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The 50 Best Songs of the Year 2000

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.

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.