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

    30. Wilco – “Jesus, Etc.”

    From the first time hearing the smooth, disco-lite, it was clear that “Jesus, Etc.” would stick around for a long time, even if just from being stuck in your head for weeks. Tweedy’s light, breathy melody betrays the sad depth of a chorus discussing collapsing buildings (more metaphorical, despite the fact that the album was released less than a year after 9/11). Fred Lonberg-Holm contributed to the string arrangement and Jim O’Rourke produced (and introduced Tweedy to future Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche), only adding to the track’s greatness. –Adam Kivel

    29. Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”

    On occasion, a pop song can be described as something bigger than a few minutes of music, and Sufjan Stevens managed to create such a track. “Chicago” is all about dynamics-the energy of the titular city, the complicated emotions of maturity, the intimacy of Stevens’ whisper, the drama of the accompanying choir and orchestra. No matter how many times you listen to “Chicago”, you get pulled into the narrator’s journey and feel the same euphoria that he does as his self-discovery reaches a boisterous conclusion with blaring horns and pounding drums. –Anthony Balderrama

    28. Björk – “New World”

    With Dancer in the Dark film and Selmasongs album, Björk tapped into the roots of classic motion picture scoring and combined it with her trip-hop sensibilities to create one of the most unique and powerful musical scores in recent history. “New World” is not just the finest example of that concept’s realization, but one of Björk’s greatest achievements as an artist. The song acts as the sonic struggle of her character, Selma, fighting her blindness by weaving a tapestry of sensory fabrics — her lyrics have never been more vivid or emotionally sung. Few modern songs can match the tremendous and soaring emotional power of this track. –Cap Blackard

    27. Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”


    Describing an Animal Collective track as accessible might seem counter intuitive, but “Summertime Clothes” is as inviting as any of the hits that topped the charts this decade. The song’s hypnotic mix of loops and ambient sounds makes an effective backing to an earnest love song that shamelessly repeats “I want to walk around with you.”

    Such a saccharine sentiment and descriptions of a hot summer day should not sound as irresistible as they do here, but that’s the magic of Animal Collective. On an album that received more than its share of praise, “Summertime Clothes” still stands out as an example of experimentation done right. –Anthony Balderrama

    26. Joanna Newsom – “Sawdust and Diamonds”

    Joanna Newsom’s voice can be a bit of an acquired taste. But the charm and depth of a masterpiece like “Sawdust and Diamonds” (the centerpiece of the sublime 2006 Ys) cannot be denied. The song’s vivid imagery includes a bell falling down a flight of stairs, birds/people made of scraps of paper and wood, and life in an ancient, rocking ship. But the surreally sweet and sincere upward intonation on the end of the line “And though our bones, they may break, and our souls separate, why the long face?” is one of the most crushing moments in music. –Adam Kivel

    25. Bright Eyes – “Road to Joy”


    Chaotic brilliance is perhaps the best way to describe Bright Eyes’ 2005 masterpiece “Road to Joy”. It’s one of the few times that the music accompanying Conor Oberst is as emotionally explicit and profound as his lyrics. Simplistic to start, the music gets more complex (trumpets and drums appear) and louder as Conor’s words become less suggestion and more of a downright blatant attack on what are his perceived depressing realities existent in America. By the time his travels conclude and he reaches the end of this road, all hell has broken loose, both for our storyteller and his soundtrack. –Alex Young

    24. Radiohead – “Idioteque”

    I’m convinced that when Radiohead decided to fuse IDM with Arena Rock a new universe was formed. A universe where people dance to apocalyptic electro-bangers that sample archaic analog synthesizers from compositions like Paul Lansky’s “Mild und Leise”. A universe where bands continually go against the grain, yet still see critical and financial success. A universe where . . . Oh crap . . . –Drew Litowitz

    23. Bon Iver –  “Skinny Love”

    Justin Vernon has a way with… well, everything. Through stinging minor chords, soulful yelps, and intense speculation, “Skinny Love” sees the man attempting to reason through just what went wrong. When he screams, “I told you to be patient/ I told you to be kind,” it’s hard to tell if he’s kicking himself or the source of his heartbreak. Either way, the outcome pleasingly bruises. –Drew Litowitz

    22. Madonna – “Music”


    It’s fitting that this disco-meets-the-future tune was released in 2000. Madonna tapped Parisian production whiz Mirwais to craft stylish beats and update her sound for the ’00s. The result is one of Madge’s most rollicking songs of any decade. –Gillian Rosheuvel

    21. Kanye West – “Stronger”

    Though Kanye may be the decade’s biggest asshole, he is also behind some of the decade’s greatest songs. “Stronger”, from 2007’s Graduation, used samples from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” to carry the two to infamy. The track has been described by Kanye as an “emancipation”; it marks his move from hip-hop to electronic music, and lyrically allows him to repair, or at least repent for, past mistakes. “Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore” — that’s true, there’s no one else like Kanye West. – Shayna Hodkin

    20. Phoenix – “1901”

    In the tradition of commercials skyrocketing songs to the forefront, Phoenix’s “1901” is now thriving due to its use in a Cadillac commercial. The song, however, has enough of its own merit to stand strong divorced from the luxury vehicle marque. The French band’s buoyant single from Wolfgang Amadeus is the epitome of carefree, radio friendly pop. The melodic quality is superb, and the use of tom drums in a snapping sequence  literally elicits foot tapping. –Becca James

    19. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

    The secondary title for Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” could read: “(Eulogy for Youth)”. An anthem for the nostalgic adult, the song sulks as it comes to terms with maturation. “Children/Wake up/ Hold your mistake up,” Butler orders atop climactic electrifying strums and lush strings. Arcade Fire hit the nail on the head as they attempt to debunk the myth that one must sacrifice his or her youthful fascinations in order to grow up. Not to mention the song’s pump-up value. There’s a reason why David Bowie, Bono, and the New York Rangers all took an immediate liking to a song this exhilarating. –Drew Litowitz

    18. The Killers – “All These Things That I’ve Done”

    OK, admit it. Who hasn’t sung along to “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”. Without really knowing what it’s about. It might be about the second coming or just a plea to come home from the war but let’s not break into discussion groups shall we. “All These Things” is plainly a great rock and roll anthem with a full-on armoury and a heat-seeking chorus. –Tony Hardy

    17. The Knife – “Heartbeats”


    In the same vein as ABBA and Ace of Base, The Knife has distributed Swedish pop to the masses. However, the duo delivers a more artful and subtle sound, with songs such as “Heartbeats”. The synth reprise and in-depth lyrics enable the listener to reflect, while lost in the mesmerizing sound. –Becca James

    16. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”

    A song which rode out its underground birth to gain elite cultural status, “Paper Planes” was all kinds of awesome. Few songs are able to transcend such humble beginnings, but Diplo’s lo-fi production and M.I.A.’s satirical verses rode out the storm. The song innovates in a number of ways, adding controversial gunshots, a children’s choir and samples The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”. Eventually finding success through cinema, the song went on to feature in “Swagga Like Us”, bringing together four of the best rappers alive — just one of its incredible achievements. –Will Hines

    15. Daft Punk – “One More Time”

    “One More Time” is the ultimate call for celebration. Daft Punk hits all the right notes on this track from 2001’s Discovery, it’s the perfect anthem to get everyone up and feeling alive. –Charles Poladian

    14. The Strokes – “Last Nite”


    It wasn’t exactly the Fadd9 chord that cracked the shell of Beatlemania, but the opening notes to “Last Nite” hit similar vibes. Good feelings just ooze from this track, whether it be the throaty, muffled vocals of Julian Casablancas or the minimalistic yet vital solo from Albert Hammond, Jr. And at the end of the day, who can’t help but champion five lanky kids with a fetish for denim? It sure as hell saved modern youth from baggy pants and XXL Limp Bizkit shirts. –Michael Roffman

    13. Jay-Z – “99 Problems”

    There’s a lot going right for Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”. It was Rick Rubins first crack at producing a hip-hop track in some time and it samples the likes of Mountain and Billy Squier while it pulls a chorus from an old Ice-T song. While that’s enough for any track, the magic lies in the stripped down, basic-as-can-be guitar part and Jay’s lyrical delivery.

    Like its corresponding black and white video, his flow is gritty and dark, attacking everyone from the cops to record labels, while at the same time being smart and humorous and ever so witty, representing the peak of HOV’s dominance. The song stands as one of Jay-Z’s strongest musical moments and is a definitive moment in the revitalization of a career that almost went the way of the dinosaurs. And we haven’t gotten a single problem with that. –Chris Coplan

    12. MGMT – “Kids”


    In MGMT’s ambitious full-length debut, Oracular Spectacular, the band managed to do the ’80s better than the ’80s did, with the electronic, dance style single “Kids.” The song offers the best of time worn synth, with timeless lyrics, such as the opening lines “you were a child/Crawlin’ on your knees toward it/Makin’ mama so proud/but your voice was too loud.” It’s lyrical morsels like that, paired with a fetching hook that cater to the band’s synthpop aesthetic, resulting in an addictive single. –Becca James

    11. Eminem – “Lose Yourself”

    The cinema-ready piano intro gives you an idea of how epic this song is going to be. Yet you’re still not ready for the force unleashed when Mr. Mathers begins rhyming over a head-nodding guitar riff. Recorded for the soundtrack to Eminem’s quasi-biopic 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” might be the best distillation of the rapper’s songwriting gifts and infectious, ramshackle flow. –Gillian Rosheuvel

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