The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

Baby I’m bad news

140. Rilo Kiley – “Portions for Foxes”
(2004; Reprise)

The trouble with being a nice guy, the harmless guy, the guy who all the girls think of as a `good friend,’ is that you never end up being someone’s `bad idea.’ Jenny Lewis tends to sing a lot about bad choices, and well, sex. “Portions for Foxes” is easily the best example within a rich vein of this theme. Lewis sings of the loss of the magic in a relationship with the wrong guy once sex enters the picture. She’s completely honest about her `using’ to combat loneliness, even to the point of forgiving her partner’s equal indiscretions; yet, all within the context of an incredibly catchy and sensuous rock track. Oh, to be a piece of Jenny Lewis’ bad news… – Terrance Terich

Come out and live with a religious community

139. Boards of Canada – “In a Beautiful Place out in The Country”
(2001; Warp)

Boards of Canada, the enigmatic sibling pair from Scotland, have always seemed to bear their collective soul in their music, and yet they remain distant, remote, and entirely unrevealing. Adhering to similar aesthetics as shoegazing acts from the late ’80s/early 90s, “In a Beautiful Place out in the Country,” comes in musical waves, with bright tones, beautiful leads, and an inculcating melody that sublimely hovers amidst the rest of the song’s components. The music, composed almost entirely of keyboards, computer effects and dubbed beats, has a way of rendering a wholly pastoral and brilliantly psychedelic scene, without relying heavily on offensively trippy or mawkish lyrics. There is nothing contrived about the quivering exquisiteness of Boards of Canada. On “In a Beautiful Place out in The Country,” the duo prove once again they are the masters of taking a simple song seem completely other worldly just by applying heavily affected and evocative vocals to a meditative chord progression, repeated an unsettlingly number of times. Without question, the band’s MO has been instilling a lasting impression on their listeners that keeps them coming back again and again. – Ryan Agnew

It’s the freakin’ weekend

138. R. Kelly – “Ignition (Remix)”
(2003; Jive)

R. Kelly was, without question, one of the more enigmatic figures in pop music during this past decade. For casual listeners, it was probably pretty surprising that the guy responsible for reasonably tame mid-90s standards like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)” would ultimately leave us with such an eccentric – and often brilliant – legacy for the aughts. And though Kelly’s magnum opus may indisputably be that tour-de-force known as “Trapped in the Closet,” I’d say that “Ignition (Remix)” stands as his single most enjoyable and valuable contribution to R&B. Of course, the incredible vibe of this bubbly, smoothed-out weekend/party-jam is the most immediately engrossing element. Driven by a bouncing guitar loop and accompanying fills, sparse piano chords, an infectious bass hook, string swells, playful hi-hat and perfectly placed, syncopated drum stutters, it’s pretty flawless, but it’s not until the lyrical content unfolds that you realize Kells has completely outdone himself. It’s continuously mind-blowing; you can pick lines at random and expect to find genius. Whether it’s giggle-inducing wordplay (“The way you do the things you do / reminds me of my Lexus coupe / That’s why I’m all up in your grill / tryin’ to get ya to a hotel“), hilarious onomatopoeia (“So baby gimme that toot-toot / And lemme give ya that beep-beep“), the utterly inexplicable (“Bounce bounce bounce bounce…”), or repeated declarations of the fact that this is indeed the remix of “Ignition,” there is simply nothing here but pure gold. Full of this kind of self-referential humor and more fun than almost anything this side of the year 2000, this career-defining track from R. Kelly is essential listening. – Derek Emery

Better use your Nikes

137. T.I. – “What You Know”
(2006; Grand Hustle-Atlantic)

“What You Know” doesn’t merely bump, it shatters. It pulverizes. It liquefies. Toomp’s gargantuan synth production reconfigures the chord progression from “Hey Joe” into a superhuman hip-hop symphony. It’s almost offensive how incredibly huge this song is. Of course, it’s also just plain amazing. T.I., himself, sounds inspired and empowered, laying down verse after boastful verse that doesn’t just serve as chest puffery, but quite appropriate given the over-the-top backdrop. Perhaps the emcee’s next couple of years are ones that didn’t quite turn out so positive, but when he was on top, he sounded unstoppable. Should you find yourself facing an opponent with this as his ring music, my best advice is to keep dancing. – Jeff Terich

Kiss every comma in your checklist

136. Q and Not UOn Play Patterns
(2002; Dischord)

Q and Not U’s “Soft Pyramids” begins inscrutably enough as it is, a strange sort of post-hardcore cheerleading exercise that finds frontman Chris Richards spelling out S-O-F-T P-Y-R-A-M-I-D-S E-V-A-P-O-R-A-T-E. But from there, only more questions are asked, such as “how can we ask for a blanket and a habitat?” and “how can we ask for the brightest cities every night?” Confused yet? It’s understandable if you are, but the hypnotic rhythm of the song, driven with punk urgency but restrained and minimal, is such a bold and mesmerizing statement that, somehow, Richards’ head-scratching rhetoric starts to make sense within the constraints of this peculiar construct. And on the flipside, the Washington, D.C. trio only compounded their curiously hypnotic approach with “Ten Thousand Animal Calls,” a track that maximizes aggression while minimizing downstrokes. Q and Not U were one of a few bands born from post-hardcore to understand and perfect the art of the single. They were also one of the weirdest, and as such their singles were better art than commerce. – Jeff Terich

The air is thick, and smellin’ right

135. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body”
(2003; Island)

JT bets that he’d have you nekkid by the end of this song, and with his looks, charisma and talent, not to mention his somewhat infamous established track record with the ladies, he’d probably be right. However, it’d be easy to simply dismiss Justin Timberlake as mere eye candy. He’s ear candy as well, and there’s no booty-bumpin’ jam as retro fabulous as “Rock Your Body.” As Michael Jackson became creepy, and a mere cartoon version of himself, JT picked up MJ’s dropped torch and ran with it. No party is complete without this declaration of Justin’s independence. Now, I can’t dance a lick, but I usually can’t help myself upon hearing the opening rhythmic bass lines. You all can meet me in the middle of the floor. – Terrance Terich

If there’s one thing I could never confess, it’s that I can’t dance a single step

134. Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!”
(2007; Wichita)

To know Los Campesinos! is to know unbridled exuberance. The Welsh septet rarely delivers a song without the giddiness factor cranked up to 11, and “You! Me! Dancing!” is no exception. Yet this nearly seven-minute epic stands as a titan among the group’s numerous spectacular singles. From near silence it rumbles and roars toward a stomping, clapping, rollicking pace, transforming into a pied piper’s call to all awkward, lanky, twee-loving kids to hop around and wriggle like the indie rock muppets they are. When lead Campesino Gareth intones, “If there’s one thing I could never confess, it’s that I can’t dance a single step,” he’s just lending his audience the comfort of good company. Who cares what you look like when you’re having this much fun. – Jeff Terich

This morning I woke up, feeling brand new

133. Talib Kweli – “Get By”
(2003; Rawkus)

Apparently the perfect formula for a classic hip-hop track includes equal parts Nina Simone, gospel and a wounded conscience. Kanye West had a great idea when he layered pieces of “Sinnerman” with some minor key piano and clacking percussion. But it became an even better one when Talib Kweli dropped his rapid-fire state-of-the-union lyrics on top, addressing the same social concerns he typically does, but with a laser focus, honing his skills for his most jaw-dropping performance to date. Even the once dated-sounding “We go through episodes too/ like Attack of the Clones” couplet elicits a smile. But nothing can top its ascendant gospel choir chorus, with its pledge to do better and to strive for self-improvement. This is Kweli’s best song, and maybe West’s best track as well. I ain’t bullshitting you. – Jeff Terich

Don’t you put me on the backburner

132. The Killers – “All These Things That I’ve Done”
(2004; Island)

Call it an anthem for the new millennium, or possibly just nonsensical rhyming words, there’s no denying that the Killers struck a chord with “All These Things That I’ve Done.” When Coldplay, U2 and an entire Live8 crowd incorporate your words into their own songs, you have more than just a modest hit on your hands. We tend to forget the majority of the song, the part that tries to find hope amidst hopelessness and instead focus on the soul / soldier routine. Either way, a great song has nearly collapsed under the weight of its own hype. – Terrance Terich

Hypermediocrity

131. Fischerspooner – “Emerge”
(2001; Gigolo )

Snobbier DJs like to pretend turn-of-the-century electroclash didn’t exist. But even the vinyliest admit it’s way better than what came after: e.g. nu-rave, Klaxons and the horrors of bloghouse. Fischerspooner, for their part, never really answered to electroclash; they were more like NSFW avatars of genre abolition. Naturally they made the closest thing to an anthem the movement ever had; “Emerge” explodes, ailerons awry, and pretty much demolishes any dance track of the era in terms of hard flight. “Blue Monday”‘s oompa-oompa takes two in the chest and keeps riding ponies; rubber-edged textures pelvis each other into gridlock; voiced-over “hypermediocrity” argues the subsequent “feels good/looks good” to a hideous denouement. It got my vote for top single of the decade and deniers can eat my perfect pout. – Anthony Strain

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