120. “Walk On” U2 (2000)
After plowing through the 80s and 90s with some of the rock’s most anthemic moments, U2 decided to go ahead and release All That You Can’t Leave Behind and somehow manage to become the biggest band in the world (again.) One of the album’s focal points was easily the moving ballad, “Walk On.” With socially conscious lyrics that always seem more poignant with Bono’s epic belt, the song holds more than a candle to their catalog of epics.
119. “Put Your Records On” Corinne Bailey Rae (2006)
Newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae managed to stealthily sneak into the music scene with her folky British soul, and all of the sudden it felt like she’d been around for years. Her single “Put Your Records On” is a textbook recipe for success with its feel-good groove and authentic modern embracement of a classic. Not to mention, her vocal is so incredible it’s almost as if you can hear her smiling through the microphone.
118. “Where’s Your Head At?” Basement Jaxx (2001)
British duo Basement Jaxx put out one of dance music’s most audacious records early in the decade with “Where’s Your Head At?” Built around a couple of Gary Numan samples, the song whips up into an almost unnerving frenzy right from the beginning and doesn’t break for anyone all the way through. By the end of it, you’re not even really sure what even happened, but you know you’re going to go back for seconds.
117. “Smile” Lily Allen (2006)
With such a sweet title like “Smile,” and especially when that delightfully bouncy beat kicks in, you’d think Lily Allen had written a feel-good epic for the ages. Then you listen to the lyrics and realize that she’s actually put out a spiteful anthem. The reggae-lite groove and infectious melody come together in such a perfect way that all it ends up not sound sarcastic or tongue in cheek, but as if she really doesn’t give a shit. Kudos, Lily.
116. “Somewhere Only We Know” Keane (2004)
It’s a shame that Keane had to be positioned as Coldplay’s annoying little cousin right from the get go, because their debut album Hopes & Fears had more than enough evidence that they could stand on their own two (six) feet. Their first major label single “Somewhere Only We Know” remains one of their greatest efforts thanks to its plunking piano, powerful vocals, and cheeselessly sweet lyrics.
115. “We Belong Together” Mariah Carey (2005)
There was no one bigger on the pop charts in the 90s than Mariah Carey, but thanks to televised meltdowns and whatever that Glitter thing was, it seemed as though her run of hits was over. (Comeback time!) “We Belong Together” was the right song at the right time to bring her back. With a simplistic arrangement that left plenty of room for Mariah to showoff her voice and let that perfect medley do all the work, it’s a pop masterpiece for the ages.
114. “Try Again” Aaliyah featuring Timbaland (2000)
When a teenaged Aaliyah broke out in the 90s, she was one of the most exciting artists to happen to R&B, but it wasn’t until 2000 that she finally reached the top of the pop charts. With a Timbaland production well ahead of its time, it took the genre into a completely new place in the mainstream. After “Try Again” it seemed as though electronically nuanced hip hop was the sound of pop music everywhere.
113. “Little Secrets” Passion Pit (2009)
Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” is one of the most deliciously perfect alternative pop songs ever. Not only is it completely club-ready in its original state, but it fits in perfectly with alternative rock radio, and yet still manages to have a bubblegum undertone. Almost completely crafted with synthesizers, it’s lead singer Michael Angelakos’s unnerving faucetto and the “higher and higher” hook that drives it to brilliance.
112. “In For The Kill” La Roux (2009)
Just as electronic dance music was making its move to the mainstream, La Roux put out “In For The Kill” and demonstrated just how exciting the genre could be. Clearly referencing all of the 80s greatest dance moments, the track has an unsettling melody that lingers long after its finished, but you will be mindlessly dancing all the way through when it’s playing.
111. “Day ‘N’ Nite” [Crookers Remix] Kid Cudi (2008)
Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Nite” is brilliantly in its original form, but when Crookers came along to tweak it with their remix, the track found a way to get even better. While still maintaining all of its hip hop goodness, an added layer of electronica makes it almost completely universal. However, it’s Cudi’s borderline monotone delivery making it haunting and delirious that helps push it towards perfection.
110. “Yeah!” Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris (2004)
Usher had an unparalleled streak of hits in the 2000s, and every time it seemed as though he couldn’t get any bigger, he found a way to dominate with a new single. When he led his Confessions album project with “Yeah!,” though, we all knew the song was something particularly special. Bringing on rappers Lil Jon and Ludacris to up the crunk factor, the song embodied everything current about hip hop, dance, and pop… except it was better.
109. “Foundations” Kate Nash (2007)
There was a period of time where it seemed like every exciting new artist was a female coming out of the UK. When it was Kate Nash’s turn to shine, her single “Foundations” was the behemoth her peers had a hard time touching. Built around a sharp piano and frenzied drum loop, it’s her ability to simplistically illustrate a story in a way that feels so authentic that drives the brilliant melody to somewhere more exciting than it could have been.
108. “Be Without You” Mary J. Blige (2005)
The reigning Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Ms. Mary J. Blige really hit her stride mid-decade with her outstanding single “Be Without You.” The song set the stage perfectly for Mary to showcase her powerful vocals, but by keeping it relatively simple and underworked it never grows into something embarrassingly big. The overall delivery is poignantly soulful and the melody is so sweet that it hurts so good.
107. “Fidelity” Regina Spektor (2006)
Easily one of the most under-championed artists of the era, Regina Spektor has still made an impressive career for herself with her whimsical piano-driven tunes. Of her more “popular” efforts, “Fidelity” remains her opus. The song clunks along with a simple but effective progression that builds and builds into a staccato-fest of a hook. It’s the kind of song that if someone said they didn’t like, you’d have to look at them like they have four heads (or no ears.)
106. “Falling Slowly” Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (2006)
Pair together an Irish indie star and a Czech songstress and you’ve got yourself a match made in musical heaven. Better known as The Swell Season, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová paired up to co-star in the movie Once and record the soundtrack together, which featured the impeccable “Falling Slowly.” The track is an indie anthem to the core with a simple arrangement and beautiful melody that evokes so much emotion it’s almost unbearable.
105. “Ready For The Floor” Hot Chip (2008)
English group Hot Chip managed to strip electronic music down in a way that actually made in bigger with their single “Ready For The Floor.” The track, in many ways, feels like an alternative rock song, but sparkles with an enormous pop sensibility that somehow wouldn’t be totally convincing for radio. Through it all, it feels humanistically robotic, almost like a dream sequence for Mr. Roboto.
104. “Bleeding Love” Leona Lewis (2007)
[British] X Factor champion Leona Lewis managed to capture the world’s heart for one brief song in the form of “Bleeding Love.” Sure, it’s the kind of song that allows her to showcase her pipes, but the track speaks for itself. The melody is absolutely superb and the R&B pop production creates an aura of beauty that simultaneously doubles as heartbreaking and uplifting. It’s no surprise it was pop’s juggernaut of ’07 the world over.
103. “I Predict A Riot” Kaiser Chiefs (2004)
The Kaiser Chiefs managed to crank out one hell of a rock anthem with their 2004 hit “I Predict A Riot.” Despite being a watered-down update on England’s early punk scene, the song is so big and joyous it still brings out the inner rebel in all of us. It’s easy to imagine a festival scene when listening to the track… thousands of people singing along, jumping up and down with their arms in the air. It’s an epic.
102. “Bonkers” Dizzee Rascal featuring Armand Van Helden (2009)
When charismatic English rapper Dizzee Rascal and American dance god Armand Van Helden got together, the end result was fittingly titled “Bonkers.” The track is mindblowingly captivating and packs so much energy and hype into under 3 mintues. With a short and simple repeated verse and bridge from Dizzee, it’s when the build bursts into that “hands in the air” euphoria that the magic happens.
101. “Mercy” Duffy (2008)
The last great artist of the “British Female Era” came in the form of Wales’ own Duffy. Much like her peers, bringing together a throwback blend of soul, rock, and pop, her breakout single “Mercy” was the biggest and the brightest of them all (until Adele blew up, of course.) The song is ripped right out of the 60s soul era and decorated with a modern twist so brilliant that even Duffy’s incredible vocal performance only adds to the perfection.