Off To A Good Start: The 40 Greatest Debut Singles In Music

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We rarely get things right the first time, but the same can’t be said for these stellar artists. They came fresh out of the recording studio gate with unforgettable songs that still have us talking even after all this time! A musician’s first single is like their mission statement to the world, offering the words and style that best define them…in three minutes or less. These debut tracks often give us our very first taste of a fresh new sound, or the first impression of a future legend.

It’s hard to imagine listening to a new song by an unknown band called The Beatles, Van Halen, and The Doors, or hearing an aural assault by groups called the Sex Pistols, the Ramones¬†or Rage Against The Machine¬†coming through the radio speaker. James Brown, Britney Spears, Wu-Tang Clan, Van Halen…Weren’t these guys around forever? It’s hard to imagine living without them!

But these debut tunes take us back to a time when we were still getting to know artists who were destined to become our all-time favorites. Head up to the gallery above for 40 of the most culturally significant (or just plain rockin’!) debut singles in music history, sorted chronologically from Elvis to today!

VH1 Music Editor + Seltzer Enthusiast