You know what they say: if you remember Britpop, you weren’t there. Specifically, you probably weren’t in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, when a sudden surge of youthful national pride, guitar-based rejection of American grunge, and various Gallaghers seized the airwaves.
For a musical movement that lasted only as long as the cocaine was good and people in America could fake a bad Mancunian accent, Britpop still produced an amazing number of classic songs. We’re ranking the top 50, and no one can prove we don’t have a Union Jack draped across our shoulders right now. (Listen to the playlist while you read the article.)
50. Saint Etienne “You’re in a Bad Way”
Saint Etienne predates, encompasses, transcends, and has outlasted Britpop, so we’re starting with them. This song is so British it makes you want to colonize something, but in a good, non-genocidal way.
49. Babybird “You’re Gorgeous”
You’re going to want to write this down: Britpop is sleazy as fuck. Although there are a bunch of songs about love and drugs and loving drugs, there’s also a whole bunch of immaculately produced pop songs about being a sleazy photographer who tries to fuck models. This is one of them.
48. The Beautiful South “Old Red Eyes Is Back”
The Beautiful South was a spinoff of the Housemartins and shared that band’s fondness for kitchen-sink stories about incredibly English losers. This one’s about a drunk.
47. Travis “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”
Right now, some nerd is enraged because the gorgeously tragic “Why Does It Always Rain On Me” is clearly a post-Britpop song, not an actual Britpop song, even though Travis’ early work was Britpop, but there’s a difference. Shut the fuck up, nerd.
46. Longpigs “She Said”
Longpigs never really blew up like many of its Britpop peers, but they did manage one raggedly anthemic bile-spit of a song about self-loathing, like all great bands. Enjoy.
45. The Boo Radleys “Wake Up Boo!”
Songwriter Martin Carr says he spent a year writing the horn-driven melody and tight harmonies of “Wake Up Boo!” so it must suck that it’s only at #45. Still, it’s on the list, so, good job, Martin. It’s way better than any song we’ve ever written.
44. The Divine Comedy “Everybody Knows (But You)”
The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon has basically been cosplaying as Scott Walker since the early 1990s, but, fortunately, he can mostly pull it off. Scott would be proud of a lyric like “So now you’re my only friend/ I told the passers-by/ I made a small boy cry.”
43. Bis “Kandy Pop”
And on the punkier side of Britpop, we have Bis with “Kandy Pop,” a song that makes you feel like you’re having a panic attack at a party full of loud weirdos, but, you know, in a fun way.
42. Suede “Animal Nitrate”
Let’s get one thing straight: Suede is going to show on this list more than once, and we’re not going to do any of this bullshit “London Suede” thing because some shithead lounge singer got a judge to agree with him. Anyway, this is a banger.
41. Kenickie “Punka”
Courtney Love called Kenickie “a big, raw-boned bunch of fucking sex,” and we have to admit it, she got it right this time. Call and response backing vocals, dense, fuzzy guitars, and Lauren Laverne’s thick-ass Sunderland accent? Yes, please.
40. The Bluetones “Slight Return”
What do you get when you mix Peter Buck’s famously jangling guitars with Belle and Sebastian’s winsome, yearning sensibilities? The Bluetones’ “Slight Return,” a seriously underrated piece of Britpop history.
39. Echobelly “Great Things”
In “Great Things,” Sonya Madan sings, “I want to do great things / I don’t want to compromise / I want to know what love is / I want to know everything.” If that doesn’t touch some part of your long-gone teenage soul, we don’t know what to tell you.
38. Gene “Olympian”
Gene has a bit of a reputation for being The Smiths wannabes, and it’s hard to make an argument against that. But you can listen to the melancholy, delicate “Olympian” without Morrissey guilt, so have at it.
37. James “Say Something”
The band James reportedly tried to hold back emotions on the Brian Eno-produced “Say Something,” which is pretty incredible considering we’re holding back tears right now. Remember this song next time you have a bad fight with your partner and need to feel even worse.
36. The Stone Roses “Tightrope”
After producing the best debut album ever made, the Stone Roses took years for a follow-up that made everyone mad, sad, and disappointed. Give “The Second Coming” another try sometime because the chant-along, Neil Young-like “Tightrope” practically redeems the whole thing.
35. The Auteurs “Starstruck”
Luke Haines of the Auteurs doesn’t like being lumped in with Britpop and talks a lot of shit about all the other bands, which is pretty much the most Britpop thing you can do, other than this guitar-driven, eerily pretty piece of musical spite.
34. Sleeper “Inbetweener”
Every single part of “Inbetweener” could be the hook of a lesser song, from the snotty verse by singer Louise Wener to the suddenly yearning, epic chorus to the putdowns of the outro. Wait, do we like it when hot singers insult us?
33. Suede “Trash”
Suede didn’t break out in the US like some of their peers, but Brett Anderson and the rest of the band had a lock on huge, self-pitying anthems years before anyone else in the scene. He’s called it a celebration of the band and their fans, and that’s just kind of nice in addition to being a fucking singalong.
32. Supergrass “Alright”
The music video for the absurdly cheery, piano-driven “Alright” made Supergrass look like such goofballs that Steven Spielberg offered to make them a Monkees-style TV show. They turned him down, but you get why he would.
31. Pulp “Mis-Shapes”
“Mis-Shapes” is basically Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker’s call to arms for all the weirdos out there, a rallying cry for all the misfits and oddballs. Naturally, it was adopted by the very lunkheads he was railing against, but that’s because it’s just too good of a song.
30. Elastica “Vaseline”
Pounding drums. Clanking, robotic guitars and an industrial hiss. Singer Justine Frischmann’s too-cool vocals talking about…glue? Then a ridiculously catchy “LA LA LA” kicks in, and you’ve got a perfect song in just one minute and twenty seconds.