Perfect 10: Songs that Transcend Generations


Mary J Blige is seen at the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Cleveland Public Auditorium Saturday, April 14, 2018, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Zorn/Invision/AP)
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You know those songs that were quite literally passed down from generation to generation—the ones your grandma used to play on Saturday mornings while she cleaned up the house and now you do the same? Well, we want to pay homage to those classics, and after careful deliberation we’ve identified 10 timeless hits that your future grandkids will probably know the words to.

“Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang (1980)

We couldn’t start this list off without acknowledging and giving props to the first ever rap song, especially during the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop. Your granny may not have played this while she was cleaning the house, but your grandad probably knew every word, bar for bar. This 15-minute-long song changed the game and paved the way for a lot of the rap songs we hear today. You ask any rapper what song made them fall in love with Hip-Hop and rap, we bet you more than half will say “Rapper’s Delight.”

“If You Think You’re Lonely Now” – Bobby Womack (1981)

Now we know granny or mama an’em was slow dancing to this one, swaying side to side. What’s crazy is that this song was released at a time when dance music was taking over. R&B/Soul tunes weren’t performing as well, but this song broke through and hit the Hot Soul Singles chart at number three for four weeks!

“When Doves Cry” – Prince (1984)

When we think masterpiece, “When Doves Cry” is it—in the form of a song. Prince not only arranged and produced, he also played all the instruments you hear on the song and directed the music video. It was the lead single from his sixth studio album, and it became his first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, owning the spot for five consecutive weeks. The number of lists this song is on for being one of the most popular songs in history is insane. From Rolling Stone’s list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ in 2021 (ranked #37) to American Songwriter’s list of ‘Best Prince Songs’ in 2022 (ranked #2).

“Candy” – Cameo (1986)

From every Black wedding to comedy films and cookouts, you’re guaranteed to have heard this song throughout various generations. “Candy” made the Top 10 US Dance Charts. It was featured in the 1999 movie The Best Man and again the 2010 film Death at a Funeral.

“I Like” – Guy (1989)

Another cookout classic! This song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop songs lists. It also played a heavy hand in the development of the New Jack Swing sound, a mix of dance-pop and contemporary R&B.

“Hip-Hop Hooray” – Naughty by Nature (1992)

Hey! Ho! Hey! Ho! Hip-Hop Hooray! Another ode to the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, the rhymes in this song are creative and catchy masterpieces—which explains why everyone loves it. It’s been used by the Yankees whenever a player hits a home run and by the New Jersey Devils after they win a game. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA after selling over 1 million copies.

“Real Love” – Mary J. Blige (1992)

The impact of this song right here is undeniable! This was Auntie Mary’s first top-10 hit. In 2021, Rolling Stone included it in their list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’—placed at number 327. In 2022, Pitchfork included the song in their ‘250 Best Songs of the 1990s’ where it ranked number 39. Talk about generational influence!

“Bag Lady” – Erykah Badu (2000)

You know that song you heard when you were little, and you knew that it was a bop but didn’t really know what it was about? That’s “Bag Lady.” It’s a tune that truly gets better as you age. A commercial success since it first released and peaking at number six on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, it is arguably one of Ms. Badu’s best songs.

“Charlene” – Anthony Hamilton (2004)

Everybody and their mama wanted to know who Charlene was and for her to go back home. Hamilton’s uniquely soulful voice and transparent lyrics force us to feel exactly what he was going through, and that is the exact reason why this song just simply can never go out of style.

“Love” – Keyshia Cole (2006)

“Love” is considered Cole’s breakthrough record. It peaked at number 19 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Hot R&B/ Hip-Hop songs chart. No matter what age, anyone who hears this song play is going to stop in their tracks and sing at the top of their lungs trying to match Keyshia Cole’s emotion.

Like we said, this list took some long and careful deliberation—it was definitely hard trying to choose only 10 generation-crossing songs, but we didn’t want to keep you here all day. So, follow the conversation on our social media @aurnonline, and let us know what songs you believe are timeless hits.

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