As Jason Hare joked in his most recent Chart Attack!, radio’s influence has taken a remarkable tumble in the last several years. For a number of reasons, many of them problems created by the radio and music industries, people don’t turn to the airwaves for new music the way they used to, and as a result, the Billboard Top 40 is now less of a mirror for current trends than a hastily assembled crazy quilt of miniature, hitlike things that appeal briefly to small subsets of music listeners before blinking out — and, more often than not, leaving no impression after they’re gone.

Of course, from a certain very cynical point of view, the same thing could have been said about the Top 40 in recent decades — and in fact, we don’t bring up radio’s loss of gatekeeper status as an indictment of where music is now, but instead as a way of prefacing a very eclectic list that may not contain more than a handful of songs you’ve actually heard. And if you’ve spent any amount of time here, you know that isn’t because we’re a particularly hip group of writers; it’s simply a reflection of how many options there are for finding music now, how many subgenres there are, and perhaps above all, how rigidly many listeners stick with what they know.

So here’s hoping you find at least a few songs you’ve never heard before in this list of the 100 (okay, 103 — we couldn’t resist adding a few more) songs we loved the most over the last ten years. We’re all rabid music collectors now, and no one’s library is ever big enough — and what’s better for a real fan than the thrill of discovering something great? Happy listening!

51FCS66VA1L._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]103. The Fratellis, “Chelsea Dagger
Armed with the best drunken barroom chorus since “Tubthumping,” the Fratellis apply the foolproof trick of using nonsense words for your biggest hook, thereby making your song instantly accessible. –David Medsker

102. Tegan and Sara, “You Wouldn’t Like Me
After two well-received indie records, twin sister pop-punk singer/songwriters Tegan and Sara Quin were due for a breakout. With the help of some well-placed songs in an up-and-coming medical drama called Grey’s Anatomy, and some smart Internet marketing, the Canadians did just that with their 2004 album, So Jealous. For new listeners, there was no better introduction to the introspective lyrics and fist-pumping/dance-around-the-room music of Tegan and Sara than the leadoff track, “You Wouldn’t Like Me.” It begins with a guitar and the sisters singing their trademark harmony. The song slowly builds as other musicians join in, until it’s a fury of guitars, drums and heartache. Pop perfection. –Scott Malchus

101. Prototypes, “Who’s Gonna Sing?
AKA “that song from the iPod commercial.” In a decade of terrific Gallopop, this was the worldbeater. That fuzz bass, that drumline — lumbering and yet nimble, like a dancing bear — the vocal interplay, the utter earworm insistence of it all. And it’s so playful, so giddy, so inviting, defying you to not join in the dance. Who’s gonna sing? Anybody who listens past the first chorus, that’s who. –Jack Feerick

100. Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
The rise of Arcade Fire from Montreal music collective to one of the most influential bands in the world is one of the greatest music stories of the decade. This track from their 2004 debut, Funeral, sets the story of the great ice storm of 1998 against the band’s typically offbeat instrumentation. The third single from the album finds Arcade Fire in their full anthemic glory. –Ken Shane

99. Crooked Fingers, “New Drink for the Old Drunk
Archers of Loaf’s Eric Bachmann goes solo here as Crooked Fingers, but still continues his normal lyrical themes of darkness and despair. The meld of the banjo and strings here works beautifully, and despite the initial feeling that you’re listening to a man in some deep ditch left for dead, you can also picture a group of really good friends in a bar pumping their pint-filled fists in the air along with the chorus. –Dave Steed

98. Suzanne Vega, “Pornographer’s Dream
From her woefully ignored Beauty And Crime album, this song asks what would be the dream of a dirty mind, and finds something beautiful and untouched. Don’t let the title throw you: this is a keeper of a track. –Dw. Dunphy

97. Scissor Sisters, “Laura
Few songs represent their band as completely as “Laura” does the Scissor Sisters. All of the band’s hallmark traits (save Jake Shears’ falsetto) are on magnificent display here, from the Daft Punk-ish drum track to the theatrical musical tone and the playful, boys-only lyrical approach. As perfect an opening number as they come. –DM

96. Johnny Boy, “You Are the Generation that Bought More Shoes and You get What You Deserve
Bastard babies of Phil Spector and Joe Meek, this UK guy-gal duo alchemize cheapness into mystique, erecting a Wall of Sound that’s more like a fogbank, from which emerge endlessly intriguing glimpses. Even if Johnny Boy hadn’t followed up “You Are the Generation” with a string of singles nearly as good, this giddy swirl of lo-fi teen-pop grandeur would still sound like the achievement of a lifetime. –JF

95. Fiona Apple, “Not About Love
The lead single from Fiona’s much-anticipated third album, 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, “Not About Love” is one of the best breakup songs ever written. There are two subtly different versions of the song, one from the unreleased Jon Brion-produced album and one from the official release. I don’t have a preference between the two – they’re both incredible. –Kelly Stitzel

94. Eddie Vedder, “Hard Sun
Inspired by Sean Penn’s powerful film, Into the Wild, Eddie Vedder covered an obscure 1989 song by the group Indio. Vedder does the original justice while making it his own. Singing with the sort of passion and emotion sometimes missing from his blistering work with Pearl Jam, Vedder recorded a song that stands alone from the movie, one that is elegiac and folksy, and one that will be remembered for years to come. –SM

51J63twUVXL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]93. Bob Dylan – “Mississippi”
Dylan rescued this masterpiece from the scrapheap of his 1997 comeback Time Out of Mind. A faster, somewhat pathetic version by Sheryl Crow (on 1998’s The Globe Sessions) might have been the only official recording of this song if not for Dylan’s desire to record it a fourth time. The result (released on 2001’s Love and Theft) wasn’t just his strongest song of the decade, it was one of his strongest songs overall. A Mojo poll of musicians and music critics a couple of years back ranked “Mississippi” as Dylan’s 10th best song EVER. Listening to it, it’s not hard to hear what they did: the combination of some of his most quotable lines in years, and the scraggly, shot vocals that perfectly match the lyrics are a thing of beauty. Try not to get chills the first time you hear him sing the internal bridge in the second verse:

“Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need something strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind”
–Matthew Bolin

92. Alicia Keys, “You Don’t Know My Name
In a decade filled with great moments, this might actually be Kanye West’s greatest — a tribute to the smooth, sensual soul of the 1970s, featuring the longing vocals of Alicia Keys and even a classic telephone interlude. –Mike Heyliger

91. Aimee Mann, “Deathly
Technically, this song was first released in 1999 on the soundtrack to the Paul Thomas Anderson film, Magnolia. In fact, the track’s opening lyrics appear as dialogue spoken by Melora Walters’s character in the film. But the song, which I interpret as being about trying to keep someone from loving you because you know you’re bad for them, also appears on Mann’s 2000 album, Bachelor No. 2, so it gets a pass on this list. –KeSt

90. U2, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
It just seems right that at the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts, that Mick Jagger joined U2 on stage for this song. Mick, who at his best was perhaps the greatest white interpreter of American black music ever, chose the Irish band’s most successful attempt at recreating American Soul and R&B. While 1988’s Rattle & Hum was U2’s fervent (and at times ridiculous) attempt to showcase their connection to — and immersion in — American musical culture, they’ve never pulled it off in their music better than this. –MB

89. Wilco, “Impossible Germany”
The Sky Blue Sky album found Wilco getting reacquainted with songs, especially on this spiritual cousin to Steely Dan, complete with an insane Nels Cline solo to close the track out. –DWD

88. Rilo Kiley, “Portions for Foxes
An ode to destructive, yet irresistible, romantic relationships “Portions for Foxes” was the lead single from indie darlings Rilo Kiley’s third full-length album, 2004’s More Adventurous. With lyrics that are a blend of obvious and obscure, and a more polished sound than the band’s previous singles, “Portions for Foxes” is, in my opinion, one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded. And when Jenny Lewis growls, “C’MERE!” you know you want to. –KeSt

87. Maria McKee, “No Other Way To Love You”
Love is patient; love is kind. Love dares great things, runs any risk. Love is stronger than darkness, stronger than death. Do you remember? Do you remember this feeling? Love sacrifices everything for love, heroic. Love crawls through fire and is not burned. Love stands firm in a hurricane of knives, and is not cut. Do you remember? Then listen. Listen, and you will. –JF

86. John Mayer, “Say
I’m sort of in a grey area with John Mayer. I certainly don’t love him like so many do, but I also don’t think he’s a total douchenozzle, and “Say” helped push him further from doucheland than he’d ever been. It’s a perfect example that music doesn’t always have to be complex to be great. It’s just a gorgeous and very simple bittersweet ballad. –DS

85. Coldplay, “Strawberry Swing
Coldplay waited a year until they got the video complete before releasing “Strawberry Swing” as a single. With its marching beat, chiming guitars and Chris Martin’s retrained singing, this is one of the most moving numbers in their repertoire. It will always bring a smile to your face, tears to your eyes, and fill you with hope. The wait was worth it. –SM

84. New Pornographers, “These Are the Fables
Carl Newman sets aside his tales of Spanish techno in order to give Neko Case a song that’s pitch-perfect for both her honey-dipped voice and the Broadway stage. Don’t be surprised if one day this song becomes the centerpiece for the next generation’s “Godspell.” –DM

83. Queens of the Stone Age, “No One Knows”

82. Mariah Carey, “We Belong Together
By 2005 she had almost completely abandoned her girl-next-door tunefulness in favor of hip-hop whoredom, but on “We Belong Together” she (and collaborator Jermaine Dupri) found a midway point between old-school R&B and the contemporary flava she’s been pursuing since she got the implants her first marriage ended. Momentarily recovering her faculties, she forsook the melisma and the high-pitched squeaks (for once) in favor of a rapid-fire, Beyonce-esque staccato vocal – and, shockingly, created perhaps the finest single of her career. –Jon Cummings

81. The Whip, “Frustration
For a Manchester band to so shamelessly cop its sound from New Order is a function of audacity. To capture the churning, epic melancholy that made New Order resonate in the first place is something akin to miraculous. –JF

80. Patty Griffin, “Heavenly Day
Griffin has had a small but loyal following for over a decade. While her fans can tell you that her music is lovely and smartly written, mainstream America has always been oblivious. Lucky for Griffin and her fans, ATO records, her label, lets her continue to make wonderful albums like Children Running Through, the CD from which “Heavenly Day” comes from. This uplifting ballad slowly builds, with Griffin’s beautiful, crackling voice over guitar and strings, until it feels like a choir should be singing with her. Savvy marketing at ATO placed “Heavenly Day” on various television series, giving Griffin the most exposure she’s had in her career. As far as I’m concerned, if that’s what it takes for her to keep recoding beautiful songs like this one, then plaster her music everywhere. –SM

79. Kaiser Chiefs, “Never Miss a Beat
It sports one of the most economical verses ever written, and is bouncier than a kangaroo on a pogo stick. The Kaiser Chiefs have always had a penchant for quirky, upbeat pop, but they outdo themselves with “Never Miss a Beat.” Its “Warriors”-style video is a classic, too. –DM

78. Gov’t Mule, “Banks of the Deep End
When they throw the first shovel of muddy ground on my coffin (for it will rain on the day of my funeral, like in the movies, or a blues song), I hereby request that my best friends at least have this song playing in their heads, if a boom box or iPod isn’t handy. –RS

77. Aimee Mann, “Calling It Quits”
This is my favorite track from Aimee’s brilliant album, Bachelor No. 2. I interpret it to be about how lovers can sometimes be like con-artists constantly trying to put one over on each other, then cutting and running before getting hurt. Interestingly enough, the song was placed on the soundtrack album for the hit HBO series Sex and the City (though I couldn’t tell you on which episode it was featured), and when listened to in that context, it could easily be considered as the theme song for the show’s lead couple, Big and Carrie. –KeSt

76. White Stripes, “My Doorbell
Jack & Meg spent so much time prior to this song rocking out, you had to do a spit-take the first time you heard this slice of bubblegum come through the airwaves. Speed the vocals up and you might think you’re listening to the best song The Osmonds or The Jackson Five never released. –MH

75. System of a Down, “Aerials
Slacker Zen, draped in intricate layers of instrument and voice. At once universal and defiant of interpretation, it touches and haunts you, and you can never quite seem to find the end of its depth. It is their masterpiece, and the finest song of the last ten years (at least on my list). –-RS

74. Muse, “Knights of Cydonia
One part spaghetti western rave-up, one part “Bohemian Rhapsody” rock-out (with Wayne’s World-style headbanging finale to boot, British prog-rockers Muse triumphantly jump out of Radiohead’s shadow with this supercharged (if slightly paranoid) battle cry. –DM

73. Dixie Chicks, “Truth No. 2
History will record “Not Ready to Make Nice” (#14 above) as the Dixie Chicks’ official response to the war-protest uproar that had decimated their country-music audience, but back in 2003 this song – a Patty Griffin gem, originally meant for her unreleased Silver Bell album – served the Chicks’ still-loyal fans as a more immediate (if unplanned) statement of rebellion. “You don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth,” Natalie Maines spat at her detractors during the band’s gigs that year, as protest-movement footage played on the video screens – and as, far away, events began to unfold that would leave most Americans feeling just as ashamed of their president as Natalie was.

41z9TcobaiL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]72. Slayer, “Payback
The angriest song I’ve ever listened to off the angriest record I’ve ever listed to (2001’s God Hates Us All), “Payback” makes me feel better about myself. Every time I leave work angry or something sucks I put this on and I realize that nothing going on in my life could ever make me this pissed off and then I’m good again. “For my own piece of mind I’m going to/tear your fucking eyes out/rip your fucking flesh off/beat you till you’re just a fucking lifeless carcass/fuck you and your progress/watch me fucking regress/you were meant to take the fall, now you’re nothing/payback’s a bitch motherfucker.” That’s some shit right there. You have no idea how much it pleases me that this made the final cut. –DS

71. Outkast, “So Fresh So Clean
Half of Stankonia could have made this list, that’s how good it was. This was the third single from the album but is no less memorable than “B.O.B.” or “Ms. Jackson.” In fact, my 1-year-old son is learning hip-hop from this song. Every time he gets a bath, we sing “ain’t nobody dope as me/I’m just so fresh, so clean (so fresh and so clean clean).” I’m not sure Outkast knows they created bathtime songs. —DS

70. Alexi Murdoch, “Orange Sky
A wonderful hallucination set to music. Ethereality personified. –RS

69. Robin Thicke, “Lost Without U
This is as good as it’s going to get for Alan Thicke’s son. For a good 15 minutes in ’06-’07, Thicke was the go-to guy in hip-hop if you needed a sultry chorus, mainly due to his work with Lil’ Wayne. Unsure of himself when success wasn’t coming for him, he wrote this song detailing what he wants to hear from his lady to make him feel good again. If you’re making a “get in her pants” mix-tape, this song is now a must add. Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” Ginuwine’s “Pony” and “Lost Without U.” –DS

68. The Hives, “Hate to Say I Told You So
Sweden has long been known for pop music, but rock and roll, not so much. That all changed when brash garage rockers The Hives arrived on these shores with this song in 2002. If Ray Davies had never left the garage, this is the kind of music he’d be making, and we’d all be better for it. –KS

67. Train, “Drops of Jupiter
It had been a long while since a mainstream rock single this melodic had broken through the Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park cacophony and achieved such universal impact. “Drops of Jupiter” overextended its metaphor by about a verse and a bridge, and some of the lyrics are just cringe-inducing – what with the Tae-bo and the soy latte, the “deep-fried chicken” and the “freeze-dried romance.” But the choruses are unforgettable, and the “na-na”s perhaps the most resonant since “Hey Jude.” –JC

66. Usher, “Yeah!
For a while there, it looked like Usher could be a Michael Jackson-like figure for today’s mall kids and would-be club-hoppers. While it’s a little early to say he blew his chance, he has yet to come up with another single as transcendent as this jam. –Rob Smith

41yOnH3XySL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]65. Beyonce, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
The most omnipresent single of the past 12 months has roots in double dutch (as well as a track called “Get Me Bodied” from Beyonce’s previous album), but “Single Ladies” transcended its origins to become a cultural phenome – YO! I’ma let you finish…but I thought I told you, Beyonce had one of the best videos in – shut the fuck up, Kanye. –JC

64. Paul McCartney, “Ever Present Past
Let’s face it, Sir Paul doesn’t have to release new music anymore. Yet he’s an artist and when something as wonderful as “Ever Present Past” is buzzing around in your head it has to be laid down on tape… or computers. This upbeat song that looks back on life has all of the elements of a great Paul McCartney hit single: Joyful exuberance, a catchy melody, just a touch of melancholy, and the perfect bridge. It also has that key ingredient of any great pop song: at under 3:00, it keeps you wishing the song was longer, so you go back and listen to it again… and again…. and again…. –SM

63. Lifehouse, “Hanging By A Moment
Like Creed and Mr. Mister before them, Lifehouse likely made a large number of people pause somewhere during the fourth or fifth time they heard this song and exclaim “Wait a minute….am I listening to CHRISTIAN ROCK?!” And yes, Lifehouse did start out a a Christian group, but this crossover works so well because of two main things: Unlike songs by Creed, Nickelback, or other “defining” rock groups of this decade, the more cock-rock tendencies of the song are balanced by its tunefulness (separate vocal and musical hooks in the verse, chorus and bridge) and the musical subtleties (the use of cello in the bass effects; the mellotron and organ in the bridge) to give added depth to the arrangement. Not much else they’ve had to offer since has been that worthwhile, but this track holds up as a well-crafted earworm. –MB

62. OK Go, “Here It Goes Again
Lost in the audacity – and hype – of the YouTube-classic treadmill clip was the fact that “Here It Goes Again” is an ace power-pop track. It cribbed a bit from the Jags and a bit – fittingly — from the old MTV theme music, and breathed new chart life into a too-often overlooked genre. And did you hear about their video?… –JC

61. Wilco, “Heavy Metal Drummer
From the career-making album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Jeff Tweedy reflects on his youthful days watching heavy metal bands in the summer, and the loss of innocence in the intervening years. Wonderful contributions from the late Jay Bennett take this tale of a childhood idyll and make it so much more. –KS

60. Modest Mouse, “Float On
The Good News For People Who Love Bad News was this 2004 single from the quirky Seattle band. Isaac Brock leads his bands through this uncharacteristically upbeat meditation on the joys of being above it all. –KS

59. System of a Down, “B.Y.O.B.
It was 2005. I’d had it with George Bush; you’d had it with George Bush; System of a Down had had it with George Bush. System of a Down recorded “B.Y.O.B.”—a disorienting blast of punk irreverence, brutal truth, and howling anger—as a response to George Bush. System of a Down were cooler than you or I will ever be. -–RS

58. Maroon 5, “Makes Me Wonder
“Makes Me Wonder” proved that Adam Levine wasn’t all about good cheekbones and smoldering stares — the man could write a mean pop song, too. Taking musical cues from both Prince and early Eighties pop radio (this song’s instrumental sounds like it could be Hall & Oates or Kool & the Gang — and those are both compliments!), this song had some serious soulful swagger as well as the mild shock value of hearing the “F” bomb used in the chorus of a pop hit. Consider it the 21st century version of –MH

57. John Mayer, “Clarity
Previously known for running through the halls of his high school and comparing bodies to theme-park rides, John Mayer hit paydirt with this pensive, jazz-influenced tune (featuring instrumentation from trumpeter Roy Hargrove and Roots drummer ?uestlove). Mayer has called “Clarity” “a song written about the first few seconds after waking up”, and its’ free-associative nature-the song has no chorus-gives it that vibe. –MH

56. N.E.R.D., “Lapdance
Face it, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo aka the Neptunes are weird cats. At points they have some of the most innovative hip-hop beats around and at other times, they are a bit too eclectic for their own good. However, when they combined with Shay Haley to form their rock group N.E.R.D. (No one Ever Really Dies) and released their debut In Search Of… in 2001 it all came together in killer fashion. “Lapdance” is the perfect headbanging blend of rap and rock riffage. –DS

55. Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once”
It would be a couple albums later before Spoon would get the indie rock love they deserved, but the Girls Can Tell album, and this song as its opener, pretty much confirmed Britt Daniel and company were well on their way. –Dw. Dunphy

54. U2, “Vertigo
Lest you thought that U2 had been consumed by synthesized textures, “Vertigo” was the song that proved that they could still rock like the Dublin punks they once were. Shredding guitars, pounding drums, and thudding bass abound, from the multi-language count off to last fuzz-laden chord. All of this can be yours indeed. –KS

53. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, “Coma Girl
An old-fashioned 1950s rumble, filtered through shards of 60s garage and 70s punk records, its story told by an expert ranter/raver who also happens to be a novice ghost. We lost a lot when we lost Joe. -–Rob Smith

52. John Legend, “Ordinary People
Take a minute and ponder the fact that this elegant piano ballad was co-written by the same guy who wrote “My Humps.” Don’t let that fact keep you from enjoying this song, a simple, heart-rending piano ballad that introduced John Legend as the Stevie Wonder (OK, maybe not the Stevie Wonder…the Lionel Richie?) of his generation. –MH

51. Kanye West, “Gold Digger
The second single from Kanye’s second album, “Gold Digger” tells the tragic tale of a man used by his woman for financial gain. The hugely successful single owes much to the revised version of Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” as interpreted by Jamie Foxx, and the scratches of DJ A-Trak. –KS

41Ph++wrZIL._SCLZZZZZZZ_50. Feist, “Mushaboom
For a long time, I had no idea what the hell a “Mushaboom” was. Turns out, it’s a village in Nova Scotia, Canada. Once I found that out, the lyrics made a whole lot more sense to me. The first single from Broken Social Scene’s (Leslie) Feist’s second solo album, 2004’s Let It Die, “Mushaboom” was her breakout hit and paved the way for one of her future songs to be used in an iPod commercial. Just messing with you, Leslie. I love you and your song. –KeSt

49. Kylie Minogue, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
Quick – how much of this song do you actually remember? Probably not much – but that’s OK, because that na-na-na hook wormed its way into several billion ears worldwide in 2002, taking the appropriately titled “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” to #1 in 40 countries. In the U.S. it was the second of Kylie’s two – count ’em, two – career Top 10 pop hits; everywhere else, she’s so popular that an exhibit of her stage costumes had crowds queuing around the block at a London museum a couple years back. –JC

48. Wilco, “Jesus Etc.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in a nutshell—a deceptively simple piece that unfolds gradually, over repeated contact with the listener. The instruments bounce and slide around, as Tweedy does his best to simultaneously defy meaning and encapsulate the entire world into a four-minute song. -–RS

47. Mary J. Blige, “Family Affair
Mary J. speaks a language all her own. Fortunately for us, Dr. Dre was there to translate on this 2001 thumper. -–RS

46. Andrew W.K., “Party Hard
Without a doubt the dumbest song on this list by leaps and bounds, there’s just something about Andrew W.K.’s music that makes you forget how stupid it is. Maybe it’s because his lyrics are pretty damn accurate. Working sucks and partying is better. So why not get a party started and party hard, party hard, party hard. And then party even harder. Who’s going to argue with that? –DS

45. Radiohead, “Pyramid Song
An atmospheric, piano-driven ballad from the edgy Oxford band that builds on the jazz rhythms of drummer Phil Selway, and acoustic bass provided by Colin Greenwood. The song was originally recorded during the Kid A sessions, but ended up on Amnesiac. –KS

44. Kings of Leon, “Sex on Fire
Ostensibly an ode to diseases both emotional and venereal, this is where KoL grabbed the brass ring and did a victory lap or two around the U.S. to show it off. –RS

43. Twista (feat. Jamie Foxx & Kanye West) “Slow Jamz
There’s just something that WORKS about this pair-up of slow grooves and fast raps. Jamie Foxx also provides quite a nice vocal turn (I especially like the way he pronounces Minnie Ripperton). Let it be known, though, that Mr. West steals the show; not only with his tremendous production, but perhaps the decade’s best “couplet”:

“She got a light skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson
Got a dark skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson”
–MB

51oY1vdq1NL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]42. KT Tunstall, “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree
Tunstall dragged the Bo Diddley beat into the 21st century with her debut single, which attracted a worldwide audience – though, in the U.S., about 30 million heard it first via Katharine McPhee’s rendition on American Idol. Nothing wrong with that – Idol brought Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble” to the masses that same year, and it was just the exposure Tunstall needed to break out of the usual “next big thing” trap and become the actual … you know … next big thing. –JC

41. Kelly Clarkson, “Breakaway
I prefer this track to “Since U Been Gone,” probably because a lot more songs coming out of the auto-tuned throats of faux-punk hipsters and processed Disney queens sound like that song than this one. This, for me, is just a beautiful ballad that avoids the bombastic trends of more diva-esque productions, while showcasing the true talent of the first (and by far the best) American Idol winner. –MB

40. Justin Timberlake, “Sexyback
A few years ago I remember Kanye West saying that Justin Timberlake should be the #1 artist on the planet (right before stating that he himself is actually that guy, of course) if only he released some music – and he’s right. Justin Timberlake can do no wrong. Two great albums after leaving a boy band, television and movie appearances where he’s proven to be pretty damn funny and a collaborator with many, he’s almost untouchable. Except for the fact that he only releases an album every four years. If he were to crank out more undeniably catchy and unique songs like “Sexyback” who knows how huge he’d be right now. –DS

39. Ryan Adams, “New York, New York
Two weeks after 9/11, Gold found its way into my CD player, introducing itself with this ode to a woman and the city she most resembles. A classic was born, as was an artist whose ambitions far exceeded anything we had previously thought possible from him. -–RS

38. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Maps
Written about lead singer Karen O’s then-boyfriend Angus Andrew of Liars, “Maps” is the love song indie kids and hipsters were waiting for. Released as a single from the band’s 2003 debut full-length album, Fever to Tell, it became a hit after its video started getting heavy airplay on MTV. Apparently, Kelly Clarkson loved it so much that its guitar break is allegedly replicated in her hit, “Since U Been Gone,” about which Karen O had this to say in a 2006 Rolling Stone interview: “It was like getting bitten by a poisonous varmint.” Ouch. –KeSt

37. Gorillaz, “Clint Eastwood
It sounds like a match made in Hell – Damon Albarn, Dan The Automator, and throw in cartoon personae, all doing some loopy, island-inflected hip-hop thing. Instead, everything falls together to make one of the most enjoyable, if bizarre, albums of the decade. And why is it called “Clint Eastwood” anyway? –DWD

36. The New Pornographers, “The Bleeding Heart Show”
Like a 1970s glee club staring down the edge of the abyss, the New Pornographers’ mass of voices, pared to Boho-paranoid lyrics in an ever-building swell is not for everyone. But if you’re at all interested in power pop featuring Neko Case’s tone-perfect voice, this might be for you. –DWD

35. The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”
Of all the places to hear a Flaming Lips tune, my exposure came from a TV commercial. Before that, all I had was vague recollections of hearing “She Don’t Use Jelly,” but this mini-epic of a song hooked me well enough that I had to purchase Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by week’s end – a purchase I don’t regret in the slightest. –DWD

34. David Gray, “Babylon
Let go your heart / Let go your head / And feel it now. I felt it from the moment I first heard it, afterwards sitting in an idling car outside an Italian restaurant where my family waited for me as I prayed the DJ would back-announce the track. -–RS

33. R. Kelly, “Ignition (Remix)
Now known as one of R. Kelly’s signature songs, the remix to “Ignition” was hot and fresh out the kitchen and one of the biggest panty droppers of 2003. A club favorite — girls could get all sexy and guys could sing along and not look totally lame — it’s no doubt there are some five-year-olds in this world that owe their existence to Jack Daniels and R. Kelly. –DS

32. Justin Timberlake “Cry Me a River
This song might as well have been titled “Britney, you bitch!” This middle finger to an emotionally abusive lover was the song that turned Justin from “that guy from N’Sync” to “Justin Timberlake.” Helped along by Timbaland’s sympathetic production (complete with goth twist), this was JT’s first step away from simply being a Michael Jackson clone and toward being an actual artist with something unique to say. –MH

31. Arctic Monkeys, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor
A blast of fresh air from Sheffield, “Dance Floor” was the Monkeys’ first single. The song skillfully employs a Clash-like punk intensity with a bass and drum workout that kept the punters moving. An early sign of good things to come from the young band. –KS

30. Adele, “Chasing Pavements
If you want a giggle, go to Urbandictionary.com and type in “chasing pavements,” then click to the second page. According to Adele, her song was banned from several U.S. radio stations because of some of those crazy misinterpretations of the phrase. Kids these days… The song, which was the second single from Adele’s critically-acclaimed debut album, 19, won two Grammys and garnered her immediate comparisons to Amy Winehouse — for her voice, that is; Adele, is not a hot mess. –KeSt

29. The Knife, “Heartbeats
The song that took the blogosphere by storm and introduced the world to Swedish brother and sister duo The Knife, “Heartbeats” is a practically perfect synth-pop song. But what stands out to me the most is its lyrics, which are unexpectedly poignant and beautiful. The interesting thing is that the covers of this song, at least the ones I’ve heard, are just as wonderful as the original. My favorites are José González’s stripped-down, folk version and Scala & Kolacny Brothers’ version, which turns the song into a simple piano ballad sung by a choir of teenage girls. For what it’s worth, this was my pick for best song of the decade. –KeSt

41Qii+97LnL._SCLZZZZZZZ_28. Amy Winehouse, “Rehab
Rarely does a recording define an artist so perfectly, for better or for worse, than “Rehab” does for the brilliant but self-destructive Winehouse. Updating early-’60s orchestral pop into a sound that conjures Shirley Bassey working with Phil Spector, Winehouse created a classic backdrop for a thoroughly modern (not to mention autobiographical) lyrical conceit – one that, within a year of its Grammy sweep, would come to seem less defiant than foolish as her substance-abuse and health issues became frightening tabloid fodder. –JC

27. The Darkness, “I Believe In a Thing Called Love
To complain about the Darkness being a joke band is to admit that you’ve missed the joke — which is exquisite and all-encompassing, taking in every detail of the band’s sound and presentation, from Justin’s wonky teeth to the car-radio tone of the opening guitars. The only possible disagreement can be as to which detail is most delightful; the bass player’s nerdy eagerness, or the drummer’s utter disdain? The mere fact of a grown man squealing “Gee-tar!!”, or the unhinged glee with which he does so? Heady debates, indeed. –JF

26. Gorillaz, “Feel Good Inc.
My daughter. Thirteen. Artist, music lover, rugged individualist. I went to put away some laundry one summer Monday, and saw this on her bedroom wall:

Over the weekend, she had painted this mural in acrylics.

It’s a nice enough pieces of draftsmanship, but what really got me is the little unfinished detail on the left. Maybe it’s supposed to be Noodle, but I think it’s a secret self-portrait; so caught up in this hip-pop fantasia that she was inspired to literally pencil herself in at its edges. There is, for me, no further argument necessary for the greatness of “Feel Good Inc.” –JF

25. Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

24. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart
To paraphrase Roger Ebert, a good song is always exactly the right length, while a bad song, however short, is always too long. With “I Will Possess Your Heart,” four and a half minutes of instrumental slowburn elapse before the lyrics kick in, and it’s not a second too much. As the stalker so sick in the head that he mistakes love for ownership, Gibbard has never sounded so convincing; but it’s the maddening, obstinate bassline that really sells it. –JF

23. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Follow You into the Dark
The coolest-ever way of saying, “‘Til death do us part’ is simply not enough.” -–Rob Smith

22. Outkast, “Bombs Over Baghdad (B.O.B.)
Big Boi and Andre 3000 couldn’t have had even the slightest idea how prescient that title was. 18 months after the song was released, the tragedy of 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Iran gave this post-apocalyptic mix-up of Miami bass and jungle (with a gospel choir thrown in) a much sinister meaning. This song set the bar for hip-hop experimentation in the 21st century. –MH

21. Scissor Sisters, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’
The best disco song in at least a quarter-century features quite the pedigree – an American glam-rock group that’s achieved little success in its homeland but is massively popular overseas, working with its hero, Elton John, to create a track that apes Leo Sayer. The result is straight outta summer 1977 – it features Star Wars-style laser gun effects, for crying out loud! – and really ought to have been released inside a Casablanca Records sleeve. –JC

20. Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out
Somewhere in the grunge era, rockers forgot how to dance. Scottish band Franz Ferdinand were one of the bands that brought the groove back to indie rock, inspiring a heap of late-decade bands inspired more by Duran Duran than Seventies punk. Alex Kapranos’ arch delivery and the song’s ambiguous meaning (was it about being taken out like a date, or about being taken out, like…killed?) helped to make it the breakthrough hit for this band. –MH

519QZIBv+cL._SCLZZZZZZZ_19. Kanye West, “Jesus Walks
Moving from an expression of devotion and vulnerability to a “Bring the Noise”-style boast, “Jesus Walks” is mildly schizophrenic, to say the least. As a dude with my own complicated relationship with Mr. Christ, I can relate. The martial cadence — marching music for soldiers of the Cross — is straight-up thrilling, even for agnostics; and Kanye’s confusion, as it became more familiar, would never again sound quite so endearing. –JF

18. Coldplay, “Clocks
The relentless and (throughout 2003) inescapable “Clocks” features one of rock’s all-time great piano riffs, a descending-scale progression that brings to the song both a driving immediacy and a strangely elegiac quality. It’s matched with an inscrutable lyric that one tends to experience in snippets, rather than in total – phrases like “curse missed opportunities” occasionally waft above the mix, but only briefly distract from that … incessant … riff. You’re thinking about it now, aren’t you? Well, congratulations, it’ll be in your head for the rest of the day now. This is the track that took Coldplay from their early-aughts status as a point on the Radiohead-to-Travis continuum to thinking they could challenge U2 as The World’s Biggest Band. Don’t blame the song, though. –JC

17. M.I.A., “Paper Planes
The single that seemed to be everywhere during 2008 is three minutes of revolutionary, polyglot globalism. Built on the groove from the Clash classic “Straight to Hell” – which itself was an indictment of immigrants’ treatment in the West, permeated with southeast-Asian tonal influences – “Paper Planes” takes much the same approach, mocking the perception of dark-skinned immigrants as somehow dangerous. The lyrical patois, and the sound of cash registers and gunshots in the chorus, imbued the track with exotic and political undertones, and made the song an ideal vehicle for imparting multiculturalism and rebellion. That explains its use in movie trailers for Pineapple Express and Capitalism, A Love Story – and the indelible impression it leaves at a key moment in Slumdog Millionaire. A magnet for both remixes and controversy (much of it related to the song’s provocations and M.I.A.’s background as a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority), “Paper Planes” will be remembered as nothing less than the sound of its historical moment. How many songs can say that? –JC

16. Beyonce, “Crazy in Love
Her first solo single blew out the speakers like a long-lost, celebratory finale of Wattstax – finally establishing Beyonce as the heiress to Ruth Brown and Etta James and Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. “Crazy in Love” had one foot in R&B’s past and one in its present – its horn- riff hook is lifted from the Chi-Lites’ 1970 hit “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So),” while Jay-Z provides the rare guest appearance by a rapper that actually enhances a track’s excitement quotient, rather than bringing it down. This is where Beyonce became pop royalty, and she’s worn the crown well ever since. –JC

15. Foo Fighters, “The Pretender
An admission, a question, a warning, and a battle cry. Once again, Grohl, Inc. frontloads an album with a shit-hot single that slays everything in its path. –RS

14. Dixie Chicks, “Not Ready to Make Nice
If you haven’t heard about the controversy the Dixie Chicks kicked up in 2003 when lead singer Natalie Maines declared on stage in London that she was ashamed to be from the same state as President George W. Bush, I would recommend you watch the excellent documentary Shut Up and Sing, which chronicles the Chicks’ lives after the comment and their journey to make their seventh album, Taking the Long Way. Released as the first single from that record, “Not Ready to Make Nice” is a direct reaction to that controversy and how they were treated by fans and the country music establishment, as well as a declaration that they won’t apologize for their feelings and opinions (though Maines has said the song was written to have a more universal interpretation). It deservedly won three Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. I wasn’t really much of Chicks fan previously, though one of my good friends really tried to make me one over the years. But this song, and their passion for their beliefs, totally won me over. –KeSt

13. Prince, “Black Sweat”
It was a bit of a shock back in 2004 when Prince released Musicology, giving the world his best music in nearly a decade. So when he followed it up with an ever better album – 3121 – it was a little mind-blowing. The centerpiece of the record was one of his funkiest songs ever, “Black Sweat.” A nice quick burst of energy that almost makes you want to break out the robot, Prince brought back a slight bit of the sexual innuendo that made him so famous which was a nice change from the clean, spiritual Prince we’d seen for a few years now. The video just enhanced the appeal with a simple black & white picture and a lady dancing all sexy-like. But who can forget the disgusted look on his face at the most memorable part of the song, “You’ll be screamin’ like a white lady when I count to three/one, two, three.” Nice to see the old guy still has memorable songs in him. –DS

12. White Stripes, “Seven Nation Army”
From 2003’s Elephant album, the track the put the White Stripes on the map. Meg White beats the drums like a bad habit, while Jack White weighs in with some Jimmy Page-inspired guitar riffage. Is that a bass guitar I hear? The place where Led Zeppelin meets the future. –KS

11. Eminem, “Lose Yourself
If the “Rabbit” character was 8 Mile’s Rocky Balboa, then “Lose Yourself” was the movie’s “Eye of the Tiger.” A hip-hop twist on the “succeeding against all odds” theme that’s the subject of many classic films, Eminem attacks this song with a hunger missing from much of his recent music. Tongue-twisting his way through a variety of internal rhyme schemes, “Lose Yourself” also ranks as possibly the most lyrically complex hip-hop song to ever hit #1 on the pop charts. –MH

10. Green Day, “American Idiot
It blasted its way onto the radio in September 2004, right in the middle of a re-election race that half the country couldn’t imagine George Bush might win. Even as Fox News and a multimillion-dollar ad campaign snowed a nation’s gullible booboisie into believing an upstanding war hero was a flip-flopping coward, Green Day arrived to rail against the “subliminal mind-fuck” being perpetrated daily by America’s corporate media. Billie Joe Armstrong took no prisoners in his attacks on the conservative “redneck agenda” and the “age of paranoia” it was creating, and “American Idiot” quickly (if not quite quickly enough) became an anthem of disillusionment and antagonism toward the post-9/11 Powers That Were. It’s the song that should be placed in every time-capsule remembrance of the 21st century’s first decade – and hopefully, by the time those capsules are exhumed, its sentiments will seem unnecessary, its targets archaic and ridiculous. But probably not. –JC

9. Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle
The band has been branded as a pioneer of the emo scene, but this song seems more like power pop’s last stand against emo, not just the sound, but the lyrics, which aim more for a straight-edged positivity than black-clad depression. This song is a big, greasy slab of hooks arranged like punk’s little brother, condensing everything that Green Day wanted to be during their first decade into two minutes and forty-nine seconds, making it less cynical, and then blowing it away. For this decade of auto-tuning and digital compression, bands supplemented by session musicians and teams of songwriters. this was as good as straight-ahead, mass-consumable rock got: a tight, multi-layered, chugging riff that quickly got under your skin and stayed there; a big, fat, underwater bassline connecting the guitars to the drums; a singalong chorus (with harmonies!); and, perhaps most important, no desire to mess around with any pre-choruses, bridges, or outros. Get in. Rock. Get out. Repeat. –MB

8. Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising
As the story goes, after the 9/11 attacks, Bruce Springsteen was driving through his hometown when a stranger called out to him, “We need you!” The nation was hurting and needed an anthem. Not some jingoistic call to arms against our enemies, but a song that brought people together, blue, red, black, white, yellow and brown; a song that paid tribute to the heroes who fought valiantly on that tragic day.From that plea from a fan came the album The Rising, and its magnificent title track. Sung from the perspective of a spirit rising up to heaven, the imagery of “The Rising” is inspiring and heartbreaking. Whether backed majestically by his faithful E Street Band, or played acoustically by just the Boss and his guitar, “The Rising” is not only one of the best songs in the past decade, but on of the best in Springsteen’s storied career. –SM

7. Eminem, “Stan
Eminem hears from a obsessed fan, who expresses disappointment that he hasn’t gotten a response to his previous communications. The letters grow ever more desperate in tone. By the time Eminem sits down to write back, it’s too late, fate has intervened. A compelling look at the pitfalls of fame, and the the danger of becoming obsessed with our heroes. A fictional story, but frighteningly real. –KS

418H94sH4OL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]6. Johnny Cash, “Hurt
If only Trent Reznor could write a song like “Hurt,” it’s hard to imagine anyone but Johnny Cash making it sound like a standard. His glorious baritone worn down from age, he intones the lyrics like a man writing his own grim eulogy — which, given his health at the time, may very well have been true. The arrangement is as starkly powerful as anything on the Rick Rubin-produced American series, of course, but something about “Hurt” stands out. Ultimately, the video is what drove it all home: it’s hard to imagine a more powerful image than Johnny Cash, one of America’s most iconic figures, suddenly looking so vulnerable, so human, so utterly spent. Nine Inch Nails were one of many young bands in the ’90s who practically romanticized pain and death, but for one instance we were allowed to see the other side of it, the fear and regret we rarely like to acknowledge until faced with our own mortality. In this sense, Johnny Cash took Trent Reznor’s Hurt and made it universal. Though one could argue wether it’s the definitive reading of the song (Trent’s own solo piano version, as demonstrated at the React Now benefit, is fairly devastating), that’s almost besides the point. More than any other song on this list, “Hurt” now has all the makings of a future classic. RIP, Johnny. –Anthony Hansen

5. Jay-Z “99 Problems
Def Jam’s founder crossed paths with one of the label’s biggest artists on a song that caused hip-hop fans of all stripes to lose one in their collective pants. Rubin’s ground-shaking collage of samples (Billy Squier and Mountain!) provided the perfect backdrop for an icy cool Jay-Z to give the finger to critics and racist cops. While Jay was already pretty established as the alpha emcee, Rubin’s production left rap fans hoping he’d return to the genre full-time. Extra points for having the best use of cowbell on a rap record ever. –MH

4. Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone
Forget the drippy, inspirational bland-outs we had come to expect from American Idol winners – Clarkson blew them out of the water with this joyfully rocking kiss-off to an ex-boyfriend, written by Swedish teen-pop hitmeisters Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Appropriating alt-rock’s soft/loud dichotomy and giving it a delicious, electronics-enhanced sheen, “Since U Been Gone” was so perfect that it became the template for girl-power pop through the remainder of the decade – including other Martin-created confections like Pink’s “So What,” Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” and Clarkson’s own “My Life Would Suck Without You.” –JC

3. Rihanna, “Umbrella
First, it’s the drum loop: an old school beat like they used back in the 1980’s. Then it’s the quick, effective Jay-Z guest rap, harkening back to the mid-90’s and Dr. Dre’s intro for Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Finally it’s into this decade: crunked-out, almost sci-fi keyboard backings, growing stronger each time through the verse and chorus, only letting up for the bridge before pouncing back in to help drive the final chorus home. And on top of all that is Rhianna’s vocals, which harken back to any of these three decades. And the hooks….the hooks! Of course there’s the “Ella…ella…hey, hey” that forces itself into your brain, walking a tightrope between cool and annoying. But the chorus itself is just a great progression, helped out even more by a bit of dissonance in the keyboard arrangement keeper the listener on edge just enough that it’s almost impossible to treat the song like background music. And then, there’s a subtle hook just among the interplay of voice and chords in the verse. With it’s incorporation of influences brought together in a mashup of rap, hip-hop, Top 40, R&B and studio effects, this may be the track that most defined pop music in the ’00s. –MB

61XRyQkn-zL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]2. Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy
Not so long ago, a song’s success was measured not in how many records, but in how many copies of the sheet music were sold. The idea that a musical composition is somehow inseparable from a single definitive recording comes not from the world of pop, but from musique concrete — “concrete” meaning that the music itself was intrinsic to a particular physical object, i.e., the master tape of the recording. It’s an idea that’s only two generations old, but it shapes a conversation that subsumes elements of both culture and economics: Music as cultural product to be assimilated (i.e., music as meme) vs. Music as commodity to be consumed as-is.

The notion that every good song must by definition pass the campfire test — i.e., that you could sing it the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar — is probably unnecessarily reductive. But I would argue that such songs are more memetically robust than songs structured around recording-studio frippery, which may be very beautiful indeed but are something of a hothouse flower, less likely to survive in the larger memepool. E.g.: Not only can you not strum Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” on an acoustic guitar, you can’t even sing it in the shower, because human voices just don’t do that. Likewise, the idea of publishing sheet music for “Praise You” is laughable. Although ostensibly a vocal number, it’s entirely a creation of the studio — irreproducible. Incapable of reproduction (though obviously of mass production). Sterile, in the dictionary sense.

Music that’s highly structured, though — highly reproducible, standing up to multiple interpretations in a variety of contexts while still remaining essentially itself — is music as meme; participatory, samizdat, evolving. If it lasts long enough, it becomes a folk song — the original authorship is forgotten and the notion of “ownership” becomes moot: it “belongs” to anyone who sings it. Musique concrete, on the other hand — highly produced but irreproducible — is music as commodity: encapsulated in a particular physical object, it cannot be “performed” as such, only bought and sold.

Such were the propositions we were arguing, in the heady early days of 2006. Accusations of “rockism” were being thrown, and even of racism, since a lack of “proper tunes” is often invoked as being exactly what’s wrong with contemporary black-identified music. Then “Crazy” came out, and with it the nine days’ wonder of other artists covering “Crazy”; some of them were goofs or thrill-seekers or trend-hoppers, but most were responding to the head-colonizing earworm vigor of the thing. In the end, the argument was neither won nor lost; we were all so busy singing along that we forgot all about it. –JF

1. Outkast, “Hey Ya”
It really shouldn’t have come as such a shock. Their previous hit, “Ms. Jackson” (from the Stankonia album) alluded to the fact that Big Boi and Andre 3000 were full-blooded pop stars. They just needed a confection with a little more bounce and, brother, did they ever get it. Married to the sound of some mid-’60s dance craze that never was, “Hey Ya” exemplified something very few tunes of the time had; a sense of fun. It shares that retro-soul feel found on this list’s #2 selection, and like that tune, “Hey Ya” was overplayed, even by modern radio’s ADHD standards. But unlike other songs that dominated the pop charts for a season, and just as likely wore out their welcome in time for autumn colors to surface on the trees, the ghost of “shakin’ it like a Polaroid picture” can still put a smile on your face. –DWD

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