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Posts Tagged ‘2008

50 songs that defined the noughties (2000s)

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Back in September, the Telegraph published its list of the 100 songs that defined the noughties. Reading through it, I found myself nodding in agreement at times and throwing my arms up in shock and disapproval at others.

A few days ago I tweeted the story to my followers, asking them for the songs that had defined their decade. After a few days work, I’ve come up with 50 of the songs that have defined my decade. These are the songs that, in my opinion, tell the story of the noughties—from 2000 to 2009—and will be remembered for years to come, whether because of their artistry, their controversy, or their relevance.

A few things to remember about my list:

  • I grew up with music from both the US and UK, so the list will reflect that fact.  This means you may not have heard of some of these songs.  If not, I highly suggest you listen to them.
  • This list is by no means authoritative or complete.  Choosing 50 songs of that define a decade is nearly impossible, as everybody’s songs are colored by their own experiences.  I’m no music critic–just a fan–so keep that in mind.
  • The songs are grouped by years, but that’s it; there is no ranking, no rhyme or reason why songs are ordered the way they are.
  • The annotations are accurate, as I have done my research.
  • Not all songs on here are songs I necessarily enjoy, but may be songs that have simply impacted pop culture in general.
  • I tried to only pick one song from an artist–the exception being Justin Timberlake, who appears on the list as a member of *NSync and later as a solo artist.  If I hadn’t, for example, Leona Lewis’s cover of Run would have made the list, as would have Everytime by Britney Spears
  • I tried to keep it to five songs per year, but as you’ll see, this didn’t completely work.
  • I highly encourage you to debate my choices, comment with your own, and compile your own list.  The more music we can remember, the better off all our playlists will be!

With that, I give you my top 50 songs of the 2000s.

“Bye, Bye, Bye” by *Nsync

A catchy song about breaking loose of a no good lover, it garnered the boyband a Grammy nod for Record of the Year and is arguably their most memorable song.

“Wonderful” by Everclear
“Please don’t tell me everything is wonderful now…” sings a boy to his emotionally absent parents. This song got me through the darkest hours of my life.

Britney Spears in her iconic music video for "Oops!... I Did it Again"

“Oops!… I Did it Again” by Britney Spears
The lead single from Britney’s sophomore album, it remains one of the most infectious pop songs of the past 30 years.

“I Hope You Dance” by Leann Womack
Still Womack’s only number one hit, “I Hope You Dance” was—and still is—played at high school graduations across America.


“Island in the Sun” by Weezer

Though it never cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and only charted at 31 in the UK, “Island in the Sun” proved that Weezer was still “hip, hip” and provided some musical escapism in the aftermath of 9/11.

“Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)?” by Alan Jackson
It’s impossible to discuss 2001 in music with out mentioning Alan Jackson’s moving tribute to the 9/11 attacks. Eight years later, it is still the most poignant song to be written about that day.

“Fallin’” by Alicia Keys
Establishing Keys as the preeminent songwriter of our generation, “Fallin’” captured the 19 year old the Grammy for Song of the Year.

“Ms. Jackson” by OutKast
Not their biggest hit, but for a generation of high school students, “Ms. Jackson” provided a sick beat and a warning about the risks of teenage pregnancy. It also foreshadowed the great work OutKast would produce later in the decade.


“I’m With You” by Avil Lavigne
Lavigne’s work leaves much to be desired, but there’s no denying the emotions behind her lyrics and vocals in this piece, which may epitomize the year between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.

“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
Released on Christmas Eve, “Beautiful” is arguably Aguilera’s most artistic moment—and the video doubtlessly her most daring. A song that inspired all those “othered” by society.

“Clocks” by Coldplay
It captured the Record of the Year Grammy for Coldplay. More importantly, it was heard in practically every film trailer and television show for the next two years, and it has one of the most memorable melodies of any song this decade.

“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” by Toby Keith

If Alan Jackson penned a moving tribute to 9/11, Toby Keith penned a shameful rallying cry for revenge against… well, he never really figured that part out. Still, even to this day, something about this song compels me to listen.

“Unchained Melody” by Gareth Gates
Admittedly more of a personal choice than anything, for a great number of Millennials (especially those from the UK), Gareth Gates is inexplicably connected with their adolescence.


“Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson

The song that established Clarkson—the first
American Idol—as more than a one-hit wonder, she showed the world that she would be around for years to come.

“Hurt” by Johnny Cash
Daring to cross genres and defy stereotypes, “Hurt” introduced Cash—and his amazing collection of songs—to a new generation of fans. It’s also one of the most moving songs of the decade, made all the more jarring because of the parallels with Cash’s own booze-soaked life.

“Mad World” by Gary Jules
Surprising everyone by taking the Christmas number one on the British charts, Jules’ version is arguably the most moving rendition of this song—including the original.

“American Life” by Madonna
Released on the heels of the invasion of Iraq, Madonna coupled it with a video so controversial even she decided to reshoot it. No song defines the Bush years better, proving even in a new century, Madge is still relevant.

“Leave Right Now” by Will Young
The first Idol ever—anywhere—produced one of the most emotional farewell songs in years.


“What Became of the Likely Lads” by the Libertines

As Pete Doherty’s life spun out of control, he penned this lament about a friendship lost. (In this case, with fellow Libertine Carl Barat.) Fittingly, though sadly, it was the group’s last single.

“She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5
Not Maroon 5’s biggest hit, though possibly their most memorable, “She Will Be Loved” defined my first year of college.

“Redneck Woman” Gretchen Wilson
Say what you will about Gretchen Wilson, but “Redneck Woman” introduced Nashville to the Musik Mafia and brought about a renaissance in country music.

Brandon Flowers of The Killers from their video for "Mr. Brightside," one of the biggest hits of 2004

“Mr. Brightside” by the Killers
Las Vegas’ best resurrects glam rock. Enough said. Though not the first single from the Killers, “Mr. Brightside” is the song that cemented their place in the pantheon of noughties rockers.

“If Heartaches Had Wings” by Rhonda Vincent
You’ve probably never heard of this song, about a woman full of regrets, and that’s okay. Still, it is the best bluegrass song of the decade. Plus, the video stars Miley Cyrus before she was Miley Cyrus.


“Gold Digger” by Kanye West
Kanye is one of the most controversial artists of the decade (to put it mildly), but “Gold Digger” was one of the biggest songs of the year. And rightly so, as it’s just as catchy as the rest of West’s work.

“Baby Girl” by Sugarland
Though released in 2004, Sugarland’s debut single didn’t climb the charts until early 2005, inaugurating lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles as the newest diva in the country music pantheon. On a personal note, the lyrics to this song was the first text message my grandparents ever received; I sent it to them requesting money.

“I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper)” by T-Pain ft Mike Jones
Admit it—you were singing along with the rest of us.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day
A song about the death of Billy Joe Armstrong’s father, the video was yet another slap in the face of the Bush administration by the preeminent rockers of the day. The song struck a nerve with a nation growing weary of war.

“You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
Blunt’s debut single may have made it hard to believe he is a former soldier, but it introduced him as one of the sappiest crooners of the decade.

“SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake
We didn’t even know sexy had left until Timberlake told us so. With that voice and those beats, though, we believed him.

“Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
One of the most romantic songs of the decade, this was the track that finally propelled Snow Patrol to mainstream American success.

“Rehab” by Amy Winehouse
Besides resurrecting 1960s soul, Winehouse’s salute to alcoholism and broken hearts established her as one of the most talented—and tragic—stars of the decade.

“I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks
After being shunned—and threatened—by country music fans for speaking out against the Iraq War in 2003, Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks came back with a vengeance, speaking for disgruntled progressives everywhere and nabbing five Grammys in the process.

“Last Request” by Paolo Nutini
The first single released from Nutini’s inaugural effort, this aching plea for one last night with a lover broke hearts across Britain. Though he’s struggled to find mainstream success in the US, “Last Request” has still managed to win over countless Yanks.


“Rule the World” by Take That
A perfect song to accompany acclaimed fantasy film Stardust, “Rule the World” helped reestablish Take That as a premier British band—and is the song I will dance to at my wedding.

“Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis
The biggest thing to come out of a television talent show on either side of the Atlantic, Leona Lewis scored a massive hit with her debut single, penned by Ryan Tedder and Jesse McCartney. Arguably the most memorable song of the decade, “Bleeding Love” established Lewis as the definitive diva of her generation, thrusting her into the same league as Whitney, Celine, and Mariah. (Note: Yes, it didn’t come out in the US until 2008, but it was a massive hit in the UK in the autumn of 2007—which is when I first heard it.)

“Umbrella” by Rhianna

Rhianna's "Umbrella" was the defining song of summer 2007

An annoying but catchy tribute to unyielding friendship, with this song Rhianna told the world she wasn’t going anywhere. Plus, as the Telegraph pointed out, it provided the perfect soundtrack for a rain-soaked summer.

“Grace Kelly” by Mika
You can’t be faulted if, upon first listen, you thought someone had resurrected Freddie Mercury. With “Grace Kelly,” Mika helped usher in the era of wonky pop.

“With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn
Heartbreaking and infectious, Robyn proved that the Scandinavians are still better at making quality pop records than we are.

“Flourescent Adolescent” by the Arctic Monkeys
Not their biggest hit, and perhaps not even their best song, but “Flourescent Adolescent” still managed to define 2007 for those who rebelled against the previous five songs. Plus, with lyrics like “everything’s in order in a black hole/nothing seems as pretty as the past though/That Bloody Mary’s lacking in Tabasco/Remember when you used to be a rascal?” it was the perfect accompaniment to the onset of the Great Recession.


“Love Story” by Taylor Swift
Swift’s biggest single up to that point, “Love Story” helped propel her out of Nashville and introduce her to an international audience. It also proved Swift as one helluva songwriter.

“No Air” by Jordin Sparks ft Chris Brown
The best duet of the decade, hands down. Though Chris Brown is now more infamous for domestic violence than famous for his music, the blended vocals of Sparks and Brown illustrate why they’re both young stars on the rise.

“I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry
Offensive to the gay community or an innocent anthem for bicuriosity? Either way, “I Kissed a Girl” was the song of summer 2008 and propelled Perry to stardom.

“My President” by Young Jeezy
Never a huge hit, but there is something special in remembering the election of America’s first black president—a defining moment not just of the noughties, but of modern history. This song is the celebration of a milestone preceded by centuries of struggle.

“Paper Planes” by MIA
No song better describes Britain’s and America’s irrational fear of brown people than does this anthem for immigrants and oppressed minorities everywhere. The gunshots and ringing cash registers only serve to make the song all the more memorable—and relevant.

Beyonce's video for "Single Ladies" is one of the most iconic of the decade. Just as Kanye West.

“Single Ladies” by Beyonce
God, this song is annoying, but Kanye was right—Beyonce
did have one of the best videos of all time. Besides, you have to admit, it’s catchy as hell.

“Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

If the noughties defined Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus defined the noughties. Surprising, well, everybody, Cyrus managed to actually produce a quality pop record that, probably unintentionally, embodied the optimism of youth in the Obama era.

“TikTok” by Ke$ha
If you haven’t heard this song yet, go listen. I don’t know what the future has in store for Ke$ha, but this is one of the best night-out-on-the-town songs to come along in years.

“Never Forget You” by the Noisettes
Sure, Duffy’s throwback to 60’s soul is more successful, but nobody, except maybe Winehouse, can touch the artistry of Shingai Shoniwa.

“Just Dance” by Lady GaGa
When I heard this song on the radio in January, I told my best friend it was the first song that made me feel like it was 2009. Turns out, 2009 was the year of GaGa. If the forecast “Just Dance” provides is any indication, the teens will be dominated by Lady GaGa.

“Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
An understated, underappreciated single from an underrated group, Lady Antebellum proves they are the future of country music with “Need You Now.” An aching song about longing for an old flame, it’s the best song Nashville has had to offer in 2009.