Home Music Music Lists

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

“Young Folks,” Peter Bjorn and John

2006 | Wichita; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

These Swedish indie guys whistled their way to an earworm as catchy as anything created in a high-gloss recording studio. Despite the title, “Young Folks” is actually about feeling jaded while chatting someone up at a bar. “I think the sound of that whistle, and it’s a bit out of tune, connects to people,” the trio’s John Eriksson said. And he was right: Gossip Girl featured it, Kanye West sampled it, James Blunt covered it and bands like Foster the People jacked its airy style.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem

2002 | DFA; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

Like Rob Gordon from High Fidelity or Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, the narrator of LCD Soundsystem’s debut single is a geek whose rarified pop-culture tastes are the basis for their whole identity. Over a budget-techno pulse, James Murphy brags of his hipster exploits, from being present at a seminal krautrock moment to giving counsel to Captain Beefheart, citing several dozen record-nerd faves along the way. Before he was a frontman, Murphy was a DJ who made a name for himself playing obscure artists like the ones he names in the song. “I was afraid that this newfound coolness was going to go away, and that’s where ‘Losing My Edge’ comes from,” he said. “It is about being horrified by my own silliness.” 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams

2013 |  Columbia; Highest Chart Position: 2

At a time when dance music was at a commercial peak, Daft Punk went progressive. “Electronic music right now is in its comfort zone and it’s not moving one inch,” the group’s Thomas Bangalter said at the time. “That’s not what artists are supposed to do.” So they approached songwriting more organically with help from Pharrell Williams and disco hitmaker Nile Rodgers, who played scratchy guitar all over what became “Get Lucky.” It later won them two Grammys and a Durex condoms tie-in.  

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert

2009 | Columbia Nashville; Highest Chart Position: 28

Lambert established a reputation as a Texas pistol on her early singles, singing about torching shit, toting guns and seeking revenge on her ex. But she scored her first country Number One with this ballad about visiting your childhood home in search of meaning and healing. When she was a child, her family was literally homeless after her parents’ business went south; eventually, the Lamberts built up a rundown property into a new family home. So it’s easy to see why the song’s lyrics about making your dream home a reality would have struck a chord with Lambert – and why she snatched up the song after it was sent to then-boyfriend Blake Shelton. “It was beautiful,” she said. “I mean, I just started bawling from the second I heard it. [Shelton] was like, ‘If you have a reaction to this song like that, then you need to cut it.'”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Letter From an Occupant,” The New Pornographers

2000 | Mint; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

Dan Bjar was the Bowie-obsessed pop oddball; Carl Newman was the Bacharach-loving refugee from Nineties power-pop band Zumpano; Neko Case was the up-and-coming five-alarm alt-country belter. Together the Canadian crew was one of the most consistently transcendent indie-rock acts of the ’00s. “Letter From an Occupant” exploded off their debut album, Mass Romantic, a whirlwind of hooks that pinged around in your head even if the lyrics didn’t add up to much. ” I don’t know what a ‘letter from an occupant’ is,” Newman later said. “But I’m hoping that I will figure it out at some point. It sounds like it must mean something.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“House of Jealous Lovers,” The Rapture

2002 | DFA; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

With production from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, the Rapture’s cowbell-thwacking nail-gun guitar banger made “dance punk” the hot thing in Bohemia. The song became the flagship single for DFA Records, the influential label that brought together indie rock and dance music and helped jump-start a new era of New York music. “We created the label, based around one song,” recalled DFA co-founded Jonathan Galkin, “which was I think maybe indicative of what we were trying to do and I think succeeded, which was ‘House of Jealous Lovers,’ by the Rapture.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Bad and Boujee,” Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert

2016 | Quality-Control; Highest Chart Position: 1

Migos’ triplet-packed rhymes will go down as a hallmark of 2010s pop the same way Outkast’s rapid-fire drawls helped define the previous decade. That sound found its apotheosis in this Number One hit about cars, women and “cooking up dope with an Uzi.” For a chart-topper, it does not exactly come up and give you a hug: It’s spare, low-gloss and moody. “We did it the trap way, not the pop way,” Offset said. Offset, who wrote the song’s “raindrop/droptop hook,” recorded his verse at home with his son sitting by his side and something heavy on his mind. “I had some little situations going on with life, family stuff going down,” he told “Rolling Stone.” “Sometimes that’s the best time to get music off – you might be mad, make some crazy shit.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen

2011 | 604; Highest Chart Position: 1

The Canadian Idol finalist proves that the hormonal rush of pure bubblegum never gets old, even in a cynical age. “It was written, recorded and produced within four or five days, tops. It was a pretty easy song to write,” said Jepsen, who had previously been a runner-up on Canadian Idol. It took off worldwide, topping the charts in a number of countries and inspiring lip-sync tributes by everyone from Katy Perry to the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders to the Harvard baseball team. “What person hasn’t wanted to approach somebody before and stopped because it’s scary?” she later asked, explaining the song’s universal appeal. “I know I have.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“American Idiot,” Green Day

2004 | REPRISE; Highest Chart Position: 61

The title track to Green Day’s 2004 opus is arguably 21-century rock’s most potent political anthem – as relevant now as it was the day George W. Bush was re-elected. Billie Joe Armstrong was inspired to write it after hearing Lynyrd Skynrd’s Southern-rock pledge of allegiance “That’s How I Like It” on his car radio. “it was like, ‘I’m proud to be a redneck,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, why would you be proud of something like that? This is exactly what I’m against.'” he came up with the song that raged against complacency with Who-size power, the sound of pop-punk brats inheriting a higher calling.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Thinkin Bout You,” Frank Ocean

2012 | Island; Highest Chart Position: 32

Ocean broke new ground for masculinity in R&B, writing gender-fluid lyrics, savoring words like “cute” and singing in a gently insistent falsetto aching with hope. Ocean originally wrote “Thinkin Bout You” for R&B singer Bridget Kelly, who later recorded her own version. But Ocean’s demo version was leaked, a music video followed, and then the song became the lead single from his landmark debut album, Channel Orange.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Springsteen,” Eric Church

2011 | EMI Nashville; Highest Chart Position: 19

North Carolina tough guy Church gets weepy over his memories of “Born to Run” and fading high school romance. The result is the most moving country song of the 2000s. “Springsteen” was ripped from real life. As Church later recalled, “I went to a concert when I was younger with a girl, and to this day, when I hear that artist, it’s the soundtrack to that girl. I never think about her any other time, except when that song is on. That’s where the ‘Springsteen’ came from, and he seemed to be the perfect guy to craft that story around because of my love for him.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“What You Know,” T.I.

2006 | Atlantic; Highest Chart Position: 3

“What You Know” is a nimble, infectious, Grammy-winning boast from one of contemporary rap’s most gifted and internal-rhyme-obsessed craftsmen. But the real star was that beaming, blown-out beat from Atlanta veteran DJ Toomp. With co-producer Wonder, he re-created the ecstatic, goose-bumpy gospel-rock chord progression built from the end of Roberta Flack’s 1970 tune “Gone Away” in Reason software. “DJ Khaled called me from Miami and was like, ‘Yo, you guys got a smash! I want you to listen to this crowd, man, when I drop this record and watch what they do,’ ” said Toomp. “He dropped that shit and everybody went crazy. He was like, ‘Man, you got one, I’m telling you, you got one.'”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Beez in the Trap,” Nicki Minaj feat. 2 Chainz

2012 | Young Money; Highest Chart Position: 48

After Minaj’s success with electro-pop crossovers like “Super Bass” and “Starships,” “Beez in the Trap” was a welcome return for Minaj in pure hip-hop form: a slow-rolling Southern-rap bass boom, a chorus that recalls a Schoolly D flow from the mid-Eighties and a guest verse from 2 Chainz. “I was submitting beats to Nicki when I heard she was getting her project going, and I just kept submitting,” said producer Kenoe. “Mack Maine, the A&R over at Young Money/Cash Money, called me in the last hour and told me what they was looking for. He was like, ‘Nicki needs some rap shit.'” 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“We Found Love,” Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris

2011 | Def Jam; Highest Chart Position: 1

When big-tent dance music stormed into the Top 40 in the early 2000s, the results were sometimes messy, with hasty, ill-conceived collaborations resulting in some truly cringeworthy records. Then there were songs like “We Found Love,” which more or less instantly became modern standards. A simple synth riff from Calvin Harris reaches back to dance-floor killers from the early Nineties while Rihanna sings with steely generosity. “I want each track to be as good as it can possibly be,” Harris said, “and that usually means me not singing on it.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“DNA,” Kendrick Lamar

2017 | TOP DAWG; Highest Chart Position: 4

The greatest rapper alive tells you what he’s made of: nothing short of loyalty, royalty, war, peace, power, poison, pain, joy, hustle, ambition and flow – and that’s just in the first 15 seconds. Producer Mike Will Made It matches Lamar’s attack with some trunk-rattling 808s and a back end that chops a bit of Rick James stage patter from a 1982 concert in Germany; the producer later said Lamar did the ending a cappella and then asked Will to put drums around it. “But he was going so hard – that man was rapping so crazy,” the producer told NPR. “I wanted that shit to sound just as crazy. I wanted it to sound like he’s battling the beat. He said he wanted the shit to just sound like chaos.”

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” Fall Out Boy

2005 | Island; Highest Chart Position: 8

Fall Out Boy got their start on the emo scene, but they were never convincing as hipsters. The pop punk of “Sugar” makes geeky drama seem trashy and fun. “I wrote the lyrics in Chicago,” recalled bassist Pete Wentz. “I was with my dad, and we were listening to the old music where they’d always say ‘sugar’ and ‘honey,’ stuff like that. I was like, ‘Why doesn’t anyone do that anymore?'” The song helped make them unlikely arena-rock stars.

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry

2010 | Capitol; Highest Chart Position: 1

In Perryland, every song was the song of the summer. The blindingly bright “Teenage Dream” was one of five Number One hits from her album of the same name. No one had done that since Michael Jackson’s Bad. Perry wrote the song with Max Martin and Dr. Luke in Santa Monica, building it around what she called “a Chaka Khan fierce little beat.” As she also said, “I want people to kind of like think of me as that pinpoint poster in their room, or hopefully I can invade their dreams.”  

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Hung Up,” Madonna

2005 | Warner Bros.; Highest Chart Position: 7

Madonna turned back to her roots in New York nightlife with 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, a disco-pop masterpiece for a new millennium. While polishing her lead single, “Hung Up,” Madge made personal calls to Abba songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, begging permission to sample their 1979 hit “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” Although the pair were notoriously protective of their material, they said yes to Madonna. “Hung Up” rapidly climbed the charts, peaking at Number One in a record-breaking total of 41 countries. But if the music recalled the past, the song itself was no holiday; Madonna’s lyrics took on middle age with Dylanesque honesty. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“The Wire,” Haim

2013 | Columbia; Highest Chart Position: Did not chart

The three Haim sisters started out playing in a family band with their parents, who were big fans of acts like Prince and Earth, Wind and Fire, before eventually developing their own Eighties R&B and soft-rock sound. By the time they released their debut LP, Days Are Gone, they were getting compared to their heroes. “If I read, ‘Check out this band, they sound like both Fleetwood Mac and Beyoncé,’ I’d be like, ‘What?!'” Danielle Haim said. “I get squeamish when people say that. Fleetwood Mac is one of the greatest bands out there! Let’s start a little smaller, you know?” Be that as it may, their breakout hit, “The Wire,” sounded like what might happen if the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac had secretly made an album together – in other words, some brilliant retro-rock fan fiction. 

The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far

“Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B

2017 | ATLANTIC; Highest Chart Position: 1

“I like to talk shit about people that used to talk shit,” said Cardi B. “Like, yeah, I fixed my teeth. An