15 Best Intros in Pop Music History

Some tunes are so iconic that we know what to expect within the first few bars. The intro is essential to a song and can set up listeners with a desire to find out what's coming next.

A popular online forum recently discussed the best intros in pop music history, and their findings make for interesting reading – and listening.

1. Billie Jean: Michael Jackson

Billie Jean: Michael Jackson
Image Credit: Epic Records.

Is the intro great, or is it because we know it will lead into a great song? It's a question that keeps coming up in this thread. In the case of “Billie Jean,” one forum member sums it up by stating that everyone just needs to hear the first few seconds to know what the song is.

2. Wannabe: Spice Girls

Wannabe: Spice Girls
Image Credit: Virgin Records.

The best way to announce yourself as one of the best new pop groups around is through a stunning intro. The Spice Girls broke through in the sassiest way possible with “Wannabe,” and one commenter claimed that when this song was on Heardle, they got it from the initial notes.

3. Careless Whisper: George Michael

Careless Whisper: George Michael
Image Credit: Epic Records.

There is a theory that an intro could outlast the actual song. That's a suggestion aimed at “Careless Whisper”, with one person indicating that everybody knows that sax line, even if they don't know the rest of the song.

4. Welcome to My Island: Caroline Polachek

Welcome to My Island: Caroline Polachek
Image Credit: Perpetual Novice.

It's interesting to see a 2023 release on this list, and the poster questions whether “Welcome to My Island” will stand the test of time. However, they put it forward as one of the few moments in modern pop where I was blown away on first listen.

5. What Goes Around… Comes Around: Justin Timberlake

What Goes Around… Comes Around: Justin Timberlake
Image Credit: Jive Records.

This is one of the most distinctive intros in pop music history, thanks mainly to the use of baglamas – a Turkish folk instrument. One person makes a case for this Justin Timberlake release as attention-grabbing since it uses an unusual instrument not commonly found in Western pop music.

6. Together Again: Janet Jackson

Together Again: Janet Jackson
Image Credit: Virgin Records.

One commenter provides the most descriptive reasons behind this song's inclusion. According to this individual, “Together Again” makes you feel like you're in a cloud before that beat hits you like a ton of bricks.

7. Hips Don't Lie: Shakira

Hips Don't Lie: Shakira
Image Credit: Epic Records.

This 2005 release remains a dance floor filler, and we know we're in for a treat as soon as we hear the opening to “Hips Don't Lie.” One contributor highlights the horns, followed by the memorable cries of “Shakiraaa!”

8. All I Want for Christmas Is You: Mariah Carey

All I want for Christmas is you: Mariah Carey
Image Credit: Columbia Records.

A distinctive into lets us know we are in for a festive favorite. One respondent describes it better than me by saying just about anyone knows those opening chimes, regardless of age!

9. Vogue: Madonna

Vogue: Madonna
Image Credit: Sire Records.

A colossal pop icon, Madonna, has several tracks within this thread. It's a long intro, lasting more than a minute, but once you hear it, you can't forget it.

10. Misery Business: Paramore

Misery Business: Paramore
Image Credit: Fueled by Ramen LLC.

This is a debatable inclusion within the pop category, but “Misery Business” couldn't be left out, according to one contributor. It was a floor-filler at a recent wedding they attended, and they informed us that the opening guitar solo is just so energetic and playful, which sets you up for the song.

11. Euphoria: Loreen

Euphoria: Loreen
Image Credit: Warner Music Group.

An argument is made for both “Tattoo” and “Euphoria.” One poster can't choose between them, stating that the instant they hear those songs, they get hyped. 

12. True: Spandau Ballet

True: Spandau Ballet
Image Credit: Chrysalis Records.

We go back to the 1980s now for this classic hit from “Spandau Ballet.” Everyone knows the song even if they don't know they know it! 

13. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight): Abba

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight): Abba
Image Credit: Polar Music.

Can you have two intros in one song? One respondent thinks so, and when you listen to this Abba tune again, you'll probably agree. They state it has two of the best intros in pop music just stacked on top of each other.

14. Fireflies: Owl City

Fireflies: Owl City
Image Credit: Universal Republic Records.

This quirky little tune was one of the surprise hits of 2009. One poster underlines that quirkiness within the intro, pointing to those immaculate bleepy-boops.

15. Bootylicious: Destiny's Child

Bootylicious: Destiny's Child
Image Credit: Columbia Records.

I was surprised that this didn't receive more mentions on the thread. After all, it only took a repetition of the opening lyrics to have us all singing out loud.

Source: (Reddit).