100. “One Day Like This” Elbow (2008)
Elbow was one of England’s most under-championed rock bands of the 2000s, but their single “One Day Like This” still managed to earn itself “anthem status.” With an array of absolutely enchanting string that move the sing-a-long-friendly melody into an goosebump-inducing climax, there is not a single dull moment to be found. The 6 and a half minute epic captures so much beauty that it’s hard not to smile.
099. “Young Folks” Peter Bjorn & John featuring Victoria Bergsman (2006)
Swedish indie rock trio Peter Bjorn & John finally made a name for themselves both domestically and internationally when the lead single from their third album was released. A duet with Concretes’ vocalist Victoria Bergsman, “Young Folks” is literally the perfect alt pop song. With hypnotic Eastern-influenced percussion driving the cool, intentionally lazy vocals, it’s the whistling hook that stands out most to make it brilliant.
098. “Skinny Love” Bon Iver (2007)
Although they won the Grammy award for Best New Artist in 2012, Bon Iver released their debut in 2007. Essentially the creation solely of founder Justin Veron, their debut single, “Skinny Love,” to date, remains their most striking work. With Vernon’s goat-like, barely understandable lead vocal, the melody is so sweet and hypnotic and the instrumentation is sparse but striking that when it all comes together, it’s enough to leave you breathless.
097. “Hung Up” Madonna (2005)
By 2005, we’ve all long since learned our lesson never to count Madonna out. Upon the release of “Hung Up,” the lead single from her club-ready epic Confessions On A Dance Floor, any residual traces of doubt were completely squashed. The track is impeccably built around a rarely-approved ABBA sample (“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”) that is used verbatim and somehow feels completely different. It’s a dance anthem for the ages.
096. “Somebody Told Me” The Killers (2004)
The Killers quickly made a name for themselves with their debut, Hot Fuss. While not the album’s first single, “Somebody Told Me” was the first song to get them noticed. The track is the perfect example of danceable rock, with larger than life guitars, roaring synths, and a beat that demands movements. Throw in there Brandon Flowers’ charismatic belt, a set of wild lyrics, and a soaring chorus, and you have yourself one whirlwind of an epic.
095. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” Daft Punk (2001)
Daft Punk are undeniable gods of EDM, and their Discovery LP carried them into the 2000s in a big way. One of the record’s clear highlights was the aptly titled “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” a track that seemed to grow and grow over the decade. With a funky baseline and vocoder-tastic simple vocal part, it’s no surprise that Kanye West found the need to sample it on his own “Stronger,” and then later see the group win a Grammy for the live version in 2007.
094. “White Winter Hymnal” Fleet Foxes (2008)
The Fleet Foxes somehow became quite a polarizing band, but their debut single, “White Winter Hymnal” is pretty difficult to argue against. The track takes indie folk to one of the coolest places it’s ever been. With a harmony-staggered vocal line, campfire-ready melody, and wall of guitar, the song is so hauntingly whimsical that it works both as something to get lost in on your own time or sing along with at a major festival.
093. “Stay” Sugarland (2006)
Sugarland had the country music market wrapped around their fingers for much of the decade, but upon the release of their single “Stay,” they, instead, had the entire music world in the palm of their hands in a puddy-like state. The song is a simple, acoustic ballad that utilizes only guitar and organ to lay the groundwork for Jennifer Nettle’s astonishing vocal. It’s so powerful, in fact, that had “Stay” been accapella, it’d still be just as good.
092. “The Scientist” Coldplay (2002)
When Coldplay get it right, it’s impossible to argue with their greatness…and they really got it right with “The Scientist.” The song is one of the most emotion evoking ballads rock has ever produced. Utilizing a layering structure where each new part enters in a staggered fashion, by the time the second chorus hits, you don’t even know how the sound got so big. Not to mention, the lyrics are among Chris Martin’s finest.
091. “Cannonball” Damien Rice (2002)
Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice quietly, but effectively made a name for himself with his alluring folk rock ballads. His second single “Cannonball” still remains one of the most breathtaking moments of the entire decade. With several guitar parts creating an atmosphere all to themselves, it’s the perfect set of lyrics that are delivered by Damien’s fragile and vulnerable voice that truly make it so authentic and beautiful.
090. “Ignition” [Remix] R. Kelly (2003)
R. Kelly knows how to craft R&B masterpieces both for himself and other artists, but when he released the Remix to “Ignition,” everything was taken to a new level. The far superior remix (a completely different song to the original) ingeniously delivers a ridiculous combination of hooks and one-liners that are so smoothly bundled together with a soulful slow groove that it comes across like pure poetry.
089. “Sex On Fire” Kings Of Leon (2008)
Kings Of Leon’s proper commercial break through album, Only By The Night easily positioned them as rock band to be reckoned with. The LP’s lead single “Sex On Fire” was not the most popular of the lot, but easily the best. The song injects a lustful ache back into rock and roll that had been lacking for so long which allows it to double as an anthem both in the stadium and in the bedroom.
088. “A Milli” Lil Wayne (2008)
It’s completely unfair that it took until his sixth album before Lil Wayne was properly embraced commercially, but seeing as his The Carter III is a hip hop masterpiece for the ages… let’s just say better late than never. The album’s second single, “A Milli,” was one of the most exciting tracks to happen to the genre the entire decade thanks to its instrumental sparsity that allows his rap to be the proper highlight.
087. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” Jay-Z (2003)
“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” is so much more than just another addition to Jay-Z’s collection of masterpieces, it’s an anthem. With Timbaland on board to produce, it’s really no wonder the end result is so good. With a thundering drum loop and sleazy synth hook (and that’s about it,) there is so much room for Jay to take control. At the end of it all, Hov managed to have the entire world brushing their shoulders off.
086. “Out Of Time” Blur (2003)
Blur were a 90s Britpop juggernaut, but after (rather important) guitarist Graham Coxon leaving the group and the new millennium in full swing, the odds were stacked against them. “Out Of Time,” the lead single from last studio album, Think Tank, proved that the remaining trio not only still had some life left in them, but they still had brilliance. With a worldly instrumentation that bathes in Damon Albarn’s lyrical perfection, the track is a work of art.
085. “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” Jet (2003)
Australian rockers Jet had the entire world up and moving with their debut single, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” Between that Motown-inspired bassline, stop and go guitars, and possibly one of the easiest sing-a-long vocal lines rock has ever seen, the song works on radio, it works in stadiums, and it works alone in your bedroom. With no frills about it, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” injected so much energy back into proper rock that seemed to be dissipating.
084. “1901” Phoenix (2009)
If there was one track that alternative rock fans will be able to argue bridged the genre from the 2000s to the 2010s, it’s Phoenix’s “1901.” The French band took a bubbly keyboard-driven approach to the genre that, in actuality, is all pretty thin, but comes together in such a big way. While holding up to the brilliance of their previous work, this particular track really embodies something just a little extra special.
083. “Dog Days Are Over” Florence + The Machine (2008)
Despite not particularly finding commercial success until 2010 and 2011, Florence Welch and her Machine broke out in 2008 with their energetic anthem “Dog Days Are Over.” The song immediately feels special from the simple intro, almost like it was only a matter of time before something “big” happens, and they doesn’t disappoint. With crashing drums and Florence’s bold and belted vocals, the track is flawlessly empowering.
082. “Beautiful” Christina Aguilera (2002)
When Christina Aguilera doesn’t try to be a “Dirrty” pop star, the public takes notice. “Beautiful,” the second single lifted from her sophomore album, Stripped recovered all the damage of it’s embarrassingly uncharacteristic first cut. A touching ballad written by the incomparable Linda Perry, it’s Aguilera’s pitch-perfect vocals that highlight the lyrics that make the song so noteworthy. “Beautiful” was a true highly for pop music in the 2000s.
081. “2+2=5” Radiohead (2003)
Radiohead has always managed to find a way to keep alternative rock interesting and without boundary. Their 2003 masterpiece Hail To The Thief produced several unbelievable tracks, but “2+2=5,” ten years later, still feels unreal. The song just keeps going places before anyone can even keep up, which masterfully makes it both exciting and confusing, and abruptly ends leaving just enough incentive to press repeat. It’s brilliant.