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40. Amy Winehouse – “Love is a Losing Game”
Thanks partly to the breezy nature of Back to Black’s Motown arrangements; most of Amy Winehouse’s songs of despair were camouflaged with a light dusting of sweetness. This song is different. It’s an unsweetened torch song, the closest to her jazz roots on the album, and it is by some distance her most poised and poetic lyric, dressing up her romantic failings as somehow heroic when inside she clearly felt anything but. – Fraser McAlpine


39. Lily Allen – “LDN”
“LDN” is Allen’s playful gesture to her native stomping grounds, London, of course. This shiny pop number, which first dropped in 2006 as a limited edition 7″ vinyl, is dotted with clever and snarky depictions about city life, all while calypso horns twirl around Lily’s polished performance. Shortly after this superb intro, she’d give us “Smile,” and become one of Britain’s biggest pop stars ever. – MacKenzie Wilson


38. Take That – “Shine”
Just imagine New Kids on the Block reuniting now without Donnie Wahlberg and selling a gazillion records. That’s possibly the only way that Americans can understand the wild comeback success of Take That, a teen sensation in Britain in the early ’90s who returned as a world-weary man band in the mid-’00s. They topped the charts again by re-emerging with a smart, pop-savvy adult contemporary sound. 2006’s “Shine,” from the comeback album Beautiful World, was their sensation, combining uplifting soul and ELO-inspired harmonies into one delightful package. – Kevin Wicks


37. M.I.A. – “Boyz”
Although later overshadowed by another single from the same album, Kala, “Boyz” was a marked statement of intent from London-born rapper M.I.A. The track mixes together elements of her own Sri Lankan heritage with other areas of world music and hip hop, and just a hint of X-Ray Spex, to create a sound, feel and rhythm that is unique to her alone. With its infectious beat and “Nananananananana” chorus, “Boyz” simply hammers into the brain and won’t go away. – Seb Patrick


36. Jamie T – “Sheila”
Jamie T’s ramshackle storytelling on “Sheila” sees his quirky, poetic alt-rap depicting a cast of downcast characters wandering on the Thames. Drinking, drugs, loneliness, and abuse are obviously quite dreary, yet Jamie T’s scrappy, punky routine makes for a catchy look into his interesting mix of ska and rap, à la Mike Skinner and The Streets. – MacKenzie Wilson


35. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
Goulding is a sexy, precocious elvish figure, not unlike Björk, to whom she’s always compared. But the London-based singer-songwriter, tipped by the BBC and the Brit Awards to be “the next big thing,” made good on her early promise and came into her own with “Lights,” a pop highlight from 2011. Yes, the Björkisms are there, but Goulding gracefully underplays the drama of the song. – Kevin Wicks


34. Art Brut – “Formed a Band”
A song that needs no explanation, as it was written at the point at which singer Eddie Argos realized he had formed a band (look at him, he formed a band) and then decided to explain what their mission statement was before having finished writing this, their first song. If that sounds insufferably pretentious, don’t worry; you really need to hear the full story the way Argos tells it. – Fraser McAlpine


33. Coldplay – “Viva La Vida”
By 2008, everyone had a pretty clear idea of what Coldplay was all about and what they sounded like, for better or worse. So when the title track of their fourth album, produced by Brian Eno, arrived it was like a bolt from the blue. Giving them their first No. 1 single in both the U.K. and U.S., it was clear that it appealed even to people who hadn’t necessarily liked their earlier material. It’s an epic, sweeping masterpiece of an orchestral pop song, with lyrical themes that match the music’s lofty ambitions. – Seb Patrick


32. The Futureheads – “Hounds of Love”
A very likable post-punk band from Sunderland, the Futureheads didn’t have a huge amount of success, but garnered their biggest hit with this cover of the Kate Bush classic – in fact, they actually charted higher with it in the U.K. than she had done (No. 10 vs. No. 18). Their version changes the tempo significantly and makes use of harmonized backing vocals to great effect. It’s hard to argue that it’s necessarily better than the original, but it’s an effective take on the song in its own right. – Seb Patrick


31. Pulp – “Bad Cover Version”
It still feels strange that, aside from a digital-only release of an unused demo in 2013, Pulp has spent almost the entirety of this decade not releasing records. But the last single released before their hiatus stands as one of the best they ever put out—a typically Jarvis Cocker-esque slice of metaphor about love as it relates to terrible, knock-off versions of things. Points, too, for an absolutely brilliant video, featuring the song performed in the style of a charity record by an array of pop star lookalike artists. – Seb Patrick

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Filed Under: British Music, Music
By staff