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Best 2000s Albums: 20 Classics That Shaped The Noughties
List & Guides

Best 2000s Albums: 20 Classics That Shaped The Noughties

Emerging from a troubled decade, the best 2000s albums gifted us a melting pot of pop, rock, and hip-hop to transcend our worldly worries.

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With 9/11 and the “War On Terror” dominating the news headlines, the 2000s was a politically turbulent era with more than its fair share of anxiety and disillusionment. Just like previous decades, however, countless musicians were on hand to shine brightly in humanity’s darkest moments, offering us a smorgasbord of pop, rock, and hip-hop that helped unify a world that seemed to be coming apart at the seams. The best 2000s albums, from artists as diverse as French house pioneers Daft Punk and virtual group Gorillaz, saw genres collide and give us glimmers of hope and escapism just when we needed it most.

Listen to our Pop playlist here, and check out our best 2000s albums, below.

20: Missy Elliott: ‘Miss E… So Addictive’ (2001)

As the third album masterminded by Missy Elliott and super-producer Tim “Timbaland” Moseley, Miss E… So Addictive followed 1997’s Supa Dupa Fly and 1999’s Da Real World, and catapulted the game-changing star into nightclub notoriety. Largely thanks to quirky hits such as the bhangra rap banger Get Ur Freak On and a club remix of 4 My People, by house duo Basement Jaxx, the album would clock up two million sales after shifting 250,000 copies in its first week. Melding Elliott’s eye-popping R&B impulses with Timbaland’s eclectic hip-hop sampling, Miss E… So Addictive still stands tall as one of the best albums to emerge from the early 21st-century rap explosion.

Must hear: Get Ur Freak On

19: Coldplay: ‘Parachutes’ (2000)

On a mission to bring earnest songwriting back into vogue, Coldplay’s debut album, Parachutes, was a watershed moment that saw the group steal Oasis’ thunder as post-Britpop lightning rods, setting themselves up to become some of the best 2000s musicians in the process. By capturing public interest from the off with the UK Top 10 hit Yellow – a sinuous rock ballad showcasing the heart-on-sleeve lyricism that would become a trademark of the best Coldplay songs – the band brought Jeff Buckley-esque indie-folk into the mainstream. Rapidly becoming a BBC Radio 1 favourite, with Trouble and Don’t Panic receiving regular airplay, Parachutes would go on to sell 10.2 million copies worldwide and win a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

Must hear: Yellow

18: Linkin Park: ‘Hybrid Theory’ (2000)

Doing for the 2000s what Nirvana did for the 90s, nu-metal crusaders Linkin Park became the new saviours of rock after scoring an instant classic with their debut album, Hybrid Theory. Combining the rap-inspired vocals of Mike Shinoda, Joe Hahn’s turntable wizardry and Chester Bennington’s impassioned howls of rage, Linkin Park gave alternative metal a new lease of life and became the poster-children of the Kerrang! era. Producing back-to-back hits that still stand among the best Linkin Park songs (One Step Closer, Crawling, Papercut, In The End), Hybrid Theory became the 21st-century’s best-selling album, after shifting 27 million copies worldwide. As such, it would be a crime not to regard it as one of the best 2000s albums.

Must hear: In The End

17: Arctic Monkeys: ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ (2006)

Belonging to a lineage of fiery UK acts, such as The Kinks and The Jam, who mixed social commentary with scorching rock tunes, Sheffield group Arctic Monkeys broke the record for the fastest-selling debut album in British music history with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. As much inspired by the verbosity of UK hip-hop pioneers Roots Manuva and Mike Skinner of The Streets as it was by the scrappy garage-rock of The Libertines, Alex Turner’s songwriting painted a vivid picture of mid-2000s British youth, from wayward street workers (When The Sun Goes Down) to pub brawlers who “scrap with pool cues in their hands” (A Certain Romance). Casting a jaundiced eye over weekend warriors and flirty nightclub-goers on songs such as I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, Turner’s songs connected with a UK audience who embraced Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not as one of the best 2000s albums, and hailed Arctic Monkeys as the most exciting British band of the 2000s.

Must hear: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

16: Muse: ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ (2001)

Going all in on neo-classical rock grandiosity and aided by Matt Bellamy’s outrageous falsetto, Muse’s sophomore record, Origin Of Symmetry, swept aside the Radiohead comparisons that greeted their debut album, Showbiz, to fuse the Queen-like pomposity of 70s rock with the heaviness of grunge. Tackling a cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good and showcasing Bellamy’s riff-tacular turn on Plug In Baby, Origin Of Symmetry placed Muse in a unique position that saw them appeal as much to indie scenesters as it did to horn-fingered headbangers at Download Festival. Without a doubt one of the best 2000s albums, it marked the point where Muse became one of the most incendiary rock groups of the decade.

Must hear: Plug In Baby

15: Eminem: ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ (2000)

Just once in every generation, an era-defining artist emerges to inspire adulation from the youth while gaining notoriety from their elders. Elvis did it. Sex Pistols did it. And, in the year 2000, it was hip-hop’s turn to produce a folk devil. Underscoring his songs with vulgar yet undeniably poetic flourishes, Eminem positively revelled in the infamy wrought by his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, placing himself at the centre of the culture wars with the monster hit The Real Slim Shady while acknowledging the harmful tendencies of toxic fandom on Stan. In a year that saw Eminem become a true rap superstar, The Marshall Mathers LP was the perfect mix of controversial grandstanding (Kill You) and nihilistic soul-searching (The Way I Am) that cemented the peroxide-blond rapper’s place in hip-hop history forever.

Must hear: The Real Slim Shady

14: The Streets: ‘Original Pirate Material’ (2002)

When UK garage ruled London’s pirate radio airwaves, Birmingham-based wordsmith Mike Skinner formed The Streets as a vessel for his love of US hip-hop and his own wry social observations of British life. The Streets’ debut album, Original Pirate Material, depicted a country of disillusioned souls pondering “Maccie Ds or KFCs” (Weak Become Heroes) and of braggarts gabbling in greasy-spoon cafés (Don’t Mug Yourself). Acknowledging the ubiquity of pop music and the need for true originality (Let’s Push Things Forward) as well as the day-to-day habits of dole layabouts playing PlayStations while rolling Rizlas (Has It Come to This?), Original Pirate Material featured many of the best Streets songs, and it remains a standout British contribution to the best 2000s albums for the way it infused the social insight of The Specials into the bloodstream of UK hip-hop.

Must hear: Don’t Mug Yourself

13: My Chemical Romance: ‘The Black Parade’ (2006)

Inspired to spark a youth revolution after witnessing the 9/11 terror attacks, singer Gerard Way formed My Chemical Romance and soon found himself fronting the biggest cheerleaders of emo-punk. Stuffed with no shortage of the best My Chemical Romance songs, the group’s third album, The Black Parade, revived the theatricality of classic rock operas such as The Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and took MCR’s breed of pop-punk to the picket lines with Welcome To The Black Parade while having fun with ephebiphobia (fear of adolescents and teens) on the T.Rex-aping Teenagers. As one of the best 2000s albums, The Black Parade picked up the baton from Green Day’s American Idiot to soundtrack the youth angst in the wake of the “War On Terror”.

Must hear: Welcome To The Black Parade

12: The White Stripes: ‘Elephant’ (2003)

Spearheading the garage-rock revival of the early 2000s, The White Stripes created a blues-rock masterpiece with their fourth album, Elephant, in 2003. With riffs co-opted by sports fans (Seven Nation Army found its way onto the terraces, becoming one of the best football songs in the process) and with the guitar-drum combo of “sibling” bandmates Jack and Meg White at their most powerful (The Hardest Button To Button), the album would go on to sell 2.1 million copies in the US as The White Stripes – actually a divorced couple in rock music’s long lineage of bands in relationships – took their place as the most colossal of all their garage-rock contemporaries. Just like heading out on safari, Elephant is a wild and much-coveted experience.

Must hear: Seven Nation Army

11: Amy Winehouse: ‘Back To Black’ (2006)

Seeking to give a modern R&B-tinged spin on 60s pop and Motown girl groups, Amy Winehouse’s second album, Back To Black, saw the singer team up with producer Mark Ronson to craft what would become one of the best 2000s albums. With funky horns and delirious breakbeats, songs such as Rehab and You Know I’m No Good brought Winehouse’s beehive cool into the pop charts, while the haunting ballad Back To Black was a retro-soul wonder that placed her among the best 2000s female singers. Unfortunately, following her untimely death in 2011 (alcohol poisoning led to Winehouse’s tragic entry in the infamous “27 Club”), Back To Black would be Winehouse’s final studio album. But, after selling 16 million copies worldwide, it remains hugely popular and is rightly regarded as a modern classic.

Must hear: Back To Black

10: The Flaming Lips: ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ (2002)

Psychedelic rock outsiders The Flaming Lips built upon the success of 1999’s The Soft Bulletin with its trippy and wondrous follow-up, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Boasting one of the best 2000s songs in the shape of Do You Realize?? – a poignant reflection on mortality – and transforming a Cat Stevens melody into a lighters-aloft crowd-pleaser (Fight Test), the album saw The Flaming Lips occupy a quirky place on the festival circuit, with a near-hallucinatory stage show that would make any prog-rock psychonaut’s hair stand on end. Easily one of the best 2000s albums, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots was a soul-stirring marvel that became the band’s first gold-certified record, and it perfectly explores the human condition from start to finish in The Flaming Lips’ uniquely oddball way.

Must hear: Do You Realize??

9: OutKast: ‘Stankonia’ (2000)

Hugely ambitious, OutKast’s fourth album, Stankonia, proved that Southern hip-hop was truly a force to be reckoned with, mixing the duo’s Dirty South lyrical genius with psychedelia, funk, gospel and rave music. Rappers André 3000 and Big Boi were on top form here, flirting with drum’n’bass on B.O.B., scoring a US No.1 hit with the catchy pop-rap of Ms Jackson, and subverting R&B with the bizarro swagger of So Fresh, So Clean. Though their next album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, would go on become to one of the biggest-selling hip-hop albums of all time, it was on Stankonia that OutKast perfected the offbeat formula that would make them a household name.

Must hear: Ms Jackson

8: LCD Soundsystem: ‘Sound Of Silver’ (2007)

From a decade blessed with many fantastic New York City groups, there’s a reason LCD Soundsystem became cult favourites. Perfecting their innovative mix of electronica and dance-punk, it was on their second album, Sound Of Silver, that the group proved they could channel James Murphy’s witty wordplay into emotionally powerful dance music. The electro-influenced North American Scum saw Murphy tackle xenophobic generalisations of his countrymen, while the wistful seven-minute epic All My Friends found the 30-something singer reflecting upon ageing and the onset of middle age (“It comes apart/The way it does in bad films/Except in parts/When the moral kicks in”). Nominated for a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album, Sound Of Silver still stands the test of time as one of the most formidable electronic rock records of the decade.

Must hear: All My Friends

7: The Strokes: ‘Is This It’ (2001)

The band that kick-started the 2000s “New Rock Revival”, The Strokes embodied both the shaggy leather-clad look and the sleek sound of contemporary indie-rock for much of the decade. With angular punk riffs and a Lou Reed-esque drawl, singer Julian Casablancas was the epitome of New York cool. Their debut album, Is This It, was a seminal moment of rock’n’roll alchemy, crowbarring the CBGB-era adventurousness of Talking Heads and Television into a new breed of garage-rock tailor-made for the 21st century. Opening the doors to the modern age with the loose-limbed gallop of Last Nite and the retro-pop nostalgia of Someday, Is This It would go on to inspire an army of indie-rockers, from The Libertines to the Arctic Monkeys, easily making it one of the best 2000s albums.

Must hear: Last Nite

6: Wilco: ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ (2001)

Remarkably sibylline, Wilco’s fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was released the week after the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City. With songs that spoke of waging “a war on war” (War On War) just two weeks shy of the Afghanistan conflict being declared, it’s a haunting and timely record that captures the melancholy of its era. Frontman Jeff Tweedy’s most prescient lyrics can be found on Jesus, Etc. (“Skyscrapers are scraping together”, “Your voice is smoking”), as the singer prophetically describes some mysterious cataclysm (“Tall buildings shake/Voices escape singing sad, sad songs”). A true alternative-rock masterpiece that placed Wilco in the same league as Radiohead, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a thought-provoking artefact from one of the darkest years in human history, and it fully deserves its status as a visionary work of art.

Must hear: Jesus, Etc.

5: Arcade Fire: ‘Funeral’ (2004)

Canadian art-rock ensemble Arcade Fire went from underground obscurity to indie-rock darlings following the release of their debut album, Funeral. Boasting an orchestral sensibility laden with accordion and strings, the band’s mix of baroque pop with anthemic rock hooks on Wake Up – a song they would later perform onstage with David Bowie – and Rebellion (Lies) would go on to prove enormously influential. Conceptually, the songs on Funeral muse on the loss of innocence in the transition to adulthood, with Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) offering a metaphor for seeking connection in the cul-de-sacs of suburbia. As one of the best 2000s albums, Funeral brought a sense of insatiable creativity and fearless musicality back into the indie-rock scene, and it’s a work we’re still feeling the ramifications of today.

Must hear: Rebellion (Lies)

4: Gorillaz: ‘Demon Days’ (2005)

Cartoon saboteurs 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs – better known as Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s pet project Gorillaz – turned the music world inside out with their second album, Demon Days. Formed in an effort to subvert the pop scene’s reliance on vacuous boy and girl groups, Gorillaz brought a much-missed flavour of alternative hip-hop back into the charts, thanks to the UK No.2 hit Feel Good Inc., recorded with Golden Age legends De La Soul, and a dabble in dance-pop with Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder on DARE. Borne aloft by Albarn’s remarkable flair for pop melodies, Demon Days would go on to sell over eight million copies and performed the unlikely feat of making his virtual avatars one of the biggest pop sensations of the decade.

Must hear: Feel Good Inc.

3: Kanye West: ‘The College Dropout’ (2004)

By making alternative rap palatable for mainstream hip-hop audiences, Kanye West’s debut, The College Dropout, certainly earns its place among the best 2000s albums. Unlike other rappers of his era, West perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the early 21st century with lyrics that critiqued, rather than celebrated, materialism (designer clothes, cars, jewellery) while touching on deeper issues relating to race, class and religion in North America. With his production wizardry on top form, West’s sped-up soul samples and catchy beats still pack a punch, and his youthful charisma shines through on every song. Appealing to lovers of indie-rock as much as it did the most hardened of hip-hop heads, The College Dropout marked a turning point for rap music, which has never looked back since.

Must hear: Through The Wire

2: Radiohead: ‘Kid A’ (2000)

Moving in a direction many would have considered to be commercial suicide, Radiohead turned their backs on the stadium-ready guitar-rock of OK Computer in favour of glitchy electronica, motorik-inspired beats and ambient soundscapes. Easing listeners in with the gentle intro of Everything In Its Right Place, Kid A embarked on a sonic journey far removed from 90s alt-rock, conjuring an apocalyptic air in which Thom Yorke seemingly hints at climate catastrophe (Idioteque). Musically, it was an unexpected U-turn for Radiohead, who now seemed to stand comfortably at the opposing poles of post-rock balladry (How To Disappear Completely) and free-jazz noise (The National Anthem). It was a gamble that paid off. Not only is Kid A one of the best 2000s albums, but it also left little doubt that Radiohead were one of the most innovative British groups of all time.

Must hear: Idioteque

1: Daft Punk: ‘Discovery’ (2001)

After revolutionising house music with their debut album, Homework, French duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo branched out into their love of 70s soul and full-on rock riffs with their follow-up, Discovery. Ostensibly a concept album about their upbringing – using the art of sampling to take all in their influences, from funk to new-wave power-pop, sci-fi movies to anime – it saw the duo make further inroads into the pop charts, with hits such as One More Time, Digital Love and Harder Better Faster Stronger immediately taking their place among the best Daft Punk songs. However, lesser-known gems such as the smooth soul ballad Something About Us prove that Daft Punk’s songwriting prowess went well beyond their turntable skills. With flashes of post-disco colliding with floor-shaking house beats, Discovery was one of the few albums that proved EDM DJs could generate a masterwork to rival their 70s funk idols – and that’s just one reason why it tops our list of the best 2000s albums.

Must hear: One More Time

You know the best 2000s albums, now find out the best 2000s songs.

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