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100 Best Songs of the 2000s

From Beyonce and Lady Gaga to Radiohead and Kanye West, these are the best songs from the first decade of the 21st Century

100, Best, Songs, 2000s

The music of the Aughts was all over the map in the very best way, with file sharing and randomly produced personal playlists encouraging eclecticism and experimentation in both artists and listeners. Rolling Stone‘s list of the decade’s 100 best songs – which was originally unveiled in 2009 and was compiled by a group of over 100 artists, critics and industry insiders – includes garage rock revivalists, dance-happy indie, sassy starlets, slick modern R&B, boundary-shattering pop hybrids and a few familiar icons from previous eras. The most exciting thing about this selection of tunes is that, despite all the different styles and voices in the mix, it all sounds totally natural together. In fact, you might already have a playlist that looks just like it.

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19

Kanye West, ‘Jesus Walks’

"If I talk about God, my record won't get played," rapped Kanye over thundering martial drums on this gospel testimonial. He was wrong: "Jesus Walks" climbed the charts and won a Grammy for Best Rap Song. But more important, it introduced a hip-hop star who could single-handedly create more drama than a carful of Crips.

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17

Bob Dylan, ‘Mississippi’

A drifter's love song that seems to sum up Dylan's entire career, and a rambling classic that ranks up there with "Tangled Up in Blue." When he growls, "I'm gonna look at you till my eyes go blind," it's both a romantic promise and a hint of doom.

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9

U2, ‘Beautiful Day’

The song that re-established U2 as the world's biggest band looked backward, reviving the skyscraping sound of their Eighties classics. But the lyrics — "See the canyons broken by cloud/See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out" — were more ambivalent than the title suggested, a prayer for transcendence in a wounded world.

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Amy Winehouse, Rehab
8

Amy Winehouse, ‘Rehab’

The humor in Winehouse's 2006 salvo is darker now, given subsequent crack binges and other misbehavior. But "Rehab" still sums up the London diva's greatness: Sonically letter-perfect retro soul with producer Mark Ronson's 21st-century beat-muscle and cheekiness. "He's trying to make me go to rehab," she sings, "I won't go, go, go." You go, girl.

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5

M.I.A., ‘Paper Planes’

Rapper Maya Arulpragasam cheerfully threatened to steal your money, over a beat sampled from the Clash's "Straight to Hell," tossing in cash-register rings, gunshots and shout-outs to Third World slums. The year after "Paper Planes" came out, the Pineapple Express trailer blew it up into one of the unlikeliest Top 10 jams ever.

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3

Beyoncé, ‘Crazy in Love’

The horns weren't a hook. They were a herald: Pop's new queen had arrived. Beyoncé's debut solo smash, powered by that sampled Chi-Lites brass blast, announced her liberation from Destiny's Child and established her MO: She'd best the competition by doing everything sassier, bigger, crazier.

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2

Jay-Z, ’99 Problems’

Jigga's incredible decade-long run reached its hard-rock crescendo in this Black Album smash, flipping an old Ice-T hook with go-go percussion and metal guitars. It was the funkiest thing Rick Rubin had touched since the Eighties. And needless to say, it was a relief for Beyoncé to be upgraded to "nonproblem" status.

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1

Gnarls Barkley, ‘Crazy’

In this frazzled and fragmented decade, when the Top 40 broke down into squabbling niches, the idea of a universal pop hit, a song anybody could love, seemed like a sweet old-fashioned notion. Then these guys showed up. Atlanta rapper Cee-Lo and indie producer Danger Mouse decided it would be a gas to pretend to be the world's greatest pop group, and so they gave the world "Crazy." Everybody loved this song, from your mom to your ex-girlfriend's art professor. It blasted in punk clubs and Burger King bathrooms. Every sucky band on earth tried a lame cover. For the summer of 2006, "Crazy" united us all into one nation under a groove. Gnarls Barkley packed a career's worth of genius ideas into three minutes — and then they basically disappeared. Does that make them crazy? Probably. But was this the most glorious pop thrill of our time? Totally.

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