Best Songs Of The 2000s: Top 5 Era-defining Tracks Most Recommended By Fans

The 2000’s. The years when NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached” was released, with marionette toys of Justin Timberlake and Joey Fatone to boot. Amy Winehouse swept the Grammys, becoming the first British woman to win five of the awards. The years of walking down the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with Green Day and causing “Misery Business” with Paramore. The 2000s were a time of diverse musical influences and iconic hits that defined a generation. Artists like Eminem and Beyoncé rose to prominence, redefining the boundaries of hip-hop and R&B. The continued success of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys provided catchy pop tunes that dominated the airwaves, and artists like Shakira and Ricky Martin brought Latin music to the mainstream, becoming international sensations. Additionally, the emergence of reality TV shows like “American Idol” gave rise to new stars like Kelly Clarkson, who showcased her vocal abilities to the world. It was a time when music truly became a global phenomenon, with musicians from all corners of the world making their mark on the industry and making up some of the best 2000s songs of the decade.

And it’s not only those around for the initial release of this 2000s music that are enjoying its brilliance. A new study is now showing that social media is helping young adults discover old music hits. While it does pain us to say it, it’s no longer 2007, but that hasn’t stopped almost half of music fans in the U.S. from discovering songs that were released over a decade ago thanks to apps like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Dolby Laboratories, the survey found that US adults are feeling nostalgic.

This sentiment was very high among Gen Z, with nearly 70 percent stating they recently discovered an iconic song from over a decade ago for the first time. Results also show that six in 10 adults feel like they were born in the wrong era because of their taste in music, including nearly 80 percent of Gen Z. For 40 percent of respondents, the era that best matches their music preferences is, yup, you guessed it, the 2000s. Seeing as how many artists who are still prominent today rose to fame during this time, it’s no wonder people are still drawn to their older hits.

But which songs struck a memorable chord in this era? What music defined the decade? Luckily, we at StudyFinds have taken that question very seriously and have researched across numerous expert sources to bring you the top five best songs of the 2000s. Don’t agree with our list? That’s okay! We know music is different for every person, which is why we would love to hear from you in the comments down below. But in the meantime, let’s see what our sources have to say and get to that list!

Britney Spears at the 2008 MTV Music Awards
Britney Spears at the 2008 MTV Music Awards (Photo by Dooley Productions on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Songs of the 2000s, Recommended by Fans

 1. “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (2003)

Come on, you know what you want to do. Now “shake it, sh-sh-sh shake it like a Polaroid picture”! “While ‘Ms. Jackson’ is another incredible early 2000s’ hit by OutKast; we’re going with their 2003 jam ‘Hey Ya!’ A lot of people don’t know OutKast outside of this party song, which is a pity, considering ‘ATLiens’ is one of the best late 90s albums out there. But we digress. With a great thumping beat, recognizable chorus, and hilarious music video greener than the Emerald City, ‘Hey Ya!’ will forever remain a classic,” raves Live365.

“For this spot on our list of the best songs of the 2000s, we’ve got what is arguably Outkast’s biggest hit ever, ‘Hey Ya!’ The song marked a significant moment in OutKast’s career, steering away from their traditional hip-hop sound and leaning into pop and funk influences to create a hit,” says One37PM.

“After all these years, ‘Hey Ya!’ sounds as weird and fantastic as it did the first time: A genre-humping blur of acoustic guitars, hand claps, dance instructions, and André 3000’s funktastic charm. Fifty years from now, kids will still be asking what a Polaroid picture is,” writes Rolling Stone.

2. “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. (2007)

Who can forget this track that features the sound of a cash register, gunshots, and airplane noises among its other instruments? Symbolizing themes of poverty, violence, and the desire for freedom, “M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’ united people like few other songs this decade, suggesting that given the right synergy of personality, topicality, and marketing, something like a mass audience could still gather around even the unlikeliest of phenomena. Riding the wave of Barack Obama‘s outsider popularity, ‘Paper Planes’ felt unusually relevant for pop music in the age of ‘American Idol.’ Here was another outsider, this one a Sri Lankan Tamil raised in London who won over listeners with global-minded beats and revolutionary chic. The third single off her second album, Kala, ‘Paper Planes,’ rode from its hipster dance-music niche into broader consciousness,” describes Pitchfork.

“With Switch and Diplo sharing production and The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ providing the backbone, this track was always destined for greatness. Peppered with gunshots and confrontational lyrics, ‘Paper Planes’ is one of the most commercially viable tracks going, and yet, from the charts to Slumdog Millionaire and Pineapple Express via a Grammy nomination, Dizzee Rascal’s live cover and the clubs of Europe, it’s been unavoidable. The Beastie Boys starred in the video, too, and it’s also had about a million ace remixes done. A latter-day classic,” notes NME.

“‘Paper Planes’ had an entire nation making finger guns and cheerily singing along to a song about scamming and robbing. It catapulted the ever-mischievous Sri Lankan-born rapper MIA into quick fame, and over a decade later, she’s still making a ruckus,” comments Harper’s Bazaar.

3. “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z (2003)

It is hard to believe there was a time when Beyoncé wasn’t dominating the world with her solo career. But up until this moment, she was a Destiny’s Child, and if you really want to get symbolic, she was the one destined for me. “Queen Bey is one of those incredible artists where there’s no difference between her newer and older songs; all of it is straight fire. Fresh off her stint as a group member of Destiny’s Child, ‘Crazy in Love’ was the ridiculously successful lead single from Beyoncé’s debut album, ‘Dangerously in Love.’ ‘Crazy in Love’ is the song that began Beyoncé’s legendary solo career, and it also features some bits from Jay-Z back when the two were just dating! Ah, memories,” reminisces Live365.

“If someone told you that the sheet music for ‘Crazy in Love’ was just a lot of exclamation points on a staff, you would believe them, right? From its first moments on until the end, its enormous beats and blaring fanfare pummel everything in its path like a brutal force of nature, leaving us all with a clear choice to either turn away or submit to its indomitable power. It’s fitting that this sound would be the basis of Beyoncé Knowles’s breakthrough hit, as it is the ideal showcase for the singer’s forthright persona and her gift for vocal performances that manage an improbable balance of poised professionalism and feral emoting,” adds Pitchfork.

“Within 10 seconds of hearing the opening horns, you knew Destiny’s Child died so Beyonce Knowles could live. Her entire life had been engineered so that she would become what she is now, but this was the first single that didn’t ask but demand fealty,” writes Treblezine.

4. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem (2002)

Whether you can rap it from top to bottom or just yell out “Mom’s spaghetti” at the right part, “Lose Yourself” has done nothing but cement itself in pop culture. “On the Academy Award-winning motivational anthem from the ‘8 Mile’ soundtrack, Marshall put himself inside the mind of a young struggling MC. One of the most inspiring songs Em’s made in his career, it found its way into the headphones of everyone from hardcore Shady fans to athletes looking to get psyched before game time,” notes Complex.

“‘Lose Yourself,’ Eminem’s epic song about giving everything you’ve got and overcoming life’s obstacles in order to escape a dreary existence and make it in the rap music business, is his finest work and quite possibly the greatest rap song of all time. The lyrics are among the best ever written, and Eminem’s vocals are aggressive yet heartfelt,” explains Eclectic Music Lover.

“The intense lyrics and beats of ‘Lose Yourself’ have made it a timeless anthem for self-belief and determination, not to mention a showcase of Eminem’s unrivaled storytelling and lyrical skills. From the film ‘8 Mile’, the song was woven seamlessly into culture, giving fans plenty of reason to love it right out of the gate. Eminem showed off his best qualities on this one, and it will always manage to stand the test of time from here on out,” describes One37PM.

5. “Toxic” by Britney Spears (2003)

We couldn’t make a 2000s music list without mentioning pop idol Britney Spears herself. That would be like, well, it would be like talking about 2000s music and not mentioning Britney Spears! “While ‘Oops!…I Did It Again’ cemented Britney Spears’ reign as the early 2000s pop princess; we think her 2003 song ‘Toxic’ has truly withstood the test of time. The clash of techno, surf guitar, Bollywood strings, dramatic violin notes, and Britney’s breathy vocals make this dance track super pleasing to the ear. It’s still a relevant song today, as proven by its use in Emerald Fennell’s ‘Promising Young Woman.’ And who can forget Britney as a super spy in the music video?” comments Live365.

“‘Toxic’ brought Britney Spears back to the pop top 10 for the first time in four years when it looked like her success was fading. The song hooks a listener the first time through and never lets go. It is one of the most covered pop songs of the decade and earned Britney Spears her first Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording,” says LiveAbout.

“This song was released in 2003 and was a major hit single, becoming one of the biggest hits overall on this list. The song’s central theme is toxic love, and Britney Spears sings about experiencing such a situation. The song was ranked among the top 10 best hits of 2003. ‘Toxic’ achieved significant commercial success, topping charts in more than 20 countries worldwide,” concludes MusicGrotto.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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