The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

You can have it all, my kingdom of dirt

30. Johnny Cash – “Hurt”
(2003; American)

The Man in Black’s cover of this song makes the Nine Inch Nails original seem childish. Even Trent Reznor has given up ownership of this song—at least emotionally. “Hurt” is Johnny Cash’s song now, may he rest in peace. Cash found an opportunity to exorcise a lifetime of regret and sadness through the closing track of an industrial rock classic, proving his relevance and versatility—two traits that have eluded the majority of rock’s elder statesmen in our musical climate. That “Hurt” was to be his swan song, with Mark Romanek’s devastating video only cementing its reputation as such, is fitting. – Eric Friedman

And I’da danced like the king of the eyesores / And the rest of our lives woulda fared well

29. The Shins – “New Slang (When You Notice the Stripes)”
(2001; Sub Pop)

Was it true? Did this song really change your life as Natalie Portman said it would? Regardless, it changed the lives of the Shins. The Portland by way of Albuquerque band never looked back from the success of this debut single, that really only blew up three years after its release thanks to Garden State. To this day, I still have happy thoughts when I start to hear the rising “ooh”s leading into the first line, “Gold teeth and curse for this town…” Yes, Natalie Portman’s line, as written by Zach Braff, was hyperbole, but if there’s a song that fits the hyperbole, it’s this one. – Terrance Terich

It’s thoughts like this that catch my troubled head when you’re away and I’m missing you to death

28. The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
(2003; Sub Pop)

Unfortunately, I can’t hear this song without thinking of a guy drawing stuff on a whiteboard for UPS, (odd considering the band’s moniker), but it only detracts from the song slightly. It’s been co-opted, covered, captured and creamed into oblivion since its release, but “Such Great Heights” is still a prince among pop songs. The track gained new life as a cover by Iron & Wine, completely changing the tempo and mood of the track, which only went further to prove how well the song was written. Ben Gibbard’s lyrics have always been fairly straightforward, but it seems as though his Postal Service verbiage was top notch. Maybe he should have studied these words before writing that song for New Moon. – Terrance Terich

you think it’s alright

27. Grizzly Bear – “Knife”
(2006; Warp)

As Prince proved over 25 years ago, sometimes the best way to make a song stand out is to remove something from it. Grizzly Bear took this to heart with their outstanding single “Knife,” not by removing one of its sonic components, but its second verse. Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that Ed Droste even bothered writing one. But once this song reaches its mesmerizing, harmonized chorus of “Can ya feel the kni-ee-ife?“, it never goes back. Rather, it descends into roughly three minutes of instrumental psychedelic pop that’s just as gorgeous, but far more spacey and mysterious. “Knife” is one of the band’s catchiest and prettiest songs, for sure, and it never fails to leave its audience wanting more. – Jeff Terich

I got sunshine in a bag

26. Gorillaz – “Clint Eastwood”
(2001; Virgin)

This loping, slightly sinister 4/4 groove was quite possibly the last gasp of all things trip-hop, and it most certainly (save for a brief blip on music’s heart monitor in 2009) killed any serious chance of Damon Albarn re-upping with his old bandmates in Blur. If that’s the dark cloud, though, it came with some serious silver lining in the form of virtual virtuoso musicianship. Animated characters given life by Tank Girl scribe Jamie Hewlett were then given a drawling, dub-meets-Britpop voice by the first and best of the Aughts’ rock/rap collaborations featuring Albarn, Dan the Automator, and Del the Funky Homosapien. – Adam Blyweiss

Would you go along with someone like me?

25. Peter Bjorn and John – “Young Folks”
(2006; V2)

Peter Bjorn and John didn’t exactly sprout from nowhere when they released their outstanding album Writer’s Block—they had a previous album, not to mention production and performance credits on a handful of other records. But by releasing “Young Folks,” the Swedish trio effectively accelerated their ascent from humble indie popsters to nigh household names. With guest vocals from former Concretes frontwoman Victoria Bergsmann, PB&J penned a simple but touching conversation between two paramours, set to one of the coolest bass grooves in pop music. It begins with a sheepish and sincere question: “If you knew my story word for word, had all of my history/ would you go along with someone like me?” There’s not a soul reading this who doesn’t know that kind of lapse in self-confidence or fear, but in the end, what matters is not the past, the young folks or the old folks, but “me and you.” Oh, and whistling. Lots of whistling – Jeff Terich

We try but we didn’t have long

24. Hot Chip – “Boy From School”
(2006; EMI)

Hot Chip are arbiters of fun and kind of the only band to whom the otherwise-nauseating term “electro-pop” even slightly applies. “Boy From School,” or “And I Was A Boy From School” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, equaled any previous estimation of their “electro-pop” worth and then some; if anything it banished euphemism from the conversation. Okay, one of the fools they wrestled was Morrissey, who’s basically a euphemism all his own. Besides that, “Boy From School” sifts flour all over the dance floor, locating euphoria in the gentlest of loops. This being Hot Chip, even Erol Alkan couldn’t fuck it up and he spent ten minutes trying. On that note: “We try but we don’t belong,” that, well that’s just, aww. As for the “Girl From School”…still waiting, dudes. – Anthony Strain

We believe in the sum of ourselves

23. Spoon – “The Way We Get By”
(2003; Merge)

Any kid with a fuzzbox and some leftover Led Zeppelin riffs can crank out a loud rock `n’ roll song, but to make a rock classic out of a piano hook, handclaps and pure swagger takes a unique sort of talent. Britt Daniel has long been a master of spinning next to nothing into gold, and “The Way We Get By” is his most shining moment. A cast of rowdy characters breaks into mobile homes, sparks up in the backseats of cars, and has an Iggy Pop song for all occasions, while Daniel and co-conspirator Jim Eno layer the most insistent piano hook in modern memory over spare handclap percussion. There’s no guitar, and a proper drum beat doesn’t even enter the song until after the second chorus, but it matters not one lick. Everything about this song is pure rock `n’ roll, and not even Jimmy Page himself could make this any more badass. – Jeff Terich

There’s a dark secret in me

22. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”
(2001; Parlophone)

In the United States, Kylie Minogue was just that sweet girl who covered “The Loco-Motion” in 1988. While Minogue receded from American pop music, she reinvented herself as a slick pop diva in Europe and Australia. When “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” was released in 2001, Minogue burst onto the scene with a pop song so blissfully perfect, so sleek and alluring that it caught everyone off guard. Pulsing with desire and steadily seductive synth beats, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is a track that is ultimately about fantasy. As Minogue coos and coquettishly flirts, she embodies fantasy – the perfect pop diva, someone to desire. Yet, just as the object of her obsession is out of her grasp, Minogue is out of ours. Synthetic and coolly distant, the song stands for the hollow obsessions, false promises, and inevitable disappointments of the fantasy, of what is out of reach. Minogue’s purring vocals and the song’s techno sheen capture lust and seduction. Yet it is also distant that each listen buzzes with desire that is so addictive, forcing you to press repeat so that you can stay blissed out on the fantasy of pop. – Jackie Im

Shakedown

21. The Rapture – “House of Jealous Lovers”
(2002; DFA)

When I listen to The Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers” today, I can place the moment in which I first heard the song and what was going on in music at that time. DFA was growing in prominence, the soon-to-be-abandoned genre of dance-punk was getting buzz and “House of Jealous Lovers” was their anthem. The frenetic energy of the track encapsulated all that was good about such a shockingly short-lived movement: buoyant basslines, off-key vocals, and sinewy guitars. Yet despite the utter timeliness of the track, it’s hard to deny that it is also a really awesome song. Although “House of Jealous Lovers” is very much of a time and place (i.e. New York in 2002), it just doesn’t get old. The energy of the track (not to mention that every infectious cowbell) still gets me every time and during the five-minutes of the track, there is nothing more present and exuberant. – Jackie Im

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