The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

They are gods, they are lightning

40. M83 – “Kim and Jessie”
(2008; Mute)

I was born in the early `80s, so my memories of that decade are twofold: childhood ones and vicarious ones told through John Hughes movies and great New Wave tracks. Now I can add M83’s fantastic Saturdays = Youth to that list of vicarious `80s memories. Making music for his teenage years, Anthony Gonzales blends vintage 4AD with the best elements of Thompson Twins, OMD and Psychedelic Furs to create songs that capture all the romance, yearning and angst that Hughes’ films articulated so perfectly. “Kim & Jessie” exemplified all of that and more. Dreamy synths, perfectly icy tom hits, and detached vocals, Gonzales did more than imitate the `80s here – he embodied it. “Kim & Jessie” is a wildly potent song, beautifully evoking secret romances, stolen glances all with a perfectly composed synthesizer line. – Jackie Im

We have 200 couches where you can sleep tonight

39. InterpolInterpol EP
(2002; Matador)

This New York quartet had flights of rhythmic fancy which early on got them lumped in with the dance-rock explosion endemic to that location. Yet there was and still is something askew with their grooves, undercut by flashbacks to the musical misanthropy of Joy Division or, better yet, The Fall. The bow of Interpol’s first full-length Turn on the Bright Lights in August 2002 was presaged by a three-tracker in June that teased this heartbreak and, more importantly, managed to place it into a context. Closing song “Specialist” is now a midtempo rarity treasured by longtime fans, but the first two songs cover the most sonic and emotional ground: The swinging “PDA” (“We have 200 couches where you can/ Sleep tight, grim rite“) and especially the dirgelike echoes in “NYC” (“Subway she is a porno/ And the pavements they are a mess“) channel imagery recalling the September 11 terrorist attacks and invoke feelings encapsulating the city’s sense of anxiety mere months removed from them. – Adam Blyweiss

Feeling…

38. Hercules and Love Affair – “Blind”
(2008; DFA)

Disco never did die and that fact was made clear to a whole lot of people when “Blind” surfaced in 2008, pouring like honey from club soundsystems, transmitted across radio waves, and, perhaps most prominently, being written about and posted by a broad expanse of internet sources, from long time disco acolytes to those soon to be swept under by the “resurgence” of the sound. While Antony is great elsewhere on the Hercules debut, he is a revelation on “Blind,” the melancholic disco diva he was born to be sooner or later. The track was a long time in the making and, as it turned out, Andy Butler revived it at just the right time to shake asses and tug at heartstrings the world over. A quintessential moment for DFA and the decade in music as a whole. – Tyler Parks

I found a world so new

37. Avalanches – “Since I Left You”
(2001; Modular)

While the art of turntablism can certainly be expressed through technical prowess (see DJ Qbert), I’ve always felt that true talent as a DJ lies in the subtler marvels – the capacity to mold, interpret and respond to the mood of your audience, extensive knowledge of a wide breadth of music, and perhaps most importantly, the extraordinary ability to seamlessly connect or interweave an array of songs or samples. And though The Avalanches may claim they’re “not really DJs,” they have done more digging in the crates and boast significantly more skill than most. Technically crafted with Yamaha Promix 01 and Akai S2000 samplers as opposed to turntables, their staggering debut record is an impossibly dense tapestry woven from more than a thousand manipulated, mostly obscure samples. The title track and album opener from Since I Left You is magnificent in its construction and as a single, perfectly embodying the richness and unrelenting energy of the album. “Since I Left You” seems to spirit you away to some sort of mystical dance party almost immediately as playful acoustic guitars give way and countless layers of sound begin to build upon one another. This deft blend of breakbeats, sweet vocal harmonies, swirling strings, cascading flutes, woozy organs, and seemingly a hundred other things is nothing short of gloriously uplifting, it’s adjoined vocal sample declaring “Since I left you / I found the world so new” in harmonious elation. It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since this song was released, but its continued presence and influence in much of the last decade’s dance and sample-based music is testament to its value. – Derek Emery

If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you, son / I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one…Hit Me!

36. Jay-Z – “99 Problems”
(2004; Roc-a-Fella)

If “Izzo” is the anthem, getcha damn hands up, then “99 Problems” is the rallying cry of freedom. Yes, this song became my ringtone (the Dangermouse version) after my divorce, and I realize how dated that sounds already. Every version I’ve heard of this song, and there are many, carries the requisite venom inherent in the lyrics. And a dangerous song needs a dangerous video, doesn’t it? Mark Romanek directed the video, one which had to carry a special intro upon aring, depicting Jay-Z’s grisly death at the end. Only Rick Rubin would combine a Billy Squier riff with a Mountain track for a hip-hop track. It was one of many great tracks from The Black Album, but this one stands out for me in particular. Although I’ve had quite a few setbacks in the last five years, I can definitely say, “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one.” – Terrance Terich

It’s twenty seconds till the last call

35. Phoenix – “1901”
(2009; Glassnote)

The fuzzed-out guitar/keyboard/whatever that hammers out the first chord of this song is probably your best bet at bringing an instant smile to someone’s face, at least until we all grow tired of hearing it (I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet, but this song is that good). This is a motherfucker of a pop tune. Everybody loves it. My friends and I threw it on at a New Year’s Eve party, and half the room got up to dance. The other half was dancing by the end. The worst thing about it is that it’s over before you know it, but no one’s going to protest when you repeat it. They were thinking the same thing, trust me. If you somehow haven’t heard this yet, you need to get on that because your life has a gaping hole in it. If you hate this song, you need to let go of that hipster backlash-reflex bullshit, because you know you love it deep down. “Fold it, fold it, fold it, fold it,” or some shit. – Eric Friedman

1, 2, 3, 4 – Fight

34. Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.”
(2007; Ed Banger)

This song was totally rinsed by about Thursday of the week it came out, which speaks more to the cultural aneurysm it caused than any kind of rush to judgment. Justice’s status as arena-dance heroes never should have been in doubt, really, but “D.A.N.C.E.” sealed it by invoking about 200 kinds of pop history at once. It was “Raspberry Beret” signed, sealed, delivered in a brand new bag and if the ironic-dance era’s largely passed into legend don’t blame the Justice bros. “D.A.N.C.E.” provided utter cachet for a generation of hipster-squigglers, none of whom will ever be completely sure it didn’t probe them in their sleep. – Anthony Strain

We gonna celebrate

33. Daft Punk – “One More Time”
(2001; Virgin)

French dance duo Daft Punk had written the definitive (some would say final) chapter on 1990s big beat woven around the spare kick of tracks like “Da Funk” and “Around the World” on Homework. They ended up starting off the next decade with something much more full-bodied. Auto-tune would become the bane of rhythmic music by the end of the 2000s, but it perfectly complemented Romanthony’s guest spot of joyous lyrical minimalism. The synths on “One More Time” were compressed to the point of some sawtoothed hybrid sound of horns and harmonica, yet it signaled release and rush more so than aggravation. It all could have been annoying and misconstrued—and in later years, by lesser acts, it was—but their Discovery centerpiece remains a crown jewel of mainstream electronica. – Adam Blyweiss

There’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck

32. Radiohead – “There There”
(2003; Parlophone)

Hail To The Thief, or The One Radiohead Album Not Everyone Likes, is pretty angry in retrospect. What they were mad at isn’t clear. Just kidding, it was themselves. I mean it was no Hello, I Must Be Going or anything but still. “2+2=5”? Angry. “Where I End And You Begin”? Angrier. By the time you get to “There There” your ears have a nosebleed, and what’s a single doing down there in the no. 9 slot anyway? But what I was telling you is this: nothing angry about “There There.” It may be laced with hallucinogenic crystals but Thom Yorke’s voice gets as glorified as it ever gets, walking in your landscape. I was also telling you about the drums, the drums, the drums: three kits cobbled and varied, whanging, clacking, whirring away. “Just cause you feel it doesn’t mean it’s there” goes the immortal line and Yorke doesn’t sound smug, only satisfied. There may be others, but this is One Radiohead Song Everyone Likes. – Anthony Strain

Ha, ha ha…bless your soul

31. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”
(2006; Downtown)

Gnarls Barkley, the joint effort of producer Dangermouse and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (of Goodie Mob), was a success that caught just about everyone by surprise, initially driven completely out of the blue into the pop mainstream by their undeniable debut single “Crazy.” Their groundbreaking chart performance – it became the first song to top the charts in the UK exclusively through digital sales, maintaining its No. 1 spot for nine consecutive weeks, and has gone on to become one of the best selling singles of the decade – was matched with extensive critical praise and endless blog buzz that seemed to cut across genre and taste, finding fans of pop, indie, hip-hop, R&B, soul, and whatever else in stark agreement. Dangermouse has described the song as “straight Spaghetti Western,” which is appropriate since it samples “Nel Cimitero di Tucson” from the Spaghetti Western “Preparati La Bara! (or Viva Django),” leaving “Crazy” full of Morricone-esque, mournful choral chants and tension inducing strings. That distinctive, psychedelia-tinged ’60s quality is further cemented by Cee-Lo’s moving vocal work, which at once recalls great soul crooners of yore, but also somehow feels very much apart of the here and now. And while this skillful, postmodern amalgamation of diverse elements both retro and contemporary probably contributed greatly to its appeal, it’s difficult to truly quantify what ensured this single’s widespread popularity. Ultimately “Crazy” appeared to be a song infused with something special, propelled by an intangible force hidden within its folds. – Derek Emery

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