The Top 50 Songs of the 2000s

When we look back on the aughts, what are we going to remember?

M.I.A., The White Stripes, Andre 3000
M.I.A., The White Stripes, Andre 3000

    When we look back on the ’00s, what the hell are we going to remember? To be blunt, a lot. It’s almost hard to keep track of everything! But, try we will. To summarize, the ’00s saw a lot of “returns.” Now, before you raise your hand and ask a million questions, let me clarify. When I say “returns,” I don’t mean tax returns or those ugly sweaters after Christmas. No, we’re talking about the second chance, the encore, or… the epic (sometimes unwarranted) return. You know, kind of like Saved by the Bell: The New Class!

    It all started with the idiot nobody elected: President Bush. Someone somewhere, probably while on mescaline or something otherworldly, thought, “Hey, what better way to start this decade than how we started the last… with another Bush in office!” Well, that thought became a statement which became an idea that rolled into a campaign, and one that somehow made its way into the Oval Office — and for eight years, no less. Nobody knew it at the time, but this started a trend…

    Take a look around, everyone’s making a return. It’s a big fad. Bands reunited (e.g. Stone Temple Pilots, Pavement, My Bloody Valentine), actors we thought to be dead returned to surprise us (e.g. Mickey Rourke), and some even tried to return but ended up dead (e.g. Michael Jackson). Hell, turn on the television. Half of the CW programming is a collection of ’90s shows… making a return. 90210? Melrose Place? Ring a bell? In fact, you could argue that The Simpsons tried to return, even if they never really left in the first place. There were some major backfires (e.g. NBC’s Knight Rider, Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie, John Travolta’s fourth comeback), but it all peaked with one giant, hip conglomerate… Apple.

    Apple Steve Jobs biopic


    Apple, for all its charm and dazzling software today, was a dusty relic in the ’90s. To be honest, they were horrible. PowerPC? More like a headache that managed to steal cash from your wallet. And when those iMacs hit public schools everywhere, they might have looked pretty, but nobody wanted to make that shift, save for “those graphic designers.” Then came a cute, little invention in the early ’00s: the iPod. It took a couple of Christmas holidays to catch on, but by Winter of ’05, everyone who was anyone owned one. By ’07, everyone who was anyone wasn’t anyone anymore because they now knew nobody because they were slaves to a plastic device. Regardless of the global sonic slavery, one thing became clear: Apple returned!

    Because of this, there’s been a very interesting trend in music for the past decade. Songs have become synonymous with life. Why? Well, for two reasons. One, Zach Braff. Two, Apple. Let’s start with the Scrubs guy first, though. In 2004, Garden State became the first film in probably ten to 15 years where the music preceded the actual film. All sorts of folks flocked to Best Buy or Borders to buy the popular soundtrack. Most people hadn’t even seen the movie. They knew one thing, though: These songs would change their life. This mentality, coinciding with Apple’s insistent demand to keep those buggy lil’ earplugs on your head, made for one “personable” experience. Forget the album, a dead subject to anyone outside of Greenwich Village or a critic’s circle. But also, forget the mixtape.

    With the iPod, everyone started what nixed the mixtape: the playlist! People culled songs from band’s career spanning discographies, all with the purpose in soundtracking their everyday mundane life, and with the hopes that it’d make everyday mundane life something else. Something bold! People still do this. In fact, it’s one reason why MP3s continue to be so popular and why I can’t visit Tower Records down the street from me anymore. And c’mon, it’s not rocket science here. You don’t have to do a long, public survey to find out that people live by this mantra: “It’s uneconomical to buy a CD for a song, so why not download it?”


    So, what the hell does this all mean? It means songs are important to people. They cherish ’em because they live with ’em — and vice versa (I think). Albums are still sacred and what not, but it’s the songs that matter these days. In some respects, this could sort of be considered a return, too. Here’s a fun fact. Long before our time, bands wouldn’t even bother with an album. They would be lucky if they even made it that far. No, studio heads and producers pushed singles, what were then called 45’s and what we now call EP’s. If there’s one thing to be said of the ’00s, it’s that the MP3, for all its intensive purposes, is just the medium to which “songs” made their triumphant return. But still, it’s all because of Apple.

    Or, maybe President Bush.

    –Michael Roffman
    Editor in Chief

    p.s. I almost forgot, here are 50 songs we all thought were pretty good.

    50. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”

    There are definitely better songs in Kings Of Lon’s repertoire. But try telling that to the fans that were turned onto the band thanks to this one. It’s expansive arena rock that sparked a worldwide devotion. Whatever helps more people get turned onto Aha Shake Heartbreak is a good thing. And besides, this may have launched the career of the next U2. –Joshua Kloke

    49. Nine Inch Nails – “Survivalism”


    The first single from Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero revealed a different side to Trent Reznor, both musically and lyrically. Instead of focusing his anger on himself or other specific people, he’s taking a shot at a world gone wrong… “this great nation.” As a result, Nine Inch Nails created one of its best songs since The Downward Spiral era. –Joe Marvilli

    48. Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)”

    “Rebellion (Lies)” was the gateway into the glory of Arcade Fire for the general public. The song is vibrant with fantastic production and a wealth of sound combined with the awareness of life we’ve grown to love from Arcade Fire. –Charles Poladian

    47. Rihanna – “Umbrella” (feat. Jay-Z)”

    “Umbrella”‘s stratospheric fate was sealed before Rihanna even arrived on the track, with Hova delivering one of the best introductory verses in recent history. “Jay, Rain Man is back with little Ms. Sunshine/Rihanna where you at?”. As soon as Rihanna let the now famous ‘eh-eh-eh’ rip, the song secured a place in our hearts. Ultimately it’s a simple song; from the GarageBand beat to the song’s key metaphor, Umbrella ran on the ‘less is more’ theory. –Will Hines

    46. Interpol – “NYC”


    The post-modern isolation of “NYC” is the perfect distillation of Interpol’s sound. From their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, “NYC” is the love letter to the city that will always go undelivered. –Charles Poladian

    45. The Avett Brothers – “Paranoia in B-Flat Major”

    Banjos, piano, and guitars make up for one of the most heartfelt folk songs in a decade that’s seen the genre overwhelmed. But by the time the two brothers say, “But if love is a game, girl, then you’re gonna win/I’ll spend the rest of my life bringing victory in,” everyone who’s ever embraced their loved one will find it hard to argue otherwise. –Michael Roffman

    44. Feist – “1234”

    Yes, Feist is one of the few indie stars recognizable by your mother, but can you blame them? She croons with a deft charm, proving that even in indie rock, simple is still best. Those Ipod commercials may have helped her career, but I can’t help but wonder; was it Feist who actually helped the Ipod? –Joshua Kloke

    43. The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”


    The Flaming Lips really can make anything sound happy. In “Do You Realize??” death becomes a whimsical dream, as frontman Wayne Coyne mulls over the conundrum of existence. As he philosophizes, “The sun doesn’t go down/ It’s just an illusion caused by the world/ Spinning ‘round,” Mr. Coyne and the Lips assure us that everything is going to be okay. And sometimes that’s just what we need. –Drew Litowitz

    42. Foo Fighters – “Times Like These”

    In any state of mind, whenever “Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters comes on, it hits home every time. For Grohl and the company, “Times Like These” encompasses the band’s best efforts to combine pop sensibilities, odd time signatures and overall great rock & roll musicianship. Name checking Minneapolis punk legends Husker Du (“I’m a new day rising”), the Foos certainly know how to hand credit where it’s due and “Times Like These” in their respective aspects resembles major Du influence. Not just a great song, it also proves to be a great pick-me-up track if you’re feeling down in the dumps, reminding you that life goes on and that you’re given a fresh clean chance to start again. Simply inspirational all around. –Jay Ziegler

    41. The Shins – “New Slang”

    Even before it soundtracked a memorable scene in the 2004 film Garden State, “New Slang” had introduced New Mexico band The Shins to the indie masses as one of the standout tracks on the band’s 2001 debut Oh, Inverted World. Heralding a band of stunning songwriting gifts, the song’s alternating strum and twang made for a tune that’s equal parts wistful and jaded. –Gillian Rosheuvel


    40. Jay-Z – “Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…)”

    One of his most captivating narratives, “Roc Boys” proves that even Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters can’t top what’s in Hova’s head. –Alex Young

    39. Bob Dylan – “Things Have Changed”

    “Things Have Changed” did more than give Dylan an Oscar, which he plops atop an amp in concert with the same indifference that you or I might stick a doo-dad on a car dashboard. It showed that 1997’s Time Out of Mind had been no fluke and that the master singer-songwriter was still capable of delivering songs that can both seduce and challenge listeners. “Things Have Changed” is a slow-tempo rocker about a person teetering on the edge, about to lose control at any moment. It’s dark, sexy, troubling, and the masterpiece of Dylan’s late period. –Matt Melis

    38. Green Day – “Minority”

    It’s a sad day when a Green Day record passes under the radar. Those days are pretty much behind us now, but when 2000’s Warning surfaced, hardly anyone came to acknowledge it. Older fans had moved on years beforehand, while those leftovers from the Nimrod-era couldn’t find a “Good Riddance” to save their life. Thank god. With “Minority”, our three boys from Cali penned an anthem for a generation yet to come, and while lines like “I pledge allegiance to the underworld/One nation under dog,” seemed like typical angsty bullshit at the time, it all made sense three years later. Today, it still feels good to hum along to, even if we’re not feeling so melancholy — politically, of course. –Michael Roffman

    37. Okkervil River – “For Real”


    After we’re introduced to the character of “Black Sheep Boy,” Will Sheff turns up the emotions and energy with the startling, loud-soft dynamics of “For Real.” Lyrically, Sheff plays with the notion of reality, as it exists in our reality-TV drenched society. Dark and foreboding, Sheff paints a grotesque picture of all the things our jaded culture has grown numb to. –Drew Litowitz

    36. Coldplay – “The Scientist”

    This song is a high spot among a classic collection of songs, hallmarked by Chris Martin’s woody falsetto and haunting piano chimes. “The Scientist” is as poignant as you can get, simple yet clever, intense and heartfelt, and is set to a glorious melody you can hear over and over. Just take me back to the start. –Tony Hardy

    35. Outkast – “Ms. Jackson”

    The song that gave Outkast their first number-one position on the Billboard charts is also one of the best of their career. A whooshing drum loop combined with a short, repeating piano piece creates a lush and off-kilter background for the duo. Big Boi’s rapid fire delivery in the verses offers a juxtaposition to Andre 3000’s almost sing-song style during the chorus. Out of all the songs to introduce Outkast to a larger audience, “Ms. Jackson” was the best choice. –Joe Marvilli

    34. Patrick Wolf- “Bloodbeat”


    “Bloodbeat” proved that songs full of anger don’t have to be depressing. It was, first and foremost, a pop song that actually had some content. Written during Wolf’s tender years and the centrepiece of his debut EP, “Bloodbeat” was infectious, challenging and incredibly satisfying. “No need for comfort/No need for light/I am hunting for secrets tonight/Eat the sorrow lick the spark/Uh oh, my blood beats dark.” –Will Hines

    33. Peter Bjorn and John – “Young Folks”

    There’s catchy music and then there is this case of sonic syphilis in the form of Peter Bjorn and John’s American audience-capturing single. When it was released, it caught on with the world and specifically those of us in the States because of its sheer sonic simplicity. Whether it was the semi-spoken stylings of Victoria Bergsmman or the whistling and ever-present bongos, the song entered the collective cultural radar of much of the U.S. and permeated its musical DNA throughout much of the culture in the summer of 2006. The song plays like some weird Scandinavian cartoon pop music, but it eats away at your subconsciousness until you have nothing left to fight with and you’re stuck mindlessly chirping in. Pop music and it’s most efficient and most devious. –Chris Coplan

    32. Lupe Fiasco – “Daydreamin’” (feat. ft. Jill Scott)

    Lupe Fiasco’s Grammy Award-winning single from 2006’s Food & Liquor is the product of covers. Originally written by The Wallace Collection, it was recorded by Gunter Kallman Choir before England’s I Monster borrowed heavily from it for “Daydream In Blue” where Lupe sampled from. With all the sharing going on, he adds his own touch with Jill Scott singing response on the chorus while Lupe takes some shots at hip-hop’s popular culture, “look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand,” he spits precociously. The outro’s walking bass line paired with Jill Scott’s vocals begs you to hit repeat. –Andy Keil

    31. Moby – “Extreme Ways”


    From the opening Bernard Herrmann-esque violin chords, “Extreme Ways” paints a super-charged sonic narrative of Hitchcockian intensity. Moby’s trademark synth harmonies float like passing headlights through the downpour of sinister rhythms. This song was a cinematic powerhouse right off the album — inclusion in all three of the Bourne films is just proof of its action-packed awesomeness. –Cap Blackard

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