The 200 Best Songs of the 2000s - Page 6 (2023)

  • XL/Matador, 2003

The 200 Best Songs of the 2000s - Page 6 (1)

  • Dizzee Rascal

“Fix Up Look Sharp”


Dizzee Rascal ends the 2000s as Britain’s biggest urban music star. “Fix Up Look Sharp” was his first record to suggest that might be a safe bet. He had more surprising songs and more challenging tracks but “Fix Up” had the muscle and hunger. That delirious signature yelp of cartoon contempt began here– “your head splits like ba-NARNAR” and the flow demonstrated that Dizzee could make the hugest hook his own. In truth “Fix Up” is as fiercely stark as any 00s production but you simply don’t notice that: Dizzee’s addictive, dominating talent turns it into thrillingly uncompromising pop. –Tom Ewing

Listen: Dizzee Rascal: “Fix Up Look Sharp”

  • Warp, 2007

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  • Grizzly Bear



There’s a palpable musk around “Knife”, as if it were buried for a long time and then exhumed in 2006. You might peg the date of interment in the 60s, when the Shangri-Las and George “Shadow” Morton were clotting simple yet twisted love songs with mossy production, making them sound all deathy and decayed. There are just a few words, inscribed in a lavish script on the harmonies; a handful of chords. But a whole host of sensations pour through them, and not just emotional ones: The guitars prickle and clutch; the refrains scale ear-popping altitudes. You can, it turns out, feel the knife. –Brian Howe

Listen: Grizzly Bear: “Knife”

  • Frenchkiss, 2004

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  • The Hold Steady

“The Swish”


The Hold Steady came as a relief to squares who liked AC/DC’s riffs but got tired of searching for value in cock jokes on repeated listens. But they weren’t simple– their songs were long; their verses obsessively detailed; their codas jarring; their theater weird. Craig Finn didn’t need vocal melodies– he had one-liners. This is a guy messing with puns the year Funeral came out. He rants with such force that, with headphones on, you can feel spit showering your eardrums. Though they’re a band best experienced as a big picture, “The Swish” distills their appeal to an essence– a collage of 70s rock dressed in pop-culture trivia and half-remembered stories about drug dealers. A fan’s band from the first song. –Mike Powell

Listen: The Hold Steady: “The Swish”

  • Gooom/Mute, 2005

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  • M83

“Don’t Save Us From the Flames”


The fantasy of dying in your lover’s arms amidst a fiery auto accident has been a pop staple from 1960s teen tragedy songs through the Smiths and beyond. With “Don’t Save Us From the Flames”, M83’s Anthony Gonzalez blows that tradition up into full-screen high definition, the track serving as a bridge between his more abstract earlier work and the explicit melodrama of 2008’s Saturdays = Youth. Here, the adrenaline spike of the car crash is replicated at the nexus of shoegaze bliss-out, ambient oblivion, and stadium rock release. Piledriving drums, headrush guitars, unearthly synths– not a bad way to go out, huh? –Amy Phillips

Listen: M83: “Don’t Save Us From the Flames”

  • Moshi Moshi, 2008

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  • The Mae Shi

“Run to Your Grave”


Who would guess that this hyperactive, riff-happy six-piece could calm down enough to craft an all-together-now anthem? Or that it would be a moving ode to sprinting through life to the end? In the year-plus since its release, the super-sunny "Run to Your Grave" has become even bigger and brighter, inspiring a bro-fest video and countless live sing-alongs (the band has even been known to stretch it into passages of solo-guitar folk and freestyle rap). But the humble little LP version remains a powerful bit of pied-piper synth-pop, while still retaining the band’s Casio-freak edge. –Marc Masters

Listen: The Mae Shi: “Run to Your Grave”

  • Mute, 2007

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  • Grinderman

“No Pussy Blues”


In which Nick Cave proves there are few things funnier than a hyper-literate old man driven to sputtering frenzy by the erection he can’t relieve. It takes bravery to add a fresh twist to a 30-year-career with a song about being hard up, though it probably mitigates some of the sting when you’re mordantly self-aware, happily married, and take to black humor like the proverbial duck. It also helps when the backing track refuses any concessions to the encroaching gentility that seems to invariably come with age. And unlike most rock’n’roll songs about an inability to get your rocks off, you suspect the anti-adolescent “No Pussy Blues” will only become more hilariously apt as you grow older, whatever your gender. –Jess Harvell

Listen: Grinderman: “No Pussy Blues”

  • Shady/Interscope, 2002

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  • Eminem

“Lose Yourself”


If this list reflected the number of “no-one-watching, in-the-mirror, punch-the-air self-psyching”-moments a song produced and not the whims of a group of music critics, this song would be such a runaway number one Vegas would’ve stopped taking bets six months ago. It’ll be quicker, so let’s do it this way: raise your hand if you haven’t pumped yourself up for a workout, date, hockey game, or hipster-ogling with “Lose Yourself”? Yeah, pretty much the same number that predicted Em’s most lasting moment would be an almost too-serious soundtrack jig about the perils of a character named (presumably) after a John Updike protagonist. –Andrew Gaerig

Listen: Eminem: “Lose Yourself”

  • Polydor, 2003

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  • Feist



Just do a cursory search for real estate in Mushaboom, Halifax. Look at the landscape shots. It’s all you really need to know. Feist had been kicking around in punk bands, touring with Peaches, and singing sweet, fucked-up songs with Broken Social Scene for a decade before “Mushaboom”. But then this simple song about simple life in the tiny Canadian town hit and your platonic indie pop ideal was born. Singing in a controlled lilt, Feist performs “Mushaboom” like a plaintive acoustic number that just might fit right in on the Singin’ in the Rain soundtrack. From Peaches to Debbie Reynolds: This is the versatility of a great artist. –Sean Fennessey

Listen: Feist: “Mushaboom”

  • Modular/Island, 2007

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  • Cut Copy

“Hearts on Fire”


You once could find Cut Copy’s debut Bright Like Neon Love in the dollar bin at San Francisco’s Amoeba Records. Think you’ll find it there now? Neon Love’s diffident and dreamy synth-pop relegated the band to the fringes of hardcore appreciators. In the interim, their makeover, partially tended to by DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, morphed them into indie stars, fuelled first by the Hearts on Fire EP in 2007 and a kaleidoscopic game of Human League that casts shadows of Berlin period Bowie. The best part? At 30 seconds in, keyboard stabs and female vocals chime in, and the song evokes the Night at the Roxbury head-whipping of La Bouche or Haddaway. It takes stones to pull that off. –Mike Orme

Listen: Cut Copy: “Hearts on Fire”

  • Kompakt, 2002

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  • Jürgen Paape

“So Weit Wie Noch Nie”


Though the original version first appeared on Kompakt’s 2001 Total 3 compilation, many listeners first discovered Jürgen Paape’s luscious “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” when Erlend Øye used the song as the opener for his stellar 2004 DJ-Kicks mix. However you arrived at the track, its five-and-a-half minutes– a swaying, heady blend of weighty bass, spray-can hisses, and warm-blanket synths– remain some of the most thoroughly pleasurable techno of the decade. But what truly sets “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” apart is Paape’s masterful sampling of Israeli-born schlager singer Daliah Lavi’s wispy vocals, which elevates a gorgeous instrumental into something heavenly. –Joe Colly

Listen: Jürgen Paape: “So Weit Wie Noch Nie”

  • Warp, 2005

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  • Jamie Lidell



For a long time, Jamie Lidell was a voice in search of a vessel– a “walking talking question mark,” as he put it in another song, who poured himself into his samplers on stage, hoping to find the loop that would straighten him out again. And then with “Multiply”, the lead track off his debut album, he found his container in a Sam Cooke castoff. Just a hair from all-out plagiarizing the melody of “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay”, Lidell and his collaborator Mocky strung plucky electric guitar figures like so many clothespins along a loose, ropy drum line, with falsetto doo-wops billowing above. Lidell– multitracked, and singing sweetly of the schizo mindset– never sounded so whole. –Philip Sherburne

Listen: Jamie Lidell: “Multiply”

  • Columbia, 2008

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  • MGMT

“Time to Pretend”


What makes “Time to Pretend” so universally liked (even by cranky indie rock purists) is its dazzling wire walk between smug, smartass irony and actual lust for the kind of fucked-up celebrity lifestyle that keeps Perez Hilton in bandwidth. MGMT’s perfect sound was an evolution. The duo’s earlier self-produced Casio-chintzy version of the song made no secret of then-college students Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden’s dry disdain. But Dave Fridmann’s major-label-funded take two is something out of Hieronymus Bosch, a lush pleasure garden of melodies twining like naked limbs, guitars and drums distorted into dirty, Ecstatic grooves. It’s all a little unsettling– decadence always is. But MGMT pull “Pretend” off with the kind of conviction that standing on the precipice of stardom can give you. –Amy Granzin

Listen: MGMT: “Time to Pretend”

  • Ba Da Bing!/4AD, 2006

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  • Beirut

“Postcards From Italy”


How fitting is it that this one initially rose to prominence via a nascent blogosphere? The story of “Postcards” is also the story of this hyperactive age of information exchange and accrual. Sure Beirut’s Zach Condon had actually been to the Old Countries, but his appropriation of traditional Yiddish and French styles is still just that, and a tinge of desperation can be felt in this song’s attempt to detach from the very age that, paradoxically, makes it possible. It’s nostalgic, sure. But this wasn’t so much, to crib James Murphy, borrowed nostalgia for an unremembered era. This was a kind of imagined nostalgia, one that could be acquired through the sheer act of looking at old photos– or postcards– and a sentiment that could be convincingly and compellingly evoked by a 20-year-old kid dreaming away in his New Mexico bedroom. It may sound entirely out of time, but “Postcards” is a decidedly 21st century anthem. –Matthew Solarksi

Listen: Beirut: “Postcards From Italy”

  • Rough Trade, 2004

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  • Belle and Sebastian

“I’m a Cuckoo (by the Avalanches)”


Belle and Sebastian believe in traveling light. The Avalanches believe in traveling. On 2003’s Trevor Horn-produced Dear Catastrophe Waitress, “I’m a Cuckoo” was just one audaciously kooky, Thin Lizzy-owing AM pop thrill en route to the even greater lavishness of 2006’s The Life Pursuit. The Avalanches’ reimagining spirits Stuart Murdoch’s cheerfully heartbroken vocal (and not much else) to North Africa for hand-played percussion, wooden flute, and a Sudanese children’s choir. Not only does this version make “Cuckoo” finally sound as carefree as its melody, it also predicts indie pop’s late-2000s turn Africa-ward. (See especially the Tough Alliance and Air France remixes of former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman’s Taken By Trees project.) So if Murdoch still would “rather be in Tokyo,” he has some traveling left to do. –Marc Hogan

Listen: Belle and Sebastian: “I’m a Cuckoo (by the Avalanches)”

  • Domino, 2000

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  • Clinic



It was hard to know what to make of Clinic when they debuted with a string of singles in the late 1990s. The only points of reference you could formulate to describe them were absurd and floral, like what if Radiohead and the Pixies were broadcasting garage-rock distress skronks from some lunar shore? But this enigmatic new-millennium band dropped its guard a little on the amorous-mixtape staple “Distortions”, which beat the Postal Service to the indie-electronic slow dance by several years. The funny thing is, it’s not really a romantic song. Ade Blackburn may love it when you blink your eyes, but he’s also picturing you dead and thinking about marrying your sister. Despite the devotional tone, you get the sneaky feeling that “free of distortions” is a euphemism for being left alone. –Brian Howe

Listen: Clinic: “Distortions”

  • Sub Pop, 2005

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  • Wolf Parade

“I’ll Believe in Anything”


It’ll always go down as a Spencer Krug song, but “I Believe in Anything” testifies to the power of teamwork. Don’t ask me how the blue collar Dan Boeckner ever gelled with an ADD Renaissance fair castaway like Krug, but this freak of a power ballad maximized the group’s disparate strengths. Bands with cobbled-together lineups like Wolf Parade’s too often fall short of the sum of their parts, usually because they don’t have the artistic genius (or compromising skills) to take, say, this wacky funhouse melody and hammer it on repeat until it becomes a Springsteen anthem. It also doesn’t hurt to have Wolf Parade’s heart-on-sleeve conviction. Krug promises to take you to a place where “nobody knows you” or “gives a damn either way”, and the funny thing is, I trust him– even if he does sound like a weirdo. –Adam Moerder

Listen: Wolf Parade: “I’ll Believe in Anything”

  • 679, 2005

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  • The Futureheads

“Hounds of Love”


In the decade of post-punk pastiche overload, too few bands focused on the pop-centric quirk on those classic John Peel radio shows. What made the Futureheads 21st-century p-punk exemplars was their commitment to twee-boy harmonies as dizzyingly overlapping hooks. And it’s the play of voices that made this Kate Bush cover more than a one-note joke.

“Play” is right: few contemporary rock bands have sounded like they’re having as much fun as the Futureheads. They almost trip over themselves in transforming Bush’s paean to the slow surrender of control into a race to be the first one wrestled to the ground by love. In a decade when mainstream rock continued its ignoble slide into pure alpha-male-ism, it was beyond refreshing to see four boys embracing one of pop’s most theatrically feminine figures. –Jess Harvell

Listen: The Futureheads: “Hounds of Love”

  • Aftermath/Shady/Interscope, 2005

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  • The Game

“Hate It or Love It” [ft. 50 Cent]


The notion that 50 Cent was ever involved in a song this, well, appealing feels pretty remote in 2009. He’s deep into his late-period-Tyson decline now, the stage in which you brag about hanging out with Bette Midler on your mixtapes, narrate porn films, and (possibly) make an appearance on Foxy Boxing. But man, the Curtis of “Hate It or Love It”– this guy seemed like he might be a star forever. The nimble rhythm of the chant “hate it or love, the underdog’s on top” bobs and weaves around the syncopated bass line, and his evocative opening verse– his last great one– seems to summon Cool and Dre’s summer-soul track into existence: sheepskin coats and gold ropes, Rakim’s “My Melody”, bikes getting stolen, mommy kissing a girl. By the time Game comes huffing onto the track, it’s already all over, which is probably one of the reasons Game refuses to perform this song. He knows who it belongs to, and it still burns him up. –Jayson Greene

Listen: The Game: “Hate It or Love It” [ft. 50 Cent]

  • Epic, 2000

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  • Modest Mouse

“3rd Planet”


The world begins and ends in “3rd Planet”, which is kind of a lot to tackle in a rock song. Birth, death, depression, possibly stoned revelations about the shape of the universe itself, all prove conversation fodder on this, the leadoff track to The Moon & Antarctica, one of the decade’s most expansive albums. Rattled by the loss of a child, Brock– one eye on his navel and the other fixed skyward– navigates the cosmic chaos as the band crafts a sound to match the scope of his gaze. Brock’s disarmingly direct lyrics still manage to hint at a well of hurt and self-reflection a few minutes couldn’t possibly hope to resolve– he dares to ask personal questions of the universe, and “3rd Planet” finds him posing some of the toughest ones yet. –Paul Thompson

Listen: Modest Mouse: “3rd Planet”

  • Because/Ed Banger/Vice, 2007

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  • Justice



Maybe it’s just the “P.Y.T.” reference, but it’s kinda hard to write about “D.A.N.C.E.” at this point without the mind eventually turning to Michael Jackson. Even forgetting the letter-by-letter MJ breadcrumb trail in the lyrics (“P.Y.T.”, “B.E.A.T.”, “A.B.C”), it always felt like this was Justice’s best attempt to soften their pulverizing brand of French touch by locating it in a sweeter time, i.e., somewhere between the Jackson 5 and Off the Wall. Hell, considering the syrupy disco strings, emphatic childlike joy, overstuffed melodies, and unrelenting technical efficiency at the heart of it, you could even build a case for this being a sort of loving metaphor for MJ pre-Thriller. In the world outside of half-baked critical theory, “D.A.N.C.E.” suffered from more practical bugaboos in the form of flagrant and unrelenting overexposure. Swear to God there was a brief period in 2007 where it was government-mandated to appear in 40% of the world’s advertisements and television musical montage moments. Are we ready to hear it again? Probably not quite yet. Good tune, though. –Mark Pytlik

Listen: Justice: “D.A.N.C.E.”

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