It’s hard to believe that the 2000s were over a decade ago – and it’s even harder to let go of what now seems like a simpler time!
Thankfully, we can always revisit the amazing music of these years. From hip-hop to pop music to indie rock and everything in between, the tracks below are some of the best 2000s songs. Many have stood the test of time, remaining popular today.
Skinny Love – Bon Iver
Echoing guitar and heart-wrenching vocals make this the perfect song to cry to in the rain. Lead singer, Justin Vernon’s voice is a beautiful blend of regret, anger, and desperation. ‘Skinny Love’ describes love with no substance—it’s deathly skinny, and there’s no chance it can last. Yet, there’s still that hope that the relationship can survive a little bit longer. “Come on, skinny love, just last the year.”
Related: Check out more of the best moving forward songs.
Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This song is about being left behind and the awful feeling of knowing you can’t stop it. Lead singer Karen O’s vocals are gritty and raw, adding to the song’s emotion. At first, it seems like she might be able to accept that the relationship is over. But then, it starts feeling too real, and she says, “wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” to try and get her love to realize they shouldn’t abandon this special love.
Related: Here are the best breaking up songs.
B.O.B. – OutKast
The song’s driving beat and melodic rapping make it super catchy and energetic. ‘B.O.B’ stands for “bombs over Baghdad,” but this surprisingly doesn’t hold any political meaning in the song (André 3000 just thought it sounded good). The song follows the narrator’s life, from a childhood full of dreams to being grown with your own children.
All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem
Overlapping piano builds and builds in the anticipatory intro of this song, which lasts nearly a minute and a half. With the opening line “that’s how it starts,” it’s clear that the song will evoke nostalgia. ‘All My Friends’ is sure to bring up old memories of youth, even the ones tinged with regret. At the end of the day, you have your life today because of all those memories, hopefully making you say, “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life.”
Related: Hats off to our playlist of graduation music.
Paper Planes – M.I.A. ft. Bun B and Rich Boy
This song has a great beat and is super catchy, but it’s slightly morbid. ‘Paper Planes’ is about thieves who murder unsuspecting tourists for their money. The chorus is especially blunt about this theme, featuring the line “all I wanna do is take your money.” Despite this, the song is often played at clubs because of its classic pop feel.
Float On – Modest Mouse
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that life will always have its ups and downs, especially when you feel like you are constantly down. This uplifting song acknowledges that life can suck while reminding us that it doesn’t suck all the time. The line “we’ll float on, good news is on the way” is a beautifully simple sentiment. Life keeps moving, and eventually, you’ll hit some positivity. That’s just the way it works.
Related: Drift away with the dream songs playlist.
Crazy in Love – Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z
Despite being released back in 2003, this is still one of Beyoncé’s most popular songs and is almost always heard on any night out at a club. The building horns are invigorating, and the quick melodies are enchanting. Beyoncé sings about the kind of love that is so consuming it makes you say that it’s “got me looking so crazy right now.”
Related: Boost your mood with our feel good songs playlist.
Cherry Blossom Girl – Air
The timid and atmospheric vocals match the themes of this song perfectly. ‘Cherry Blossom Girl’ features a narrator that is shy and passionate. He wants to reveal his feelings to this girl, but it’s terrifying. Clearly, he’s frustrated with himself for not being able to be vulnerable with her, saying, “I don’t want to be shy, can’t stand it anymore.”
Related: Frolic through our songs about flowers playlist.
One More Time – Daft Punk
This hype EDM track easily sets the mood for any celebratory night out—you’ll want to hit the dance floor! Whether you’re having fun with your friends or dancing with strangers, this synth-filled song has an addictive beat to jump to. It’s all about that feeling of hoping a night will never end because it’s just such a great moment in time—”one more time, we’re gonna celebrate.”
Related: Burn some calories with our workout playlist.
Idioteque – Radiohead
With a minute-long instrumental intro, this song immediately creates discomfort with its crashing kick that feels overwhelming. Radiohead wants you to feel uncomfortable because this song is about the end of life as we know it. ‘Idioteque’ is a culmination of all the inescapable fear of advancing technology, nuclear war, and global warming. Sometimes it can feel hopeless like we’re slowly marching towards the end of time.
Related: Get inspired to protest with these political songs.
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) – Arcade Fire
Young love is full of passion and innocence, and it often can feel like the world is against you (or maybe it’s just your parents). This song sets the scene for young lovers who are determined to grow old together but aren’t truly able to imagine what it takes to get to that future—”we tried to name our babies, but we forgot all the names that we used to know.” The song steadily builds, both instrumentally and in the desperation of the vocals, to show how deep adolescent love can run.
Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
The drums and bass of this song are the true stars of ‘Crazy,’ delivering that addictive catchiness that’ll have you tapping your foot or bobbing your head to the beat. The song is about feeling like you’re going crazy—but it’s not all bad! There’s a certain peace to feeling completely out of control because at least you have nothing to lose. We see that idea described with the line, “I remember when I lost my mind, there was something so pleasant about that place.”
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
This song has perhaps one of the most recognizable bass lines of all time (fun fact: the instrument in the song is actually a low-pitched guitar, not a bass). The whole song feels like a preparation for something, as if the drums and electric guitar are preparing you for battle. ‘Seven Nation Army’ was written about the damaging effects of rumors and harmful gossip, which is a battle of its own when you think about it.
Related: Find the willpower with these motivational songs.
Chicago – Sufjan Stevens
‘Chicago’ is a semi-autobiographical song about Sufjan Stevens’ affinity for Chicago. At first, Stevens uses Chicago as a place to escape with his friends; later, we see him growing up and moving to New York. The outro features lines like “all things go, all things go, all things grow, all things grow,” which shows the song’s introspective nature. Life changes, but you always remember the places important to you.
Related: Visit new places with our playlist of city songs.
White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
‘White Winter Hymnal’ was a huge song, specifically in 2008, and was named one of the top songs of the year by a few different outlets. The steady beat and layered vocals make the song very sonically interesting, and it has a comforting feel despite the somewhat confusing imagery. The ambiguity of the lyrics makes this song dreamy, and some of the fairytale references add to its fictional nature.
Related: Bundle up! Here’s our list of the best winter songs.
Jesus, Etc. – Wilco
The sad strings and ambiguous lyrics of ‘Jesus, Etc’ give the song a melancholic edge that can be hard to put a finger on. It seems like our narrator is feeling a bit lost in the world and, at the same time, is trying to console someone he loves that is also going through a hard time. Through all the world’s confusion, love is a constant that cannot be taken away—”our love is all of God’s money.”
Blinded By the Lights – The Streets
‘Blinded By the Lights’ takes on a narrative style, following a guy who is high in a club. He’s disoriented and overwhelmed, can’t find his friends, and is “blinded by the lights” in the club. He’s reached that point in the night where he starts to regret the number of drugs he partook in, and the song’s repetitive nature mirrors how he can’t escape his addled brain.
Such Great Heights – The Postal Service
This song is about authentic, pure love. The relationship in this song is steady and unbreakable, and it feels like “God Himself did make [them] into corresponding shapes.” But what makes love real is that each person fully accepts the other, flaws and all. It’s easier to step back from imperfections because “everything looks perfect from far away,” but these two don’t mind. They want everything about the other person, no matter what.
Related: Listen to more Garden State soundtrack songs.
Young Folks – Peter Bjorn and John ft. Victoria Bergsman
The whistling riff in ‘Young Folks’ is a lovely melody, known by many of us due to the popularity of this song in 2006. The track talks about letting go of stigmas and pressures present in society. The pair singing wants to focus on being present with each other, saying, “we don’t care about the young folks talking ’bout the young style. All we care ’bout is talking only me and you.”
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
This song’s passionate vocals and heavy drums make it a classic rock song that you just have to dance to. The melodies have an addictive quality that builds throughout the song, making it impossible not to scream along. ‘Mr. Brightside’ follows a narrator in pain because he knows the girl he loves is with another guy. He pictures all the things they are doing together, and it makes him feel physically sick.
Related: You’ll envy our list of the best jealous songs.
Knife – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear takes on the villain’s perspective in this ambient and swaying song. He sings, “you think it’s alright? Can’t you feel the knife?” It’s almost like he’s criticizing the other person’s gullibility, asking how it isn’t obvious that he is a liar. The swelling guitar, droning bass, and overlapping vocals add to the ominous and manipulative feel of the song.
Lose Yourself – Eminem
One of Eminem’s most iconic songs, ‘Lose Yourself,’ was written for the somewhat auto-biographical movie 8 Mile. The sinister instrumentation ensures the stakes are high from the song’s first note. It’s about the challenge of following your passion and all the fear, doubt, and determination that comes with it. Eminem’s advice is to just fully commit, not letting anything else distract you: “you better lose yourself in the music, the moment.”
Related: Enjoy the best songs about opportunities.
Time to Pretend – MGMT
The members of MGMT wrote ‘Time to Pretend’ during their senior year of college, which explains why the song has that anthemic coming-of-age sound. The opening line, “I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life,” is clear that this is a youth-filled song. Being young means being open, afraid, and free, all at the same time. There’s opportunity ahead, but you have no idea how to get there—you have to just pretend.
Related: Head over to our playlist of escape songs.
Postcards From Italy – Beirut
This folksy indie song looks back to the past with nostalgia and ahead to the future with hope. The horns grow more triumphantly as hope grows, but the plucked guitar stays steady like the many constants in life. Ultimately, the goal is to marry, and the image of the wedding day provides endless joy and excitement. “I will love to see that day; her day is mine.”
Related: Find this song on our playlist of famous trumpet songs.
I’m a Cuckoo – Belle and Sebastian
Breakups are never easy, even if they are technically for the best. This song tells the story of a recently ended relationship, and the title ‘I’m a Cuckoo’ makes it obvious that the singer is not feeling good about it. He knows what comes next will be filled with pain and what-ifs for both parties. “I see a wilderness for you and me, punctuated by philosophy and wondering how things could’ve been.”
Related: We all make mistakes! Here are the best songs about messing up.
Do You Realize?? – The Flaming Lips
‘Do you Realize??’ is a moving song with the potential to bring about an existential crisis due to lines like “do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” It’s a gorgeous song with an unfortunate backstory—a friend of the band died unexpectedly, prompting them to reflect on the fragility of life. Perhaps this song can remind us all to hold our loved ones close because their existence isn’t always guaranteed.
Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear
‘Two Weeks’ is a piano-driven indie song, and you might recognize it from various commercials of the 2010s. It has echoing vocals and a unique style that make it stand out from other love songs. The relationship in this track is a bit unsteady, and it seems there is a lot of insecurity and lack of commitment present. The narrator tells this person, “make it easy? Take your time,” hoping that they will take a breath and realize that whatever the conclusion of this relationship is, the pair will get together.
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens
The sad events of this song take place on Casimir Pulaski Day, a holiday celebrated in Illinois on the first Monday of March. Sufjan Stevens captures the grief and loss in a poetic yet blunt way. His partner has cancer, and losing them becomes a cleaving moment in his life. He sings, “on the floor at the great divide, with my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied, I am crying in the bathroom.” These little details add an inexplicable melancholy to this tragic loss.
Related: Hoping to feel something? Here are some emotional songs.
Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz
This song opens with a long and boisterous laugh, setting the tone of this slightly ominous song about feeling good. The song talks about how the things that make us feel good are not always inherently good themselves. But no matter the negative habits and difficult addictions, there is always an opportunity to use love to feel good. The line “love forever, love is freely” reminds us we are always free to love ourselves and others.
Related: You’ll love our playlist of great bass songs.
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor – Arctic Monkeys
The narrator and a love interest meet on the dancefloor in this racing, drum-heavy track. He is infatuated with this woman and just wants her attention. But it seems she isn’t giving it, and he cries, “I wish you’d stop ignoring me because you’re sending me to despair.” It seems he will have to make do with just picturing her out on the dancefloor.
Hung Up – Madonna
Madonna was the queen of the 2000s, and her song ‘Hung Up’ is one of her most popular tracks. The synth riff is sampled from one of ABBA’s songs, and Madonna sings about waiting for a guy to call her. She’s “hung up” on this person, and time crawls by as she sits by a phone that just won’t ring.
Stan – Eminem
A “stan” describes someone who is an obsessive fan of a celebrity, and this song is thought to be the origin of the word. “Stanning” goes beyond just liking a person’s music or movies—a stan is invested in the celebrity’s personality and private life. Though this isn’t always bad, it can get a bit weird. ‘Stan’ tells the story of a fan who desperately wants Eminem to answer his letters, but when he doesn’t, the fan goes off the rails. It gets dark real fast, showing the gruesome side of fame and having an audience.
Related: Want to hear more stories? You’ll like these story songs.
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
The foreboding melodies of this song suit the themes well. Amy Winehouse sings of how a bad breakup can send you running back to your vices because of the comfort they provide. Her ex goes back to his ex, and she goes back to a dark mentality: “you go back to her, and I go back to black.”
Related: See more of the best songs about selfishness.
Lua – Bright Eyes
Lua’ was named number 89 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of the 2000s, so it definitely deserves a spot on your playlist. It’s stripped back and vulnerable, with trembling vocals and a guitar that is barely audible. Bright Eyes sings about turning to drugs and drinking to numb the pain of a life you can’t keep up with. Every night, you can let loose and forget your troubles, but they always still exist in the morning. “It was so simple in the moonlight; now it’s so complicated.”
The Scientist – Coldplay
‘The Scientist’ is an emotional ballad featuring beautiful falsetto and cinematic strings. The song’s name makes more sense after hearing the line, “questions of science, science and progress, do not speak as loud as my heart.” It seems our narrator is someone who tries to reason with romance and quantify relationships. Unfortunately, he finds out too late that love can never make sense in this simple way, leading to his relationship’s downfall.
Related: Here are the best feelings songs.
The Seed 2.0 – The Roots ft. Cody ChesnuTT
This R&B track makes a metaphor out of childbirth and love, comparing it to creating music. The “she” of the song is hip hop, and her insatiable nature tells us how succeeding in this genre can be difficult due to the stigma and competitiveness present in the industry. We can see The Roots might be being pulled into the rock genre as they sing, “If Mary drops my baby girl tonight, I would name her “Rock n’ Roll.”
Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys
Even if you are not particularly drawn to New York, this anthemic song will have you fantasizing about the opportunity the city can provide. New York has a reputation as a place to chase dreams—it’s where you go if you’re dead set on “making it.” Jay-Z raps over inspirational piano and Alicia Key’s angelic vocals sing, “in New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”
Related: Grab a buddy and sing along with the best duet songs.
Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
The alternative rock song has awesome guitar riffs and crashing drums, but the creativity of its lyrics really takes the spotlight. ‘Take Me Out’ makes comparisons between falling in love and snipers aiming at each other—both love and guns can ensure mutual destruction. Another interesting layer is added when you consider that the band is named after the assassinated Franz Ferdinand, who was murdered along with his wife.
A-Punk – Vampire Weekend
‘A-Punk’ has been used in many movies and TV shows due to that instantly lovable guitar riff. This song tells the story of Johanna, a girl who has stolen a ring from a man referred to as “his honor.” She may have even killed him for it, based on the line “she took it from his lily-white hand.” The story isn’t the clearest or most detailed, but the enigma of Johanna is certainly captivating.
American Idiot – Green Day
This angtsy rock anthem became a classic for anyone who wanted to exist outside of the status quo. Green Day criticizes the biased media and herd mentality that often runs rampant in America. They don’t want to follow inept leaders or go along with unjust systems just because it’s easier than thinking critically—they “don’t wanna be an American idiot.”
Related: Travel the US with the best America songs.
Hips Don’t Lie – Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean
Perhaps Shakira’s most iconic song, ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ was a staple dance song at any party in the 2000s. When your hips are moving, there’s no hiding that you’re having a good time, and Shakira celebrates that kind of undeniable ecstasy. The energy takes over, and your “will and self-restraint have come to fail now.”
Candy – Paolo Nutini
Here’s a classic Paolo Nutini song from his second studio album, Sunny Side Up. We nearly (and probably should have) chosen his chart-topping ‘Last Request,’ but this one just edged it.
More of the best 2000s songs:
- Jesus Walks – Kanye West
- Hey Ya! – Outkast
- A Milli – Lil Wayne
- Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
- In Da Club – 50 Cent
- Toxic – Britney Spears
- Crazy in Love – Destiny’s Child
- It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – Alan Jackson
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
- Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- SexyBack – Justin Timberlake
- Say Aah – Trey Songz ft. Fabolous
- Family Affair – Mary J. Blige
- You Belong with Me – Taylor Swift
- Drop It Like It’s Hot – Snoop Dogg