100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far – Rolling Stone
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The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

We polled artists, critics and industry insiders to create a list of the era’s truly essential moments

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

The 2000s has produced a shocking amount of incredible music – and since changes in technology have made it all pretty much free, we’ve been able to hear more of it than ever before. We’ve been lucky enough to see some larger-than-life superstars roll through, from Beyoncé to Drake to Jack White to Adele, and we’ve seen greats from the previous century like Beck, Outkast and U2 change and re-up their game.

It’s been 18 years teaming with great indie-rock guitar bangers, overwrought dance anthems, heart-on-sleeve punk rock and emo, genre-mutating R&B and sonically adventurous, politically radical hip-hop. Kanye West has also been somewhat productive throughout this period.

To compile our list the “100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far,” we reached out to a large group of artists, producers, critics and industry experts who sent us ranked lists of their favorite songs. We tabulated the votes. Our own editorial list might look a little different, but the result is an excellent reflection of an incredible period in music history.

You can also read the list in the July issue of Rolling Stone. We’ve relaunched the magazine with a new look and we think this list perfectly embodies our commitment to giving you the deepest sense of the best music happening now and shaping the future.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You),” UGK feat. Outkast

2007 | Jive; Highest Chart Position: 70

After nearly two decades as a hard-talking Houston concern, underground kings Pimp C and Bun B finally rode a gleaming Willie Hutch sample to chart success. UGK fans Outkast lent a helping hand, Andre 3000’s verse about marriage a stark contrast to UGK’s pimp-centric swagger. “They sent the track and I just wrote what I thought ‘choosin” for real meant to me,” said Andre. “I don’t know why I went to marriage as a topic, but I guess that’s the ultimate version of ‘choosin.'”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Archie, Marry Me,” Alvvays

2014 | Polyvinyl; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

“It is a fictitious character, but the situation was a bit of an autobiographical one,” said singer Molly Rankin of Toronto’s Alvvays. True or not, the dreamy Canadian band delivered a sharp, skeptical view of modern romance, tangled up in some of the sweetest indie pop this side of Belle and Sebastian. The result was among the most charming guitar pop of this or any era.  

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“1901,” Phoenix

2009 | Glassnote; Highest Chart Position: 84

Only Phoenix, the four-man embodiment of effervescent Parisian cool, could have made us nostalgic for the turn of the last century at the beginning of this one. “1901,” which reached millions of Americans by appearing in a Cadillac commercial, made the stylish French band stars, somewhat surprisingly for European rockers who didn’t do anything to hide their continental sophistication. “Sometimes one song will be in one commercial and you think only about this, but we believe this will come and go and the song will stay,” said the band’s singer Thomas Mars.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Tighten Up,” The Black Keys

2010 | Nonesuch; Highest Chart Position: 87

Nearly a decade into their career, the Black Keys finally notched a hit with “Tighten Up,” a soulful roots rocker about a man on the hunt for love, which they top-loaded with one musical hook after another. Producer Danger Mouse helped the duo rein in a deluge of whistling, skanking guitar, funky bass and an urgent-sounding guitar solo to make for three and a half minutes of pop that you just can’t shake. The single went platinum.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue

2001 | Parlophone; Highest Chart Position: 7

Thirteen years after scoring a squeaky-clean mall-pop hit with her cover of “The Loco-Motion,” Australian diva Minogue re-emerged with the sexy, throbbing disco hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Songwriters Cathy Dennis and Rob Davis had originally written the song for the British teenybopper group S Club 7, but manager (and American Idol producer) Simon Fuller rejected it, so they shopped it around. Minogue was the first artist to bite, and the song helped establish her as a club-music queen. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Jesus Walks,” Kanye West

2004 | Roc-A-Fella; Highest Chart Position: 11

“So here go my single, dawg, radio needs this/They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus,” rapped West in this lushly produced, heavily spiritual hip-hop song that, nonetheless, hit Number 11. “I found a gospel song by a choir of reformed drug addicts in New York,” said co-writer Rhymefest about the song’s sample of the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Choir. “Even though I’m not a Christian, it moved me, and the beat was kinda like a rap groove. We jacked the whole song, but it came to life when Kanye added the army sounds and made it like God’s soldiers.” 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” My Chemical Romance

2004 | Reprise; Highest Chart Position: 86

The song that sold a thousand jars of Manic Panic hair dye, My Chemical Romance’s signature anthem spawned a new generation of emo kids with “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” – a call to arms for horror punks with a soft spot for musical theater. The song marked a turn away from the genre’s girl-bashing antics and brought big-time vulnerability to the pop charts. The video flirts with queerness, too: Before the band goes up against a squad of macho lacrosse jocks, guitarist Frank Iero sneaks glam-goth singer Gerard Way a fleeting smooch.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Stoned and Starving,” Parquet Courts

2012 | Mom + Pop; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

This minimalist anthem to Swedish fish, munchies and magazines was the opening salvo to the tweens’ alt-rock revival, and the most memorable punk shout-out to the maligned borough of Queens since the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family.” The song – written by singer-guitarist Andrew Savage, about a stoned walk through the Queens’ Ridgewood neighborhood that he took while cat-sitting for his girlfriend – even became a microhit. “I don’t care to play it anymore,” Savage said at the time. “I don’t like Joe College in the audience yelling for it.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Despacito (Remix)” Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber

2017 | Universal Latin; Highest Chart Position: 1

For a song that’s all about the pleasure of a slow, sensual​​ ​​advance, 2017’s “Despacito” hastened a massive historical turn in American music, demonstrating the mainstream viability of Spanish-language pop. An unlikely collab between two Puerto Rican hitmakers – pop-rock heartthrob Luis Fonsi and reggaeton kingpin Daddy Yankee – the song had already ​blitzed international pop charts and amassed millions of YouTube views prior to Bieber’s remix, which conquered Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed for 16 weeks. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“1 Thing” Amerie

2005 | Columbia; Highest Chart Position: 8

According to R&B singer and songwriter Amerie, “1 Thing” was written about how “there’s always one thing that keeps you attracted to someone. No matter what they do or how they act, there’s that one undeniable thing that keeps you coming back.” Based on a gritty beat sampled from an oldie from New Orleans funk gods the Meters, the song became a huge hit, and poignantly so, as it arrived in the late summer of 2005, just before Hurricane Katrina happened. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

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

2000 | Epitaph; Highest Chart Position: 86

After the Strokes broke open the dam for raw, punky, electric rock & roll in 2001, the Hives swelled in. The group had been ripping up stages in Sweden for about a decade by the time “Hate to Say I Told You So” hit the charts with its chugging riffs and frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s atavistic, shredded–vocal-cord declarations of independence, so the Hives had their matching suits pressed and ready when the tune became a hit two years later. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Hannah Hunt,” Vampire Weekend

2013 | XL; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

After starting off as Afropop-loving collegiate-pop aesthetes, Vampire Weekend grew up fast, and by the time of their third album, Modern Vampires of the City, they were writing about what singer Ezra Koenig described as “growing up, starting to think more seriously about your life and your faith.” That sense comes through powerfully on “Hannah Hunt,” a hauntingly pretty song about a cross-country trip, tinged with Dylanesque indecision. It remains their best marriage yet of smarts, soul and sweetness. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey

2005 | Island; Highest Chart Position: 1

Carey spent the early 2000s in a career rut, but she came back big with “We Belong Together,” a piano ballad perfectly balanced between R&B grace and hip-hop toughness. “I was driving in Miami and I pulled up to a stop,” recalled record executive L.A. Reid, who has worked closely with Carey for decades. “A lady pulled up beside me singing the song at the top of her lungs and her windows down. I said, ‘I’ll be damned, she cracked the code.'”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“I Love It,” Icona Pop w/Charli XCX

2012 | Ten; Highest Chart Position: 7

“You’re from the Seventies, but I’m a Nineties bitch,” the synth-pop duo holler – and the non-Nineties bitches in the club ran for the hills. “I Love It” was also a breakout of sorts for innovative U.K. pop singer Charli XCX, who wrote the song, which was about the frustrations of being in a relationship with an older person. “We want people to feel the anger behind it,” the band later explained. “People hear we were going through love drama, and we were pretty tough and angry. It feels good when we meet those pigs and we can thank them, because they were a big reason behind it.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“My Shot,” Original Broadway Cast of ‘Hamilton’

2015 | Atlantic; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

“I fall in love with storytelling regardless of genre,” Lin-Manuel Miranda told Rolling Stone. With lyrical nods to Eminem (“Lose Yourself”), Biggie (“Going Back to Cali”), Nas (“Ether”) and Oscar Hammerstein II (“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific), in a posse-cut structure equal parts Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” and Stephen Sondheim, Lin-Manuel Miranda fired Hamilton’s kill shot. The American musical, and hip-hop, would never be the same.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“One More Time,” Daft Punk

2000 | Virgin; Highest Chart Position: 61

Daft Punk made the leap from the house and techno scene into fully realized pop music on this elastic disco epiphany, one of the decade’s most surprisingly influential songs. The French duo sprayed Eighties metal-guitar cheese all over the galaxy on “One More Time,” perfectly in step with the nostalgic mood of the moment, and the liberal use of talkbox presaged the rise of Auto-Tune. Those talkbox vocals on the song were handled by New Jersey singer-producer Romanthony, who passed away in 2013. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Lost Cause,” Beck

2002 | Geffen; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

Moving past the winky bravado of his 1999 album Midnite Vultures, Beck stripped down his songwriting and got real on this beautifully frayed breakup autopsy. He said he was trying to write a song “that could’ve been written 40 years ago.” “Lost Cause” was the luminous lead single from his 2001 Sea Change, one of his most intimate albums, recalling the California singer-songwriter comedown vibe of classic artists like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. “This record is more like what you’d hear if you just heard me playing in a room with an instrument,” Beck said.   

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“New Slang,” The Shins

2001 | Sub Pop; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

Natalie Portman gave the Shins a huge boost when her character in the 2004 movie Garden State said “New Slang” will “change your life.” Shins frontman James Mercer said he wrote it to sum up the “angst and confusion about what my future was going to be. The Shins weren’t anything when I wrote that song. There wasn’t any hope for anything like a music career.” By summing up shaky generational aspirations with lines like, “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find,” he arrived at nothing less than an Aughts mumble-folk “Sounds of Silence.”