Top 10 Graduation Songs for 2014

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Avicii - "Wake Me Up"

Avicii Wake Me Up
Avicii - "Wake Me Up". Courtesy Universal

"Wake Me Up!" was the breakthrough pop hit for both dance artist Avicii and soul singer Aloe Blacc in the US.  It went to #1 on pop charts around the world and peaked at #4 here in the US. The song addresses both the fears and dreams that come with being young and having your life ahead of you. With its embrace of elements of country and folk music, "Wake Me Up!" initially confused and anger some members of the electronic dance music community. Ultimately, however, it was a #1 dance hit and broke new commercial ground for the genre.

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Tom Cochrane - "Life Is a Highway"

Tom Cochrane Life Is a Highway
Tom Cochrane - "Life Is a Highway". Courtesy Capitol

"Life Is a Highway" is the biggest hit from Canadian pop rock artist Tom Cochrane.  The entire album Mad Mad World, which includes "Life Is a Highway," was influenced by Tom Cochrane's travel to West Africa. It turned into a top 10 pop smash in 1992 and earned Tom Cochrane a Juno Award for Single of the Year. The song celebrates leading a spirited life.  It was memorably covered by Rascal Flatts in 2006 and they took it back to the top 10 after being featured in the soundtrack to the animated film Cars.

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Pharrell Williams - "Happy"

Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pharrell Williams - "Happy". Courtesy Back Stop

Pharrell Williams' upbeat tune "Happy" has become a massive #1 pop hit around the world.  That makes it perfect for this year's graduation parties. It is infectious and eminently danceable.  The song has already sold over four million copies in the US and more than one million in the UK. The song was originally featured on the soundtrack for the animated film Despicable Me 2. It earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. However, it lost to "Let It Go" from Frozen. "Happy" became the most downloaded song of all time in the UK and the biggest hit single of 2014. Ultimately, "Happy" spent 92 weeks in the UK Top 100.

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Bruno Mars - "Count On Me"

Bruno Mars Doo-Wops and Hooligans
Bruno Mars - Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Courtesy Atlantic

"Count On Me" is a gentle song from Bruno Mars' debut album Doo-Wops and Hooligans.  It celebrates friendship and always being there for those who are important in your life.  The song was included on the Songs For the Philippines album to raise money for typhoon relief. Critics have seen "Count On Me" as a folk song that has tropical elements in keeping with Bruno Mars' Hawaiian background. The song was not promoted as a single in the US. 

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Kelly Clarkson - "People Like Us"

Kelly Clarkson People Like Us
Kelly Clarkson - "People Like Us". Courtesy RCA

Kelly Clarkson recorded three new songs for her first Greatest Hits album. "People Like Us" is an uplifting, empowering song celebrating all of us despite what our individual quirks might be.  "People Like Us" accomplished the unusual feat of reaching the top 10 at adult pop radio while topping the dance club chart. The accompanying music video was directed by Chris Marrs Piliero. It depicts the escape of a girl from a black and white research facility into a world of color. "People Like Us" reached the top 20 at adult contemporary radio and the top 30 on mainstream pop radio.

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Bob Dylan - "Forever Young"

Bob Dylan Planet Waves
Bob Dylan - Planet Waves. Courtesy Asylum

Bob Dylan originally wrote "Forever Young" as a blessing from a parent to a child.  That makes it a great, moving song to be used at graduation time.  Bob Dylan has said he wrote "Forever Young" when he was thinking about one of his sons, and he was "not wanting to be too sentimental." The opening lyrics of "Forever Young" echo the Old Testament Book of Numbers in The Bible. The song was first included on Bob Dylan's 1974 album Planet Waves.  It has since been recorded and performed by a wide range of other artists. Louisa Johnson, winner of the twelfth season of the , covered "Forever Young" for her first single and it peaked at #9 on the UK pop singles chart.

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Sara Bareilles - "Brave"

Sara Bareilles Brave
Sara Bareilles - "Brave". Courtesy Epic

Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles wrote "Brave" with fun guitarist Jack Antonoff.  She has said that, "it's important to be brave because by doing that you also give others permission to do the same."  The song became Sara Bareilles' third top 40 pop hit while reaching the top 3 at both adult pop and adult contemporary radio. "Brave" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance. A small controversy erupted when some listeners saw strong similarities between "Brave" and Katy Perry's hit "Roar." Sara Bareilles quieted the concerns by stating she knew about "Roar" before it was released and had no issues with it.

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Imagine Dragons - "It's Time"

Imagine Dragons It's Time
Imagine Dragons - "It's Time". Courtesy Interscope

"It's Time" was the first hit single by the rock group Imagine Dragons. It celebrates beginning the next phase of one's life while retaining personal authenticity. The song was a top 10 hit across mainstream pop, adult pop, alternative, and rock radio charts.  It has been certified three times platinum for sales. The song was boosted toward its ultimate success after being covered on the hit TV show Glee. "It's Time" peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The accompanying music video earned a nomination for Best Rock Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.

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American Authors - "Best Day Of My Life"

American Authors Best Day Of My Life
American Authors - "Best Day Of My Life". Courtesy Mercury

The debut hit from pop-rock band American Authors will help celebrate graduation day as one of the best days of the graduate's life.  It is an upbeat song perfect for graduation parties.  As the group's breakthrough, it climbed to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 after reaching the top 5 at rock and alternative radio. "Best Day Of My Life" reached #1 at adult pop radio and #4 mainstream pop radio. 

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Idina Menzel - "Let It Go"

Idina Menzel Let It Go
Idina Menzel - "Let It Go". Courtesy Disney

In the movie Frozen, "Let It Go" is performed at a crucial moment when Elsa decides that she will be herself and use her inborn powers.  It is a liberating song that celebrates being yourself.  Idina Menzel's powerful peformance works perfectly at graduation time in celebrating the life to come.  "Let It Go" became a top 5 pop hit, peaked at #9 at adult contemporary radio, and topped the dance chart. It won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song while taking home a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.