Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Top 100 Adult Contemporary Songs of All Time

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.

One last thing – the pics are for the top-ten ranked AC acts according to Billboard. Click on the photos for the acts DMDB music makers encyclopedia entries.

Click here to see other genre-specific song lists.

1. Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
2. Simon & Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1970)
3. Bryan Adams “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (1991)
4. Don McLean “American Pie” (1971)
5. The Beatles “Let It Be” (1970)
6. The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” (1965)
7. Ed Sheeran “Shape of You” (2017)
8. Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On” (1997)
9. Adele “Rolling in the Deep” (2010)
10. Pharrell Williams “Happy” (2013)

Elton John

11. Gotye with Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know” (2011)
12. Lionel Richie & Diana Ross “Endless Love” (1981)
13. Ray Charles “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1962)
14. U.S.A. for Africa “We Are the World” (1985)
15. Whitney Houston “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me” (1987)
16. Adele “Hello” (2015)
17. Coldplay “Viva La Vida” (2008)
18. The Weeknd “Blinding Lights” (2019)
19. Boyz II Men “I’ll Make Love to You” (1994)
20. Lionel Richie “All Night Long (All Night)” (1983)

Neil Diamond

21. Ed Sheeran “Thinking Out Loud” (2014)
22. Jason Mraz “I’m Yours” (2008)
23. Debby Boone “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
24. Adele “Someone Like You (2011)
25. Bee Gees “How Deep Is Your Love” (1977)
26. Ed Sheeran with Beyoncé “Perfect” (2017)
27. Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are (Amazing)” (2010)
28. John Legend “All of Me” (2013)
29. George Michael “Careless Whisper” (1984)
30. Elvis Presley “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (1961)

Barbra Streisand

31. Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” (2014)
32. Kenny Rogers “Lady” (1980)
33. Stevie Wonder “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (1984)
34. Leona Lewis “Bleeding Love” (2007)
35. Roberta Flack “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1969)
36. Mariah Carey with Boyz II Men “One Sweet Day” (1995)
37. Shania Twain “You’re Still the One” 1998)
38. Tony Orlando & Dawn “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” (1973)
39. Barbra Streisand “The Way We Were” (1973)
40. Justin Timberlake “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (2016)

Barry Manilow

41. Eric Clapton “Tears in Heaven” (1992)
42. Cyndi Lauper “Time After Time” (1983)
43. Katy Perry “Roar” (2013)
44. Henry Mancini with Audrey Hepburn “Moon River” (1961)
45. Justin Bieber “Love Yourself” (2015)
46. Lady Antebellum “Need You Now” (2009)
47. Katy Perry “Firework” (2010)
48. Harry Nilsson “Without You” (1971)
49. The Fifth Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (1969)
50. Commodores “Three Times a Lady” (1978)

Kenny Rogers

51. James Blunt “You’re Beautiful” (2005)
52. Carly Simon “You’re So Vain” (1972)
53. Celine Dion “Because You Loved Me” (1996)
54. Maroon 5 with Cardi B “Girls Like You” (2017)
55. Taylor Swift “Love Story” (2008)
56. Taylor Swift “Blank Space” (2014)
57. Terry Jacks “Seasons in the Sun” (1974)
58. Seal “Kiss from a Rose” (1994)
59. Carole King “It’s Too Late” (1971)
60. Toni Braxton “Un-Break My Heart” (1996)


61. Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” (1989)
62. One Republic “Counting Stars” (2013)
63. Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (1987)
64. Dionne Warwick & Friends “That's What Friends Are For” (1985)
65. Sam Smith “Stay with Me” (2014)
66. Daniel Powter “Bad Day” (2005)
67. Captain & Tennille “Love Will Keep Us Together” (1975)
68. Fergie “Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal)
69. Harry Styles “As It Was” (2022)
70. Dolly Parton “9 to 5” (1980)

Billy Joel

71. Rick Astley “Never Gonna Give You Up” (1987)
72. Olivia Newton-John “I Honestly Love You” (1974)
73. Stevie Wonder “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (1973)
74. Glen Campbell “Rhinestone Cowboy” (1975)
75. Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton “Islands in the Stream” (1983)
76. Billy Joel “Just the Way You Are” (1977)
77. Train “Hey, Soul Sister” (2009)
78. Lee Ann Womack with Sons of the Desert “I Hope You Dance” (2000)
79. Gilbert O’Sullivan “Alone Again (Naturally)” (1972)
80. Sheryl Crow “All I Wanna Do” (1994)


81. B.J. Thomas “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (1969)
82. Snow Patrol “Chasing Cars” (2006)
83. Magic! “Rude” (2013)
84. Frank Sinatra “Strangers in the Night” (1966)
85. The Lumineers “Ho Hey” (2012)
86. Lionel Richie “Say You Say Me” (1985)
87. Glen Campbell “Wichita Lineman” (1968)
88. Passenger “Let Her Go” (2012)
89. Mariah Carey “Vision of Love” (1990)
90. Louis Armstrong “Hello, Dolly!” (1964)

Lionel Richie

91. Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” (1999)
92. Taylor Swift “You Belong with Me” (2008)
93. Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder “Ebony and Ivory” (1982)
94. Stan Getz with Joao & Astrud Gilberto “The Girl from Ipanema” (1964)
95. Jimmy Dean “Big Bad John” (1961)
96. Roger Miller “King of the Road” (1965)
97. Post Malone “Circles” (2019)
98. Savage Garden “Truly Madly Deeply” (1997)
99. Carpenters “They Long to Be Close to You” (1970)
100. Chicago “If You Leave Me Now” (1976)

Anne Murray

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 7/22/2011; last updated 9/23/2023.


  1. This is a long list of contemporary music. I am a music lover and I have over 500 songs saved in my phone. I am not that choosy when it comes to music genres. Without music, I would not be living here!

  2. Your site is what I want to do if I grow up; looking at your pics though, it appears I am the older one. Saved your music books to my Amazon Wish List as soon as I am back among the employed.

    Featured this list in a filtered version on my site. Have bookmarked several other lists and columns to feature.

  3. I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work. top 100 songs