The 200 Best Songs of the 2000s - Page 4 (2023)

  • Crunchy Frog, 2002

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  • Junior Senior

“Move Your Feet”


Thank you, internet! How else would we have found Junior Senior, a gay/straight Danish duo crafting dance parties from whatever genre ingredients were within arm’s reach. “Move Your Feet” caught the online jet stream, helped no doubt by its 8-bit evil squirrel and talking hot dog video (thanks again, internet!), but also through skilled deployment of roller-rink dance-hit staples: bad rapping, funk guitar, bells, humanism-through-dance. Its timing was exquisite, not just for distribution purposes, but for hitting American indie ears just as their dance music allergies were fading and meet-you-halfway disco-punk was leaving newly-founded indie dance parties unsatisfied. –Rob Mitchum

Listen: Junior Senior: “Move Your Feet”

  • Carpark, 2007

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  • Dan Deacon

“The Crystal Cat”


What a lonely, lonely sound. Dan Deacon’s shows are about the high of communal experience– about surrendering your ego to a crush of overheated strangers. But his music is solitary. Cartoons and video games might make twentysomethings flush with nostalgia, but “The Crystal Cat” sounded more like Kraftwerk’s cold futures cast in pixels– a sound, above all, about distance rather than closeness. Yeah, you can twist to it. Yeah, it’s freaky and buzzing and loud. But when Deacon squeals through the hail of synthesizer noise and junked drum machines, he sounds like an astronaut sucked through the airlock– lost. –Mike Powell

Listen: Dan Deacon: “The Crystal Cat”

  • Sincerely Yours, 2008

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  • Air France

“Collapsing at Your Doorstep”


It’s a travel-agency ad, not a pop song– an aural scrapbook by Scandinavian youths who’ve probably seen more of Barcelona through postcards than sunglasses. (We sure love music of distance, huh? Swedes dreaming of the beach; New Yorkers dreaming of the jungle; Timbaland dreaming, endlessly, of deep space.) The swishy, euro-pop pose always bugged me until I heard “Collapsing at Your Doorstep”. It’s music driven by longing, not owning. Music that sounds urbane, but like its makers are shut-ins and cinephiles. With Air France, it’s hard to tell what’s sampled and what’s live– in other words, which sun-soaked daydreams are actually theirs, and which we all somehow share. –Mike Powell

Listen: Air France: “Collapsing at Your Doorstep”

  • Nonesuch/Sundazed, 2002

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  • Wilco

“Poor Places”


“A lot of times when you’re playing, if you don’t have any kind of sonic landscape behind you, everything kind of turns into a folk song,” explains Jay Bennett during the documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart as Wilco maps out “Poor Places”. Indeed, on paper, this tune comprises four chords, four verses, and a chorus; on record, though, it’s a Rube Goldberg contraption, with tiny parts lurking in the background only to spring the song into surprising directions. A coruscated drone becomes sedate pop becomes that folk number about which Bennett warned us becomes the most damaged minute in some dude’s iTunes library: No incarnation of Wilco has since outfitted Jeff Tweedy’s universal unease so boldly. –Grayson Currin

Listen: Wilco: “Poor Places”

  • Mego, 2001

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  • Fennesz



Fennesz’s Endless Summer may have been complicated to make, but its effect is simple: sweet melodies poured into mesmerizing noise. “Caecilia” is the prettiest such concoction, burying lapping waves of digital grit under a languorous vibraphone hook. The pairing smoothes the former and toughens the latter until they fuse into a real song. How Fennesz fit all his blips and blurs into a song-mold remains a mystery– it sounds more like they’re organizing themselves, like a flock of birds flying in a V. Many imitators since have attempted that trick, but no other digital magicians keep their secrets hidden quite like Fennesz. –Marc Masters

Listen: Fennesz: “Caecilia”

  • Arts & Crafts, 2003

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  • Broken Social Scene

“Cause = Time”


By the time “Cause = Time” appears eight songs into Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It in People, the Toronto indie-rockestra had covered much stylistic turf– from noisy garage-rock to bossa nova to orchestral folk. But it was this peak mid-album track that both consolidated the album’s textural sprawl and confirmed Broken Social Scene’s own transformation from ambient hobby project to powerhouse rock band. With its cryptic references to menstruation, religion, and numerology, “Cause” isn’t about political activism any more than Sonic Youth’s “Teen Age Riot” was about tossing Molotov cocktails. But by updating classic, class-of-1988 indie rock anthemery with motorik post-rock rhythms, it served as the wake-up call for a new generation of daydream nationalists. –Stuart Berman

Listen: Broken Social Scene: “Cause = Time”

  • Ed Banger, 2003

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  • Justice vs. Simian

“We Are Your Friends”


Only in Paris could something as seemingly uncool and ho-hum as a college radio remix contest birth a worldwide dancefloor sensation. Made using pretty rudimentary remixing tools, “We Are Your Friends” not only won Justice some contest prize, it established them as a force to be reckoned with. The prodigal duo almost completely gutted Simian’s “Never Be Alone” with the same audacity that would make their debut album such a monolith a few years later. However, despite the drastic re-imagining, Justice, always rockists at heart, preserved the original’s fist-pumping immediacy, a detail too many remixes neglect. –Adam Moerder

Listen: Justice vs. Simian: “We Are Your Friends”

  • Cherrytree/Interscope, 2007

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  • Feist



It’s the song that sold a whole bunch of iPods, and gave “Sesame Street” a chance to learn a new way to count. And it’s a tune that vaguely mirrors Feist’s own transformation from beloved Broken Social Scenester to ubiquitous adult-contemporary everywoman– it starts off modest and gentle atop some acoustic strumming (on guitar and banjo), and then gradually builds to an ebullient horn-filled crescendo, with Feist proving to be just as adept at belting as at murmuring, but never at the expense of the song. –David Raposa

Listen: Feist: “1234”

  • Warner Bros., 2002

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  • The Flaming Lips

“Do You Realize??”


The Flaming Lips nabbed critics with The Soft Bulletin and their carnivalesque live performances, but “Do You Realize??” secured their public spotlight for years to come. Their commercial profile is one of many strange twists and turns over their career, and “Do You Realize??” does more than just announce it: it challenged them to take the vulnerability and earnestness of The Soft Bulletin widescreen, and not fall headfirst into a bucket of sap. The lyrics walk that tightrope precariously, but it’s really only the Lips, after years of spiritual quests, spider bites, flaming cymbals, and constant self-exploration, who can earn them. –Jason Crock

Listen: The Flaming Lips: “Do You Realize??”

  • Jive, 2003

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  • Britney Spears



The thing that made Britney’s mid-decade breakdown so distressing is that the lady actually had great pop instincts. It’s not like when Jessica Simpson lost her damn mind and we the listeners lost exactly nothing. Sure, Brit bounced back with Blackout, but for better or worse she was a warbling ghost in her producer’s gleaming machines. “Toxic” was the last great Britney single (so far), the last where it felt like a personality was inhabiting the tune. (Britney always had more individualist pep than her peers, important when you’re dealing with steamroller productions from the mind of Max Martin.) And as a bonus, the backing track remains deeply, enjoyably weird-but-catchy: a club-tempo stepping breakbeat colored by James Bond soundtrack outtakes. –Jess Harvell

Listen: Britney Spears: “Toxic”

  • Matador, 2003

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  • Interpol



From “New York, New York”, Ryan Adams’ accidental anthem, to Cat Power’s Sinatra cover, to LCD Soundsystem’s waning-decade lament “I love you but you’re bringing me down,” 9/11’s musical legacy is a still-unresolved mess of bewildered public discourse and private grief. With its aqueous chords and Paul Banks’ quietly desperate, yet poker-faced pronouncements, nothing, perhaps, vents the city’s confusion and ambivalence as elegantly as “NYC”. Everyone always remembers “subway is a porno,” and forgets the chorus, “New York cares,” but this song isn’t just some hipster’s crack-of-dawn crawl home. It’s also an epiphany a lot of New Yorkers reached post-attack: Civic disengagement’s no longer an option. –Amy Granzin

Listen: Interpol: “NYC”

  • Virgin, 2001

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  • Daft Punk

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”


Dance songs with instructional chants for lyrics tend to have a short shelf life. So upon first hearing “Harder, Better, Faster Stronger” (and to a greater extent, “One More Time”), I wondered if the new decade had already stumbled upon its “Bodyrock” or “Rockafeller Skank’. But how has “Harder” stood the test of time when so much borderline-brainwashing big beat has turned into dated punchlines? Because even if Kanye made it really tough to find as much novelty in those vocals, there’s just so much else to be amazed at that transcends novelty: go ahead and press play again and try to remember which part is your favorite– the 10 seconds before the intro beat drops? That ridiculous breakdown after the vocals go all widdly-widdly like an electric guitar? There are 138 songs on this list that do a better job of improving your day immediately? In terms of both artists and listeners, this decade has in large part been defined by its pleasure-seekers, and no matter where they sought their thrills, it never seemed like we got too far removed from “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. –Ian Cohen

Listen: Daft Punk: “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

  • EMI, 2000

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  • D’Angelo

“Untitled (How Does It Feel?)”


This single became notorious for its sexually charged video, featuring a series of lingering shots of D’Angelo’s nude body that split the difference between mass voyeurism and personal intimacy. But the rapturous intensity in his lushly multi-tracked vocal performance still holds more weight than any pin-up shot could– swooping and diving, gliding smoothly over the sway of the beat only to punctuate it with a sharp hitch or an extension of his deceptively delicate falsetto into an intense wail. The musical backing only adds to that euphoria, with gospel-soul pianos direct from Aretha’s Muscle Shoals sessions intertwined with pre-Dirty Mind (but still dirty-minded) Prince guitars. –Nate Patrin

Listen: D’Angelo: “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)”

  • Rykodisc/Island, 2005

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  • Ladytron

“Destroy Everything You Touch”


The average pop song is a short lesson in delayed gratification– a calibrated crawl from intro and pattern-stamping verse to the big chorus. “Destroy Everything You Touch” has no such self-control: just 16 seconds in, the scorched-earth banger explodes and then gleefully burns for more than four minutes on sarcasm and spite. In an evil-genius marriage of sound and image, the catwalk-perfect “Destroy” partly soundtracks the forthcoming film doc about Anna Wintour, Vogue chief and booster bar none of last-capitalist excess. Marx should be so persuasive. –Amy Granzin

Listen: Ladytron: “Destroy Everything You Touch”

  • Def Jam, 2006

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  • Ghostface Killah

“Shakey Dog”


We enter Ghost’s stream-of-consciousness stick-up narrative with the action already in progress, and leave with a “to be continued.” Within this seemingly arbitrary framework, however, Ghost omits no detail: the lady with the shopping cart hiding a cocked shottie, the steak and onions cooking down the hall, the “Sanford and Son” theme. Amidst the soul-superhero horn charts and Ghost’s dizzying thick description, it’s that sustained, soulful vocal note present throughout that gives “Shakey” its bullet-time panopticon perspective, with no bit of minutiae too tiny to mention. Tony Montana reference notwithstanding, “Shakey” is part cinema vérité, part “CSI”. –Eric Harvey

Listen: Ghostface Killah: “Shakey Dog”

  • Rough Trade, 2001

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  • The Strokes

“The Modern Age” [EP version]


Though they were one of the most talked-about bands of the decade, the Strokes were never among the highest-selling. Maybe it had to do with the fact that their feverishly anticipated debut album, Is This It?, had the misfortunate of dropping just weeks after 9/11, rendering their carefree garage-rock jangle– of which this debut single still stands as the purest distillation– almost instantly out of time and place. But even if the Strokes’ “Modern Age” sounded a lot like Lou Reed’s golden one, the song belongs to that rarefied class of singles that (like “Please Please Me” and “God Save the Queen” before it) divides history between the before and the after– specifically, a modern age defined by a ceaseless parade of definitely-articled, skinny-jeaned, pretty-boy rock bands, and an increasingly accelerated mode of blog-about/spit-’em-out musical consumption. However, divorced from the hyperbole that greeted its release, “The Modern Age” now just sounds like a sweet, innocent ode to fun in the sun– and a poignant time capsule of a world where it’s still Sept. 10, all the time. –Stuart Berman

Listen: The Strokes: “The Modern Age” [EP version]

  • Jive, 2006

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  • Clipse



Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury is too thick with highlights to truly contain a centerpiece, but there is something about the dark, streamlined “Trill” that beats very close to the album’s steely heart. For the album the Clipse brothers requested only the Neptunes craziest productions, and here Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo dutifully respond by packing “Trill” tight with bass, jittery beats, and motion-sick keyboards. The track’s ultimate brilliance depends entirely upon the way Malice and Pusha T are able to faultlessly balance their matter-of-fact braggadocio above the song’s shifting, precarious instrumental backdrop– as though savoring a brief moment before it all comes crashing down. –Matthew Murphy

Listen: Clipse: “Trill”

  • Rough Trade, 2004

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  • Belle and Sebastian

“Your Cover’s Blown”


To parse NME’s cheeky comparison from 2004, there’s a bit of bohemian in “Your Cover’s Blown,” but not much rhapsody. “Cover” is more a slinky spy theme for breaking free from scenester security, and Stuart Murdoch plays the puppetmaster with puckish understatement. But this doesn’t mean that “Cover”– still the funkiest and longest song Belle & Sebastian have created– doesn’t create its own form of dramatic tension. The quickly alternating currents of chippy disco rhythms and Bolero-style guitar make Murdoch’s anxiously told tale of surreptitiously splitting the city for the sticks into a quietly garish operetta. –Eric Harvey

Listen: Belle and Sebastian: “Your Cover’s Blown”

  • UUAR/Paw Tracks, 2005

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  • Panda Bear

“Comfy in Nautica”


Noah Lennox’s to-do list, summer 2005: Go to Coney Island. Clap more. Hear the beauty in thunderstorms. Watch the night skies for UFOs. Define “coolness” without being uncool or getting into one of those boring “what does ‘indie’ even mean anymore, brah?” dormroom bull sessions. Place off-kilter but emotionally packed melodies over repetitive loop collages, establishing a new instrumental paradigm for forward-looking rock and pop musicians. Render Animal Collective’s past yawpy unintelligibility newly intelligible; don’t lose sight of all that you can’t put into words. Capture the sound of the global village chanting. Be less afraid. “Try to remember always/ Just to have a good time.” Underline those last two words. –Marc Hogan

Listen: Panda Bear: “Comfy in Nautica”

  • Columbia/Sony, 2000

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  • Destiny’s Child

“Say My Name”


Beyoncé is a force now, but it would be almost impossible for her to ever again wield the kind of stranglehold over the world’s ears the way Destiny’s Child did at the turn of the millennium. At the time, they so thoroughly dominated the charts and airwaves, the hits just kept coming even when they ditched half the band. “Say My Name” is DC at their peak, riding a tidal wave of feisty righteousness to the ladies club anthem of 2000. The girls stop and start like ultrafine robots, sleekly maneuvering through producer Rodney Jerkins’ arsenal of space-age R&B effects. I could never figure out why the guy in the song even picked up the phone in the first place, though. –Amy Phillips

Listen: Destiny’s Child: “Say My Name”

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