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Best 2000s Songs: 20 Feel-Good Tracks From The Noughties
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List & Guides

Best 2000s Songs: 20 Feel-Good Tracks From The Noughties

From pop-punk protest anthems to eccentric rap gems, the best 2000s songs grappled with a war-torn world with life-affirming pop statements.

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It’s not easy to examine the 2000s without acknowledging the impact of 9/11. Living in a post-terrorism age beset by worry and anxiety, it’s hardly surprising that much of the era’s music soundtracked the times with powerful pop classics that sought to marry upbeat hooks with worldly-wise messages of unity.

From the unexpected comeback of indie rock to the innovative spirit of US hip-hop, the decade saw many genres transcend tribal loyalties, reminding us how what we shared was far more important than what we had lost. Here, then, is our list of the best 2000s songs…

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

20: Green Day: American Idiot (from ‘American Idiot’, 2004)

In the wake of 9/11 and the onset of George W Bush’s “war on terror”, pop-punk stalwarts Green Day engineered an audacious political statement with their 2004 album, American Idiot, which came imbued with the same generation-defining ambition of The Who’s rock opera Tommy. Not only one of the best Green Day songs but also one of the best protest songs of the 21st century, the album’s title track addressed North America’s standing in the world, reaching No.3 in the UK and topping the US Modern Rock Tracks chart in the process. With singer Billie Joe Armstrong bemoaning his fellow countrymen (“I don’t wanna be an American idiot”), the track easily became one of the best 2000s songs for the fearless way in which it squared up to media manipulation amid the societal fallout of the Iraq War.

19: Red Hot Chili Peppers: Can’t Stop (from ‘By The Way’, 2003)

With guitarist John Frusciante’s choppy, intermittent funk riffs and Anthony Kiedis’ free-association wordplay, Can’t Stop peaked at No.22 in the UK back in February 2003. Released as the third single from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ eighth album, By the Way, it finds its way into our list of the best 2000s songs thanks to its bizarre improvisatory feel and its surreal lyrical curveballs (“Go ask the dust for any answers/Come back strong with 50 belly dancers”). What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as ours.

18: Kanye West: Jesus Walks (from ‘The College Dropout’, 2004)

Bringing backpack rap and conscious lyricism back into the hip-hop mainstream, Kanye West’s gospel-tinged 2004 single Jesus Walks won three Grammy awards. Referencing the “war on terror” and casting a critical eye over hip-hop’s prevailing bling culture, the song reached No.11 on the US Hot 100 while bemoaning modern civilization’s spiritual bankruptcy (“They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotape/But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?”). As one of the best 2000s songs, Jesus Walks heralded the arrival of a true hip-hop legend.

17: Coldplay: Yellow (from ‘Parachutes’, 2000)

With their debut album, Parachutes, Coldplay began their ascendancy as one of the best 2000s bands to emerge from the UK. Their breakthrough hit, Yellow, captured the public’s attention like a post-Britpop Wonderwall, thanks to its whirling distortion and singer Chris Martin’s anthemic Jeff Buckley-esque vocals. Hitting No.4 in the UK right off the bat and winning a BRIT Award for Best Single, Yellow is not only one of the best Coldplay songs but also an era-defining slice of post-millennial longing among the best 2000s songs.

16: Missy Elliott: Get Ur Freak On (from ‘Miss E… So Addictive’, 2001)

Cooked up in collaboration with hip-hop super-producer Timbaland (aka Tim Mosley), the floor-shaking Get Ur Freak On scored Missy Elliott a UK Top 5 hit in 2001 by sampling an infectious groove from Punjabi bhangra music. Dripping with eclecticism, the song is a sonic melting pot of cross-cultural sounds from across the globe, kicking off with a Japanese spoken-word intro and inviting Missy to spit her rhymes in our faces like a possessed shaman. An inescapable presence on the 2000s music scene, Get Ur Freak On opened our ears to the limitless possibilities of contemporary hip-hop and R&B.

15: My Chemical Romance: Welcome To The Black Parade (from ‘The Black Parade’, 2006)

Taking emo-punk to operatic levels, My Chemical Romance’s UK No.1 single, Welcome To The Black Parade, spoke to a generation of Gen Y teens who were in thrall to Kerrang! TV and WWE entrance music. With eye shadow and dyed hair, frontman Gerard Way was the poster boy for a sound that resonated against the doom-laden backdrop of a post-9/11 world. Influenced as much by the classic rock operas of The Who and Pink Floyd as it was by Green Day and blink-182, Welcome To The Black Parade quickly asserted itself as one of the best My Chemical Romance songs, inviting teenage outcasts to join the group on their gothic carnival of catharsis.

14: Muse: Plug In Baby (from ‘Origin Of Symmetry’, 2001)

As the lead single from Muse’s 2001 album, Origin Of Symmetry, Plug In Baby was an insanely ambitious, riff-heavy squall of noise that tore Muse frontman Matt Bellamy’s anguished falsetto from his soul. Peaking at No.11 in the UK, there were hints that Plug In Baby touched upon the Devonshire rock gods’ more prog-oriented impulses, influenced as it was by classical composers such as Bach, and nodding towards Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings. Luckily, the song rocked much heavier than a string quartet, and it saw Muse become one of the best 2000s bands, as well as the decade’s must-see touring act.

13: The White Stripes: Seven Nation Army (from ‘Elephant’, 2003)

Jamming a memorable riff out of thin air during a soundcheck, Jack White of The White Stripes couldn’t possibly imagine how iconic Seven Nation Army would become. Not only did the single reach No.7 in the UK in February 2003, but it rapidly became one of the best football songs chanted on terraces in large crowds right up to the present day. An instant earworm, Seven Nation Army was arguably the most successful garage rock-gem to emerge from the gold mine of the New Rock Revolution.

12: Linkin Park: In The End (from ‘Hybrid Theory’, 2001)

One of the leading lights of the nu-metal explosion, Linkin Park sold 27 million copies of their debut album, Hybrid Theory, becoming the biggest rock band the world had seen since Nirvana. Released as a single in October 2001, In The End was a rage-filled fusion of hip-hop and alternative metal which reached No.2 on the US Hot 100 and was immediately embraced as one of the best 2000s songs. Thanks to Chester Bennington’s impassioned wail and Mike Shinoda’s rap-inspired flow, it paved the way for the best Linkin Park songs to welcome a heady and distinctive style of metal back into the bosom of stadium rock.

11: Eminem: Stan (featuring Dido) (from ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’, 2000)

Introducing the term “stanning” into popular lexicon as a description of obsessive fan worship, Eminem’s 2000 single Stan saw the man born Marshall Mathers rap from the perspective of a deranged fan who kills his girlfriend before the rapper has a chance to respond to his letter. Featuring a sample from British singer Dido’s Thank You, its horrorcore vibe fanned the flames of Eminem’s infamy, terrifying parents with the unfiltered violence of the music their kids listened to. As one of the best-selling artists of the 21st century, no matter how divisive Eminem was, he wasted no time in remaking hip-hop in his own peroxide-blond image.

10: The Strokes: Last Nite (from ‘Is This It’, 2001)

Vaunted by NME as the saviours of rock’n’roll, The Strokes ignited a wave of garage-rock revivalism thanks to their 2001 hit Last Nite. Inspired by the New York City cool of The Velvet Underground and the angular riffs of CBGB favourites Talking Heads, Last Nite became one of the best 2000s songs and birthed a whole new breed of guitar-based indie groups. It cannot be overstated how hugely influential The Strokes were: the Hedi Slimane-indebted look of Julian Casablancas alone kept the shelves of Topman stocked with skinny jeans and vintage T-shirts for the next ten years. Few bands can lay claim to that.

9: Amy Winehouse: Back To Black (from ‘Back To Black’, 2006)

The late R&B/pop sensation Amy Winehouse burned brightly and briefly, reaching her zenith when teaming up with producer Mark Ronson for her 2006 album, Back To Black. Its title track – a piano ballad inspired by producer Phil Spector’s work with 60s girl groups such as The Ronettes – saw Winehouse deliver one of the best breakup songs of all time with typically frank candour. Perhaps the finest of Amy Winehouse’s signature songs, Back To Black reached No.25 in the UK while its parent album went on to sell 16 million copies worldwide, leaving no doubt as to Winehouse’s reputation as one of the best female singers of her generation.

8: Gnarls Barkley: Crazy (from ‘St Elsewhere’, 2006)

When producer Danger Mouse and former Goodie Mob MC Cee-Lo Green teamed up as Gnarls Barkley, they scored themselves an instant UK No.1 hit with Crazy, a psychedelic soul ballad inspired by Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks. Making history as the most downloaded song in the UK at the time, and selling 1.8 million copies, Crazy revolutionised how soul music could sound in the 21st century. With its Portishead-like groove, the song also exemplified Danger Mouse’s unique production style, leading him to work with acts as wide-ranging as Beck, The Black Keys and Adele.

7: Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out (from ‘Franz Ferdinand’, 2004)

The band that put Domino Records on the map, Scottish group Franz Ferdinand brought danceability back to indie rock with their 2004 single Take Me Out. Reaching No.3 in the UK and No.66 in the US, the song’s Chic-style art-punk guitar work helped it become one of the best 2000s songs, bringing a touch of disco relish to the post-punk revival buffet. Still sounding as fresh as the day it was released, Take Me Out had us in its crosshairs from the moment Franz Ferdinand stepped into the fray.

6: Kylie Minogue: Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (from ‘Fever’, 2001)

Written by former glam rocker and Mud frontman Rob Davis and Spice Girls songwriter Cathy Dennis, the techno-pop banger Can’t Get You Out of My Head relaunched Kylie Minogue’s career and paved the way for her sizzling comeback album, Fever. Reaching No.1 in the UK following its release, in September 2001, the song brazenly flirted with a thumping nu-disco groove that sold five million copies worldwide and, quite literally, has been stuck in our heads ever since. Unsurprisingly topping most lists of the best Kylie Minogue songs, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is proof of the indomitable staying power of the perfect pop song.

5: The Killers: Mr Brightside (from ‘Hot Fuss’, 2003)

The very definition of “the gift that keeps on giving”, The Killers’ 2003 single Mr Brightside is an indie disco classic. Taking their name from the fictional band in the music video for Crystal by New Order, the group mixed the new wave synth-rock of Duran Duran with the power-chord melee of The Cars to craft Mr Brightside’s arms-aloft tale of a green-eyed lover (“Jealousy, turning saints into the sea”). Still capable of denting the UK singles chart today, Mr Brightside has sold over 3.5 million copies to date, more than securing its place among the best 2000s songs.

4: Daft Punk: One More Time (from ‘Discovery’, 2001)

Branching out into smooth 70s soul and funk-inspired cuts on their 2001 sophomore album, Discovery, Daft Punk’s house anthem One More Time saw the group dabble in an Auto-Tuned Kraftwerk-style vocal from Romanthony, laid on a groove plucked from Eddie Johns’ 1979 disco curio, More Spell On You. Peaking at No.1 in the UK, the song was immediately hailed as one of the best Daft Punk songs, and it remains one of the most euphoric and memorable club tracks of the decade.

3: M.I.A.: Paper Planes (from ‘Kala’, 2008)

Sampling the main hook from Straight To Hell by punk icons The Clash, the incendiary UK hip-hop innovator M.I.A. gave Paper Planes a politically revolutionary edge inspired by the difficulty she faced attempting to acquire a Visa as a child of Sri Lankan immigrants. Homing in on the proliferation of gun violence in the Third World and the money-grabbing thuggery of modern capitalism, Paper Planes reached No.4 on the US Hot 100, its social relevance making it a seminal influence on the sound of contemporary hip-hop.

2: OutKast: Hey Ya! (from ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’, 2003)

In releasing their 2003 single Hey Ya!, Atlanta rap duo OutKast – comprised of Big Boi and André 3000 – created a watershed moment in pop culture. An acoustic pop smash that brought the playful eclecticism of Prince into the hip-hop mainstream, the song hit No.3 in the UK and No.1 in the US, and allowed André 3000 to shine as the eccentric maverick he truly is. With a touch of amiable innuendo (“Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbour”) and a dash of retro reference points (“Shake it like a Polaroid picture”), OutKast gifted us one of the best 2000s songs, turning in one of hip-hop’s most historic success stories to boot.

1: Gorillaz: Feel Good Inc. (featuring De La Soul) (from ‘Demon Days’, 2005)

Kicking off with the manic laughter of Maseo, from alt-rap trio De La Soul, Feel Good Inc., by Gorillaz, was released as the lead single from the animated group’s acclaimed second album, Demon Days. Peaking at No.2 in the UK, it saw Blur songwriter Damon Albarn expertly mix his pop sensibilities with old-school hip-hop’s commitment to keeping it real. Providing a commentary on corporate control and the self-serving pleasure-seeking at the heart of that decade’s era of rampant consumerism, Feel Good Inc. is a multi-layered pop-rap classic which more than deserves its place at the top our list of the best 2000s songs.

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