No, this isn’t what “soft rock” means.
Adult Contemporary, 1961-2023:
Top 100 Songs
It’s been called “soft rock,” “light rock,” “middle of the road,” and “adult contemporary.” By any name, this genre celebrates songwriters and balladry and music that skews toward a generally older audience.
This post originated in 2011 when Billboard magazine celebrated the 50th anniversary of their adult contemporary charts with a list of “The Top 100 Adult Contemporary Songs Ever.” They weighted the list so that the last decade’s trend toward longer stays at #1 (and longer stays on the chart) didn’t completely dominate the list. I posted a new ranking on my Facebook page that showed the biggest AC hits based solely on weeks at #1.
Still not satisfied, I went to my music database and sorted all songs to hit #1 on the adult contemporary charts. Then I sorted those songs based on total points in Dave’s Music Database. The results made for what I consider the most balanced of the three lists and acknowledging some bonafide classics which may not have had longevity at #1 or on the charts, but have had long-lasting impact.
Click here to see other genre-specific song lists.
1. Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
11. Gotye with Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know” (2011)
21. Ed Sheeran “Thinking Out Loud” (2014)
31. Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” (2014)
41. Eric Clapton “Tears in Heaven” (1992)
51. James Blunt “You’re Beautiful” (2005)
61. Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” (1989)
71. Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up” (1987)
81. B.J. Thomas “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (1969)
91. Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” (1999)
First posted 7/22/2011; last updated 9/23/2023.