The 50 Best Arabic Pop Songs of the 21st Century

From North Africa to the Persian Gulf, from Rai to dance-pop to romantic ballads

Encompassing dozens of countries inhabited by close to 500 million people, the Arab world is enormously diverse, and its music reflects that. Our list of the 50 best Arabic pop songs of the 21st century includes everything from Algerian rai to Egyptian dance-pop to romantic ballads from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The songs here can have traditional roots that go back many decades, but they can also reflect today’s pop trends — many do both at once. 

At the end of the last century and early in this one, the music industry in the Middle East and North Africa was dominated by artists from Egypt and Lebanon, two countries that had long been cultural hubs with large commercial markets. But in the past 15 years artists from North African and the Persian Gulf have found more crossover success, though both regions had long had their own blossoming music scenes —and in the case of North Africa had produced many artists with audiences in Europe.

We made the list by consulting a panel of academics, music journalists, industry professionals, historians, and artists. Sounds naturally change over time, and representing as many countries and communities as possible remained a priority as we compiled the list. The final ranking takes into account the quality of the song, its popularity, and its cultural impact. To be considered for the list, a song had to fit the traditional mold of the Arabic pop genre, or be a song by an Arabic artist in another genre that crossed over to have wide success with audiences in the region. Additionally, at least 50 percent of the song’s lyrics had to be sung in an Arabic language. Had that not been part of the criteria, this list would’ve included music from global artists like Shakira, French Montana, and Soolking.

With all of that being established, here are the 50 best Arabic pop songs of the 21st century.

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