebears like The Kinks and The Beatles, groups like Blur, Oasis and Pulp stood in contrast to America’s grunge scene at the time and carried the torch for Cool Britannia. Their reign was brief, in the grand scheme of things, with Britpop fizzling out in the late ’90s, and when Radiohead unleashed OK Computer, it was clear that music fans on both sides of the Atlantic would be leaving the genre behind and following Thom Yorke and company to the next big thing. But the influence left by Britpop remains undeniable.

For the purposes of this list, we’re defining “Britpop” as the stuff produced during the first two-thirds of the ‘90s: no Radiohead or Stereophonics, no early influencers like the Stone Roses or revivalists like Coldplay. Not to be confused with simply “pop music by British artists,” we present to you the 50 Best Britpop Songs.

50. Elastica, “Connection”
Yes, Wire fans, Justine Frischmann did crib liberally from the post-punk icon’s “Three Girl Rhumba” when writing this tune. But think of it this way: the continued success of this jaunty synth-driven ode to love and confusion is surely still refreshing Colin Newman and co.’s bank accounts on a regular basis. Besides, when that hip-shaking beat takes over, who has time to look at the writing credits?—Robert Ham

49. The Charlatans, “One to Another”
For whatever reason, The Charlatans never made the lasting impression that the likes of Oasis, Blur or Pulp did on the international stage, but in the UK they were just as vital to Britpop’s development and cultivation as any of those three bands. “One to Another,” a single from 1996, was released in the midst of Britpop and was able to make a notable mark. Ignited by a rock riff, the song epitomizes the pomp and glow that the movement held so dear.—Michael Danaher

48. Echobelly, “King of the Kerb”
Echobelly was essentially the Britpop Blondie, and “King of the Kerb” is one of the band’s crowning achievements. On it, Sonya Madan and company tell stories of homelessness and prostitution over a deceptively cheery melody.—Bonnie Stiernberg

47. Ash, “Girl From Mars”
Though this still-teenaged Northern Irish trio was already beloved in the indie world, this 1995 single with a Pixies-like love of quiet/loud dynamics and leader Tim Wheeler’s bouncing vocal melody pushed them into the top 40 for the first time. As if that weren’t enough, the song was also used by NASA as their telephone hold music for a stretch in the late ‘90s.—Robert Ham

46. Pulp, “Babies”
Originally released in 1992 on an indie imprint, this track didn’t catch fire until Pulp’s new label Island wanted to keep the momentum of the band’s fourth album His ‘n’ Hers rolling. The remixed and re-released version, all glossy synths and aching guitar melodies, went to the Top 20 two years later. And Jarvis Cocker’s wry tale of teenage sexual fumblings and wardrobe hiding helped set the table for the band’s massive success with the similarly minded “Common People.”—Robert Ham

45. The Auteurs, “New French Girlfriend”
Despite never making much of an imprint outside of the UK, The Auteurs were a significant presence during the 1990s. One of their most impressive offerings comes in their hit “New French Girlfriend,” which pairs flouncing electrics and bass with strong song structure. At the time, “New French Girlfriend” wasn’t the band’s best-known song, but it has endured over the years to be their strongest effort.—Michael Danaher

44. Cast, “I’m So Lonely”
By the time Cast’s cheekily titled Mother Nature Calls was released in 1997, ballads had been done to death by their contemporaries. But what makes “I’m So Lonely” (a Top 20 hit for Cast) stand out isn’t its grandiosity or bombast but its honed-in simplicity and subtlety. Yes, there are strings and harmonies that build and blossom as the song progresses, but the track keeps its feet on the ground with a repetitive, straightforward melody. It was a welcome return to form at a time when many bands were submerged in excessive ornamentation and superfluous overproduction.—Michael Danaher

43. Shed 7, “On Standby”
England’s Shed 7 enjoyed some notable success in the UK, thanks to the quartet’s wily songwriting and comparisons to pre-Britpop acts like the Stone Roses and The Smiths. “On Standby,” one of the singles off of the band’s 1996 album, A Maximum High, is a straight-up guitar pop-rock song. Other acts may have leaned on schtick or rivalries to spark attention, but Shed 7 was content to rely on the strength of its songwriting. “On Standby” is a gorgeously raucous work that capitalizes on a beguiling song structure and approachability.—Michael Danaher

42. Sleeper, “Inbetweener”
Though all three of their albums cracked the UK top 10 and they served as Blur’s opening act on the triumphal Parklife tour, Sleeper are still regarded as something of an also-ran in the Britpop hierarchy. Shame, too, as tracks like this prove that singer/guitarist Louise Wener had a knack for earworm melodies and cheeky lyrics that reveal the dark, seamy thoughts hidden away by British suburb dwellers.—Robert Ham

41. Blur, “Charmless Man”
Blur’s 1995 album, The Great Escape, continued Modern Life is Rubbish’s theme of the band’s abhorrence of what the world was coming to. While the tone of “Charmless Man” is generally upbeat and pop-centric, the theme explored is anything but. Only Blur could make a song about decadence and extravagance sound loose and buoyant. “He thinks his educated airs / Those family shares / Will protect him / That you will respect him,” Albarn sings. The combination of the main character’s inescapable gloom juxtaposed with Blur’s infectious “la la” refrain makes the song impossible not to enjoy.—Michael Danaher

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