020. “Rebellion (Lies)” Arcade Fire (2004)
Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)” is the kind of song that does so little to make such a big impact. Not that there isn’t quite a bit going on, but it’s the most delicate nuance that create something particularly beautiful. The progression is a bit unsettling, but it brilliantly flows with a emotion, and when the violin comes in like a fine brush to add small but necessary details, it’s almost enough to reduce you to tears. The song is a work of art.
019. “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” Arctic Monkeys (2005)
British newcomers the Arctic Monkeys made rock music reevaluate its existence when they released their debut single, “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.” The song is an alternative anthem so catchy and hypnotic, that it actually went on to be a hit. Between riff-heavy guitar and bass and sing-along inducing lyrics, the song simply comes together in a way that is so energetic and jubilant that it felt like rock & roll still had exciting places to go.
018. “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” Kylie Minogue (2001)
Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” may have felt like the right song at the right time, but over 10 years on, and it sounds far more relevant now than it did upon its release. The Aussie pop legend was no stranger to success, but “Head” was on another planet all together. With a bass that pounds so hard it hurts, Kylie’s seductive and sultry vocals, and that deliriously simple “La la la” hook, it’s the greatest pop record of the entire decade.
017. “New Slang” The Shins (2001)
The Shins were brilliantly able to walk the thin tightrope it takes to create the perfect indie anthem with their single “New Slang.” The simple, acoustic drive of the song creates an ironically bubbly landscape that allows for one of the most striking melodies of the decade to glisten in the sunlight without offering much to the pop market. Yes, “New Slang” is addicting and sweet, but there’s never a moment where it ever feels too big or worn out, and that’s a beautiful thing.
016. “In Da Club” 50 Cent (2003)
50 Cent’s breakthrough single “In Da Club” was the kind of hip hop record that nobody could ignore despite being released in at a time when the genre was really defining pop music. On one hand, hip hop was becoming very watered down, but, on the other, it was growing into a massive art form, and the track sided with the latter. With a Dr. Dre production that included enormous string samples and authoritative beats, the song deserved every accolade it got.
015. “Such Great Heights” The Postal Service (2003)
The Postal Service was the kind of supergroup that in hindsight made much more sense than it did at the time, but that is almost entirely in part to their first single, “Such Great Heights.” The track is probably the greatest indie pop record ever. The electronic-infused backing trembles in such a delicate way that when Ben Gibbard’s soft and fragile voice comes in, you practically turn into putty. By the time the chorus comes in, there’s no way to turn back.
014. “Paper Planes” M.I.A. (2007)
Leave it to M.I.A. to crank one of the decade’s most provocative hip hop records without sounding the slightest bit threatening. Her body of work has been lauded by critics, but it took until “Paper Planes” for her to find her way onto the radio. The track is a hazy, stoned indie record, but with the right amount of urban flair. The hook itself, gunshots and all, is daringly fun, but it’s M.I.A. laid-back delivery that makes it sound so freakin’ cool.
013. “Maps” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)
“Maps” is a song that is almost too beautiful for words. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs amazingly were able to sculpt a track that constantly feels like it’s about to launch into orbit, but stays so frustratingly refrained that the angst in Karen O’s voice comes piercing through. However, there is a soulful eagerness packed in there that hooks onto the sharp guitar and steady beat and lingers around long after the track ends. In many ways, “Maps” exemplifies how pain can be beautiful.
012. “Get Ur Freak On” Missy Elliott (2001)
“Get Ur Freak On” is an epic. There has never been a track on radio quite like it before or since, and that’s most likely cause no one else could pull it off. Not only is this Timbaland’s greatest work as a producer, but Missy Elliott shows off her crazily ingenious rap style that is almost too wild to comprehend at points. The track is simply built around an addictive Indian-inspired instrumental, but flows in such an intricate way that every second is as addicting as the last.
011. “Lose Yourself” Eminem (2002)
“Lose Yourself” was a peak of sorts for hip hop. As the genre rapidly started becoming the norm for Top 40, Eminem’s masterpiece crept in and completely schooled all of its peers. The song has the perfect hook, but it’s how the verses build up to them that makes it so incredible. There’s never a moment that doesn’t feel completely authentic, and the way everything comes together is particularly magical. In the pop realm, it’s Slim Shady’s magnum opus.
010. “Time To Pretend” MGMT (2007)
Every time alternative rock stops seeming so alternative, the door is opened for something new to come in and flip everything on its head. MGMT’s “Time To Pretend” did just that. The track absolutely drips with an atmosphere that transcends genre or even emotion thanks to a perfectly amounted synth hook and buzzing guitar. In addition, the vocals sound so distant, yet human that you can’t help but feel so affected. The song is big.
009. “Jesus Walks” Kanye West (2004)
Kanye West is undeniably one of hip hop’s greatest assets, but early on in his career he released a song so triumphant, he’s yet to fully top it. “Jesus Walks” is the perfect record from start to finish. Not only are his brilliant lyrics presented in a way that really make us listen, but the backing track is on a different level. It feels like a call to arms with its heralding beat, but with powerful strings and a Gospel energy, Kanye crafted something strikingly uplifting.
008. “Clocks” Coldplay (2002)
The piano riff in Coldplay’s “Clocks” is easily one of the most iconic musical moments of the decade. The atmosphere it creates by itself is astonishing, but when a subtle synth pad is added along side a pumping bass, sparkling guitar, mammoth drums, and pensive lyrics that make so much sense for not making any at all it’s impossible not to be taken away to some sort of dreamlike state of being. “Clocks” is quite beautifully larger than life.
007. “99 Problems” Jay-Z (2003)
Pairing rapper Jay-Z and producer Rick Rubin together is a serious musical wet dream, and their output came far from disappointing. “99 Problems” is the way hip hop and rock are supposed to be paired together. The guitars are slick, the beat is resounding, and the production is sharp and intricate, but it’s Jay that steals the show from start to finish. He has such a captivating charisma about, but he lets the words speak for themselves. The track is completely iconic.
006. “Rehab” Amy Winehouse (2006)
Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” is legendary. From start to finish, the song literally feels like the world is changing. Folding in sounds from Motown and some of Jazz’s greats (Ella, for example,) the level of authenticity is beyond a rare accomplishment, but it’s Amy that really makes it work. The song may have a classic vibe, but the content is very current, and aside from those blaring horns, it’s the vocal performance that takes our breath away.
005. “Stan” Eminem featuring Dido (2000)
It seemed that there was so much controversy surrounding Eminem early in his career that it took something astronomical to make every realize his talent. “Stan” is the kind of song that no one can properly deny its due. Structured around a sample of Dido’s (also brilliant) “Thank You,” the song masterfully illustrates the story of a crazed fan that drives himself to an unfortunate fate, and it comes across to elegantly dramatic that it feels like it’s really happening. The track is the kind of moment that makes us all realize how hip hop can change the world, and “Stan” is almost beyond words.
004. “Seven Nation Army” The White Stripes (2003)
There aren’t many songs that get a stamp of rock & roll immortality upon it’s immediate release, but “Seven Nation Army” isn’t like many songs. Undeniably the riff of the decade, the White Stripes take very simple, everyday ingredients and make a five-star feast for the ears. The instrumental hook is milked through various octaves on guitar and bass and is held together so brilliantly by Meg White’s steady drums, that a set of lyrics that make no sense come out sounding like Shakespeare. This was rock’s juggernaut of the 2000s; nothing else was quite this glorious.
003. “Crazy In Love” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z (2003)
Beyoncé Knowles had already made a name for herself as the standout member of Destiny’s Child, and even with a few solo/collaborative ventures, but when she released “Crazy In Love,” it felt like a brand new start, if not a debut altogether. There wasn’t any other song on the planet that could have set her up for her enviable solo career quite like this gem. Built around a horn sample that becomes larger than life, the song really emphasizes the “Crazy” in the title and flows chaotically, yet smoothly, through a series of delirious hooks and a stellar verse from now-hubby Jay-Z that more or less introduces the world to the new Beyoncé.
002. “Crazy” Gnarls Barkley (2006)
Take Danger Mouse, one of the overall most genius musicians and producers of the last 25 years, and Cee Lo Green, one of the most charismatically soulful vocalists of the last 25 years, and you have yourself one hell of a super-duo. Gnarls Barkley, as the pair called themselves, did everything anyone could hope to accomplish in one simple song, their first, “Crazy.” The track is flawless from start to finish, with a groovy, throwback vibe that manages to sound fresh and current. All you can really do is take mammoth hook that builds on top of the intricate backing track and just bask in all its glory.
001. “Hey Ya!” Outkast (2003)
What truly makes “Hey Ya!” the greatest song of the 2000s is how it manages to capture the true essence of what music was at the time like a snapshot on a polaroid. Despite sounding unlike everything else on the radio, the track just seemed to make sense, and it was almost like all other pop music took a backseat to it. “Hey Ya!” is a spitfire of one-liners so iconic that paired with an upbeat frenzy of simple guitars, thundering drums, and intricate nuances that come together to create a pop masterpiece unlike anything before or since. It’s quite possibly the only song of the new millennium that critics loved, parents loved, their kids loved, and radio loved… and no one had to feel guilty about it.