The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

Oh what a thing to have done

100. Coldplay – “Yellow”
(2000; Parlophone)

I hate to admit it, but I first heard “Yellow” on a commercial on ABC. I was watching TV in my apartment in New Orleans and this song comes on. The thing is, I believe that ABC only ran that spot with “Yellow” a few times but after hearing a snippet of that song, I needed to find out who it was. I went to work the next day at Tower Records in the French Quarter (R.I.P.) and scored a promo of their debut Parachutes. After one spin of that album, I was a fan. No matter how many times, different versions, acoustic, piano or live, to me “Yellow” never gets old. Coldplay may have written better songs, and I have many that I love more than “Yellow” but there’s something about this song that takes me back. All of those days riding my bike through the mansions of the Garden District and coming home by my lonesome from another night as an ignored barfly I could turn on this song and fall asleep smiling. Although I was alone, with songs like “Yellow” I never felt lonely. That’s the magic of a timeless song and this is one I never get tired of; when I hear those opening chords it reminds me of the promise of hope I felt during my years living in New Orleans. It’s impossible to not sing “Yellow” with a grin on your face. This is why it was Coldplay’s first worldwide smash. In any language, “Yellow” is the sound of a love song coming to life. – Adrian Cepeda

It’s electricity

99. Annie – “Heartbeat”
(2004; 679)

Annie’s “Heartbeat” is, in the most basic terms, a perfect pop song. But there’s a haziness, an ethereality about it that puts the song in a category of its own. Mixing heady shoegazer-like layers of synths and effects with a funky backbeat, Royksopp took this Norwegian pop princess and launched her into an entirely new stratosphere. Lyrically, it treads no new ground, Annie revisiting the well-worn trope of dancing and being in love. Yet when paired with the song’s stunning production, her airy, pixie-like vocals practically airbrush a bright white aura around any two amorous figures in any crowded club. “Heartbeat” ensured that everyone knew Annie’s name, and even might have made a few indie rockers rethink the value of pop. Now that’s something to celebrate. – Jeff Terich

Play your part

98. UGK feat. Outkast – “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”
(2007; Jive)

Forget the horrible irony of Pimp C passing on after 15 years of underground status for UGK culminating in a No.1 album and long-deserved mainstream recognition. We’re always going to have their breakout single, a hip-hop masterpiece that practically dares you to not listen to it. Backed with a heavenly sample from Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You,” all joyful backing vocals and brassy horns, Pimp C & Bun B deliver a surprisingly touching ode to the fairer sex (well, as touching as lyrics like “My bitch a choosy lover/ She don’t fuck without a rubber” can really get), with Andre 3000 and Big Boi cameoing with some of their strongest work since Stankonia dropped. It’s a rare song that propels underground artists headlong into the public consciousness, and “Int’l Players Anthem” is as good as those songs ever get. RIP Pimp C. – Tony Ling

I don’t care what none of y’all say, I still love her

97. Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx – “Gold Digger”
(2005; Roc-a-Fella)

A wise man once said, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” A little less than a decade later, Kanye West supplied his own version of that retort, offering up a cautionary tale of women who may stick around it strictly for monetary benefit. What results is simultaneously one of the funniest and catchiest songs of his career. Yet only a rapper such as West would be able to pull this sort of thing off without sounding cold or blatantly misogynistic. Granted, it may be one of West’s silliest tracks (as would be the case for a song that makes “We want prenup!” into a call-and-response catchphrase), but it’s hook is undeniable and Kanye’s flow is flawless. Given his tendency to drop some lyrical clunkers even in his best songs, that’s pretty darn admirable. All in all, it’s just one of Kanye’s most likable tracks, and that’s saying a lot. I just want to make one thing clear though—I’m not watching “Glee,” you hear me? – Jeff Terich

I missed the last bus/ I take the next train

96. The Strokes – “Hard to Explain”
(2001; Rough Trade)

In 2001, I was experiencing my first semester of college. I distinctly remember a handful of guys who sported skinny jeans, vintage concert tees, rolled their own cigarettes and had an air of disaffection: I met my first hipsters. After The Strokes released Is This It, there were more of those guys, more skinny jeans, more Pabst. Looking back and looking at hipsters today, it’s pretty remarkable how the mainstreaming of it stemmed, in part, from the hype surrounding The Strokes. Perhaps I’m giving them too much credit and all those criticisms about them just recycling CBGB-style posturing are true. Yet, when I listen to something like “Hard To Explain,” I just can’t shake the fact that they made really good songs. There’s a certain spring to “Hard to Explain,” something blissfully poppy in the pitch-perfect drumming and the melodic guitar riffs. Yet it still maintained an air of too-cool-for-school-ness, as emphasized in Julian Casablancas’ slurred vocals – half roar and half couldn’t care less shrugging. This play of tightly crafted, catchy songs and a fuck-it-all charm is what made “Hard to Explain” so appealing. Yeah, they’re not as creative or innovative as the bands they’re so often compared to (or accused of recycling), but when I hear that amazing bridge, I don’t really care. – Jackie Im

No Big Brother is gonna bring me back down

95. Elliott Smith – “Pretty (Ugly Before)” / “A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free”
(2003; Suicide Squeeze)

The last single Elliott Smith released is also his most polarized. Side A finds Smith playing a lush, pretty jangle pop tune with redemption and even a little bit of optimism, while Side B is a strange, psychedelic journey with Smith sounding a lot more pissed off by comparison. It’s an odd pairing, to be sure, but “Pretty (Ugly Before)” and “A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free” make up two of Smith’s best tracks, not to mention a pair of highlights from his unfinished From a Basement on the Hill. Yet this version of “A Distorted Reality” is considerably different than the version that made its way on to the album, with a thick organ groove and George Harrison-like guitar licks. In fact, in this incarnation, Smith created a track that stands up to some of the White Album‘s peaks. Call it blasphemy if you like, but the man had a gift. – Jeff Terich

Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal

94. Hot Chip – “Over and Over”
(2006; EMI)

The first single from 2005’s The Warning is a slowly morphing monstrosity of irony and entertaining hypocrisy. Its path winds from a tinkly bell opening through clunky woodblock-backed grooves and lyrics that tweak the repetitive nature of dance music while exploiting it, then to the kind of weird, throaty funk Peter Gabriel reserved for albums with two-letter titles—and back again. One of a number of midtempo-or-better tracks full of Casio sexing and kissing, it’s a wholly different animal from the slacker-tastic takes on R&B slow jams that infested Hot Chip’s debut Coming on Strong and a harbinger of the greatness to come for this second album and the band. – Adam Blyweiss

Hold your mistake up

93. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
(2005; Merge)

“Wake Up” is a cosmic anthem for every woman/man child who has yet to grow up. It’s for all of us who refuse to give up living in the Technicolor of our wistful dreams. The opening choir sounds like being awoken, falling from a living daydream. It’s no wonder that Spike Jonze used this Arcade Fire song in Where the Wild Things Are. My favorite line, and one that must have grabbed Jonze, is, “Children wake up, hold your mistake up, before they turn the summer into dust.” Those lyrics remind of the last lines of dialogue from one of my favorite movies of the last decade, Dan in Real Life: “Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised.” I know that my life has been more memorable because I’ve held up my missteps and they’ve led me into the happiness I feel right now. Win’s unique hoarse, sage-like vocal is the spark that stirs your soul by gripping your imagination and lifting you with the Arcade Fire sound of endless inspiration. I recommend checking out the live version that they performed with their famous number one fan, David Bowie. Hearing Butler and Bowie share vocal duties is breathtaking and equally as memorable as the album version. – Adrian Cepeda

She’s always calling my bluff

92. Interpol – “Obstacle 1”
(2002; Matador)

After a decade of bands mining the post-punk and garage rock sounds of the past for their 15 minutes of fame, it’s hard to remember a time—only ten years ago or so—when pop music was dominated by boy bands and vapid rap-metal. When New York gave birth to an army of artsy twenty-somethings who wore their influences—Joy Division, The Velvet Underground, Television—on their sleeves, it was a breath of fresh air and a movement that would set the tone for rock music in the new millennium. This band, this album, and this song—the tightly-wound rhythm section, razor-sharp guitars, Paul Banks’ desperate monotone—comprise one of the most vital parts of that movement. Which is why, of course, we can let an embarrassing clunker of a lyric—”Her stories are boring and stuff”—slide. – Eric Friedman

You have to learn how to die, if you want to be alive

91. Wilco – “War on War”
(2002; Nonesuch)

“War on War” is my favorite song from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This is a 21st Century song of dissent without the punch of your typical protest song. Tweedy and producer Jim O’Rourke created a very luminous sound with noisy elements thrown in that disrupt the overall aura of content that permeates throughout the song. It isn’t until you get to the climax of “War on War” when Tweedy’s guitar begins to sound like a riffing siren announcing the beginning of conflict that’s been ignored throughout the song. The part I always liked best was the “Let’s watch the miles flying by…” section that I could never sing right. I always fumbled the part where Tweedy sings, “but you can be my demon moving forward through flaming doors.” It’s the way that Tweedy sings these words together would drive me nuts. I finally got it down, and to this day, after not hearing it for a while, this lyric still gets to me. Though unintentional, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may forever be linked to 9/11. Yet, I hear it as social comment on how the raucous static in our lives can be a beautiful thing that should not be ignored. Just because something sounds a little off kilter from the norm, it shouldn’t be ignored. What was Warner Bros. thinking when they refused to release YHF? Maybe the label should have truly listened to Tweedy’s lyrics, “You have to learn how to die if you want to be alive…okay?” Everlasting over Commerce, one day a record label may just learn its lesson. – Adrian Cepeda

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