At long last, the first half of my Top 100 Songs of the 2000s list. I’ll get the second half up once I finish writing some more blurbs.
I guess I should use this space to say something pompous about “the decade in music” but I think the past 10 years resist any easy generalizations or categorizations. Music from more sources than ever is now far more accessible than it’s ever been, which is all in all a good thing.
It goes without saying that what follows is a highly personal, idiosyncratic list of the decade’s best songs. It's certainly not a list of the decade's best singles, although I did make an effort to include a handful of songs from the pop mainstream. Favorites are played; age is shown. Lots of worthy songs are absent; many more I haven’t heard. I was going to do a worst-songs list too, but it turned out they were all by the Black Eyed Peas. Anyway, enjoy. And if you don’t like my picks, then make your own list. But whatever you do, don’t come bitching to me.
100. “In Houston”—Tapes ’N Tapes
99. “Daniel”—Bat for Lashes
Unlikely hot influence of the moment: Kate Bush.
98. “Ride Around Shining”—Clipse
97. “Somebody Told Me”—The Killers
A lot more fun than the unbearable “Mr. Brightside.” Less emo, more Journey.
96. “When Under Ether”—PJ Harvey
95. “Formed a Band”—Art Brut
Acidic rock from across the pond (“We’re gonna be the band that writes the song/That makes Israel and Palestine get along”).
94. “Still Tippin’—Mike Jones (feat. Slim Thug and Paul Wall)
93. “Romeo”—Basement Jaxx
92. “Sink Hole”—Drive-by Truckers
In which a resourceful Southerner comes up with an elegant solution to his foreclosure problem.
91. “You Know I’m No Good”—Amy Winehouse
Not “Rehab,” which is neither cute nor funny.
90. “Nothing Ever Happened”—Deerhunter
89. “Never Let Me Down”—Kanye West (feat. Jay-Z and J. Ivy)
88. “Let Me Sleep (Next to the Mirror)”—Idlewild
Scottish rockers deliver a punchy power ballad with a title worthy of Morrissey.
87. “Stress Rap”—Cannibal Ox
86. “Never Miss a Beat”—Kaiser Chiefs
85. “Something in the Way of Things (In Town)”—The Roots (feat. Amiri Baraka)
The sort of fusion of poetry and popular music that almost never works. Exceptions: Patti Smith’s Horses; not much else.
84. “Toxic”—Britney Spears
83. “Starálfur”—Sigur Ros
I could easily have picked the more elemental (and better known) “Svefn-G-Englar” instead.
82. “Hounds of Love”—The Futureheads
See No. 99
81. “Hola’ Hovito”—Jay-Z
80. “Mississippi”—Bob Dylan
“You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way,” the man says. He comes close though.
79. “Karen Revisited”—Sonic Youth
78. “Monosylabik”—DJ Shadow
An exercise in sheer virtuosity. Shadow continues to slice and reslice the same beat, goaded on by the recurring taunt “What you gon’ do now?”
76. “A Paw in My Face”—The Field
Axel Willner chills out to some Lionel Richie.
75. “All Falls Down”—Kanye West
“And the white man get paid off of all of that.” Apparently the phrase “white man” was bleeped out on MTV. Standing up for the master race since 1981.
74. “Return of the Loop Digga”—Quasimoto
73. “Lust for Life”—Girls
72. “Float On”—Modest Mouse
The buoyant theme song of the most depressing political year in memory.
71. “Heartbreak Stroll”—Raveonettes
70. “Someday”—The Strokes
In many ways we’ll miss the good old days.
The cry of the madman—or the last sane person in a world gone mad (“I know the pieces fit”).
68. “Stillness Is the Move”—Dirty Projectors
67. “First of the Gang to Die”—Morrissey
It’s hard not to read this as Moz’s typically perverse tribute to his legions of Latino fans.
66. “Chop Suey!”—System of a Down
65. “Shakey Dog”—Ghostface Killah
Dense, vivid narrative rap.
63. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”—The Arcade Fire
62. “Hurt Me Soul”—Lupe Fiasco
Lupe can get a bit preachy for my taste, but this track from his debut is a bull’s-eye. The torrential flow of the climactic final verse is too generalized to qualify as political analysis but perfectly captures how overwhelming it all seems.
Showing off a tremendous range of influences, Maya raps about the cost of an AK-47 in Africa against a dense backdrop of chants, synths, and the bass line from “Blue Monday.”
60. “I Feel Like Dying”—Lil Wayne
Clearly the product of some serious drug use.
59. “Better Living Through Chemistry”—Queens of the Stone Age
See No. 60.
58. “Earthquake Weather”—Beck
It wasn’t the best decade for Beck, but this track from 2005’s Guero is sufficient evidence that he’s still relevant.
57. “The Rip”—Portishead
56. “Please Please Please”—Fiona Apple
The cry of the frustrated experimentalist. I feel her pain.
55. “Mr. Bobby”—Manu Chao
Can’t we all just get along?
The October 2000 release date of Kid A seems alarmingly prescient now. It’s almost as though something unbelievably horrible was about to happen and none of us had any idea.
53. “Long Walk Home”—Bruce Springsteen
If Obama had wanted a candid campaign theme song, he could have done worse than this update of “My Hometown.”
52. “Don’t Tell Me”—Madonna
The best of Madonna’s late-period singles and a concise articulation of a particular worldview. It’s not a worldview I share. Truth be told, it’s not a worldview I particularly respect. But it is delivered with conviction.
51. “Get Ur Freak On”—Missy Elliott
Some consensus choices are tough to argue with.