060. “The Rat” The Walkmen (2004)
The Walkmen stopped indie rock in its tracks when they put out “The Rat,” and we’re all still staring in awe at its glory. The track is an attack of the senses as it pounds through a raw, jam-like wall of guitars and drums, with a bass that trembles so big that it tears through it all. Yet somehow, nothing remotely approaches becoming unhinged as it moves from section to section and level of madness to level of madness.
059. “D.A.N.C.E.” Justice (2007)
Despite holding up brilliantly alongside modern dance (albeit quite alternatively,) Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” is a history lesson in the genre. Between a Nile Rogers-worthy bassline, a clunking 90s piano, a new wave array of synths, and disco beat, the track captures everything there’s ever been to love about dance music in the popular realm. Add to that a lyrical tribute to the greatest dancer pop music has ever seen (Michael Jackson, duh) and you have a masterpiece.
058. “Atlas” Battles (2007)
After starting out as math rock experimentalists and releasing a string of noteworthy EPs, Battles finally released their debut long play, Mirrored, fronted by the heralding lead single, “Atlas.” The track is a seven minute journey of thundering drums, machine-gun guitars, moveable basslines, and distorted, barely decipherable vocals. There is such an exciting aura that resonates from it that is hard to capture in any 3 minute pop song.
057. “L.E.S. Artistes” Santogold (2008)
Back before she made the mid-word vowel change, Santogold was one of the most promising new pop artists on the scene. Although we all knew she was too cool to ever really be that kind of “pop,” when she put out he single “L.E.S. Artistes,” we got the perspective on just how far she could take that cool. With a landscape of muted guitars and y vintage synths, the song is truly highlighted by Santogold’s unsettling, howling vocals that drive the melody.
056. “Float On” Modest Mouse (2004)
Sometimes making the transition from hipster-centric indie to mainstream comes from selling out, but sometimes it comes from just making a damn good song. Modest Mouse was a victim of the latter when they unleashed the unavoidably brilliant “Float On.” With a loose, light and bubbly guitar riff that juxtaposes with a tight and steady beat, the song is so catchy and addictive instrumentally that Isaac Brock’s otherwise abrasive vocals sound delightfully endearing.
055. “Work It” Missy Elliott (2002)
After proving to be one of the most intriguing and forward-thinking hip hop acts on planet earth, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot decided to up the ante with “Work It.” In a male-heavy genre, she takes the track as an opportunity to school her peers and prove she can make music that is just as provocative, but far more witty. The instrumental is relatively simple, but Missy’s forwards and backwards lyrics make for one of the most interesting listens hip hop has ever offered.
054. “All My Friends” LCD Soundsystem (2007)
LCD Soundsystem are one of the most under-appreciated bands in the history of alternative music. Critics and enthusiasts may be in their corner, but when listening to their catalog, it’s amazing how little the public has caught on, especially to their magnum opus, “All My Friends.” The 7 and a half minute track is built around a frenzied piano line that slowly builds and builds into an intoxicating climax. There’s nothing complicated about it; the track is simply genius.
053. “American Idiot” Green Day (2004)
Somehow Green Day managed to move from 90s punk heros to polished rock gods, and it was their American Idiot album that took them to new heights. The title track was so brilliantly shocking upon release with its “is he allowed to say that?!” lyrics, but once the dust cleared, we realized we were left with an absolute anthem. Outside of the brilliant melody, the band proved more than ever how good they were are making something big with just three instruments.
052. “Clint Eastwood” Gorillaz featuring Del Tha Funky Homosapien (2001)
The idea of a cartoon band is a hard concept to get behind, but when we heard what Gorillaz had to offer musically, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Damon Albarn (of Blur fame) managed to find the perfect intersection between rock and hip hop with the group’s breakout hit “Clint Eastwood,” where he sung that perfect hook. However, it’s guest star Del Tha Funky Homosapien’s verses that steal the show and legitimize the coolness of the track.
051. “Do You Realize??” The Flaming Lips (2002)
The Flaming Lips have always had a cartoon-like whimsy about them, but when they managed to make their sound just a tad more accessible, the result managed to be a triumph that is almost beyond words. “Do You Realize??,” with its reality check lyrics, feels like a dream (or an acid trip.) The melody is so soulful and empty that the complicated assemblage of instruments that feel conversely joyous makes the song end up feeling like a big, warm hug.
050. “Back To Black” Amy Winehouse (2006)
Of all the vocalists to emerge in the 2000s, history is most likely going to show Amy Winehouse as being the most significant and influential. Despite only getting two albums off before her untimely death, Back To Black is legendary and its title track is its triumph. A dark and earnest lament that harks back (almost literally at points) to the girl group era, “Back To Black” bittersweetly oozes with emotion in the kind of way that only a genius can generate.
049. “Fell In Love With A Girl” The White Stripes (2001)
It seems almost impossible that anyone could craft the perfect modern rock song in under 2 minutes, but the White Stripes have always been up for a challenge. “Fell In Love With A Girl” is not only one of the greatest “short songs” of all time (arguably the greatest,) but it has so much body and dynamic to it that calling “short” actually sounds like you’re giving it the benefit of the doubt. No, the song is a bundle of dynamite that explodes bigger than a 5 minute epic.
048. “SexyBack” Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland (2006)
As the former creamy center of *NSYNC, Justin Timberlake had already demonstrated that he knew how break from the boy band mold, but no one expected what he had in store for the lead single of his sophomore album. It takes just one listen of “SexyBack” to get it, honestly. The track is so simple, but with a collection of one-liners, effected vocals, and Timbaland’s not-quite-dance, not-quite hip-hop production, it makes all other pop music seemingly cease to exist.
047. “Standing In The Way Of Control” Gossip (2005)
Gossip’s “Standing In The Way Of Control” is the kind of indie anthem most bands only dream of concocting. The track is big, bold, and in your face right from the start with Beth Ditto’s wailing vocals that move effortlessly on top of a dance punk instrumental that only utilizes guitar, drums, and bass. Everything comes together in such an authentic and captivating way that feels like it could have been recorded on stage in one take. It’s a genius song.
046. “One More Time” Daft Punk (2000)
Daft Punk’s “One More Time” is the club anthem to end all club anthems. With perfect amounts of house, funk, and disco, the song creates an unparalleled euphoria that is almost enough to reduce you to tears. With a jubilant synth line that pairs expertly with an auto-tuned, minimal vocal part from Romanthony, the song is almost too good to sit alongside the processed electro-fodder clubs tend to focus on. Realistically, its the greatest electronic dance track of the 2000s.
045. “Yellow” Coldplay (2000)
Before Coldplay had crossed over to mainstream success, they were exciting up-and-comers of the British alt rock scene. Their beautiful breakthrough hit “Yellow” not only opened the gates to their successful career, but set a precedent they’ve never been able to escape. One of their few songs (in hindsight) that is almost completely guitar-driven, the track wraps us in the blanket that is Chris Martin’s soothing faucetto and makes us all feel in love.
044. “Toxic” Britney Spears (2003)
While most pop music is disposable instant-gratification, every now and them something genius makes its way out there. The Bloodshy & Avant-crafted “Toxic” is just the perfect song. Britney Spears more or less delivers a paint-by-numbers vocal, but it somehow has that mysteriously endearing quality about it that drives the melody, but doesn’t distract from the stellar production. “Toxic” is a hypnotic, sleazy, dancy pop masterpiece that was well ahead of its time.
043. “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” Beyoncé (2008)
When Beyoncé let her Sasha Fierce alter ego come out to play, we were gifted one of R&B pop’s defining moments of all time. The percussion-heavy “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” is a whirlwind of a song that moves so fast, but grooves so slow. Outside of the fact that there are more hooks packed in there than any one song should be allowed to have, it’s Bey’s sassy delivery that sells it flawlessly and allows it to become the anthem we all know it to be.
042. “Chasing Pavements” Adele (2008)
When Adele broke out onto the music scene, she was turning heads left and right with her soulfully powerful voice. Her breakthrough hit, “Chasing Pavements” was one of the most incredible moments in pop music of the entire decade. With an authentic bluesy soul vibe, the track heightens with swooning strings, but it’s her flawless vocals driving the achingly beautiful melody that allow the song to be so incredibly striking and beautiful.
041. “1 Thing” Amerie (2005)
Amerie may be one of the most forgetful acts of the decade, but her hit “1 Thing” is just too get to ever let slip into the sands of time. Sampling The Meters’ “Oh Calcutta!” in a brilliantly relevant way, the frenzied track punches hard with a funky groove that allows for the creation of brilliant moment after brilliant moment. The track captures that amazing, butterflies-in-your-gut feeling of being love in one sexy, catchy, and hypnotic way. Talk about juggernaut!