The year 2000 looms large in pop culture history: the Y2k non-scare, the Seinfeld “Newmannium” episode, the “In the Year 2000″ sketch from Conan O’Brien’s original late-night show, the Hulu series PEN15. And just like, say, the grunge-defined 1991, the year immediately conjures specific sounds: gleaming teen-pop, earnest radio rock, the Neptunes and Timbaland.
There’s never a bad time to revisit this music. But in the middle of a pandemic, with America on the verge of collapse, it feels extra comforting — a blast of nostalgia for a time when you could safely exit your home, visit your local mall’s Sam Goody and buy Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass” CD single.
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For this list, our only criteria was that the songs appear on albums or soundtracks released in 2000.
Here we go.
50. Papa Roach, “Last Resort”
If you really wanted to rage with the flame-pattern bowling shirt and wallet chain crowd, Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” was the move. The band’s breakthrough punisher, which first appeared on the Ready To Rumble film soundtrack, was easily one of rap-metal’s most ubiquitous singles, climbing all the way to No. 57 on the Hot 100 — an unthinkable run now. The song is, of course, about contemplating suicide, more pointedly, singer Jacoby Shaddix’s roommate’s suicide attempt at the time. Wildly, the song known for its bombastic guitar melody was written first on piano, bassist Tobin Esperance once said. And with well over half a billion Spotify streams, all those Chads and Travises are clearly still listening. – Bobby Olivier
49. PJ Harvey, “Good Fortune”
Listening to PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea six months into a global pandemic hits differently. Across a lush tangle of guitar ballads, Harvey captures the intimacy of falling in love with and in New York City, each lyric a tender and economic ode. Ambling in short lyrical stops through Chinatown and Little Italy, lead single “Good Fortune” elegantly captures the early morning disorientation of seeing the city as if for the first time, honoring how brave it is to be present again and again. Behind Harvey’s straightforward delivery is an ecstatic longing to memorialize each moment as it happens: “Talking about / Time travel / And the meaning / And just what it was worth.” – Stefanie Fernández
48. Jill Scott, “The Way”
Somehow Jill Scott can make cooking breakfast sound rapturous: “Toast, two scrambled eggs, grits,” she sings, her voice blooming into petals of harmony on the latter word. “The Way,” the fourth single from the soul singer’s debut LP, unfolds at its own luxurious pace: clockwork hi-hat, herky-jerky electric piano, the softest of slapped bass. The groove suspends time, as Scott belts about watching the clock until a night of romance. – Ryan Reed
47. Queens of the Stone Age, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”
Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme helped kick off the new millennium with a song that simply repeated the words “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol – c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!” for three minutes, with metal God Rob Halford chiming in towards the end. It’s a classic trope of alternative rock to write a big catchy hook and then hide behind a tongue-in-cheek song title that playfully refers to how accessible it is (see also: R.E.M.’s “Pop Song ‘89” and the Chills’ “Heavenly Pop Hit”). But “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” was a little too dark to fulfill the prophecy of its title. It was released as the follow-up to the band’s radio breakthrough “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,” but DJs wouldn’t touch a song where the only word that wasn’t the name of an intoxicant was “and.” – Al Shipley
46. Paulina Rubio, “Yo No Soy Esa Mujer”
From teen star to pop diva, Paulina Rubio spent the ‘80s and ‘90s largely under the thumb of another’s creative direction. But 2000’s Paulina, her fifth solo album and first with Universal Music Latin, was a sea change for the Mexican icon, who finally had complete creative control. At the time, Rubio described the record as a risk, and it more than paid off, going multi-platinum in the U.S. and Mexico. Paulina was a vast genre experiment for Rubio, from the bubbly pop-rock of “Lo Haré Por Ti” to the ranchera “El Último Adiós” to ballads like “Tal Vez Quizás” and the dance-pop “Y Yo Sigo Aquí.” While it’s impossible to narrow Paulina’s influence to any one of its singles, “Yo No Soy Esa Mujer” is a fitting, feminist mission statement from an artist who still defies expectations. – S.F.
45. Samantha Mumba, “Gotta Tell You”
With Samantha Mumba’s rich drawl and the urgency of the single’s sleek, pulsating synths, the R&B-tinged “Gotta Tell You” was destined for nightclubs — and the pop charts. “Don’t wanna tell you this now, but it wouldn’t be right,” she sings. “If I didn’t tell you this tonight.” While the track helped her find instant fame, the Irish pop singer would only release one album. This banger, though, has never been forgotten. – Ilana Kaplan
44. Beenie Man (featuring Mya), “Girls Dem Sugar”
When dancehall reached its peak of U.S. crossover success in the early 2000s, it was largely with homegrown Jamaican riddims like Diwali and the Buzz. But one notable exception was Beenie Man, whose biggest hits of the era relied on American super producers the Neptunes. “Girls Dem Sugar” was Pharrell Williams’ and Chad Hugo’s own quirky neon take on dancehall, with Williams chanting Beenie Man’s signature phrase “sim simma” in the background and R&B star Mya cooing the chorus. Yet Beenie Man’s Kingston patois is still the star of the show, and “Girls Dem Sugar” felt more like an inspired moment of international alchemy than dancehall being watered down for mass consumption. – A.S.
43. U2, “Beautiful Day”
The title of U2’s milestone 10th album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is symbolic, as the Irish rockers went back to the drawing board. After experimenting with electronica in the late ‘90s, the band decided to return their classic rock sound. Thus the birth of lead single “Beautiful Day,” whose uplifting messages inspire the pursuit of beauty in the grimmest moments. The song became a staple in U2’s arsenal, winning three Grammy awards (including Record of the Year) and peaking just a position shy of Billboard Hot 100’s Top 20. As the world entered a new decade surrounded by uncertainty, “Beautiful Day” was an assurance that life will remain hopeful. – Bianca Gracie
42. Steely Dan, “Cousin Dupree”
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen enjoyed filling their slick jazz-pop songs with seedy characters and unreliable narrators. And when they returned from a two-decade recording hiatus with 2000’s Two Against Nature, they put their skeeviest foot forward with a song about a couch-surfing slacker hitting on his cousin — making even the lecherous narrator of “Hey Nineteen” seem a little less scandalous by comparison. Sure, Steely Dan was cast as the stodgy, old-fashioned counterpoint to Eminem’s insurgent shock rap at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards, but only one of those albums had a lead single about an incest fantasy and it wasn’t The Marshall Mathers LP. The song inspired a more entertaining but largely facetious celebrity rivalry in 2006 when Becker and Fagen jokingly accused the Owen Wilson comedy You, Me and Dupree of ripping off their song for its title. (Wilson offered an equally sarcastic response.) – A.S.
41. Slum Village, “Climax (Girl Shit)”
“We’re trying to break the monotony and relax the stiffness of sexuality because it’s so suppressed,” Baatin told the BBC of “Climax,” an atmospheric ode to ménage à trois. “Sexuality is freedom, and we support that.” Throughout the song, a highlight from the hip-hop act’s second LP, Fantastic Vol. 2, the trio trade classy verses about the practicalities of sexual fantasy — with Baatin telling a potential lover, “Take a position in my world of compassion / Satisfaction, ecstasy.” Their requests are anchored by a near-whispered neo-soul chorus and one of Jay-Dee’s airiest beats. – R.R.
40. Fuel, “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)”
All those radio-friendly post-grunge bands like Fuel, 3 Doors Down, Puddle of Mudd and Creed were the early ‘00s version of hair metal — rock fans either embraced the trend or fucking hated it. But of all the gravel-voiced jams that flooded pop radio with Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell mimics at the time, “Hemorrhage” holds up particularly well. Deliciously named frontman Brett Scallions nails the tormented, desperate lyric penned by guitarist Carl Bell, about his grandmother’s cancer battle. And you gotta love (or hate) Bell’s hyper-processed guitar solo, which all but screams “we’re in the digital era now, damnit!” – B.O.
39. Janet Jackson, “Doesn’t Really Matter”
The late ‘90s and early ‘00s birthed some of the greatest soundtrack cuts in cinema history — with Eddie Murphy films becoming a go-to for R&B superstars. Aaliyah recorded her Timbaland-produced anthem “Are You That Somebody” for the 1998 Dr. Dolittle soundtrack — two years before Janet Jackson’s “Doesn’t Really Matter” gave fans another reason to watch The Nutty Professor II. Produced by hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the song went from just a soundtrack song to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. And it still makes us nutty, nutty, nutty. – Brenton Blanchet
38. AFI, “The Days of the Phoenix”
“I fell into yesterday / Our dreams seemed not far away,” Davey Havok snarls over Jade Puget’s steamrolling riff. The bittersweet lead single from The Art of Drowning, AFI’s first classic LP, gazes back fondly on youthful exuberance — the title is seemingly a nod to the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, California, where the gothic post-hardcore band (in their pre-Puget days) staged their first show. AFI wrote sharper hooks than “Phoenix” later on (see: every track on their commercial breakout, Sing the Sorrow) but never one that felt so pure and honest. – R.R.
37. The New Pornographers, “Mass Romantic”
Particularly in the band’s early years, every New Pornographers song was a party, a riot of feeling and euphoria. If you were fortunate enough to catch them on tour then, this was borne out live. “Mass Romantic” was and remains a wondrous exemplar of this era: a hurdy-gurdy, Technicolor sing-along essentially about itself. The band and producer David Carswell manage to cram every inch of space with blessed noise, with melodic color and sinew. Neko Case, in her introduction to a mass audience, leads a fierce Valkyrie charge that will never not pulse with vitality. – Raymond Cummings
36. New Found Glory, “Dressed To Kill”
The lovelorn pop-punk precursor to “My Friends Over You,” “Dressed To Kill” is all double-guitar funfetti and lonely-on-tour angst from singer Jordan Pundik. The track remains a mega-fan favorite and one of the band’s many seminal “easycore” tracks, which would fuel the major key breakdown trend a decade later (A Day to Remember, Four Year Strong). We have to talk about the 2000s-tastic music video featuring She’s All That star Rachael Leigh Cook, who plays the pretty girl being stalked by her suburban cul-de-sac neighbor (while NFG jams in a garage nearby). But wait, there’s a twist — she’s stalking her neighbor too! Crazy! She also inexplicably uses an old chocolate lab as a pillow around the 0:50 mark. Leave that dog alone! – B.O.
35. Shakira, “Sombra de Ti” (MTV Unplugged)
In 1999, a red-haired Shakira broke the MTV mold as the first Latina solo act to record an Unplugged concert; the 2000 album won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album — a rare Spanish-language success among English-speaking audiences. Recorded on the cusp of her first English-language LP, 2001’s Laundry Service, Shakira’s Unplugged performance featured 10 songs from 1998’s ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? and one from 1995’s Pies Descalzos; it showcased the vocalist at the height of her rockera epoch — an astonishing display of her artistry, confessional songwriting and masterful control in stretching and experimenting with a voice laid bare. “Sombra De Ti” is among the album’s quieter moments, but it lacks none of its characteristic intensity, her liquid voice lingering over heartsick lyrics in the dark, as it was written, in one of her most honest and affecting performances. – S.F.
34. Death Cab for Cutie, “Company Calls”
Bellingham’s Death Cab for Cutie emerged at the end of the ‘90s as maybe the most mild-mannered band from Washington state to gain national prominence since grunge hit. But the group, originally Ben Gibbard’s lo-fi solo project while playing guitar in Pinwheel, was still slowly transitioning into a solidified four-piece on their second album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes. So early drummer Nathan Good only played on a couple tracks on the album before exiting the band, including the downtempo “Company Calls Epilogue.” But Gibbard handled the drums himself impressively on the preceding “Company Calls,” one of the faster songs from Death Cab 1.0 that spun their all too obvious Built to Spill influence into something leaner and wordier. – A.S.
33. Jurassic 5, “Great Expectations”
If you ever spent your time kickin’ it in front of the PS1 and shredding on Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX, hearing “Great Expectations” is likely as 2000 to you as bringing your portable CD player on a family vacation to Nickelodeon Studios. This Jurassic 5 tune from their second LP, Quality Control, has all the DJ scratching, jazz sax samples and dusty drums to round off a glorious year for rap. The alternative hip-hop crew gave 2000 the call-and-response anthem it truly needed. – B.B.
32. Nine Days, “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)”
They’ve released eight albums, but for most of the population, Nine Days might as well only have one song: “Absolutely (Story of a Girl).” Written by vocalist/guitarist John Hampson for his wife (then-girlfriend), the power-pop anthem — featured on the band’s fourth LP The Madding Crowd — was a breakthrough for the Long Island rockers. The effortlessly charming yet clichéd single balanced its sappiness (“This is the story of a girl / Who cried a river and drowned the whole world”) with irresistible hooks, earning the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart. It may have been the group’s lone hit, but “Absolutely” has earned enough airtime over the years for two. – I.K.
31. Green Day – “Warning”
The opener from Green Day’s last great album knows it has to set a certain tone. Companionable, gently sloganeering and denim-sheathed, “Warning” collages together cliches and pro-forma admonitions, locating a merry urgency in abject banality. The trio’s prior breakneck pace takes a backseat to a mid-tempo chug — a species of dad rock, to be sure. Warning itself bridges Green Day’s personal and generalist-brand eras; “Warning” teeters precariously, its enduring tensions wrestling between Billie Joe Armstrong’s blasé, calculated needling and the arrangement’s eagerness to endear, to be winningly autumnal, to retain a certain naturalism. – R.C.
30. No Doubt – “Bathwater”
With Return of Saturn, No Doubt proved its reign would be genre-bending. But “Bathwater” returned the Gwen Stefani-led group to their ska-reggae roots. Anchored by pulsating bass and thumping drums, the song flaunts a bouncy melody as the singer laments being drawn to a man who’s indifferent about her. Despite knowing about his ex-lovers, she continues to have an inexplicable affection for him, continuing to wash herself in his “old bathwater.” And the cycle persists. – I.K.
29. Destiny’s Child, “Independent Women”
The chart domination of “Independent Women” — one of only 39 songs (as of July 2020) to spend over 10 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 — was a literal surprise. The group’s manager (and Beyoncé’s father), Mathew Knowles, covertly submitted the song for inclusion on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, one year before the track (and its “Part II”) appeared on their third album, 2001’s Survivor. But the hit’s franchise framing soon became its least compelling aspect: It remains a lasting feminist manifesto to financial autonomy, the freedom to pay your own bills and the right to self-determination. – S.F.
28. Nelly Furtado, “I’m Like a Bird”
The Mellotron, an electro-mechanical keyboard invented in England in the ‘60s, is most closely associated with prog-rock and psychedelic songs like the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” But the instrument’s unmistakable quivering texture made an unlikely return to the pop charts in 2000 via the faux symphonic fanfare of Canadian singer’s Nelly Furtado’s debut hit. “I’m Like a Bird” offers an earthy singer-songwriter appeal. But the groovy synth work and the bassline by Dr. Dre’s right-hand man Mike Elizondo give the song a subtle R&B bounce that foreshadowed Furtado’s later, clubbier hits with Timbaland. – A.S.
27. Blink-182, “Man Overboard”
“Man Overboard” was an odd man out during the Enema of the State sessions in 1999. The now-beloved tune wasn’t finished in time for the record and was instead tacked on as a promo single for The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show (The Enema Strikes Back!), their subsequent live record. The rumbling track is one of Blink’s best: addictive, aggressive and full of instantly recognizable hooks, like Mark Hoppus’ opening bass riff and Tom DeLonge’s chugging guitar melody. Plus, everybody knows somebody who’s “out of line and rarely sober.” - B.O.
26. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, “Storm”
This is the dystopian future that Godspeed You! Black Emperor foretold; we’re just living in it. If 1997’s F# A# ∞ and 1999’s Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada set the pre-apocalyptic stage, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven sends a Phoenix streaking through the ruins, mourning and vengeful in equal measure. Opener “Storm” swiftly achieves a self-immolating altitude — a conservatory rupture of pealing horns, incandescent strings, thermite guitars — then dips in and out of wind currents. When these mood-ring post-rock blues do desist, it’s to roll tape on an Orwellian service station recording that remains, two decades on, capable of raising the hairs on the back of necks. – R.C.
25. Madonna, “Don’t Tell Me”
After drawing all the club kids to the neon-hued dance floor with glitzy lead single “Music,” the Queen of Unpredictability decided to take listeners…back to the ranch? In an album filled with electronica, “Don’t Tell Me” stuck out like a twangy thumb ready to hitch a hike. In true Sheryl Crow-gone-wild fashion, Madonna grabbed her trusty Stetson hat and channeled her inner cowgirl. But it wouldn’t be Madonna without some experimental elements: a CD-skip stutter effect, orchestral strings, obscure lyricism (“Tell the bed not to lay / Like the open mouth of a grave”) and homegrown country guitars that flipped the genre on its head while scoring her yet another top-five hit. – B.G.
24. Coldplay, “Shiver”
Before they became one of the biggest bands on Earth and collaborated with Rihanna and the Chainsmokers to maintain their Top 40 market share, Coldplay were just another post-Britpop band who aspired to the swooning falsetto dramatics of Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke. Released as the first single from Parachutes in the U.K. and the second single in the U.S., “Shiver” was less successful than “Yellow” in both markets but better crystallized the band’s sound at the time. The winsome melody and 6/8 gallop echo Buckley’s “Grace” and Radiohead’s “(Nice Dream)” enough to make Chris Martin’s influences transparent. But Johnny Buckland’s soaring lead guitar and Will Champion’s propulsive drums, which would get lost in the mix more and more in the band’s quest for world domination, have never sounded better than they did on “Shiver.” – A.S.
23. Smashing Pumpkins, “The Everlasting Gaze”
Wounded, dramatic and declaratory, “The Everlasting Gaze” packs a lot of punch; it had to, had to. The Smashing Pumpkins were a fallen Icarus in that moment — there’d been losses and evasions and an entire pop culture universe that spun away from their orbit since the triumph of 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. So the guitars of Billy Corgan and James Iha are blaring and overdriven; drummer Jimmy Chamberlin lays on a mighty thwomp; and Flood produces with a crushing, mythic intensity. This is that “Zero”/“Jellybelly,” no fucks given near-metal shit; the vocals claw straight down to your soul, never letting go. – R.C.
22. Mystikal, “Shake Ya Ass”
The early ‘00s club scene would be even quieter than 2020’s without the Neptunes’ influence on airwaves. The production duo of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams changed the pop and hip-hop landscape with an unmistakable dash of funk in everything they touched — they really cruised into the new millennium looking like Clipse’s Lord Willin’ cover. Their first triumph of 2000 was Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass,” a song that can transform any setting into a twerking triathlon. Seriously, throw this bad boy on at a Sam’s Club and try not to bust it down once that bassline hits and Mystikal demands that you show him what you’re working with. – B.B.
21. *NSYNC, “Bye Bye Bye”
Some songs are their own moments. And for *NSYNC, “Bye Bye Bye” represented freedom. The masterfully choreographed boy band’s best-selling album, No Strings Attached, followed a tedious legal battle with former management; and though the lyrics to its lead single focus on a romantic breakup, it’s hard not to interpret both titles in their historical context — as the pitch-perfect quintet cutting off their puppet strings and bidding their past farewell. “Bye Bye Bye” channeled the best of Y2K pop and gave Justin Timberlake that massive chorus to propel him into eventual ramen-hair superstardom. It’s also a reminder that JC Chasez was (and remains) a powerhouse, crushing an opening verse we still hold close to our Team JC hearts. – B.B.
20. Erykah Badu, “Bag Lady”
One of the music industry’s favorite bait-and-switch schemes peaked around the year 2000: The biggest hit from an album was often a remix that sounded completely different from the version you’d hear when you bought the physical product. On Erykah Badu’s lush, ambitious second LP, Mama’s Gun, “Bag Lady” was a slow burner with delicate snare drum rolls, electric piano and a guitar line borrowed from Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive” interpolation of “Bumpy’s Lament” by Isaac Hayes. But the version featured in the video that pushed the song to No. 6 on the Hot 100 was “Bag Lady (Cheeba Sac Radio Edit),” which swapped out Badu’s live band arrangement for the thumping beat from the widely sampled Dr. Dre track. Eventually, Motown gave consumers what they were looking for, reissuing Mama’s Gun in 2001 with the “Bag Lady” remix as a bonus cut. – A.S.
19. Mya, “Case of the Ex”
Mya was briefly everywhere around the turn of the century: making hits with everyone from Jay-Z to Silkk the Shocker, singing hooks for Pras and Beenie Man, joining the all-star “Lady Marmalade” remake that topped the charts in 2001. But “Case of the Ex” was the one big moment where she stood on her own, interrogating a boyfriend who’s just a little too friendly with an ex. It’s the kind of classic R&B scenario that usually makes for great ballads, but producer Tricky Stewart filled “Case of the Ex” with intricate drum patterns that primed the track for crossover success, almost a decade before he became a Billboard fixture with blockbusters like “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies.” In the video, Mya and her friends do synchronized dance moves with big metal pipes in the middle of the desert, like they’re about to throw down in some kind of choreographed Mad Max dystopia. But “Case of the Ex” resonated because of how well its lyric dramatized the ordinary everyday jealousy and paranoia that can accompany a young relationship. – A.S.
18. Craig David, “Fill Me In”
Everything about this R&B-dance banger feels distinctly Y2K: the staccato synth-strings, the sweet (if slightly sterile) drum programming, the goofy production techniques (the telephone EQ on “Please leave a message after tone”). But even if “Fill Me In,” the signature hit from the British singer’s debut LP, sounds a bit dated two decades later, the song itself still rips. David’s nimble rhythmic twists in the first verse are God-level: “So I went in, then we sat down, start kissing, caressing / Told me about jacuzzi, sounded interested, so we jumped right in.” – R.R.
17. Linkin Park, “In the End”
“In the End” has remained Linkin Park’s signature song for two decades. Fusing hard rock riffs, rapped verses and ballad-level introspection, “In the End” — the final single off Linkin Park’s 2000 debut, Hybrid Theory — helped set the group apart from the Limp Bizkits of the early aughts. The enchanting piano line opens the track before erupting into an explosive, existential chorus rooted in defeat. “I tried so hard and got so far / But in the end, it doesn’t even matter,” singer Chester Bennington screams in raw angst. And Bennington did get far: “In the End” is an integral part of the band’s legacy. – I.K.
16. Dashboard Confessional, “Screaming Infidelities”
At the turn of the century, Dashboard Confessional played a key role in the progression of emo with the slow-burning heartbreak anthem “Screaming Infidelities.” Released on the band’s independent debut, The Swiss Army Romance, the tearjerker put a vulnerable lens on a relationship’s demise from unfaithfulness. Despite the fallout, singer Chris Carrabba can’t help but find reminders all around: “Your hair is everywhere / Screaming infidelities, and taking its wear.” The piercing chorus wail lives on as a fan-favorite sing-along for a reason. – I.K.
15. Sunny Day Real Estate, “One”
By Y2K, Sunny Day Real Estate were no longer the emo darlings of their 1994 debut, Diary. The band’s trajectory in the six years between is the stuff of lore: the spiritual epiphany of frontman Jeremy Enigk, the lineup’s initial collapse and (partial) reunion, the gradual sonic evolution that crescendoed with their sadly underrated swan song, The Rising Tide. The album’s lush, symphonic sound and philosophical lyrics alienated the OG fans (and many critics) who clearly craved the basement-fidelity angst of “Seven” and “In Circles.” But Enigk’s songwriting blossomed on this grander scale, epitomized by the record’s sole single, “One.” Like their early work, it’s driven by the entangled distortion of Enigk and Dan Hoerner, with William Goldsmith’s fluid, lyrical drumming — full of articulate tom flourishes and swooshing open hi-hats — the not-so-secret MVP. But like many Rising Tide cuts, “One”’s earnest melodies and startling dynamic shifts approach a prog-like level of sophistication. – R.R.
14. Lifehouse, “Hanging By A Moment”
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 71.8 million family households in America — and all of them contained at least one Lifehouse fan. Your mom, dad, little sister, guinea pig — there was someone who couldn’t get enough of “Hanging By A Moment,” one of the alt-rock wave’s biggest hits. The bounding jam, which frontman Jason Wade has said was written in roughly 10 minutes, climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, fueled by massive crossover play on pop, rock and adult contemporary radio. Everybody loves a chorus, and Wade credits the simple melody, which he accurately describes as “almost nursery rhyme-ish,” as the key to the song’s success. But lest we forget that deep, opening note — not a cello but a bow drawn across an upright bass — which feels like an exhale and sets the tone for one of the greatest radio rock earworms of the last 20 years. – B.O.
13. Jay-Z, “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)”
The ‘90s was the Decade of Jay-Z, with the Brooklyn native showing the world why he was the dopest rapper in the game. But during that time, he didn’t really have a mainstream hit (save for 1998’s “Hard Knock Life”) in his back pocket. So who do rappers call when they want to cross over? The Neptunes, of course. “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” the production duo’s first collaboration with Jay-Z, found Hov at his most playful, spitting about quintessential Y2K items: Chloe glasses, Cristal and two-way Motorola pagers. The infectious song was topped with Pharrell’s signature falsetto that still has everyone “in the club, high, singing off-key” to this day. – B.G.
12. A Perfect Circle, “Judith”
They had us at “fuck your God!” Named for Maynard James Keenan’s mother, “Judith” was the world’s explosive introduction to A Perfect Circle, a side-project that sounded a lot like Tool, only loaded with more digestible melodies and studio polish. The lead single from 2000’s dare we say, pretty, debut LP, Mer de Noms, played not unlike Tool’s breakthrough “Sober” — with a big, fat guitar riff and Keenan’s patently brooding lyricism, exploring his mother’s religious devotion even as her health deteriorated. The tune was also a major respite for Tool fans who’d been drooling since ‘96’s Ænima melted their brains. – B.O.
11. Nelly, “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)”
By the end of the ’90s, virtually every platinum-level rapper hailed from one of a few major cities with storied hip-hop scenes. Then Cornell Haynes stormed out of Missouri at the dawn of the new millennium and his debut album sold 10 million copies. Jason “Jay E” Epperson, a producer from Nelly’s hometown of St. Louis, gave “Country Grammar” such a bright, bubbly backing track that people almost didn’t notice that Nelly was rapping about a drive-by shooting and passing a joint. There were already plenty of vocalists who alternated between melodic vocals and staccato rhymes before Nelly, but Nelly’s sing-song flow bridged the gap between the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony era and the Drake era, helping break down the distinction between singing and rapping for good. – A.S.
10. Britney Spears, “Oops!…I Did It Again”
It’s impossible to think about “Oops!…I Did It Again” without recalling its companion music video: the red, latex bodysuit; the Moon Man, Titanic’s Heart of the Ocean jewel — oh my! Britney Spears’ early singles often explored doomed romances. But with “Oops!” she was back in control as the heartbreaker, not the heartbroken. The song was a cultural reset — and with its killer pop hooks and flirtatious chorus, it earned Spears her third Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Spears may have broken some hearts then, but it didn’t stop them from coming back for more. – I.K.
9. At the Drive-In, “One Armed Scissor”
“One Armed Scissor” moves like a rickety carnival roller coaster — at any moment it might fall apart and send you to hell — and that’s part of the thrill! The lead single from Relationship of Command, one of the most revered alternative records of the last 20 years, “Scissor” has become something of a mythic cut, especially since the band broke up only months after the manic track earned ATDI their first real radio airplay. Sharing its name with the Canadian version of a vodka/Red Bull and loaded with dense, vaguely digital lines (“A neutered is the vastness / Hollow vacuum, check the oxygen tanks”), it’s one of many Command songs that’s been key in post-hardcore’s development over the last two decades. Title Fight, Touché Amoré, La Dispute and a million more don’t exist — at least not in the same way — without Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Omar Rodríguez-López and Jim Ward. – B.O.
8. Modest Mouse, “3rd Planet”
Modest Mouse’s first major-label album, The Moon & Antarctica, had many fans worried that the band might sound too polished. Instead, the record preserved all their weirdness and recklessness, distilling that essence in moments of aching abandon and quiet restraint alike across songs about human life, death, the universe and all of its cold darkness. “3rd Planet” opens the record with its thesis: “Everything that keeps me together is falling apart / I’ve got this thing that I consider my only art of fucking people over.” In each of its movements, it marches through cycles of planetary evolution and personal tragedy, each event at the beginning or end of a world landing without resolution. It’s the record’s first question of the human desire to keep manufacturing meaning after world-altering change and grief, marveling at the mechanisms by which it continues to lurch forward thereafter. – S.F.
7. Deftones, “Change (In the House of Flies)”
Chino Moreno watches someone turn into a fly, captures them, takes them home, pulls off their wings, laughs about it, and then hands the wingless fly a gun — a very small gun, surely — to blow him away. The metaphor is obvious, right? Okay, fine, the lyrics to “Change” can mean almost anything (and Moreno has said as much), but the assailing, hypnotic single — Deftones’ highest-charting track ever — remains a cornerstone of the dream-metal giants’ mesmerizing catalog. If 1997’s Around The Fur didn’t sell you on Deftones as a band that would transcend the nü-metal craze and maintain rock relevance into 2020, its accompanying LP, White Pony, should’ve done the job. – B.O.
6. Aaliyah, “Try Again”
By the turn of the decade, Aaliyah had elevated from R&B singer to budding movie star. And she brought Timbaland — her lucky music charm — along for the ride. The result was “Try Again,” the Grammy-nominated lead single from the soundtrack of Romeo Must Die (in which she also starred). When Timbaland declares, “It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you / Without a dope beat to step to” on the Rakim-interpolating opening seconds, he isn’t playing around. The anthemic lyrics, Aaliyah’s effortless cool factor and Timbaland’s fuzzy, acid house-inspired synths propelled “Try Again” to their first Hot 100 chart-topper. If not for her tragic death just a year later, we could only envision her earning more. – B.G.
5. Common, “The Light”
While most rappers were flaunting their tough-guy status, Common opted to test the decade’s emerging new sound with the heartwarming “The Light,” the second single from his fourth album, Like Water for Chocolate. The Bobby Caldwell-sampling neo-soul track reads more like a poetry slam than a classic rap song, which makes sense as Common wanted to tribute his then-girlfriend Erykah Badu. “The Light” has even grown into a passing of the rap romance torch, with Jay-Z adapting the classic opening lines (“I never knew a luh, luh-luh, a love like this / Gotta be somethin’ for me to write this / Queen, I ain’t seen you in a minute”) for 2018’s Everything Is Love’s “713” — a lovestruck duet with his soulmate, Beyoncé. - B.G.
4. D’Angelo, “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”
As bubblegum pop and rambunctious nü-metal fought to take over the millennium, an innovative new sound was emerging: neo-soul. And D’Angelo was the leader of the pack. “Untitled,” the hit single from his sophomore album Voodoo, dared to explore what was occurring on the opposite side of the bedroom door. In the spirit of Prince, the song mimics the art of lovemaking: starting off sensual and measured before ending in a wailing climax. But one cannot discuss “Untitled” without mentioning the video, whose intimate close-ups revealing a chiseled (and very nude) D’Angelo propelled him to sex icon status. The legacy of “Untitled” has strengthened since its inception, as seen with Beyoncé’s “Rocket” in 2013, Miguel’s effortless sensuality and the entirety of Justin Timberlake’s falsetto range. Call it the power of the pelvis. – B.G.
3. Radiohead, “Everything in Its Right Place”
A windswept sonic cathedral of Prophet-5 synthesizer chords, “Everything In Its Right Place” presents an intriguing duality. The music’s effect is both an embrace and a smothering, a swirling balm, a fluorescent prison. Thom Yorke’s processed, mantra-like vocals deepen this impression; from moment to moment, he’s adrift in an inescapable tortured despair or ecstatic in a half-sarcastic way. Yorke’s emotions seem beamed in from a different, worse dimension — a reality not dissimilar to ours, corroded and cybernetic, alluring, damned. – R.C.
2. Eminem, “Stan”
By May 2000, Eminem was well on his way to becoming the world’s most popular rapper. That doesn’t mean he was happy about it. While The Marshall Mathers LP’s first single, “The Real Slim Shady,” entered the pop culture lexicon for Em’s rapid-fire delivery, mocking pop songs and noteworthy (hilarious in hindsight) celebrities of the time, another cut ended up having a more permanent impact: “Stan” — a heavy song about the perils of diehard fandom, with a somber beat that samples Dido’s “Thank You” — was a wicked curveball. From its gradual build, intense storyline and surprising twist, the track showcased Eminem’s lyrical depth, proving he was much more than just a shock rapper. If only fans of today listened to the message of that cautionary tale. – Daniel Kohn
1. Outkast, “B.O.B.”
In five minutes, OutKast managed to squeeze in every ounce of mania the world felt at the unpredictable start of Y2K. For a song boldly titled “B.O.B.” (or “Bombs Over Baghdad”), it begins suspiciously unassuming before Andre 3000 counts down to a sonic whiplash. He and Big Boi rap with a head-spinning fervor that the beat, filled with thunderous gospel cries and a wailing electric guitar a la Jimi Hendrix, runs to catch up with. The pair didn’t intend for the song as a political statement: “Baghdad” was meant to mimic the ghettoes of their native Atlanta. But as 2003 approached, “B.O.B.” transformed into a battle cry against the Iraq War — and a middle finger to then-President Bush’s administrative reign. And with the November election looming over our heads, it might just be time to resurrect “B.O.B.” as our 2020 anthem. – B.G.
To see our running list of the top 100 greatest guitarists of all time, click here.