The Best Singles of the ’00s

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Best Singles of the 00s

When the hammer hits, your head splits like banana

110. Dizzee Rascal – “Fix Up, Look Sharp”
(2003; XL)

Dizzee Rascal is easily one of Britain’s biggest hip-hop acts, yet his signature grime style has yet to translate stateside. Listening to the superb “Fix Up, Look Sharp” that seems inexplicable. This ferocious first single is pure muscular aggression complete with the most badass Billy Squire sample ever. Banging drums and Dizzee’s own acrobatic delivery hides the stark production, creating a tense dynamic that gives the song a sense of urgency and even cartoonish masculinity (your head splits like a banana, for one). While Dizzee Rascal would follow up “Fix Up, Look Sharp” with more challenges and surprises, it was still one hell of a first impression. – Jackie Im

The shop fronts on Holly are dirty words/ Asterisks in for the vowels

109. Death Cab For Cutie – “A Movie Script Ending”
(2002; Fierce Panda)

In the past decade, or more specifically the last seven years, Death Cab For Cutie went from humble indie rock heroes to alt-rock superstars, ultimately landing in the cushy position of having the lead single on a teenage vampire sequel and a frontman with the lucky distinction of being Mr. Zooey Deschanel. Yet mainstream radio missed out on the group’s best single by a year or so. “A Movie Script Ending,” the glorious second track form their creative peak, The Photo Album, is a proper snapshot of the band at their best. Harmonized guitars interlock in a mesmerizing progression, while Ben Gibbard delivers detailed descriptions of a scene he’s returned to so many times: “And the shop fronts on Holly are dirty words/ Asterisks in for the vowels/ We peered through the windows/ new bottoms on barstools/ but the people remain the same.” And even with the song’s humble subject matter of a place known and frequently left behind, there’s a romantic feeling beneath each scene captured, intensified with the group’s sweeping and meticulously crafted arrangement. It’s as poetic and sophisticated as pop songs come. – Jeff Terich

I wish I could buy back the woman you stole

108. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Y Control”
(2004; Interscope)

Somewhere between the unhinged id of songs like “Tick” and the gorgeously delicate “Maps,” lies “Y Control.” Built around Nick Zinner’s angular, tenuous guitars, “Y Control” is brash, treading the line between chaos and control, at the same time emotionally bare and aching. When Karen O sings “I wish I could buy back / the woman you stole,” my heart aches as I know exactly what she means. Break-ups aren’t easy and “Y Control” articulates that so well – from the heartache to the anger to the acceptance, it’s all there. Backed up by Zinner’s blazing guitars and Brian Chase’s explosive drumming, Karen O delivers a subdued performance, but one that captures so much. Like on “Maps,” Karen O’s restrained performance doesn’t mean to say shielded, rather her performance is as raw as Zinner and Chase’s instrumentation. “Y Control” may not have been the hit that “Maps” was, but it has just as much emotional wallop. – Jackie Im

Baby you’re making a fool of me

107. Beyonce ft. Jay-Z – “Crazy In Love”
(2003; Columbia)

From the first moments to the last “uh ohs,” Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” is all horns, all bombast, and all hard beats. The song comes as you with brutal force – Phil Spector had a Wall of Sound, this here is a like a Mack truck coming at you at full speed. There really wasn’t a way to avoid it; the song wouldn’t dare let you. It’s fitting that such a song would once and for all break Beyonce’s ties with Destiny’s Child and cement her status as a solo artist. Beyonce delivers a performance that is powerful, at once poised and emotionally raw – feral even – overshadowing a guest turn by paramour Jay-Z. Couple that with a killer sped-up Chi-Lites sample and percussion to die for, “Crazy In Love” is pretty much unstoppable. Sure Beyonce was a star prior to this, but “Crazy In Love” put her at a whole new level. In short: B killed it. – Jackie Im

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106. Sigur Rós– “Untitled #1”
(2003; FatCat)

This was my introduction to Sigur Rós—I was 15 years old and a friend made this the opener on a mix of the band’s music. I vividly remember sitting in the back of my mom’s minivan with headphones on, trembling as that voice rose from the funereal bed of organ, piano, and strings. It sounded like an angel whispering in my ear. Staring out the window at the gray winter evening, I wanted to weep. It sounds so childish and overdramatic as I retell it now; I hadn’t yet heard any songs from the superior Ágætis byrjun, nor had I seen the overreaching post-apocalyptic playground video for the song, and I was too young to realize how gimmicky it was to repeat the nonsensical “you xylo la fi, you so li, you so” for an entire album and call it a made up language. Knowing all this now, I still find myself swallowing a lump in my throat as I listen. – Eric Friedman

Say you like it, say you need it, when you don’t

105. The Knife – “We Share Our Mother’s Health”
(2006; Brille-Mute)

The Knife’s Silent Shout is an album that bends and wheezes like the chilly haunt of a winter ghost. And yet, smack in the middle of the album is a single that plows like a Yeti through that paper-thin ambience. “We Share Our Mother’s Health” bounces and spikes, throbs and pounds. It’s a monster. In fact, it’s damn near industrial (true story: a friend of mine briefly mistook the group for Project Pitchfork). Nevermind the fact that the duo is singing about gathering fruit in a forest. This song may as well be an S&M fantasy. And if that’s not your thing, then you can appreciate it for the explosive dance track that it is. – Jeff Terich

It’s raining

104. Rihanna ft. Jay-Z – “Umbrella”
(2007; Def Jam)

Under different circumstances, “Umbrella” could have been a ballad. It’s a love song, and an especially novel one for adhering closely to themes of fidelity and loyalty. It’s probably a safe bet that nobody was shopping this song to R. Kelly before Rihanna took it on. Yet with some monolithic production from The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, “Umbrella” became something larger than pop music itself. It bumps hard; it even kind of rocks, which makes Travis Barker’s guitar-heavy remix essentially redundant. It’s hard to imagine any guitar slinger (or drummer as the case may be) making this thing any heavier. Of course, the song’s hugeness was reflected in its ubiquity, becoming one of the biggest hits of the decade and ultimately being lampooned by The Office‘s Ed Helms. I’m sure I’ve heard it 100 times by now, but this much I know: it still bumps, and I still smile every time it’s on. – Jeff Terich

My car keys are jinglin’ in my hand

103. Amerie – “1 Thing”
(2005; Columbia)

Pop music has a rich history of songs that bludgeon with ambiguity, and while sometimes it works (see: “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”), it more often than not is just obnoxious (see: “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”). Amerie’s “1 Thing” happens to belong in the former category, the rare sort of single that makes something worthwhile out of an empty field teased ad nauseam. In her case, that “one thing” isn’t such a mystery, at least not in the general sense (“It’s this one thing that’s got me trippin’…it’s this one thing you did, oh oh oh oh“). Most importantly, however, she sells it through some fiery, chopped-up funk production served up from “Crazy In Love” producer Rich Harrison. Rather than seduce with sultry grooves, it bangs and crashes, throbs and seethes with the raw energy of a rock song. Combine that fierce musical energy with this diva’s awesome delivery and some irrepressible sexual yearning, and you’ve got one serious jam. – Jeff Terich

I’m not sorry….there’s nothing to say

102. Stars – “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”
(2005; Arts & Crafts)

The break-up song to end all break-up songs, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” is not filled with bile, nor heartbreak, nor pathos. This song is merely relatable, and that’s a whole lot. The `he’ of the song, played by Torquil Cambell, kicks it off, playing dumb at the sight of his former lover, pretending he has no feelings. He addresses his erstwhile paramour, telling her, “all of that time you thought I was sad, I was trying to remember your name.” Amy Millan, the `she’ of the song, replies, a little more in touch with her emotions, calling him on his bluff. The bridge and the last verse speak volumes to the lovelorn. Campbell and Millan, in somewhat lyrical short story form, get more to the heart of relationships than most therapists and sages. Not to mention, it’s a simply gorgeous song, and the two voices are convincing as well as enticing. Anyone who has loved and lost feels a kinship with this track. – Terrance Terich

He was a son of God

101. Blonde Redhead – “23”
(2007; 4AD)

The piano that rings out at the beginning of Blonde Redhead’s “23” is absolutely chilling, an ominous harbinger of the swirling, churning perfect storm to come. Truth be told, the group probably could have looped those notes into something pretty awesome on their own, but the oncoming rush of distortion treated Fender Jazzmasters makes for, hands down, the most incredible single of Blonde Redhead’s career. The New York trio conjures up a blissfully dark sort of magic with this shoegazer standout, the most fitting heir to Kevin Shields’ throne since, well, Loveless more or less. Yet with so much incredible noise coming from the guitars, it’s easy to overlook Kazu Makino’s equally chilling lyrics: “He was a friend of mine, he was a son of a gun…he was a son of God.” I have no idea what it means, but does it ever sound cool. – Jeff Terich

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