Atlantic Records

The 100 Best Singles of the Aughts


Radiohead, “There There”

Sleepy and mysterious, “There There” floats along dreamily for about three minutes, its slowly mounting drums a sign of things to come, before getting significantly weirder. This slow burn leads to a roaring burst of noise, matching the band’s biggest riff in years with a bellowing, animalistic snarl, before building even further in speed and volume. It’s as if their internal struggles, Thom Yorke’s somber reserve versus his rhythm sections’ desire to bust out, were depicted in one five-minute piece. Cataldo


Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”

The finest single from those halcyon days before “emo” went all Hot Topic, “The Middle,” along with Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom,” gave a glimmer of hope that its brand of perfectly constructed power-pop might finally make the mainstream inroads it longed deserved. As Jimmy Eat World exclaim in the hook, that kind of success and satisfaction just takes some time. More’s the pity that time didn’t last for more than a few months before the guyliner and Strokes-hair took it out at the knees. Keefe


Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”

Love is a gamble. And “Poker Face” is a surprisingly sophisticated account of the love game, sandwiched in between songs on The Fame that were otherwise largely concerned with convincing us that Gaga is a vapid poser. When it was spoofed by such disparate cultural critics as Christopher Walken and Eric Cartman, it became clear that “Poker Face” had transcended the trappings of your average novelty hit. Of course, Gaga has since proven she’s more than a one-hit wonder, but this song had (and still has) exceptionally long legs. And muffins. And glue guns. And a damn catchy hook. Cinquemani


Lindstrøm, “I Feel Space”

If you’re a young producer of disco music, it’s pretty goddamn cheeky to title your single “I Feel [Blank]”; beggaring comparison to the track that this very site named the best dance song of all time, Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s “I Feel Love,” is a pretty risky maneuver. But Lindstrøm’s evident confidence paid off: This track, with its motorik pulse (the main thing it has in common with its namesake), skywalking synths, and saucy bongo break, probably did more to turn people on to the decade’s incredibly fertile space disco scene than did any other. Hughes


Lady Tron, “Destroy Everything You Touch”

In the mid-aughties, a trio of skinny, well-coiffed, and fairly judgmental New York fashion plates decided to band together to plot world domination, much like supervillains might. Dressed all in black, armed with synth-pop and the ability to grant dance-club entrance to minors, flanked on one side by photographers and on the other by drug dealers, they became DJs. They were the MisShapes, and if they had a television show, this icy, gothic, disco ball Death Star would have been its theme song. Hughes


Robyn, “Be Mine!”

When rain disguising one’s tears is a cause for celebration, you know things are pretty dire. But despite its heart-tugging subject matter (the song builds to the devastating admission, “No, you never were and you never will be mine!”—and that’s the hook), Robyn’s “Be Mine!” is, thanks to cello stabs that fall like sheets of rain, a spritely melody, and bouncy beat, a sad song that somehow manages to leave you less sad when it’s over. Cinquemani


Lil Wayne, “A Milli”

The most impeccably, maddeningly written song on our list, “A Milli” is a frank confessional that testifies to Lil Wayne’s peerless lyrical brinkmanship. Its flashes of poignancy, humor, naïveté, bravado, eroticism, and misogyny hit you separately before fusing together to reveal a stunning, totemic portrait of an artist as a young man, a ghetto Joyce who, not unlike the Reinaldo Arenas of Singing from the Well, has a rare gift for seductively and movingly laying his soul bare with lucid stream of consciousness. Gonzalez


Animal Collective, “My Girls”

Next to the Radiohead we know today, Animal Collective was the most overpraised indie act of the decade, but Merriweather Post Pavilion was something very close to a masterpiece, and “My Girls” was the jewel in its exquisite crown. The catchy production suggests a psychedelic skinny dip in a great beyond, but the lyrics are grounded in something recognizably real: a father and husband’s need—no, struggle—to simply provide (the song’s lyrical highlight, blessedly sung by Mr. Bear: “I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls”). With “My Girls,” these hipsters started thinking outside their typically blinkered aesthetic and thematic sphere, getting universal and keeping their groove but also finding their soul. Gonzalez


Ciara featuring Ludacris, “Oh”

Thighs were made to roll to this. A slow-motion steel trap of a single, Ciara’s half-crunked slow jam is as stately and as sexy as S.O.S. Band’s “Just Be Good to Me” “Oh” is so dogmatically Dirty South even Ludacris’s typically caffeinated Frank Tashlin delivery can’t break the spell. Not with Ciara herself standing center, transfixed by the bottom-heavy groove and the never-to-be-resolved tension between the song’s alternating minor chords. As it turns out, her subsequent sauna ballad “Promise” was actually the fulfillment of this one, her true promise. Henderson


Three 6 Mafia, “Stay Fly”

Let’s take a moment to admire the endless inventiveness of the American people. We’re responsible for the light bulb, the telephone, and the Internet. Also, we created an entire musical genre based on the experience of the effects of off-label over-consumption of cough syrup! “Stay Fly” is actually a pretty mild example of the strange, wonderful sounds that emerged from the screwed n’ chopped thing, but it’s also (relatedly) one of the most commercially successful. Further, it proves that if you stick a Philly soul string section on anything, even a cartoonishly hedonistic rap song about always being high, it will sound really beautiful and classy. Hughes