The 200 Best Songs of the Decade: 50-1

We’re finally here! The best (and by which I pretty much mean “my favorite”) songs of the decade. The 00s were full of music, and these are the fifty tunes worth remembering. Click on the music files to sample and/or download them. A link to download all 200 songs in one large file is at the end of the post.

And now THE TOP FIFTY SONGS of the decade:

50. These Words – Natasha Bedingfield (2004)

This is the second time on this chart in which Bedingfield has written a song about writing. Don’t mess with a good thing, and Bedingfield definitely has a good thing going.

49. Paparazzi – Lady Gaga (2009)

Technically, “Paparazzi” is probably the strangest of Gaga’s songs, which is really saying something. I feel like there are subliminal messages hidden in this song the way I become transfixed as she juggles the title’s word with her mouth. Oh, Gaga.

48. Butterfly Nets – Bishop Allen (2006)

“Butterfly Nets” is best described as a contemporary lullaby. Though it is not like any other Bishop Allen song in tone or voice, it is my favorite, which is not to say I don’t like the rest of their music, as I love it. But the band certainly diverged from the beaten path to create something enchanting here.

47. Amsterdam – Peter Bjorn and John (2006)

This song is full of cool. It’s edgy, but subdued, sort of like the Gorillaz on Ambien. I can listen to this song all day.

46. Fidelity – Regina Spektor (2006)

The adorableness of Spektor peaks here with this cute, well-composed love song. When she starts in with her vocal aerobics during the chorus, it’s hard not to join in.

45. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys (2009)

New York has a new anthem, but you don’t have to have any affinity for the locale to love the song. Jay-Z gives a solid, clever rap performance, which Keys enchances with what is easily one of the best choruses of the decade.

44. Ignition (remix) – R. Kelly (2003)

This song works on two levels. First, it’s incredibly comical – the lyrics are absurd and it’s probably best not to have your first hit after facing statutory rape charges be all about having sex. Second, it’s addictive musically. I’m still not entirely sure whether I love to love or love to hate this song, but either way I keep coming back for more.

43. Young Pilgrims – The Shins (2003)

As best as I can tell, “Young Pilgrims” is a song about optimism for pessimists. (Note to self: Write book called Optimism for Pessimists.) Regardless of its complex lyrical content, the musical content is breezy and compelling, the best of the Shins’s work.

42. Hold Me Now – The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

“Hold Me Now,” a song literally about comforting someone, is legitimately a comforting tune. With a chorus of voices and dozens of instruments, it’s like one big musical hug. Everything is all right when you listen to this one.

41. Izzo – Jay-Z (2001)

From the middle of his career, “Izzo” still stands out as the best of Jay-Z’s solo efforts. The man has a way with words, and he pieces them together in an extraordinary fashion on this track.

40. Gimme Sympathy – Metric (2009)

Metric knows how to work a beat. The lyrics to “Gimme Sympathy” reference the musical legends The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and with solid songs like this one, Metric is laying the groundwork to join those greats.

39. I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness (2003)

Packed with absurdity and falsetto, nothing else from the decade even compares to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” The intense electric guitars help elevate the screeching to something of a phenomenon.

38. A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton (2002)

By the end of 2002, this song had been so overplayed that you just wished it’d go away. But there was a reason it was everywhere – it’s good! Carlton tickles the ivories and your eardrums with this ballad with a slight edge.

37. Digital Love – Daft Punk (2001)

This electronica romance is all sorts of win. I fist-pump with joy when it gets to the harsh interlude midway through the song and again at the staccato notes a minute later.

36. Song Across the Sea – Casper and the Cookies (2008)

This little-known song won’t quit. Creepy yet captivating, I’m drawn in by the palpable sadness of this song.

35. Islands – the xx (2009)

It’s hard to pick a favorite track off of this band’s great album when all of the songs are so good, but if pressed, I choose “Islands.” The interplay between the male and female vocals sends shivers down my spine.

34. This Love – Maroon 5

Though most of Maroon 5’s music conforms to typical pop-rock standards, “This Love” is unique. When I first heard this song, I didn’t think it could be from this decade. It seemed more like some held over 70s or 80s cheese. As evidenced by how highly I’ve ranked the song, I mean that in the best possible way.

33. It’s So Bright – Coyote Grace (2006)

I’ve seen this amazing folk-rock duo in concert more than almost any other musical artist. I’m always impressed by their song-writing skills and commitment to the music. This tune, with the pair of voices matched by an equally dynamic pair of strings, is my favorite.

32. I’m a Cuckoo – Belle and Sebastian (2004)

Like with many Belle and Sebastian songs, it’s hard to stay seated while “I’m a Cuckoo” plays. Even if I’m not dancing, I’m at least skipping.

31. No One – Alicia Keys (2007)

Keys lacks a diva attitude, but she’s sure got a diva voice. This song is epic and wrought with emotion in the best possible way.

30. Babylon – David Gray (2000)

David Gray has disappeared for the better part of this decade, though research tells me he’s still making music. “Babylon” is Gray’s definitive tune – undoubtedly because it’s awesome.

29. On the Way Down – Ryan Cabrera (2004)

A dorky #1 pop hit, “On the Way Down” holds a special spot in my heart. Cabrera’s quality voice and strong song writing ability make this a fun, easily-accessible hit.

28. Sold! To the Nice Rich Man – The Welcome Wagon (2008)

If I were a music mogul, I would commission pieces with dozens of voices, just as many instruments, and a whole lot of pep like this one. It’s sort of like modern opera, and half as tragic as the old variety.

27. Everything You Want – Vertical Horizon (2000)

Going back and listening to so many high-quality, respectable pop-rock songs from early in the decade for this retrospective leads me to wonder where all of the genre’s comparable talent hides today. The emotion of “Everything You Want” kicks in to high gear when the narrative tense switches from third to first person.

26. Breathe Me – Sia (2004)

Sia is toying not only with the music here, but the listeners’ emotions, too. “Breathe Me” is so overwhelmingly moving, that it’s actually reduced me to tears.

25. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – The Flaming Lips (2003)

As frivolous as the song may appear, each time I listen I become generally enthralled in the narrative. I stand behind Yoshimi and her plight to defeat the evil-natured robots. There’s a little Yoshimi inside of all of us.

24. Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi & MGMT & Ratatat (2009)

Despite writing a lot of songs about getting stoned, Kid Cudi is a musical genius. He’s routinely defying hip-hop conventions and creating songs that are impossible to forget – that’s a good thing considering all of the weed he’s been smoking.

23. Float On – Modest Mouse (2004)

There’s no denying the chorus on this song. You start by singing along, then devolve into just shouting along, either way, as the lyrics assure us repeatedly, we’re going to be “OK.”

22. Challengers – The New Pornographers (2007)

Though the New Pornographers have a variety of sounds, they generally lean more toward up-tempo, amusing music. In “Challengers,” the band strips down to a harmony-driven song about a love that cannot happen.

21. Never Forget You – The Noisettes (2009)

The Noisettes not only know how to groove, but how to pass that groove along to their audience. It’s difficult to ignore the singer’s powerful voice with some strong musical backing.

20. Everywhere – Michelle Branch (2001)

Branch first found success with this intense pop track with a rocking melody. The only thing that translates better than her anger is her talent.

19. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois – Sufjan Stevens (2005)

The opening track from Stevens’s best CD, “Concerning the UFO” is a beautifully basic piano-focused song that I wish could always lull me to sleep.

18. Southside – Moby & Gwen Stefani (2000)

The best car song of the decade! Just put this in as you go for a drive, and you’re guaranteed to smile/sing-along. You can tell both mega-artists are having a good time as they record this track – it’s contagious.

17. Parentheses – The Blow (2006)

The Blow appeases my grammar-loving heart with a song relating punctuation to affection. (“When you’re holding me, we make a pair of parentheses.”) It’s clear The Blow is having fun with the lyrics (“If something in the deli aisle makes you cry…”) and I can’t but help to have fun back with the song.

16. Ms. Jackson – Outkast (2001)

I’m pretty sure that Outkast couldn’t stop being cool if they tried. This song demonstrated how hip-hop can dabble in mainstream while maintaining its core essence.

15. Huddle Formation – The Go! Team (2004)

The lyrics are so fast and muddled that I can’t quite understand what they’re singing – not that it stops me from trying to sing along. The Go! Team take on the role of pop-punk cheerleaders; whatever they’re cheering for, I’m chanting along with them.

14. I’ll Be Glad – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (2008)

This gentle, uplifting track culminates in one of the best moments of harmonies in music I’ve ever heard. “I’ll Be Glad” proves that folk rock can be way hipper than it’s given credit for.

13. Call It off – Tegan & Sara (2007)

Speaking of harmonies, it takes sisters to make a whole song of harmonies this good. Tegan & Sara have penned a song that is heartbreakingly beautiful. I dare not even try to sing along to this one, since I couldn’t come close to what they’ve perfected.

12. By Your Side – Sade (2000)

There is nothing sexier musically than Sade. When she dropped this song in 2000, I couldn’t get enough of it and frankly still can’t. Hot! Though she’s vanished for the remainder of the decade, I am pleased to report that she has a new album (which will be all sorts of sultry, I imagine) coming out a couple of months into the new decade.

11. Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend (2008)

Again, a band is appealing to the grammar-lover in me. Oxford comma reference aside, the rest of the lyrics are intensely creative and witty, making me wish that all artists would write so strongly that I’d actually print out and dissect the lyrics for every layer of meaning.

10. Bulletproof – La Roux (2009)

A pure dance hit with an inescapable chorus, “Bulletproof” is a smash. Look for this song to top my year-end songs countdown in the next couple of weeks.

9. The Magic Position – Patrick Wolf (2007)

I’m willing to clap for the entire duration of this song, that’s how merry it makes me. Again, Wolf puts such theatrics in his remarkable voice that I feel like I’m experiencing a visual component even though it’s just audio.

8. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson (2005)

This song was unavoidable throughout 2005, so it’s a good thing it was a smash worth listening to. Former American Idol winner Clarkson is at her best here in this anthem about moving on.

7. Hanging by a Moment – Lifehouse (2001)

Another monster hit, “Hanging by a Moment” found audiences in multiple musical formats and remains a sentimental favorite of mine.

6. Umbrella – Rihanna & Jay-Z (2007)

Combining glumeness, simplicity, and catchiness, “Umbrella” is a full-on sensation. I dare you to resist chanting “ella ella ella ey ey ey” along at the chorus.

5. I’m Like a Bird – Nelly Furtado (2001)

With her debut single, Furtado made her presence known. From the moment the song first began, I knew her rich voice had staying power. “I’m Like a Bird” is the kind of song that feels good with every listen, and with no signs of stopping.

4. The Bleeding Heart Show – The New Pornographers (2005)

“The Bleeding Heart Show” is a masterpiece that goes through several stages. The progression is deliberate and it makes for one exciting ride. By the conclusion, which features chanting and an overridingly beautiful vocal line by Neko Case, I’m exhausted – in the best possible way.

3. Maps – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)

Though Karen O.’s vocals are to die for here, they’re fairly sparse. The words take a backseat to the overwhelming instrumentals including an unmistakable drum beat to kick off “Maps.”

2. Kids – MGMT (2008)

It’s been two years since it’s release, and I still haven’t tired of “Kids” even a little bit. Original and whimsical, “Kids” pulls me in with every repetition of the chorus.

1. Hey Ya – Outkast (2003)

There can be only one choice for the top song of the decade, and that is Outkast. “Hey Ya” is universally loved and it’s easy to hear why. The song spans genres and became an instant classic. Though I won’t live to see it, I can preemptively guarantee that “Hey Ya” will be found on many Top Songs of the Century list 90 years from now.

For the previous songs, click here:

To download all 200 songs, click here. (Warning: this is a LARGE file and will take quite some time to download depending on your connection speed.)


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Anonymous said...

Kevin, I gotta say, I normally stop looking at a list when I see Lifehouse and Michelle Branch in the top 20. But I'm glad I didn't this time.

After scoffing at some of your picks, I was shocked to actually find 10-20 songs that I never knew and were quite good. Though there are are 30+ songs which I might consider putting on a 'worst of the 2000s' list, I think this list does a good job of balancing mainstream with indie. I think it would hook a lot of mainstream music lovers and expose them to a lot of good songs which they actually should like.

In fact, I have a lot of lists which resemble this one my website- www.therockczar.com. Let me know what you think!


Kevin said...

Thanks! I genuinely enjoy your site, too, I'll continue to check it out to find some gems I've missed over the years.

I think a lot of the discrepancy in "taste level" is due to the fact that in the first half of the decade I was pretty much just a Top 40 radio-hit fan that branched out in later years. Who knows if I would pay any attention to Lifehouse if they released that single now, but I'm not going to apologize or disavow that song ever. It meant a lot to me!