The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

Power music electric revival

10. Outkast – “B.O.B.”
(2000; LaFace)

Technically, the ’00s began on January 1, 2000, but the decade didn’t really get going until that fall, when Outkast dropped the bang with Stankonia. The album’s lead single, “B.O.B.” or “Bombs Over Baghdad” exploded with the outer space funk of Parliament and the psychedelic rock of Jimi Hendrix, layered on top of one of the duo’s hottest raps. I distinctly remember hearing my roommate blare this track on my first day of college and truly being blown away, thereby officially declaring the ’90s dead. Little would anyone know how prescient this psych-rap jam would be, as only a few short years later the United States would occupy Iraq after seeing everything go fucking haywire nationally. But even if this song isn’t explicitly political, it was a powerful statement all the same, finally making something useful out of the marriage of rock and rap. Nothing sounded like it upon its arrival, and very little has come close since. The country is still pretty much broken, and with a long way to go. And the state of Outkast these days is pretty ambiguous as well, for that matter. But “B.O.B.” endures, standing tall when everything else has gone to shit. – Jeff Terich

You kept us awake with wolves’ teeth

9. The Knife – “Heartbeats”
(2002; Rabid)

Before Silent Shout made them a well-known and well-respected duo of outlying musical conjurers, Olaf and Karin Dreijer had already made quite the mark in Europe with an anthemic and irresistible electro-pop track by the name of “Heartbeats.” Fellow Swede José González’s intimate, acoustic guitar driven cover ended up in a Sony commercial and brought people back to the fact that the original, while fun and danceable, was also a first class song about young, starry-eyed love. That “Heartbeats” was an integral part in the duo’s post Silent Shout live sets—as a more stripped-down and directly emotional version, nonetheless—is a tribute to The Knife’s ability to recognize the quality of their most commercially viable moment, as well as their willingness to keep the song alive by mutating and revivifying it. – Tyler Parks

People say that you’ll die faster than without water

8. Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)”
(2005; Merge)

Hearing “Rebellion (Lies)” five years after Montreal’s Arcade Fire debuted Funeral, it’s not so surprising that they became so gigantic, even spilling outside a once exclusive indie rock microcosm. The song is simple, combining a two-note bassline with a one-note piano hook, but in its simplicity it speaks multitudes. Never mind the fact that it’s simply one of the catchiest rock songs to emerge in recent years, Win Butler & Co. create a song that is simply massive, recalling the strongest singles by U2, Echo & The Bunnymen and the Talking Heads. Butler runs through his ruminations on different forms of escape, dying, sleeping, dreaming and learning through growth that long-held beliefs can sometimes prove to be false. And with a mighty rush of voices, the group turn the words “Lies! Lies!” into a joyous chant. It’s the kind of song that leaves a heavy impact upon first listen, and one that doesn’t wash off quickly. Needless to say that car ride through Normal Heights on a September 2004 afternoon is certainly one for the record books. – Jeff Terich

They don’t love you like I love you

7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
(2003; Interscope)

When “Maps” first came out, it was hard to believe that the same girl that once uttered, “as a fuck, son you suck” could sing so beautifully and so eloquently a sense of longing and adoration that is embodied in “Maps.” Perhaps that was what made the song so disarming – there was no precedent in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ oeuvre that signaled a song like “Maps.” The beer-soaked art rock was fun and all but didn’t have much emotional heft to it. Accompanied by Nick Zinner’s noise-inflicted yet restrained guitars and Brian Chase’s propulsive drumming, “Maps” is a ballad to end all ballads. Karen O’s then trademark sneer was left at the door and her subdued yet evocative vocals spoke volumes. Even before those tears rolled down her cheeks in the beautifully simple video, O’s vocals are so emotionally wrought that my heart – and likely many others’ – ached along with hers. It was the track that cemented Karen O as a star. So vulnerable, O’s unashamed performance took command and opened herself up at the same time. With a simple emotionally naked chorus of “wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” “Maps” took the love song to a whole new level – real, a little damaged, but true. – Jackie Im

Take your time

6. Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”
(2009; Warp)

Grizzly Bear has always said multi-instrumentalist Christopher Bear was their secret weapon of sorts, but never has that been more apparent than on “Two Weeks.” Co-written with Ed Droste, this sweetly haunting tune takes the band’s affinity for Phil Spector-era girl pop – a strain that reared its head on ’07’s Friend EP with a cover of The Crystal’s “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss),” and takes full bloom here – retools Grizzly Bear’s penchant for saturated vocal polyphony into a crooning, moonstruck symphony. Chiming in with a sharp piano cadence, buzzed-out keys on the low end and an undercurrent of plaited percussion, the song plays like so many ’50s AM standards, but brings out the band members’ individual melodic personalities more clearly than anything Yellow House could have ever allowed. One of the finest moments from one the decade’s finest bands, “Two Weeks” is a watermark for everything the ’00s aspired to. – Dustin Allen

I just want four walls and adobe slabs

5. Animal Collective – “My Girls”
(2009; Domino)

As one of the most adventurous, progressive, and rewarding forces in music of the aughts, Animal Collective have built a career largely reflective of their name, driven by a collaborative and primal experimentalism. Although their commitment to their collective nature has been central, Avey Tare (Dave Portner) has long been credited as the principal songwriter and guiding force of the band. But Animal Collective also seems to be completely unafraid of creative change; members and collaborators often come and go and their sound has evolved noticeably with each release. Unsurprisingly, there’s a considerably wide breadth between the music of 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and earlier works. Beyond their gradual, comprehensive shift toward a more produced and pop-leaning sound, the songwriting of Animal Collective appears to have become more of a shared duty, now decidedly based in the partnership of founding members Avey Tare and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox). The first single from MPP, the irrefutably incredible “My Girls,” is a Panda Bear song through and through. Like much of Lennox’s music, this track pulls heavily from personal experience with lyrics focused on his desire to provide for his wife and daughter. His sweet and intimate thoughts (“There isn’t much that I feel I need / A solid soul and the blood I bleed / With a little girl, and by my spouse / I only want a proper house“) are collected into essentially three consecutive, looping choruses, imbued with tremendous emotion and rich harmonies. Inspired by Frankie Knuckles’ ’80s club jam “Your Love,” Lennox brilliantly harnesses house music repetition with layers of flickering electronic swirls, palpitating percussive bursts, and pulsating, thunderous low-end. The shift in sound from their last full-length is monumental; this song really sounds like nothing they had done up until this point. From its premature leak to the internet, to its official release as a single, and even now, “My Girls” has been seen by many as the defining statement from Merriweather Post Pavilion and it remains a truly massive achievement for Animal Collective, helping to redefine and open up their sound to a whole new audience. – Derek Emery

It was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand

4. Modest Mouse – “Float On”
(2004; Epic)

Released on Valentine’s Day, it’s probably the most positive song Modest Mouse ever recorded. And what a song it is! Quite simply the best song of 2004, “Float On” is one of those tracks that seems magically created, as if by elves or genies. Amongst a group of amazing tracks on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, influenced equally by both the Talking Heads and Tom Waits, “Float On” stood out. The drums were tighter than ever before, the guitar lines bouncier, and Isaac Brock’s voice more affected and optimistic. Brock sings of events that would usually ruin a person’s day, but as he intones, “it was all ok.” It’s not exactly “Climb Every Mountain,” but its message of simply not letting things get you down, and life as something to humor, seems to be a modern idea past its time. – Terrance Terich

Nothing can prepare you for it / the voice, on the other end.

3. LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great”
(2007; DFA)

Leave it to James Murphy to again turn the electro / dance genre on its head. The best single from Sound of Silver has nothing to do with partying or dancing or anything carnal. “Someone Great” has been said to be either about a breakup or a death, and the lyrics, though sometimes intentionally obtuse, lead me to believe the latter. The music starts with an electronic pulsation that is joined by various other keyboard flourishes, all eventually enmeshed in a hypnotic tapestry. But, a closer reading / listening of the lyrics could bring one to tears. Yet, there’s something slightly comforting in the repeated lines, “And it keeps coming `til the day it stops.” Saying goodbye to a loved one has never been so awesome. – Terrance Terich

I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life

2. LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
(2007; DFA)

From time to time, I lose my trust in the value and possibility of expressing and passing along important experiences through song lyrics. It is also true that some song, some songwriter, always comes along who knocks me around a little bit (not physically, fortunately) and reminds me that it can most definitely be valuable and is, if rare, possible. In 2007, James Murphy was an unlikely man to write not only one, but two songs that managed to be earnest without sinking under the heavy weight of the concerns that they gave shape to. “All My Friends” carries traces of the self-consciousness that pervaded “Losing My Edge,” and it is this awareness that makes the song a profound meditation on getting older, changing, looking back, and letting go that avoids clichés and cuts straight to the bone. Beginning from a few brief descriptions, the evocation of some scenes in a life, “All My Friends” builds into a juggernaut steaming along a metronomic beat and some hypnotically looped piano chords, a song that can be understood by almost anyone, but that could only have come into being through a serendipitous meeting of time, place, temperament, and talent. – Tyler Parks

I pack and deliver like UPS trucks

1. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”

(2008; XL)

When I heard “Galang,” I knew M.I.A. was going to be big. When I heard “Paper Planes,” however, I knew she was going to conquer the world. That may be an exaggeration, but certainly not by much. Maya Araprulgasam wasn’t the best selling artist of the decade, or the artist who garnered the most airplay, nor the most prolific. But as an artist, she does not fuck around. “Paper Planes” is a work of pure audacity, sampling the intro from The Clash’s “Straight To Hell,” and then parodying Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” with jarring gunshot and cash register effects. Whether or not you like the song, it’s something you don’t easily forget.

Partly gangsta rap satire, part social commentary and subversive party jam, “Paper Planes” is positively one of the weirdest songs to have ever crashed urban, top 40 and alternative radio, simultaneously (and along with “Crazy,” one of the only ones). Maya packages an almost cartoon-like level of menace into a palatable, albeit sensory overloading package, parodying an insular anti-immigrant view. Both inflammatory and impossibly catchy, it became the song of 2008, appearing in trailers for Pineapple Express, Slumdog Millionaire and, subsequently, Capitalism: A Love Story. Then came the covers, the remixes, and “Swagger Like Us.” Eventually, online gossip rags were talking about the name of her newborn child. Shit got surreal. But then again, surreal is exactly what “Paper Planes” is. Only in M.I.A.’s world can nerve-rattling sound effects, biting satire, punk samples and a child chorus somehow turn into a multi-million-selling crossover hit. – Jeff Terich

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