Initial thought - good vibrations, for it’s craftsmanship.
I will prob think of a song or two I admire more during the course of the evenings so if I post again later with another “most admired” I apologise in advance
Four pop tunes that I think are amazing and that I admire for the production and musicality: ELO’s “Confusion”, Bee Gees “Baby As You Turn Away”, ABBA “Dancing Queen” and “My Love, My Life”. But I have so many more that I could cite.
Sade “Diamond Life.” It was pop that I actually wanted to hear at a time when pop meant I stayed away from radio. It ushered in a jazzy R&B that led to more enjoyable pop for me at the time. And it’s a darned good groove of a tune.
The album I admire the most is probably Sting”s Live album „Bring on the night“. Ok I’m a jazz nut and Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim and other greats do their thing to it, but anyway…
I admire it for Sting’s general crossover with Jazz (like Steely Dan, Tom Waits or John Martyn do it differently) and the way those great free soli and rhythm patterns are perfectly integrated.
Another competitor would possibly be the perfection of Supertramp’s prog rock with John Helliwell’s soli so perfectly integrated that they can’t be played completely free and spontaneously on the records like Breakfast in America. Or the Alan Parson’s and Toto albums and their concept perfection.
Dylan is not Pop right? So I left him out. So possibly those are just the first that came into my mind, but they definitely have a firm place in my list.
Sting came in for some stick, but I have to agree with @jazznut his switch to working with those very cool players (prob a repeat of the police? Andy S and Stewart C were both very good and well known within muso circles) was very listenable - Omar Hakim is always cool!
And on-thread there were some crackin’ “pop” songs came out of it too:)
Well, admire isn’t quite the word but “Pop Goes the Weasel” as played by the passing ice cream truck is a tune I can’t get out of my head for hours. I don’t know why that tune is so pernicious, perhaps it is a function of repetition as well as simplicity.