The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

Control yourself

80. MGMT – “Kids”
(2008; Columbia)

Possibly the stupidest controversy of the past few years, if you really want to call it that, has been the trash-talking back and forth between The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler. They should realize by now that they serve the world better by uniting rather than sniping. Just look at MGMT’s “Kids”; the glo-paint and synthesizer loving duo manage to find a harmonious meeting place between The Lips’ joyous psychedelia and Arcade Fire’s earnest indie anthems. Then they filter it through their toy robot effects, thereby making it just slightly cartoonish, but still affecting, epic and quite catchy. Perhaps MGMT should be an intermediary between those bickering frontmen, asking them to drop the dispute and join together in song: “Doot-doot-doot-doot-DO-DO-DO-DO.” – Jeff Terich

They say an end can be a start

79. Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”
(2000; Source)

“Too Young” may have been the song that—thanks to Lost in Translation—made a name for Phoenix in the States, but the pinnacle of United was and remains the poignantly searching and ingratiatingly funky, “If I Ever Feel Better.” A document of a patient stay in the shadow of despair, the song showcases Thomas Mars’ ability to convincingly inhabit the role of a guy who knows that his depression is temporary but also that he is for the moment incapable of getting out from under it. Striking a surprising balance between buoyant optimism and being entrapped by circumstances, “If I Ever Feel Better” continues to soundtrack evenings both enthusiastic and introspective, warming with a generous directness that seems far simpler to achieve than it actually is. – Tyler Parks

Why would you lie about something dumb like that?

78. Vampire Weekend – “Oxford Comma”
(2008; XL)

Vampire Weekend is one of those bands it’s hard not to love, and “Oxford Comma,” as much as you may prefer other songs of theirs, is impossible to resist. It’s not as heavy in Afrobeat as their other songs, nor as complex, but what it does, it does incredibly well. “Oxford Comma” seems to be the song built to attract fans. It’s one of those songs that you play for a friend to get them into the band. A rattling drumbeat accompanied by a minimal, yet playful organ sets the tone, only later to be trumped by an unlikely guitar solo. Now, indie fans who weren’t English majors are hip to the Oxford comma, a comma before the `and’ at the end of a series, but Ezra Koenig says the song is more about nor caring than about the actual punctuation. As writers, we at Treble do give a fuck about the Oxford comma (we usually don’t use it), but we care more about incredibly catchy tunes we feel compelled to put on `repeat.’ – Terrance Terich

Grab a kazoo, let’s have a tune

77. The Avalanches – “Frontier Psychiatrist”
(2000; Modular)

Music for Dadaists. The more I listen to this song (and I’ve listened to it a lot), the more The Avalanches’ most famous track begins to accumulate its own strange, hilarious internal logic, even when it continues to stagger and amaze on an aural level. I mean, of course a thunderous hip-hop breakbeat should be backing a sample-created story of a wacked-out kid who needs therapy really badly! Of course “the man with the golden eyeball” should lead into “and tighten your buttocks/pour juice on your chin!” And of course the song should pull a (literally) screeching 180, with a chopped-up squawking parrot soundbite leading into a mariachi-guitar finale that’s more salsa than hip-hop! It all makes perfect sense! And it takes a singular musical genius to create something this catchy and confounding, a song that appeals both to the hips and the brain, that makes both perfect sense and no sense whatsoever. Marcel Duchamp would be proud. – Tony Ling

We got the radio shook like we got a gun

76. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On”
(2001; Elektra)

The first time I heard Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” I was transfixed by the strange, frenetic beats, the bhangra-inspired inflections and the utter freshness of the track. It was completely unlike anything I had ever heard. The music stutters at a manic pace, complemented by eerie Theremin-sounding synths. Each element, each influence of the track is slippery, hard to pin down, foreshadowing Timbaland’s increased interest in blending disparate sounds to create something exotic sounding yet still accessible. But the real story here is Elliott’s mile-a-minute delivery. Spitting out rhymes at a machine gun pace, Elliott is not bogged down by tricks or curveballs, rather she fully inhabits them, effortlessly incorporating each hiccup, scream, or cartoon effect. “Get Ur Freak On” is so wildly inventive that even though nine years has passed since its release, it still sounds new and groundbreaking at each listen. – Jackie Im

Where’s the love song to set us free?

75. Blur – “Out of Time”
(2003; Virgin)

The whole of Think Tank was a bittersweet affair. I was happy to see another release from Blur, but it was going to be a Blur without Graham Coxon. The remaining three members did, however, make a great, if underrated album. “Out of Time” is one of the best tracks from the record, released as the first single, sounding like a continuation of the chilled out bliss from 13. This time, however, there was a Moroccan Orchestra in tow, adding a bit of “world music” to the calming mix. Just as with David Bowie’s self-fulfilling prophecy of “Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry,” Damon Albarn makes his own lyrics come true, giving us a love song that could set us free. – Terrance Terich

Feelin’ like Katrina with no FEMA/ like Martin with no Gina

74. Kanye West ft. Dwele – “Flashing Lights”
(2008; Roc-a-fella)

Two years later, three versions of the video later, one fascination with Auto-tune and one “Imma let you finish” later, “Flashing Lights” can be seen as a game changer in the career of Kanye West. Leaving behind the soul samples, Graduation displayed West charting new territories – from the Daft Punk sample on “Stronger” to the sparse arrangements of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Graduation just felt like a departure from his past work and no song more than “Flashing Lights.” Glamorous, slick and Euro-club ready, “Flashing Lights” was light years away from the warm tones of “We Don’t Care” or the celebratory jam “Touch the Sky.” “Flashing Lights” has a cool sheen, but barely hides West’s anxiety and fame-induced paranoia, all of which would come to extraordinary fruition on 808s and Heartbreak. Here West isn’t relying on samples or a gimmick to get his point across (“Stronger” was essentially West doing Daft Punk), but rather he’s made a track that is singularly his: arrogant, a little ridiculous, but emotionally bare. – Jackie Im

There’s a ghost on the horizon

73. Antony and the Johnsons – “Hope There’s Someone”
(2005; Secretly Canadian)

I’m still not sure if it’s ironic or fitting that Antony Hegarty, whose androgynous voice and identity are common talking points when discussing the vocalist, is responsible for penning one of the most universally affecting songs in recent memory. And really, it doesn’t matter. Hegarty’s poignant ruminations on the fear of death—or, more accurately, the fear of dying alone—transcend concepts of gender and aim for the most basic desire to simply be loved. A few years before Bradford Cox was speculating that he may have written the first asexual love song in Atlas Sound’s “Shelia,” Antony had already done it, and had done it better. – Eric Friedman

Forever, forever, ever, forever ever?

72. Outkast – “Ms. Jackson”
(2000; LaFace)

These days it’s hard for me to believe there was a period when I basically just didn’t like hip-hop, apparently ignorant to the fact that the genre was in fact full of depth and meaningful songwriting. Even as misguided as I was by useless punk-rock purism at the time, there were certain songs that could melt through my icy closed-mindedness. I was in high school when Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” came out and can remember getting completely captivated almost immediately, regularly scrolling through radio stations just to see if it was on. It seems like more often than not it was. But a track this irresistible deserves to be put on repeat, its slick Prince synth and P-Funk slap bass slither framing that indeflatable, falsetto-tinged hook: “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson (oooo!) / I am for reeeeal / Never meant to make your daughter cry / I apologized a trillion times.” Pulling from André’s experience with Erykah Badu, her mother, and dedicated to all “baby mamas’ mamas,” Outkast flex their art of storytellin’ and pour out a heartfelt meditation on the sometimes tense relations between men and their ex (almost) mother-in-laws. The results are candid and genuine, exposing a sensitivity not typically found in hip-hop, but one that is universally understandable – especially when conveyed so soulfully. – Derek Emery

Please destroy me this way

71. Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch”
(2005; Island)

Prior to 2005, Ladytron were a fun, synth-happy foursome expert at crafting danceable, unforgettable synth pop, equal parts Kraftwerk and Human League. When they released “Destroy Everything You Touch,” however, they effectively sunk the plunger and set off some sonic TNT. Suddenly everything sounded bigger, and pounded with an even greater impact. Bass drum beats hit like sledgehammers, synths buzzed like helicopters, and yet vocalist Helen Marnie sounded as elegant as ever, sleekly sneering, “Everything you touch you don’t feel…Destroy everything you touch, today/ please destroy me this way.” And destroy is exactly what this song does. – Jeff Terich

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