Atlantic Records

The 100 Best Singles of the Aughts


Aaliyah, “Try Again”

Timbaland’s production is ace, as usual, but focus instead on how Aaliyah’s performance on “Try Again” influenced hip-hop, dance, and pop over the nine years that followed. After “Try Again,” much of the decade’s rhythmic music rested on the shoulders of thin-voiced, icily detached singers like Rihanna, Alison Goldfrapp, Ciara, and Annie, none of whom have been able to match the presence or the lived-in soulfulness Aaliyah conveyed with her ethereal wisp of a voice. That’s why Timbaland’s minimalism suited her so well: Both could do so much with so little. Keefe


Janet Jackson, “Feedback”

Technology was the subject and thrust of the music—swaths of tension, really—that electronic pioneers Kraftwerk orchestrated during their heyday in the late 1970s, but imagine them going where Miss Janet, nasty as all hell, went with the infectiously bizarre single “Feedback” With it, Janet Jackson got her 4/4 back, spinning a mad association, at once playful and scorching, between her stereo and her vagina. Gonzalez


LCD Soundsystem, “Someone Great”

LCD Soundsystem relishes in the memory of a bygone love affair, at once fondly and regrettably remembered: Every beat—whether it stomps, slides, leaps, or quivers—cannily evokes a gesture of love or anger, from a kiss to a slap. In every note there is joy but also regret, and with metronomic sonic flourishes that would be easy to call Knife-ian if they weren’t so lighthearted, the song becomes a stunning tapestry of swollen peaks and cavernous valleys, hypnotizing you into tremulously ecstatic world before leaving you with a heavy heart. Gonzalez


MGMT, “Time to Pretend”

A spectacularly cynical single, “Time to Pretend” draws an apt analogy between the posturing that characterizes contemporary hipster relationships and the predatory mating dance of the praying mantis, and even reflects the peculiar rhythms of that dance in its backing track. They may mock their primary demo’s lack of self-awareness, but the meta-structure of “Time to Pretend” proves that MGMT certainly don’t share that problem. Moreover, it provides an anthem for the hipster-culture backlash that, quite deservedly, had been brewing over the course of the entire decade. Keefe


Usher, “Yeah!”

Usher’s monster hit may have been opportunistic crunk-lite, but it also wields the most affirmative lyrics of all time. Yeah! Maybe the nation, having had a few years to reckon with its own powerlessness in the face of political recidivism, was simply clamoring to just trust again. Yeah! Enter Usher, Lil Jon, Ludacris, and an entire club of fly guys ready to teach the world to step. Yeah, yeah! And, considering the Grammys awarded Record of the Year trophies to Green Day and the Dixie Chicks’s regime change-minded anthems the two years after “Yeah!” came up short in the same category, I guess you could also call it ahead of its time. Henderson


Missy Elliott featuring Ciara and Fatman Scoop, “Lose Control”

Missy Elliott’s sci-fi funk has always been otherworldly, but it wasn’t until she sampled Cybotron’s dark electro epic “Clear” that she pushed the tempo to the point where you presumed she could spin the earth backward through time. Why? ’Cause Misdemeanor said so. Not to put too fine a point on music that just wants to be your own personal spazz stimulator, but if the aughties go down in history as the decade rock stole away the crown for dance music revivalism, “Lose Control” is one of the most terrifying tactical counterstrikes on R&B’s behalf. Henderson


The Hives, “Hate to Say I Told You So”

It wasn’t a long period of time (it really had to have taken place while Julian Casablancas was vomiting or doing his taxes or something), but there was probably a moment in 2000 or 2001 when the Hives were the coolest band in the world. Understanding how this could have occurred takes some triangulating. Impeccably styled, with an air of mystery surrounding their claims to having been called into being by an unseen manager/songwriter, with a frontman well-practiced in Jagger-esque poses, they had a lot going for them. But certainly this diamond-hard bit of riffage didn’t hurt. Also, that’s one crazy bass solo. Hughes


The Avalanches, “Since I Left You”

As any world traveler will tell you, vacations to tropical locales can be very expensive. Luckily, Australian turntablist collective the Avalanches devised a perfect method for traveling through time and space to the balmy, pacific coast of your psychic ocean—and all you have to do is press play! Whatever time it is where you are, when this song comes on it is Piña Colada o’clock. It must be very relaxing to be the Avalanches. Maybe that’s why they’ve never released another album. Hughes


Daft Punk, “Digital Love”

If you’re the type of person who makes mixtapes, you probably recognize a certain class of song as sacred. These are the songs that don’t make it onto just any mix. The sad songs reserved for the most tragic of circumstances, the sappy songs reserved for the people to which you reveal humiliations. “Digital Love” is one of those songs—an unrelenting blast of neon joy so exalted that it effectively conjures the rush of infatuation (or of dance-floor love, fleeting but everything). Maybe this is why Daft Punk didn’t include it in their setlist for their celebrated tour; perhaps even robots are selective about how they share emotions this grand. Hughes


Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, “Get Low”

Prince’s “Erotic City” showed us what it sounds like when doves caress. Lil Jon and his backup skeeters’ “Get Low” impressed upon pliant eardrums what it sounds like when Tasmanian devils jizz. Nestled unassumingly between “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and “Damn!” in Jonathan’s singles chronology, this skeetsterpiece’s chalice overfloweth with riotous partytude and viscous crunch, making it a sonic bookend, if you will, with Khia’s poontastic “Lick It (My Neck, My Back)” The only thing that could improve “Get Low” and its playful, Crunky Brewster vibe would require manufacturing by Whammo. Henderson