180. “Whatever You Like” T.I. (2008)
T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” was one of hip hop’s biggest moment of the decade. A textbook production by Jim Jonsin, the track is built around a simple drum loop and a roaring synthesizer with a flow so smooth that the cliché “sex and alcohol” lyrics come across like pure poetry. However, it’s really T.I.’s laid-back singing/not-quite-rap delivery that makes it so brilliantly addictive.
179. “Irish Blood, English Heart” Morrissey (2004)
By 2004, Morrissey was both a legend as the frontman of The Smiths and as a solo artist, but it was the undeniably awesome “Irish Blood, English Heart” that brought him back to the mainstream. The song is a short, brutally honest bundle of dynamite that starts off simply and explodes into the chorus. This is textbook Morrissey in every way, which really only means it’s a slice of brilliance.
178. “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” The Darkness (2003)
We all remember The Darkness’ 2003 hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” for its faucetto-tastic melody and polished metal guitars, if not for it’s hilarious (but disturbing) video. Despite the relative ambiguity of whether or not it’s even a serious song, the elements come together in such an authentic way, that it hardly even matters. Within seconds of that opening riff, everyone is up and rocking. They win.
177. “I Miss You” blink-182 (2003)
Blink-182 were always the kind of band that was hard to take seriously. Despite their generation-defining hits that were guiltlessly addictive, it wasn’t until “I Miss You” that the public were properly introduced to just how genius they were. In stark contrast to most of their catalogue, the track is rather somber and painfully beautiful, but still remains as catchy as anything else they’d ever done.
176. “The Middle” Jimmy Eat World (2001)
When Jimmy Eat World unleashed “The Middle” on the world, it immediately became an anthem for the ages. It’s the absolutely perfect combination of power pop and pop punk that doesn’t ever dip too far into any one genre, and the chorus just explodes into a euphoric wave. There were very few songs that radio found impossible to ignore that really united people, but “The Middle” is certainly one of them.
175. “Stronger” Kanye West (2007)
It takes a genius to recognize genius, but it takes serious balls to mess with genius. Cue Kanye. When he took on Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger” and morphed it into a track of its own, it was certainly a gutsy move, but “Stronger” became an event all to itself. Mr. West tweaked just enough to create something completely new without ruining the integrity of the original.
174. “Numb/Encore” Linkin Park and Jay-Z (2004)
The lone single from the mashuptastic Collision Course, “Numb/Encore” (Linkin Park and Jay-Z, respectively,) was undeniably brilliant. Whereas both songs were hits in their own right just a year prior, they were integrated so well together that the mix read like a completely new song. Despite the mashup being such a craze, this was one rare opportunity for it to officially cross into the mainstream, and it really worked.
173. “Nature Boy” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2004)
Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds have been renowned for their beautifully twisted songs, but one of their biggest curveballs ended up becoming one of their greatest works. 2004’s “Nature Boy” is a joyous, gospel-infused number that manages to push them to the boundaries of pop while simultaneously rejecting that notion altogether. At the end of it all, the track still exemplifies Nick Cave’s poetic story-telling ability.
172. “Run This Town” Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West (2009)
Put Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna together on a track, and it’s a no-brainer hit, “Run This Town” is built around a lengthy chorus, an additive “ay ay” hook, and is furnished with a piercing electric guitar, the track is really greater than the sum of its parts. Jay-Z lays down two impressive verses, and Rihanna seems to be the center of attention, but it’s Kanye who easily steals the show with his incredible lone verse.
171. “White Horse” Taylor Swift (2008)
Back when Taylor Swift was still known as a crossover country artist, she was lauded for her earnest, “I’m every girl” lyrics, but “White Horse” really showed that she had something special. The song is the kind of country pop ballad that doesn’t come around often enough with a genuinely heartbreaking lyrics wrapped sweetly in a memorable melody.
170. “Precious” Depeche Mode (2005)
Almost a quarter of a century into their career, Depeche Mode with the unparalleled kings of synth pop and rock, but with the release of “Precious,” they proved they still had places to go. The track is an emotionally charged electro ballad that sees frontman Dave Gahan investigate his upper register, which lays perfectly over songwriter/genius Martin Gore’s sparkling guitar. It’s as good as anything they’ve ever done without going anywhere they already had.
169. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'” Scissor Sisters (2006)
The Scissor Sisters some how managed to combine the elements of the glam era with the faucetto-tastic catchiness of the Bee Gees and make it sound cool with their hit “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’.” Fittingly featuring Elton John on piano, the song is masterfully captivating instantaneously without making much sense until a few listens in. Once you get it, though, you’ll be addicted forever, and that’s the recipe for great pop music.
168. “The Way You Move” Outkast featuring Sleepy Brown (2003)
When Big Boi authoritatively led his half of Outkast’s epic Speakerboxxx/The Love Below with “The Way You Move” to directly compete with his bandmate’s “Hey Ya!,” things changed for pop music. Between the booming horns that would make Earth Wind & Fire envious, an addictive Sleepy Brown-led hook, and Big Boi’s verses that steal the show, the public had no way of choosing between the two songs (They both went to #1 and held the top 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks.)
167. “Sunrise” Norah Jones (2004)
Norah Jones was easily one of the decade’s most praised musicians thanks to her unique jazzy folk sound and sultry voice, which was exemplified beautifully in “Sunrise.” Lifted as the first single from her sophomoric album, Feels Like Home, the song is a simple acoustic tune that beautifully sparkles with piano and a chills-inducing vocal harmony in the chorus. It feels like a lullaby for the morning.
166. “Untouched” The Veronicas (2007)
Roaring in with bold, ominous strings, an 80s synth/drum combo, and a thundering guitar, The Veronicas’ “Untouched” is immediately captivating, but the ride doesn’t seem to stop. The track is a complete whirlwind of sounds that makes it seem as though it’s going to fall of the tracks at any given moment, but never does. The end result is a cacophony of absolute brilliance.
165. “Move Your Feet” Junior Senior (2003)
Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” is the perfect feel-good mix of dance and indie pop, and manages to be club-ready without all of the usual excess. There are no elaborate builds, minute long electronic drum into/outros, or bone-shaking basslines. In fact, the song kicks you in the face right from the get go and the ride doesn’t stop until you’re left craving more.
164.”The Importance Of Being Idle” Oasis (2005)
Oasis were one of Britain’s most important acts of the 90s, but they boldly took on the new millennium to much success. The second single lifted from their Don’t Believe The Truth, “The Importance Of Being Idle” saw the group take on a British Invasion-era style that somehow sounded as fresh as anything they’d ever done. Add on top of that Noel Gallagher taking on the frontman role in a delicately booming way, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
163. “Happy Ending” Mika (2007)
Mika is one of pop’s most enigmatic and ambiguous stars, but his 2007 single “Happy Ending” proved that the intrigue was backed by some serious talent. The ballad could have easily been pulled out of any modern musical, but is convincingly fitted for radio. Between Mika’s powerful faucetto, one of the most melodic choruses you could ever hope to hear, and a climax that will send chills throughout your body, this powerful lament ends up working on pretty much every level.
162. “Musicology” Prince (2004)
After a decade of not knowing what to call him, Prince was finally back (as “Prince,”) and the public was ready. Largely considered his “return to form,” “Musicology” is a groovy, funky, James Brown-inspired song with that special pinch of that sexy “Prince” je ne sais quoi. A clear throwback to some of his earlier, pre-Revolution material, the song really exemplifies that, even back when it seemed there wasn’t any way for him to get better, Prince actually has evolved.
161. “Hollaback Girl” Gwen Stefani (2005)
“Hollaback Girl” is easily one of the simplest pop records of all time. There’s very little to it, outside of Gwen’s vocals, pounding marching band-esque drums, and occasional nuances of horns, guitar and synth (plus a clever interpolation of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust.”) While some didn’t understand her witty sarcasm, there are far too many addictive hooks to not enjoy the song. Plus, now we all remember how to spell “bananas.”