The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 200 Tracks of the 2000s

  1. The Rapture – ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ (2002) (DFA / Vertigo)

A quintessentially noughties track that championed the emergence of dance-punk as a going concern, ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ shifted the scene almost overnight. A production in tandem with DFA’s James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, it was a riot of choppy, wiry guitar riffing, enormous disco basslines and sashaying hi-hats that was particularly memorable for the holiday-for-cowbells breakdown of the song’s middle eight.

Each of The Rapture’s four members played their instruments like their lives depended on it, with Luke Jenner’s yelping, overexcited vocals tying the package together. The alternative summer anthem of 2003, as well as a crossover musical manifesto that played as both rock song and dance track, it briefly established The Rapture as kings of the game.

  1. Daft Punk – ‘One More Time’ (2000) (Virgin)

The opening bars of ‘One More Time’, the lead single from Discovery’s mix of cybernetic balladry and joyous pop nostalgia, induce a kind of Pavlovian response in the listener. “One more time!” intones a robotised Romanthony as the sampled horns and warm bass kick in, and you simply can’t help but move some part of your body, and when the compressed house beat drops, it’s like the entire history of pop and house condensed into five-and-a-half minutes of unrefined ecstasy.

Using the ubiquitous French house techniques of audio filtered and heavily processed vocals, its more overtly pop style in comparison to Daft Punk’s previous LP Homework was arguably a result of Thomas Bangalter’s involvement on Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ in 1998. A proper dancefloor monster, it has informed so much of the sound of modern R&B in addition to becoming the French duo’s calling card.

  1. MGMT – ‘Time To Pretend’ (2008) (Columbia)

‘Kids’ may have been the bigger hit, but its predecessor ‘Time To Pretend’ was their breakthrough moment for MGMT, who are probably still the most reluctant and bewildered accidental pop stars of the millennium. Combining massive, programmed loops of bass and drums with traditional instrumentation (check out the aching horns as the song builds), it’s a woozy but reflective head-rush of a song.

On one level, its lyrics scan as an incisive spoof of the sex’n’drugs’rock’n’roll lifestyle of the music industry, but on a deeper level it has an elegiac quality, acknowledging the sad truth of most popular music and culture by the end of the noughties. Everything was going round in cycles of revivalism, and somebody had done it better before – in their words, “we’re fated to pretend”. MGMT themselves promptly committed career suicide on their next album but, fleetingly, they were exactly the right band for their time and place.

  1. Missy Elliott – ‘Get Ur Freak On’ (2001) (Goldmind / Elektra)

Missy ‘Misdemeanour’ Elliott’s long and fruitful professional partnership with Timbaland yielded many memorable hits over the years, but none were quite as earth-shattering as ‘Get Ur Freak On’, which pretty much single-handedly pushed an increasingly complacent R&B and hip-hop scene into a new age of experimentation.

Combining Missy’s entertaining, boastful rap with the strikingly uncluttered but focussed and hard-edged bhangra concocted by Timbaland, adding a maddeningly addictive six-note riff bashed out on a tumbi, it stood out so far in 2001 that it was like something beamed in from another dimension entirely. Reviewers and the public alike fell head over heels for it, a modern classic was born, and Missy took home a Grammy the following year.

  1. Arctic Monkeys – ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ (2005) (Domino)

The single that established the legend, it’s hard to comprehend just how earth-shattering the chart-topping success of ‘…Dancefloor’ was back in 2005. Working outside the music industry structures, established their fanbase online through demos and performances, Arctic Monkeys briefly threatened to revolutionise the status quo altogether. That didn’t quite happen, but it certainly re-established a regionalism to British indie that hadn’t really been seen since the ‘80s.

The acerbic street-level observations of Alex Turner sold the idea, with winning couplets like “ain’t no love no Montagues or Capulets / just banging tunes and DJ sets” tying him into a great tradition of British songwriting of the likes of Mark E Smith, Jarvis Cocker and Billy Bragg. It’s also testament to Turner and co.’s brilliance that they didn’t let it become an albatross, as it would have done to so many other bands.

  1. LCD Soundsystem – ‘All My Friends’ (2007) (DFA)

James Murphy had established his career with a mid-life crisis in ‘Losing My Edge’, worrying that he was losing relevance. Five years later, by the time of ‘All My Friends’, he had stopped caring as much, reflecting on his maturing years with one of the most blissful pieces of dance-rock ever committed to tape. The bittersweet centrepiece of the equally masterful Sound Of Silver, it didn’t change any of the core ingredients of a typical LCD song, but re-arranged them to make something to move the heart, soul and brain as well as the feet and body.

Constructed from a rhythmical chassis of a jabbing, two-fingered piano riff and a rattling krautrock beat that gently gained momentum until it achieved escape velocity and shot across the stratosphere, its structure was reminiscent of nothing less than the great David Bowie’s “Heroes”, particularly as it climaxed in a hurricane of guitar before blowing itself out. A truly beautiful moment from one of the decade’s most essential artists.

  1. Outkast – ‘Hey Ya!’ (2003) (LaFace / RCA)

An immortal popular music masterpiece, the likes of which really don’t come around very often in the 21st century, Outkast’s global smash ‘Hey Ya!’ proved that the duo’s success two years before with ‘Ms. Jackson’ was not a fluke. More specifically, it is Andre 3000’s success – taken from his disc The Love Below (from the Speakerboxxx split-double album package) which he used to boldly push R&B and rap in strange new directions – and one of the most delightfully strange pop hits in recent memory.

Almost nobody else could have made a song with so many elements baying for attention work as well as this. A psychedelic rave-up of neo-soul, power pop and hip-hop, mixing heavy existential sentiment about thanking parents for staying together because the younger generation can’t make it work with brilliantly absurd imagery (“shake it like a Polaroid pic-chaaa!”), ‘Hey Ya!’ appealed to absolutely everybody with any impulse for fun.

  1. The Strokes – ‘Last Nite’ (2001) (Rough Trade)

The song that changed everything for a whole generation of indie kids and which remains a floor-filling staple to this day, ‘Last Nite’ was the first Strokes single to garner significant airplay in Britain, the media forced to satisfy demand for the band after the success of the comparatively underexposed ‘Hard To Explain’ / ‘New York City Cops’ single.

A flawless snapshot of directionless, youthful angst driven by the surging, shuffling garage-rock sound that would go on to characterise so much of noughties indie-rock music, Julian Casablancas’ vocal dripped with ennui and placed The Strokes in a lineage going back through CBGB’s and back to The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed.

  1. M.I.A. – ‘Paper Planes’ (2007) (XL / Interscope)

Having wowed the cool kids with her incredible debut album Arular, Maya Arulpragasam went about proving that she could do accessible pop with her second LP Kala, embracing even more of the same world influences. ‘Paper Planes’ sampled The Clash’s spooky riff from ‘Straight To Hell’ and set it to a rock-hard beat from producer Diplo. It initially flopped, but its profile was raised through its use in Slumdog Millionaire and its performance at the 2009 Grammys, eventually going double platinum.

An intoxicating mix of party music and agit-prop, with Maya calling for redistribution on behalf of immigrants in the West and the world’s dispossessed in the face of grinding globalisation, enhanced by the sampling of gunfire and cash registers, there were few tracks as virulently relevant and downright enjoyable as ‘Paper Planes’ in the face of oncoming recession in 2008.

  1. The Gossip – ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ (2006) (Back Yard Recordings / Kill Rock Stars)

With the winning elements of righteous indignation, old-fashioned punk anger and focussed, up-to-date delivery in perfect balance, ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ was an object lesson in how to do accessible, thought-provoking political music in the new millennium. Written by The Gossip’s lead singer Beth Ditto as a response to George W. Bush’s proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have constitutionally outlawed same-sex marriage in the U.S., its influence on feminist thought and gender politics more than a decade later is obvious.

But most importantly, it’s an almost unfathomably perfect track on a purely musical level. Built on a robust, corkscrewing bassline, with choppy, whip-crack guitars and a hammering beat, it was topped off by Ditto’s incredibly powerful voice, emitting urgency, pain, anger and party vibes all at the same time. It also enjoyed an unusually long life in the public’s imagination, with a remix from feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna’s Le Tigre released in 2005, the original issued as a single in 2006, and then again in March 2007 accompanied by a spectacular Nite Version remix from Soulwax. Although The Gossip have never been able to replicate its success, it’s an immortal modern punk classic.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favourite song of the 2000s?

Furthermore, enjoy over 14 hours of awesome noughties music with our Spotify playlist!

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