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100 Best Albums of the 2000s

100 Best Albums of the 2000s

Radiohead Kid A

Radiohead's Kid A

All through the last decade, you’d find a lot of people insisting that the album was dead, a victim of the MP3, the iPod and a la carte downloading. But that never happened. If anything, artists doubled down on the format, resulting in a renaissance of long form artistic statements from a wide range of artists. This list of the decade’s 100 best albums includes the work of rock revivalists (the Strokes, the White Stripes), dance floor visionaries (M.I.A., LCD Soundsystem), hip-hop icons (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West) and old standbys like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and U2, who reinvented their sound without losing touch with what made them living legends. This list is not just an argument in favor of the enduring appeal of the album format, but a compelling case that some of the best music of all time came out between 2000 and 2009.

37

50 Cent, ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin”

In Fiddy's hands, the thug life was not merely a lifestyle — it was a code, an ethos, a Zen path to showbiz glory. When Dr. Dre and Eminem unleashed him in 2003, America couldn't get enough of the ripped, tatted, bullet-riddled stud. 50's debut was full of dark, nickel-plated songs where he played up his hardcore image, but he also had no shame making songs for the ladies: With hits like "In Da Club," he packed dance floors at discos and bar mitzvahs alike. Fun fact: Get Rich or Die Tryin' went nine-times platinum, making 50 the first rapper to sell a million for each time he had gotten shot.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

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36

U2, ‘No Line on the Horizon’

U2 aimed sky-high on their 12th album, recording with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and combining lessons from all over their career: their Joshua Tree-era anthems; their abstract, modern Nineties; and the renewed focus of their last decade. The result was an open-hearted disc with dizzying high points: The joyous "Magnificent," the locomotive title track, the party-hearty "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight." Bono infused everything with gospel yearning, even when he expressed doubt and dislocation in "Unknown Caller" — but most clearly, and gorgeously, on the on-your-knees testimonial "Moment of Surrender."

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2009 Review

U2, Live From Outer Space: Launching the Biggest Tour of All Time

Photos: Three Decades of the World's Biggest Band, Onstage and Backstage

35

PJ Harvey, ‘Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea’

Polly Harvey, happy? It was a surprise: Harvey had spent four records howling her sexual obsessions and romantic disappointments over stark postmodern blues. But album number five found her in New York and in love, crowing, "I'm immortal/When I'm with you" in the surging opener, "Big Exit." Her guitar attack was still forceful but softened around the edges by marimba, piano, organ and guest vocalist Thom Yorke. The result was lusher than anything she had recorded but also vibrant and catchy as all hell, especially the garage-y "Good Fortune" and the yearning "A Place Called Home" — mash notes to lovers in the big city.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2000 Review

PJ Harvey Brings Spellbinding Spectacle to Her Live Show

Video: PJ Harvey's "Hanging in the Wire"

34

OutKast, ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’

It sounded crazy: For their fifth record, both members of hip-hop's most creative duo would record his own LP. What they ended up with was hip-hop's White Album, an overlong but thrilling behemoth fueled by weed, ego and a thousand old funk records. Big Boi's pulverizing Speakerboxxx deepened OutKast's adventures in crunk. Far wonkier was The Love Below, where André 3000 tried to be Prince, Beck and George Clinton all at once, crafting tunes as bright and strange as his wardrobe — including the smash "Hey Ya!" and "Roses," which "really smell like poo-poo."

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2003 Review

OutKast's Andre 3000 Returns With Beatles Cover

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Aughts: OutKast's "Hey Ya!"

33

Daft Punk, ‘Discovery’

The French techno duo taught a generation of indie kids to dance with this international club hit, building a disco empire out of house bass lines, off-kilter keyboards, mysterious robot vocals and a stack of old Chic records. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo never liked to show their faces, but for all their glitz and sci-fi costumes, they sounded inescapably humane. Their 1970s sci-fi moves were a true time warp — like watching TRON and Saturday Night Fever morph into the same movie. And with the Wurlitzer burble of "Digital Love," they made the Supertramp-keyboard sound seem funky.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2005 Review

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Aughts: Daft Punk's 'One More Time'

32

Lil Wayne, ‘Tha Carter III’

Between 2006 and 2008, Lil Wayne went on an astonishing creative bender, churning out mixtapes, lending his amazing rasp to other people's hits and earning that Best Rapper Alive tag. When it came time to release a proper album, we expected a letdown. Instead, he made a pop-rap masterpiece, complete with fizzy Auto-Tune novelties, a Hurricane Katrina elegy and the classic "Dr. Carter," in which Wayne dons scrubs to resuscitate hip-hop. He likened himself to Biggie Smalls and to E.T., and no one argued. "I am so far from the others," he rapped. "I can eat them for supper/Get in my spaceship and hover."

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2008 Review

Life on Planet Wayne: Rolling Stone's 2009 Lil Wayne Cover Story

Lil Wayne: A History in Photos

31

My Morning Jacket, ‘Z’

These Kentucky boys took a giant leap forward on their fourth album — giant enough to take them from a jammy Americana band to awe-inspiring purveyors of interstellar art rock. Jim James' songs were shorter and more focused than ever before, from the pummeling "Gideon" to the playful "Wordless Chorus," where James boasted appropriately, "We are the innovators/They are the imitators." My Morning Jacket infused Z with both Eno-esque keyboards and sculpted guitars, but also Skynyrd-style riffs and bar-band grooves. The result brought Radiohead down South and rocked with supersize soul.

 

Related:
Rolling Stone's Original 2005 Review

My Morning Jacket Find Killer New Groove on 'Circuital'

Video: My Morning Jacket Reveal inspiration for New Songs

30

Radiohead, ‘In Rainbows’

After the pay-what-you-like release hoopla died down, what were Radiohead fans left with? One of the band's best albums: expansive and seductive, full of songs they had been fleshing out live for a couple of years. You can hear the musicians' exhilaration all over the tracks, from the shivery tambourine buzz of "Reckoner" to the jagged guitar waves of "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi." These are the most intense love songs Thom Yorke has ever sung, especially "All I Need," and the warm live-percussion feel gives the whole album the vibe of a hippie jam session. One that's taking place at the end of the world, of course.

 

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