100 Best Pop Songs of the 2000s

The 2000s were a tough time in the music business. Artists bypassed record labels to release music independently. What's more, online file sharing and music streaming disrupted the radio industry, and the biggest record store chains went out of business. Amid the industry chaos, pop music still thrived, with hip-hop and dance music leading the way.

Hip-hop acts such as the Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, and Nelly dominated the top of the charts, along with danceable hits from pop stars such as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Shakira. Out of the ashes of alternative rock of the 1990s came new bands such as the Stokes, Arcade Fire, and MGMT. Even established artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Madonna had big comeback hits in the 2000s.

Is your favorite song from the decade on this list? Take a musical trip back to the first decade after the turn of the millennium with this list of the 100 best songs of the 2000s.

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Mariah Carey: 'We Belong Together' (2005)

Mariah Carey We Belong Together

Island Records

It had been more than five years since Mariah Carey's last No. 1 pop single when "We Belong Together" was unleashed. The song is uncharacteristically restrained for Mariah Carey, but it soon worked its magic with pop audiences and ultimately spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Usher Featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris: 'Yeah!' (2004)

Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris - "Yeah"


"Yeah!" kicked off Usher's massive hit album "Confessions." Featuring rappers Ludacris and Lil Jon, it is clearly a superstar R&B/hip-hop recording. The song spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Black Eyed Peas: 'I Gotta Feeling' (2009)

Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling


Perhaps the perfect song for going out on a weekend night, "I Gotta Feeling" spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, helping to give the Black Eyed Peas a stunning combined 26 consecutive weeks at the top. The song has an indescribable sense of joy that is ultimately powerfully infectious.

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Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx: 'Gold Digger' (2005)

Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx - "Gold Digger"

Roc-a-Fella Records

"Gold Digger" kicks off with Jamie Foxx's plaintive bluesy cry about a woman who takes his money when he's in need. Soon Kanye West arrives, telling tales and cautioning wealthy young men about the perils they may face. Before the song closes, there is also a caution for the women out searching for a poor young guy who has "that ambition...look in his eyes." Many artists perform in either contemporary mode or aping a classic pop genre sound. Few are as expert as Kanye West at blending the past with the present.

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Mary J. Blige: 'Family Affair' (2002)

Mary J. Blige - "Family Affair"


The music for "Family Affair" originated in a Dr. Dre–led jam session. Mary J. Blige helped contribute lyrics. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

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Leona Lewis: 'Bleeding Love' (2007)

The success of "Bleeding Love" is not just due to the hoopla surrounding Leona Lewis and her stunning voice that is equal parts Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and her own restrained gracefulness. There is magic in the song. Co-written by OneRepublic leader Ryan Tedder and teen star Jesse McCartney, the dramatic lyrics are a perfect foil for Lewis' melismatic performance. As ​a producer, Ryan Tedder surrounds the words with a solemn underpinning of organ chords set off by marching band–style drums.

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OutKast: 'Hey Ya!' (2003)

OutKast - Hey Ya!

LaFace Records

Andre 3000 of OutKast created a masterful blend of funk, soul, and pop with an epic feel on "Hey Ya!" The call and response of "What's cooler than cool?" with answers "Ice cold" and "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" instantly became catchphrases. The song went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying for nine weeks, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

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Christina Aguilera: 'What a Girl Wants' (2000)

Christin Aguilera -- What a Girl Wants


When 18-year-old Christina Aguilera topped the pop singles chart with "Genie in a Bottle" in 1999, many wondered if it was just a one-time dance-pop hit for her. However, she came storming back with this song, showing more vocal versatility and proving she was planning to stay for a while. "What a Girl Wants" was nominated for a Grammy and five MTV Video Music Awards.

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Kelly Clarkson: 'Since U Been Gone' (2005)

Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone


Kelly Clarkson collaborated with Max Martin and Dr. Luke to create pop perfection on "Since U Been Gone." Reportedly Kelly Clarkson pushed for the recording to incorporate more drums to give the song a bit more of a rock sound. Her instincts were directly on target. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal. The accompanying video won on the "MTV Video Music Awards" for Best Female Video and Best Pop Video.

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Beyonce: 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)' (2008)

Beyonce - "Single Ladies"

Columbia Records

"Single Ladies" will probably be best remembered for its stunning, iconic black-and-white video. However, the song itself presents Beyonce standing up strongly for the women out there who are still single and putting men on notice as to how to treat them best.

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Pharrell Featuring Jay-Z: 'Frontin'' (2003)

Pharrell Williams Frontin'

Star Trak

The Neptunes were the hottest production unit around when one of the pair, Pharrell Williams, decided to strike out on his own with a solo recording. An assist from rapper Jay-Z helped "Frontin'" become a major hit. Pharrell insisted it was a one-time thing, but a solo album hit stores in the summer of 2006.

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Moby Featuring Gwen Stefani: 'South Side' (2001)

Moby featuring Gwen Stefani - "South Side"

Mute Records

Moby's moody ambient pop album "Play" seemed to be everywhere in 2000 as the soundtrack to commercials, TV shows, shopping malls, and more. Late in the year, his recording of the song "South Side" featuring Gwen Stefani of No Doubt was released as an official single and quickly became a deserved pop radio hit. It celebrates going out for the night with friends and was inspired by the South Side of Chicago. However, it still does not escape Moby's brand of melancholia. The version of "South Side" on "Play" does not include Stefani's vocals.

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Owl City: 'Fireflies' (2009)

From the first synthesizer blips that kick off "Fireflies," you feel yourself being taken off to a playful and fanciful musical world. It's no surprise then that the song's lyrics unveil thoughts about unlikely top 40 topics such as lightning bugs, dancing, and insomnia. Adam Young, who records as Owl City, turned his homemade sound into one of the biggest left-field hits of the decade.

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My Chemical Romance: 'Welcome to the Black Parade' (2006)

This song introduced pop fans to My Chemical Romance's epic album "The Black Parade." The sound here is something like Queen meets Green Day.

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Bruce Springsteen: 'The Rising' (2002)

Bruce Springsteen has an entire album, "The Rising," devoted to September 11th, 2001.


Bruce Springsteen's harrowing title cut from the album "The Rising" tells the story of a New York City firefighter as he climbs one of the World Trade Center towers after the planes have hit. Springsteen won two Grammy Awards and was nominated for Song of the Year.

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The Killers: 'All These Things That I've Done' (2005)

The Killers All These Things That I've Done

Island Records

"All These Things That I've Done" wasn't the biggest hit from the Killers' debut album, but this is quite possibly the most enduring. With the stunning "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" chorus, the song has been used multiple times in movie soundtracks. The 2009 "American Idol" champion Kris Allen performed the song regularly on the show's group concert tour.

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Janet Jackson: 'Feedback' (2007)

Janet Jackson - Feedback

Island Records

"Feedback" can be seen as a long-delayed but extremely effective response to the Super Bowl wardrobe debacle. Janet Jackson states confidently that she is simply sexy, one of the most overtly sexual pop performers of all time, and she's not going to change.

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M.I.A.: 'Galang' (2004)

"Galang" was the first single from M.I.A.'s stunning first album, "Arular." It announced that a new, unique talent had emerged from the dance underground.

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Ne-Yo: 'Closer' (2008)

Ne-Yo unabashedly showed off his Michael Jackson influences here. "Closer" does hold up well with Jackson's "Off the Wall"–era classics.

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Jay Sean Featuring Lil Wayne: 'Down' (2009)

Jay Sean featuring Lil Wayne - "Down"

Cash Money Records

British R&B artist Jay Sean holds the honor of knocking off the Black Eyed Peas from a 26-week reign at No. 1 with his single "Down." It is also Jay Sean's first hit after signing with U.S. rap label Cash Money. The song is primarily R&B and pop with a rap break from Lil Wayne.

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Lee Ann Womack With Sons of the Desert: 'I Hope You Dance' (2001)

Lee Ann Womack - 'I Hope You Dance'
MCA Nashville

Prior to the release of this single, Lee Ann Womack had four country hits. "I Hope You Dance" finally took her to the top and became a major crossover pop hit in the process. It is one of the most effortlessly inspirational hits of the decade.

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Franz Ferdinand: 'Take Me Out' (2004)

Franz Ferdinand - "Take Me Out"

Domino Records

"Take Me Out" introduced the Scottish art school rock band Franz Ferdinand to the world. The innovative accompanying video won MTV's Breakthrough Video of the Year and the Q Awards' Video of the Year.

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Lifehouse: 'Hanging by a Moment' (2001)

Lifehouse Hanging By a Moment

Universal International

Christian rock band Lifehouse released this song as its first major label single. It became a monster of a hit, spending more than a year on the Billboard Hot 100. "Hanging by a Moment" was named the top single of the year, even though it never made it to No. 1 on the chart.

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Janet Jackson: 'Doesn't Really Matter' (2000)

"Doesn't Really Matter" is one of the best examples of how Janet Jackson can make a hit single sound completely effortless. Jackson said she found the lyrics in a notebook that was lying around and thought it would go well on the soundtrack for the movie "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps." It did work for the movie, and it sounded fantastic on the radio as well.

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Beyonce: 'Sweet Dreams' (2009)

Beyonce - Sweet Dreams


"Sweet Dreams" is one of the adventurous tracks from Beyonce's stellar album ​"I Am...Sasha Fierce." Here she heads into heavy electronic pop territory delivering a memorable, slightly creepy chorus.

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Fountains of Wayne: 'Stacy's Mom' (2003)

This is the stuff that movies are made of. A teenage boy fantasizes about his friend's sexy mom in "Stacy's Mom." Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger also says it is a tribute to the Cars' classic song "My Best Friend's Girl." The song is a pure power-pop classic.

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Eminem: 'When I'm Gone' (2005)

Eminem - Curtain Call

Interscope Records

Eminem turns to his personal life to inspire a genuinely moving small pop masterpiece in "When I'm Gone." This time around, he begins with relatively simple words of regret for neglect of his family. However, by the time the song ends, he has taken the listener through a dream that reveals a strained but loving relationship with his daughter, Hailie, and provides cogent arguments for retirement.

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Jimmy Eat World: 'The Middle' (2002)

"The Middle" was written in response to difficult times the band Jimmy Eat World was facing after being dropped from a contract with Capitol Records. The sleek power-pop song became the breakthrough hit the band needed.

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The Fray: 'How to Save a Life' (2006)

The Fray - How to Save a Life

Epic Records

The song "How to Save a Life" was born out of the experiences of Isaac Slade, the singer and pianist of the Fray, working as a mentor at a summer camp for troubled teens. He faced an experience common to many of us: how to help someone who is having severe difficulty in helping himself or herself. Then he went one step further and turned the experience into a song.

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Faith Hill: 'Breathe' (2000)

Faith Hill Breathe

Warner Bros.

"Breathe" is the title song from Faith Hill's first No. 1 country and pop album. It is also where she established herself firmly as a top pop as well as country star. The song was nominated for a Grammy as Song of the Year, and Faith Hill won the Grammy for Country Female Artist because of it as well. 

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Shakira: 'Whenever, Wherever' (2002)

Shakira - Laundry Service


"Whenever, Wherever" was Colombian singer Shakira's breakthrough from the Latin charts into mainstream pop territory. It was her first English-language single and the first single from her debut English-language album "Laundry Service."

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My Chemical Romance: 'Teenagers' (2007)

The first thing you'll notice in listening to My Chemical Romance's "Teenagers" is the sure touch with old-fashioned pop-rock hooks in the song. They serve the song exactly how irresistible hooks should.

In "Teenagers," My Chemical Romance depicts current society as one in which teenagers are watched for any inkling of getting out of line with enforced norms. They are seen as simply fodder for advancing the goals of adults in power. The response, according to the song, is violence. It's a warning and explanation that have been made before but rarely so directly in mass popular culture.

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Outkast Featuring Sleepy Brown: 'The Way You Move' (2003)

Rick Diamond / WireImage / Getty Images

"The Way You Move" is the smooth-soul companion to OutKast's "Hey Ya!" It was primarily put together by Big Boi and followed "Hey Ya!" to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Britney Spears: 'Piece of Me' (2007)

Britney Spears - Piece of Me

Jive Records

Put down the tabloid and listen to Britney Spears on this second single from the "Blackout" album. She may indeed experience personal problems, but this is quite simply a woman fighting back against what she perceives as injustice. It portrays fierce anger bubbling beneath the service of an extraordinarily sexy electro instrumental track. Rarely has a pop star so effectively answered critics.

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Snoop Dogg Featuring Pharrell: 'Drop It Like It's Hot' (2004)

Snoop Dogg Drop It Like It's Hot


Hit recordings don't get much more spare and simple in construction than "Drop It Like It's Hot." Rapper Snoop Dogg went to the top of the pop singles chart for the first time here, and it solidified the Neptunes' stellar reputation in the upper ranks of top pop producers of the decade.

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Missy Elliott: 'Work It' (2002)

Missy Elliott - Work It music video


Missy Elliott and producer Timbaland paid strong tribute here to old-school hip-hop on "Work It." The result was a No. 2 pop single for 10 weeks.

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Mary J. Blige: 'Be Without You' (2006)

Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough

Geffen Records

For "Be Without You," Mary J. Blige hooked up with songwriting and production professionals from Jermaine Dupri's So So Def music group. The song's central plea for couples to look deep into their hearts and stay together if they find true love fits Mary J. Blige.

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Taylor Swift: 'You Belong With Me' (2009)

Taylor Swift - Fearless

Big Machine

Somehow, teenager Taylor Swift made teen love, angst, and romance sound incredibly fresh again with "You Belong With Me." It became the first country song to top the Billboard Hot 100 radio airplay chart. The song itself is like a mini-movie, which is played out even more explicitly in the video.

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*NSYNC: 'Bye Bye Bye' (2000)

*NSYNC Bye Bye Bye
*NSYNC - "Bye Bye Bye". Courtesy Jive

*NSYNC celebrate liberation from a bad management situation in glorious boy-band style. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, and it set a record for the most quickly added pop radio hit of all time.

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Gorillaz: 'Feel Good Inc.' (2005)

In case anyone thought the Archies were the only truly successful cartoon pop band, Damon Albarn's creation Gorillaz stormed pop charts around the world with this quirky hit from the album "Demon Days."

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Adele: 'Chasing Pavements' (2008)

Adele at SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Kevin Mazur, SiriusXM

"Chasing Pavements" introduced the powerfully soulful voice of Adele to American audiences. It received three Grammy Award nominations, including for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The accompanying memorable video has been celebrated for its innovative choreography.

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Missy Elliott: 'Get Ur Freak On' (2001)

Missy Elliott - "Get Ur Freak On"


In "Get Ur Freak On," Missy Elliott brought the spirit of the Indian style of pop music known as Bhangra to American audiences, assisted by producer Timbaland.

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Kid Rock: 'All Summer Long' (2008)

Kid Rock - "All Summer Long"

Atlantic Records

Beginning with the bottom of Warren Zevon's classic "Werewolves of London" and effortlessly winding its way into Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is an instant classic that spans decades of pop music memory.

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Kelis: 'Milkshake' (2004)

Kelis Milkshake


Kelis' massive breakthrough pop hit sounds like it came straight from the playground. "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard" could be stuck in your head for days.

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Kelly Clarkson: 'Never Again' (2007)

Kelly Clarkson - Never Again


Kelly Clarkson teamed up with veteran producer David Kahne to show she could be taken seriously as a rock vocalist. "Never Again" is a song of strength and power.

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Goo Goo Dolls: 'Better Days' (2005)

With the United States reeling from the impact of two hurricanes and heavy violence continuing in Iraq, the Goo Goo Dolls' words, "Everyone is forgiven now, cuz tonight's the night the world begins again," effectively delivered a warmth and reassurance that was badly needed.

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Jay-Z and Alicia Keys: 'Empire State of Mind' (2009)

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind

Roc Nation

This is the "New York, New York" of hip-hop, made even more explicit by the live performance at the 2009 American Music Awards. "Empire State of Mind" became Jay-Z's very first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Christina Aguilera: 'Beautiful' (2003)

Christina Aguilera - "Beautiful"


Songwriter and producer Linda Perry knew she had something special with "Beautiful" and originally intended to record it herself. Eventually, Christina Aguilera convinced Perry that she was the right vocalist for the song. It has since become a signature song for Aguilera and one that has been highly meaningful to her fans.

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Justin Timberlake: 'Cry Me a River' (2003)

Justin Timberlake - Cry Me a River


Bad relationships sometimes result in great pop music. Justin Timberlake put together "Cry Me a River" in response to the breakup of his relationship with Britney Spears, and it is a classic.

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The Raconteurs: 'Steady as She Goes' (2006)

"Steady as She Goes" was the first single from the Raconteurs, a band that included Jack White while he was on hiatus from the White Stripes. Few songs in the decade are better at the rock end of the pop spectrum.

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Train: 'Drops of Jupiter' (2001)

Train - Drops of Jupiter


The meaning of the enigmatic lyrics in "Drops of Jupiter" is still a cause for speculation among fans of the group Train. This was their breakthrough top 10 pop hit and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

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Terror Squad: 'Lean Back' (2004)

Terror Squad Lean Back


Simple, and some would say simplistic, dance songs were a mainstay of hip-hop throughout the decade. "Lean Back" is the one to measure all others against.

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Eiffel 65: 'Blue (Da Ba Dee)' (2000)

Eiffel 65 - Blue (Da Ba Dee)


The king of nonsensical pop songs of the decade is this thoroughly charming confection from Italian dance-pop group Eiffel 65 that made the top 10.

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Missy Elliott Featuring Ciara and Fat Man Scoop: 'Lose Control' (2005)

Missy Elliott welds together an early techno sample from Juan Atkins' Cybotron, an a cappella break from Ciara and Fat Man Scoop's raps in this brilliant piece. The video takes it all another step further.

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Kylie Minogue: 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' (2002)

Kylie Minogue Can't Get You Out Of My Head


There is no false advertising here. This song can be very difficult to get out of your head. It became Kylie Minogue's first U.S. top 10 hit in 13 years and was notable for a popular mashup with New Order's classic "Blue Monday."

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Feist: '1, 2, 3, 4' (2007)

Feist - "1234"


iPod TV commercials were the big breakthrough for Canadian indie pop singer Feist. It was a good thing, too, because "1, 2, 3, 4" is one of the most charming pop singles of the decade. The video is one that will be well remembered for years to come.

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Estelle Featuring Kanye West: 'American Boy' (2008)

Estelle featuring Kanye West - American Boy

Atlantic Records

The lyrics of "American Boy" detail a sweet imagining of cross-Atlantic romance. New York, L.A., Chicago, and Miami are all extolled as worthy destinations from shore to shore of the American continent. This song is perfection for a slick, summery glide across the dance floor.

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Finger Eleven: 'Paralyzer' (2007)

"Paralyzer" was a major pop breakthrough for rockers Finger Eleven. Although filled with attitude, the song's lyrics have an angst-ridden core that makes the song edgy and memorable. The draw of the club is irresistible for the protagonist, even if romantically striking out and makes the experience painful. This is all set to an exhilarating crunch of rock guitars. 

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Miley Cyrus: 'Party in the USA' (2009)

Miley Cyrus - Time Of Our Lives


"Party in the USA" is a midtempo reflective song on the experiences of an out-of-town success arriving in the seat of her new stardom. Miley Cyrus proved she was a mainstream pop star to be reckoned with on her best single so far in her career.

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Destiny's Child: 'Say My Name' (2000)

Reportedly when "Say My Name" was being recorded, Beyonce was worried the song had too much going on. But the song went to No. 1 on the pop chart, won two Grammy Awards, and became a signature Destiny's Child hit. It was busy—but in a good way.

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Nelly Furtado: 'I'm Like a Bird' (2001)

"I'm Like a Bird" was the debut single for Nelly Furtado, and it clearly announced the arrival of a stellar new talent. The song was praised for its imagery and simplicity. It won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal and was nominated for Song of the Year.

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Justin Timberlake Featuring T.I.: 'My Love' (2006)

Justin Timberlake My Love


The stuttering, skittering feel of "My Love" matches perfectly the disorienting, dizzying, and exhilarating emotions of infatuation. Timbaland's production is at its inventive best, and T.I.'s not quite convincing "I can get along without you" rap is a perfect fit.

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Eminem: 'Lose Yourself' (2002)

Eminem - "Lose Yourself"


"Lose Yourself" was Eminem's first single to hit No. 1. It spent 12 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, the most weeks for any rap song. The song was recorded to be part of the "8 Mile" movie soundtrack and won an Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture. "Lose Yourself" also won two Grammy Awards while being nominated for Song of the Year.

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Kanye West: 'Jesus Walks' (2004)

Kanye West Jesus Walks

Def Jam

Kanye West boldly declared his faith here with a sonic barrage of drums, chain gang chant, gospel choir, and orchestra. The song won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song along with intense critical acclaim.

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Christina Aguilera: 'Hurt' (2006)

Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics

RCA Records

A single piano with the backing of strings gives way to one of the most technically stunning voices in pop music, singing words of pain, guilt, and grief in the loss of a loved one in "Hurt." The words work their way to a climax accented by percussion, then gently fade away again, leaving the listener in stunned silence from the beauty of the song. Christina Aguilera's ballad of loss is one of her finest moments.

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Katy Perry: 'I Kissed a Girl' (2008)

Katy Perry - I Kissed a Girl

Capitol Records

Katy Perry's breakthrough generated some controversy over its subject matter, but it is mostly an extremely catchy pure pop hit. Bathed in praise for "cherry chapstick" and "soft skin, red lips, so kissable," Katy Perry states her unquestionable independence with stylish spirit.

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Beyonce: 'Naughty Girl' (2004)

Beyonce - 'Naughty Girl'


Beyonce borrowed a portion of Donna Summer's naughty classic "Love to Love You Baby" to create this celebration of sensual naughtiness.

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Jason DeRulo: 'Whatcha Say' (2009)

Jason DeRulo - Whatcha Say

Warner Bros.

Jason DeRulo croons on "Whatcha Say" like a confident, established R&B pop singer. In the more emotional sections of this musical plea for reconciliation, DeRulo spits out the words with a spirit appropriate for the moment. He pledges paradise when he becomes a star. This debut single went all the way to No. 1.

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White Stripes: 'Seven Nation Army' (2003)

White Stripes Seven Nation Army


The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" is known first for its compelling guitar riff, created by running a semiacoustic guitar through an octave pedal. The recording earned the White Stripes a Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

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No Doubt: 'Hella Good' (2002)

No Doubt - Hella Good


No Doubt joined with producers Nellee Hooper and the Neptunes to create one of the funkiest of all of their recordings in "Hella Good." The song is an optimistic, celebratory hit that went all the way to No. 1 on the dance chart.

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Coldplay: 'Clocks' (2003)

Coldplay's "Clocks" is built around one of the most compelling piano riffs of the decade. The group's Chris Martin says the song was inspired by the British rock band Muse. "Clocks" won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

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OutKast: 'Ms. Jackson' (2001)

OutKast's No. 1 pop hit "Ms. Jackson" emerged out of the real-life relationship between the duo's Andre 3000 and singer Erykah Badu. The reference for Ms. Jackson is Badu's mother. The song samples the Brothers Johnson classic "Strawberry Letter 23."

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Coldplay: 'Yellow' (2001)

The song "Yellow" marked the arrival of Coldplay as major international pop artists. It is a simple song of unrequited love. The happy accident of the song title occurred when group leader Chris Martin was looking for a word to fit his concept of the record, and he spotted the telephone Yellow Pages.

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P!nk: 'So What' (2008)

Pink - So What


P!nk delivers a pop anthem about the breakup of her marriage. A singsongy intro gives way to a martial beat and chorus that's likely to send fists pumping into the air on "So What." Synth backing nearly sends it all over the top. 

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Eminem: 'Stan' (2000)

Eminem - "Stan"


Rapper Eminem cemented his artistic standing with "Stan," a chilling tale of a fan's obsession that reached #51 on the Hot 100 and #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart. The song unfolds through letters sent to Eminem and Eminem's attempt to write back. British vocalist Dido performs the singing vocal part. 

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Maroon 5: 'This Love' (2004)

Maroon 5 - "This Love"


Maroon 5's "This Love" was written in response to singer Adam Levine's breakup with his girlfriend. Musically, the song is strongly influenced by Stevie Wonder. It debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won the group a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

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Madonna: 'Music' (2000)

Madonna showed she wasn't going to be left in the previous century with the release of the heavily electronic classic song "Music." The voice in the beginning that sounds male is actually Madonna, just heavily reprocessed. The tune was a No. 1 smash around the world (including in the United States) and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. The single went gold and the album three-times platinum.

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Snow Patrol: 'Chasing Cars' (2006)

Snow Patrol lead vocalist Gary Lightbody has the perfect instrument to convey the power and emotion of his words. He has strong enough vocal chops to hold his own against the surge of backing guitars but wisely avoids vocal histrionics that could break the song's spell. It is no surprise that Lightbody has said that "Chasing Cars" is "the most pure and open love song" he has written.

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Keri Hilson Featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo: 'Knock You Down' (2009)

Keri Hilson - In a Perfect World


Songwriter Keri Hilson continued her emergence as a solo singing star with the top 3 pop single "Knock You Down." The record was a true group effort, with contributions from Ne-Yo, Kanye West, and Danja, among others.

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Beyonce Featuring Jay-Z: 'Crazy in Love' (2003)

Beyonce - Dangerously In Love

Columbia Records

"Crazy in Love" made it obvious that Beyonce would have no difficulty with solo success outside of Destiny's Child. It brought her six Grammy Award nominations, including Record of the Year, and it won for Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The rap from Beyonce's boyfriend Jay-Z was a last-minute addition to the recording.

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Kanye West: 'Love Lockdown' (2008)

Kanye West - Love Lockdown


The first surprise of "Love Lockdown" is that it's a singing, not rapping, Kanye West all the way through. He is not a stunningly gifted singer, but the use of Auto-Tune technology helps create a vocal that is impressive in its electronic precision and drama. The minimalist pounding bass line from an 808 drum machine effectively represents the pounding heart in love, which continually races into restless overdrive delivered by taiko drums.

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Nelly: 'Hot in Herre' (2002)

Nelly - "Hot in Herre"
Universal Records

Nelly recorded one of the top party tracks of the decade with "Hot in Herre." The song was produced by the Neptunes and features the ultra-catchy chorus, "It's gettin' hot in here, so take off all your clothes." It became Nelly's first No. 1 pop hit.

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Black Eyed Peas: 'Where Is the Love?' (2003)

Where is the love? - The Black Eyed Peas


"Where Is the Love?" was the first Black Eyed Peas single to feature Fergie. The socially conscious song also marked a shift toward mainstream pop for the group. It became their first top 10 pop hit.

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Fall Out Boy: 'Sugar, We're Goin' Down' (2005)

Fall Out Boy - From Under the Cork Tree

Island Records

"Sugar, We're Goin' Down" was the first major label single from post-hardcore band Fall Out Boy. The sheer power of the sound surrounding a catchy pop melody and the group's enigmatic lyrics ultimately proved irresistible to teen fans, and the song charged all the way into the pop top 10.

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Beyonce: 'Irreplaceable' (2006)

'Irreplaceable,' Beyonce

An element that makes Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" resonate deeper after hearing it multiple times is that the subject matter of female strength and independence is at the core of her entire "B'Day" album that features the song. "Irreplaceable" will remind many listeners of concepts central to Terry McMillan's "Waiting to Exhale," which remains a cultural touchstone many years after its release.

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Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z: 'Umbrella' (2007)

Rihanna featuring Jay-Z - Umbrella

Def Jam

Umbrella” is unique in that it is constructed of a hip-hop beat but has an edgy rock sound. The song is somewhat stripped down and consists mostly of a standard drumbeat up until the chorus. At the hook, however, Rihanna kicks her vocal up a notch alongside a roaring bass line, creating an aura of desperation, as if the whole thing could explode at any moment. The experience climaxes in Rihanna’s catchy, repetitive pronunciation of the song’s title. "Umbrella" was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year Grammy Awards. It spent 10 weeks at the top of the U.K. pop singles chart, the longest of any single in the decade.

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Corinne Bailey Rae: 'Put Your Records On' (2006)

Corinne Bailey Rae Put Your Records On


"Put Your Records On," a gentle, soulful celebration of hanging out with treasured friends, introduced Corinne Bailey Rae to the world. Although it missed the top 40 in the United States, the song was still nominated for Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The opening line of the song references Bob Marley's classic "Three Little Birds."

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Mika: 'Grace Kelly' (2007)

It's difficult to imagine a more effective song than "Grace Kelly" to introduce Mika. The lyrics describe an attempt to channel the spirit of the eternal princess Grace Kelly with a touch of Queen's Freddie Mercury to make it all a bit more upbeat. He's willing to be whatever will pull pop fans into his performance orbit. The song was a top 10 hit around the world but failed to rise as high in the United States due to lack of pop radio support.

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M.I.A.: 'Paper Planes' (2008)

Using a riff from "Straight to Hell" by the Clash and negative, violent stereotypes of immigrants as source material, M.I.A. fashioned one of the most bracing pop hits of the decade. It's all wrapped in a gently rolling, almost lazy-sounding package so laid back that the first time you hear the gunshots, it may jolt you out of your seat. "Paper Planes" manages to wrap irresistible catchiness, political relevance, and musical surprises in one tight package.

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Gwen Stefani: 'Hollaback Girl' (2005)

Love, Angel, Music, Baby cover art


A significant influence on Gwen Stefani's "cheerleader rock" hit was an interview in Seventeen magazine where Courtney Love referred to Gwen Stefani being a "cheerleader." Stefani's response appeared in NME.

"Y'know someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively, and I've never been a cheerleader. So I was, like, 'OK, f**k you. You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I'll rule the whole world, just you watch me.'" Thus "Hollaback Girl" was born.

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Coldplay: 'Viva La Vida' (2008)

Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends


"Viva La Vida" soars in with a grandiose instrumental arrangement and sweeping lyrics detailing the pain of being deposed from a lofty position. The big sound of the song constantly verges on becoming overblown, but Coldplay knew how to walk the tightrope perfectly. Bells and chimes and orchestral swells are all there on the chorus, but Chris Martin's voice still pierces through like a clarion call. Lyrically, the pain of the protagonist is clear, but lyrics relating to Jerusalem bells, Roman cavalry, and Saint Peter give "Viva La Vida" an air of intelligence. The song became Coldplay's first No. 1 pop hit in the United States and won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

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Avril Lavigne: 'Complicated' (2002)

Avril Lavigne - "Complicated"


Avril Lavigne was only 17 when this stunning song introduced her to worldwide pop audiences. The song details the emotions that accompany dealing with a boyfriend who behaves as a different person around different groups of people. "​Complicated" was a No. 1 pop radio hit for 11 weeks.

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Alicia Keys: 'Fallin'' (2001)

Alicia Keys - 'Fallin''

 J Records

The stunning single "Fallin'" introduced Alicia Keys to pop music fans. Her record label initially wanted her to release something more commercial, but Keys stuck confidently to her own music. The result was a smash No. 1 pop single that was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won the accolade of Song of the Year. There is a mature, soulful vibe here that far exceeded Alicia Keys' own age of 20.

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Gnarls Barkley: 'Crazy' (2006)

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

Downtown Records

If anyone ever wanted proof that pop music need not be at all complex to be great, that person simply needed to listen to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" one time. Within one minute, the simple bass beat, tasteful strings, and Cee-Lo's voice drive the hook into your brain to remain for a long time.

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Lady Gaga: 'Bad Romance' (2009)

Lady GaGa - "Bad Romance"


Lady Gaga capped a stunning debut year by letting the love monsters out of the closet in "Bad Romance." The song is an intense litany of nearly pathological romantic entanglements, all set to beats designed to crowd the dance floor. Lady Gaga's singing moves from snarling threats to floating sweetness and back again.

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Plain White T's: 'Hey There Delilah' (2007)

Plain White T's Hey There Delilah


Every once in a while, a love song rises to the top of the pop music world that strikes a perfect chord with a wide spectrum of music fans. "Hey There Delilah" expresses young love irresistibly. This may be the closest the decade came to a perfect love song.

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Aaliyah: 'Try Again' (2000)

Aaliyah - "Try Again"


Late summer 2001 saw the tragic loss of 22-year-old singer and actress Aaliyah in a plane crash. Her No. 1 pop hit "Try Again" is arguably her finest moment and has the distinction of being the first song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 purely because of radio airplay. It features production from Timbaland and was included on the soundtrack to the film "Romeo Must Die."

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Britney Spears: 'Toxic' (2004)

Britney Spears - "Toxic"


"Toxic" brought Britney Spears back to the pop top 10 for the first time in four years when it looked like her success was fading. The song hooks a listener the first time through and never lets go. It is one of the most covered pop songs of the decade and earned Britney Spears her first Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.

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P!nk: 'Get the Party Started' (2001)

Pink - "Get the Party Started"


The lead party song of the decade was written by Linda Perry during a period in which she was trying to learn to program drums. She says she finished the song using "every catchphrase you possibly could imagine." P!nk took the song to the pop top 5, and it became one of her signature songs. "Get the Party Started" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Female Vocal.

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U2: 'Beautiful Day' (2000)

U2 - "Beautiful Day"


Although "Beautiful Day" was not U2's biggest hit on initial release, peaking "only" at No. 21, it has not gone away since. Pretty good for a band that formed 24 years before its release. The recording won three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rock Duo or Group with Vocal. Bono has said the song is about "a man who has lost everything but finds joy in what he still has," and it had particular poignancy when the group performed live at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.