20 songs from the 2000s that may or may not be the best
I sat down to write a top 20 songs of the Noughties, in reponse to the easily disputed list compiled by Channel 4 and a more heartfelt but still disputable list by Diary of a Ledger.
The problem I have is what the decade was in my life. It was my 20s. It was also political work, the death of my mom, a marriage, a mental breakdown, a divorce, an international move, and an ass-backwards fall into the art world.
On the one hand, I have a list of the ‘best’ songs; on the other, I have the most meaningful. Here, I’m going somewhere between the two. Some of these might not be the best songs of the decade, or even the best song by the band in question, but they are the ones that stick with me the most.
–. Young Folks, Peter, Bjorn and John
Yeah, it’s used all over commercials now. I still remember getting a link to an early release of the video and having the song stuck in my head for weeks. The album was on loop as I got packed up to move to the UK. The accent-tinged English lyrics about ‘usually when things has gone this far, people tend to disappear’ packs so much weight in such a light, poppy song.
–. Rehab, Amy Winehouse
A song from my Vermont era, this one immediately struck a chord for me. The success can probably be blamed for having to endure shit like Duffy, Kate Nash, etc., but this song — and the album — had a classic tone that was just awesome. It was new music that had the feeling of the old music I love so much. Plus, at a time when I was being hounded about how much I drank, the lyrics just seemed perfect.
–. Blinded by the Lights, The Streets
Now, this isn’t Mr Skinner’s best song, and it’s not off the best album. That said, it’s a damn good song, and one that has stood up over the years. I bought the album in Galway, and listened to it for the first time while waiting for a bus in the same town. Dry Your Eyes was charting, but this one stood out more. The remixes have all been great, and it’s just the type of song that so well sums up one’s 20s.
–. Time to Pretend, MGMT
This song makes me want to cry. My 20s were a time of fighting with and giving into the desire to be so much more than I was. It’s been a decade of not being satisfied with an office job, not being happy with where I was, and fucking off the world to do my own thing. So when a song comes along talking about fucking off to Paris, doing drugs, and divorcing models as the alternative to an office job and waking up for the morning news, it just hits so deep within my gut I can’t say much else.
–. 99 Problems, Jay-Z
For those who know me, I have a mostly hate relationship with Jay-Z. I’m not a huge fan of him. This song, though… For me it’s all about the video. Rick Rubin in his big fur coat. Hearing it the first time in a union organiser’s house in St. Louis while working on an election campaign. Being struck by every last riff of it.
–. Mr. Brightside, The Killers
This is another video one for me. The American video of this makes the song, which is already one of their better ones. (Sad, really… means they’ve only gone downhill.) The pop-glam rock melds perfectly into the sweaty burlesque, and the pleading ‘it was only a kiss’ resonates so much more that way.
–. The Woman with the Tattooed Hands, Atmosphere
Not Atmosphere’s ‘best’, but my favourite, and one of my all-time favourite songs. The innocence and bravado in the lyrics are amazing. I wanted to play this at my wedding reception thing years back, but it was vetoed because it wouldn’t be appreciated by the religious members of my ex’s family. What’s so wrong with biting one’s bottom lip?
–. Oxford Comma, Vampire Weekend
I struggled in choosing this over Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, but went with it purely for the intelligent opening line, which combines grammar and profanity. That alone should be enough to explain why I like it.
–. I Believe in a Thing Called Love, The Darkness
The song, the video. Oh, it’s all so good. It was retro with skinny legs before that was painfully a la mode. And fuck… it’s just a rockin’ song.
–. The Dark of the Matinee, Franz Ferdinand
I know this isnt’ the song that gets on the top whatever lists, but I like it more. It’s the one that I feel at home with, the one that calls for being pulled into life. First hearing it when I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life, it meant so damn much. ‘How you’d have a happy life if you did the things you like’ carries such weight when you’re standing in another country, realising you never want to go back to the life you’re in.
–. Music When the Lights Go Out, The Libertines
This song was on repeat in my Scion xB for a good few months as I worked up the nerve to end my marriage. It isn’t the best Libertine’s song, but it might be one of the most emotional. It echoes the impending break up of the band, and captures those last moments, when you see the empty smile and know it’s over.
–. Milkshake, Kelis
Ok… this is a pretty bad song. But it was such a song. It seeped into popular culture, it was inescapable and catchy. To be honest, I don’t know the lyrics other than the chorus, but does that matter? It was a fucking song.
–. Quelqu’un m’a dit, Carla Bruni
Before she was first lady of France, she was some former model who released an album. And when I had to go back to NYU to take French at stupid o’clock in the morning so I could get my BA, one of the teachers played some of it. I left class, went to work, and that afternoon went into the Virgin Megastore and bought the CD.
–. When the Sun Goes Down, Arctic Monkeys
I resisted the Arctic Monkeys for a long time because of the hype. When I finally gave in, it was this (rather than the overplayed I bet blah blah blah) that got to me. Who hasn’t seen some creepy as fuck guy approaching a whore? It was about time some smart Brit kid set it to music.
–. Meds, Placebo
Pills have always been a part of my life, and that chorus — in equal measure pleading and reproachful — gets me every single time. It’s the use of it as an excuse and a reason for everything good and bad that happens. And, as it happens, it’s the title track from Placebo’s best ever work.
–. Knocked Up, Kings of Leon
Anyone who wants to go on about Sex on Fire, come over here so I can punch you square in the ear for your bad taste in music. Because of the Times was the best album they’ve done, and this is the best way to start the album. It’s got powerful storytelling and a great bridge between their more stadium rocky earlier albums and the newer sound they’ve adopted.
–. Touch the Sky, Kanye West
Imma let you finish, but Kanye made one of the best songs of the decade. I hate to admit it. It kills me inside. I almost want to call out Lupe Fiasco and Just Blaze as some sort of excuse. But fuck me, it’s just a good song.
–. ATD12: RAH! The Mixtape, Akira the Don
This might be cheating, if ever so slightly. Many of the bits of this have been released elsewhere, but the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. Kicking ass with BOOM! at the start, heading into all sorts of heavy commentary about post-9/11 politics, and just so hard to turn off, this is a great piece of music. It was still hard to choose one mixtape, even after I’d decided that I was going to put an ATD mix on here. I think this one gets extra special love for me because of the heavy dose of Marv on there. Oh, and there’s that ridiculous video of Adam getting on stage that it brings to mind…
–. Ms. Jackson, OutKast
Maybe not as catchy as Hey Ya!, this is just better. Before double albums and increased rumours of a split, there was Ms Jackson. Listen to it once and anytime you hear the name Jackson, you’ll want to go ‘oooh’. It hints at what they’ll become, but still has the artistic synergy going on.
–. Put a Donk on It, Blackout Crew
This isn’t so much one of the best or most meaningful songs, but a stand in for all the other songs of the decade that had their moment. It’s for the one hits, the fly by nights, the bangin’ anthems that we forget after a few weeks. It’s for bad production and the now defunct Channel U. It’s for assless white girls trying to shake what their momma gave ’em. It’s for the silliness and the instant fame and the idea that everyone will get their 15 minutes. It’s also for the reminder that you should choose those 15 minutes carefully.
There are so many more songs that have importance to me, and that are so good. Maybe 20 is the wrong number to choose. And maybe it was a cop out to not number them here. Who gives a fuck? It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m going to have some wine.