100 best tunes of the 00s

I remember how awkward it felt in 1999, when ageing ”Madchester” anglophiles insisted on having entire club nights and parties based on shoegaze and britpop sounds from the year 1989. These moppy balearic heads were ”having it large” to Stone Roses, Primal Scream and Ride and to my ears this felt very retro, or even atavistic back then, in 1999.

But 1999 was a different story than 2009. The end of the millennium was extremely musically fertile, and futuristic like few other eras in pop music. It struck me how a lot of the material on this top-100 list is a direct result from the digital, futuristic minimalism which both technology and mindsets made possible around 1999 (note, especially, the influence that Timbaland and the Neptunes came to had in the pop climate of the last decade).

And, it turns out, the years between 1999 and 2009 haven’t aged as badly as the years between 1989 and 1999.

The digital, turn-of-the-millennium revitalization means that Kylie Minogue’s ”Can’t Get You Out of My Head” from 2001 actually doesn’t sound as stale and old in 2009 as, say, Ride’s ”Vapour Trail” sounded already in 1999. People often say that we live in world that moves faster and faster, but pop music actually seems to have had a more coherent sound in the last ten years than any other earlier decade. Styles don’t shift as quickly, as more styles are allowed to live side by side. Maybe it is a sign of pop having matured; maybe it’s a sign of music technology having reached a plateau where everything is digitally enhanced and rigidly compressed; maybe it’s a sign of true risk-taking and idiosyncrasy having gone out of fashion.

However, the last decade has still been great for musical variety. As Pitchfork pointed out recently, there was a creative infusion into the very highest echelons mainstream, that began sometime ten years ago:

”What made the tracks important wasn’t how they made you feel, but the innovative tricks creators used to get those effects. Intricate drum patterns, Bollywood samples, fake-harpsichord frills, or brutal minimalism– anything with an angle got love.”

So, here goes. From the very obscure (Kuusumun Profeetta, Salem) to the very mainstream (Britney Spears, R. Kelly). One thing that I noticed was how many artists and labels who have consistently pushed a sonic envelope (hundreds of names, including Theo Parrish, Andrés, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Flying Lotus, Kompakt, Hyperdub, Justice, Ratatat…the list is very long) do not always come up with the kind of stuff these lists are made of: simply insanely memorable tunes.

Another thing that struck me is how these lists so clearly shows your national bias; whether you live in the US, Japan, Germany, Sweden or whatever. For me, as a Swede having spent half of the decade in London, that obviously has made a mark on my list.

Jonas Andersson, October 2009 ::::::::::::::::::::: inspired by nollnolltalet.se

► The entire list (except 22 of them) as a Spotify playlist

  1. Rhythm & Sound feat. Cornel Campbell – “King In My Empire” (2001)
    Lo-fi, subsonic, leftfield, stone cold bliss.
  2. Aaliyah – “More Than A Woman” (2001)
    Only a cynic would say that it’s the posthumous reception of her music. It’s more than that; essentially, it’s a brilliant soul-pop crossover with that turn-of-the-millennium grandeur that, stylistically, became the template for the entire decade.
  3. R. Kelly – “Ignition (remix)” (2003)
    Poppin’ in a lot of people’s pants throughout the decade.
    Michael Jackson’s, for example.
  4. Pharrell feat Jay-Z – “Frontin” (2003)
    Pharrell was easily the most underrated song writer and producer of the decade, simply because of his good looks. Don’t discriminate good lookin’ guys, no hatin! Wake up, smell the coffee: His seemingly simple pop songs are based on friggin’ jazz!
  5. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – “War” / “Mercury” (2007)
    The most significant brass band of the decade.
  6. Kaah – “Faller Till Noll” (2001) [mp3]
    Easily Sweden’s best, and criminally slept-on soul artist. (Spotify didn’t have this tune, so I put ”I min värld” on the playlist instead, from the best Swedish album of the last 10 years, Soulrebell.)
  7. Kelis – “Trilogy” (2006)
    Hall & Oates covered by a cyborg.
  8. Spacek – “Dollar” (2005)
    Underground anthem.
  9. Ciara – “Goodies” (2004)
    Overground anthem.
  10. DJ Mitsu – “Negative Ion (Sa-Ra Creative Partners remix)” (2004)
    Future dank of the highest calibre.
  11. Dungeon Family – “Follow The Light” (2001)
    The family that spawned Outkast, Goodie Mob and Cee-Lo Green!
  12. Dexys Midnight Runners – “It’s OK, Johanna” (2007) [mp3]
    The most heartfelt, brutally honest confessional of the decade – and therefore so seemingly sober, plainspoken. (MySpace)
  13. Freeway – “Alright (Blackbeard Reworks)” (2003)
    Soul can be expressed in a lot of ways; this is a rapper’s call for the spiritual resurrection of his people. Subtly re-edited, early 00’s style by Blackbeard. Plus, this flip of Ronnie Foster’s ”Mystic Brew” is soooo much more relevant than that other producer who flipped it in the same year.
  14. Amerie – “1 Thing” (2005)
    Ooh, we played this a lot in our South London DJing days… What happened to Rich Harrison?
  15. Moodymann – “The thief that stole my sad days…Ya Blessin’ Me” (2000)
    I think this counts; it was out in the year 2000, no? Possibly Kenny Dixon’s biggest tune.
  16. Badly Drawn Boy – “All Possibilities” (2002)
  17. Tawiah – “Watch Out” (2007)
    The biggest soul talent in the UK!!!! Criminally slept on! Astonishing tune.
  18. Franz Ferdinand – “Take me out” (2004)
    I had to include some skinny jeans, and theez jeenz were made for dancin!
  19. Sebastien Tellier – “Divine” (2008)
    The best Eurovision Song Contest entry of the decade?
  20. Jens Lekman – “Black Cab” (2003)
  21. José Gonzalez / The Knife – “Heartbeats” (2003)
    Everyone rates this, it seems like. Rightfully so.
  22. Tweet feat Missy Elliott – “Oops (Oh My)” (2002)
  23. Sebastian Tellier – “La Ritournelle” (2004)
    This might be monsieur Tellier’s most beautiful tune ever. Drumming by Tony Allen!
  24. Pantha Du Prince – “Saturn Strobe” (2007)
  25. Sade – “By Your Side” (2000)
  26. Snoop Dogg feat Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (2004)
  27. Jay Dee – “Fuck The Police” (2001)
    Did you know this came out one week after September 11th, 2001? That’s some pretty controversial shit that this guy stirred at the time. Reppin’ the political script back in the mid-00s. Remember Dead Prez? ”Katrina Clap”? ”George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”? (As this Dilla tune does not appear on Spotify, I’ve replaced it with ”The $” as it’s another example of this indispensable aesthetic.)
  28. cLOUDDEAD – “Dead Dogs Two (Boards Of Canada remix)” (2004)
    That a group that makes overly pretentious, hifalutin crud had their material transformed into this Sgt Pepper-like gem of a pop song. This is testament to the fertile musical miscegenation that the independent labels led in the 00s – before they were killed by file-sharing 😉
  29. Manic Street Preachers – “So Why So Sad (Avalanches remix)” (2001)
  30. Jazmine Sullivan – “Lions, Tigers and Bears” (2008)
    I’m a sucker for these Disney-type soul ballads when they are done right. With a voice like that, how could it fail?
  31. Electrelane – “The Valleys” (2004)
  32. Âme – “Rej” (2005)
  33. Amy Winehouse – “Take The Box” (2003)
    I know, ”Back to Black” is equally good, but this one was before she went all retro.
  34. Mali Music – “Sunset Coming On” (2002)
  35. British Sea Power – “Be Gone” (2005)
  36. Little Dragon – “Scribbled Paper” (2007)
    A unique group, with a unique sound. The right move for Yukimi Nagano after working with Koop; minimal, melodic and memorable.
  37. Fibes, oh Fibes! – “New York City” (2009)
    Classic songwriting spanning Årsta, Gothenburg and Williamsburg…
  38. Simbad feat. Steelo – “Soul Fever” (2006)
    The anthem in contemporary soul- and R’n’B-oriented clubs by a stalwart on the London scene. No sampling here, all original talent. Respect!
  39. Mitchell Brothers feat. Sway – “Harvey Nicks” (2004)
    Wasn’t UK mainstream rap so much more entertaining than US rap this decade, lyric wise? Less one-dimensional braggadocio, more effortless wit. Less money in the game, less $ to lose for being creative…
  40. Jill Scott – “A Long Walk” (2000)
    This track is to mark a career that started with the scorching album Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 and has continued ever since, with fantastic songwriting, sublime production and a voice to match!
  41. Theo Parrish – “Major Moments Of Instant Insanity” (2001) [mp3]
    Captures all that insanity, terror and confusion of that dreadful day.
  42. Timbaland – “Ayo Technology (Instrumental)” (2007)
    Somehow, the vocals ruin this insanely crisss instrumental. Maybe it’s something to do with Fiddy
  43. Cousin Cockroach – “This Ain’t Tom & Jerry” (2002) [mp3]
    The genesis of dubstep is shrouded in Croydon mist, but this was an essential building block.
  44. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” (2001)
    Written by Rob Davis, once-lead guitarist in glam rock band Mud.
  45. M83 – “Run Into Flowers” (2003)
  46. Brandy – “What About Us” (2002)
    Ridiculously futuristic. Rodney Jerkins preceded wonky and that whole post-Dilla rhythm aesthetic by five years on this one.
  47. Benga – “Emotions” (2007) [mp3]
    The indicator of a new direction in dubstep; deepness, melody, emotion and all that.
  48. Raphael Saadiq – “Skyy Can You Feel Me” (2002)
    Alternatively, his later crooner stuff as well. Great talent, with showmanship and skills that pick the tastiest bits from the soul continuum, much like Peven Everett (below). ”Sometimes” from 2008 is equally sublime, albeit more retro (this went on the Spotify playlist as it’s not 14 minutes long…)
  49. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes” (2002)
  50. Detroit Experiment – “Highest” (2003)
  51. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing my edge” (2002)
  52. Afronaught – “Transcend Me” (2001) [mp3]
    The Co-Op classic, alongside Kaidi’s & Dego’s ”Got Me Puzzled”.
  53. Timbaland, Magoo, Aaliyah – “I Am Music” (2001)
  54. Nas feat. Jully Black – “Heaven (Blackbeard remix)” (2003)
  55. YT – “England Story” (2006)
  56. Wiley – “Igloo” (2003)
  57. Skream – “Midnight Request Line” (2005)
    The FWD classic, alongside Benga’s & Coki’s ”Night”.
  58. Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Requiem for Leroy” (2006)
  59. Dungen – “Ingenting är sig likt” (2008)
  60. Sunshine Anderson – “Heard It All Before” (2001)
  61. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke – “Running” (2000)
  62. Outkast – “Hey Ya” (2003)
  63. VC – “By His Deeds” (2000)
  64. Henrik Schwarz – “Imagination Limitation” (2006)
  65. Fischerspooner – “Emerge” (2002)
  66. Air Frog – “Bon Voyage” (2000)
    …as well as the Adam Beyer remix. Dancefloor mayhem!
  67. Cibelle – “Green Grass (Mariposa remix)” (2007)
  68. Vampire Weekend – “M79” (2008)
  69. Daft Punk – “Digital Love” (2001)
  70. Britney Spears – “Toxic” (2004)
  71. Furação 2000 – “Mengão 2000 pt. 1” (2004) [mp3]
  72. Kuusumun Profeetta – “Akvaario” (2002) [mp3]
  73. Express Rising – “Somebody’s Birthday” (2003) [mp3]
  74. A Mountain of One – “Brown Piano (Remake By Studio)” (2007)
  75. Bloc Party – “Where Is Home (Burial remix)” (2007)
    Not surprisingly, Spotify didn’t have this remix, which I think is one of Burial’s finest moments. (Bloc Party is such a shit band by the way, it’s funny cos Burial is the antithesis of their music. They aspire to sound like a million other bands; Burial doesn’t aspire to sound like anyone else.) Any other Burial tune would do, but on the Spotify playlist I put ”Archangel”.
  76. Salem – “Redlights” (2008) [mp3]
  77. Sway – “Month In The Summer” (2004)
  78. Lucien-N-Luciano – “Madre, Mother & Mere” (2004)
  79. Dizzee Rascal – “I Luv U” (2003)
  80. Luke Vibert – “I Love Acid” (2003) [mp3]
  81. The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit) – “Tengazako” (2009) [mp3]
    …aka M.I.A’s ”Paper Planes” in a version that tops the original by far. (On the Spotify playlist I replaced it with the Afrikan Boy & Rye Rye remix.)
  82. Octave One – “Blackwater” (2002)
  83. Peven Everett – “Testin’ Me” (2002) [mp3]
  84. Sa-Ra – “Rosebuds” (2004)
  85. Turbulence – “Notorious” (2006)
  86. Beirut – “Scenic World (Pocketknife’s Breathtaken Remix)” (2008) [mp3]
  87. Juan Maclean – “Dance With Me” (2005)
  88. Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better” (2000)
  89. Spacek – “Eve” (2000)
  90. Luomo – “Tessio” (2001)
  91. Doves – “There Goes The Fear” (2002)
    I could just as well have chosen Glasvegas’ “Geraldine” (2008).
  92. Guynamite feat. Dee – “Take My Dreams” (2009)
    Guynamite and the whole Twin Cities lot will be staking out a new path in the years to come. Immaculate songwriting contributions by Selina Campbell! Check this space.
  93. Cabo San Roque vs. Luciano – “Coplas Del Agua” (2003) [mp3]
  94. T-Pain – “Chopped ‘n’ Screwed” (2008)
    I had to include an autotune-drenched tune, regardless of what heads think about it. This was the trademark sound of the later half of the 00s, and this track is one of them self-referring clever tunes, a pop-cultural comment on the rap continuum of US popular music: You’ve officially been chopped ‘n’ screwed. Shawteeeeih!
  95. Azzido Da Bass – “Dooms Night (Timo Maas Remix)” (2000)
    OK, purists might claim that it actually came out in 1999, but it was in 2000 that this tune laid dancefloors to devastation all across the world.
  96. Mylo – “Drop The Pressure” (2004)
    I know, it was instantly doomed to be the soundtrack to endless commercials and TV shows. But it such great fun, an unabashed funk gem!
  97. Rihanna – “Umbrella” (2007)
  98. Destiny’s Child – ”Say My Name” (2000)
    This tune was out in 1999, but the single wasn’t released until February 2000. Such a fantastic pop song, especially the double-tempo bridge. There was a lot of brilliant R’n’B back then, like “He Wasn’t Man Enough” by Toni Braxton and “Love Sets You Free” by Kelly Price feat. Aaron Hall.
  99. Michael Jackson – ”You Rock My World” (2001)
  100. J Dilla – ”Time: The Donut of The Heart” (2006)

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