After publishing The Best Songs of the Noughties – Uptempo last week Diary of a Pop Fan is back with the second half of the Best Songs of the Noughties saga. Yes it’s definitely saga-worthy. This time I’ve noticed that most of the tunes are quite uncomplicated, containing a few simple hooks. However, do prepare yourselves for a hell of a lot of unrequited love, songs about learning to love yourself and just general love basically. It’s going to be wild:
After spending two and a half years writing their debut album, in 2005 OneRepublic were suddenly dropped by their record label, leaving their work unreleased. However, “Apologise”, a song from the band’s recording sessions, found its way onto producer Timbaland’s album Shock Value and was eventually released as the third single from the studio set in late 2007. “Apologise” peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, staying in the top 10 for 25 weeks, the longest stay there for any song since “Smooth” by Santana, which spent 30 weeks in 1999. The success of the song helped singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder rise to prominence as one of the most prolific songwriters of the last decade.
British singer James Morrison hooked up with Canadian singer Nelly Furtado on this heartbreakingly honest ballad which became another worldwide smash for the pair but somehow inexplicably failed to crack the US charts. We can deal with that though because “Broken Strings” got a lot of love in Morrison’s home country, ascending through the charts during the busy Christmas period of 2008 and eventually peaking at No.2. “Broken Strings” is one of the most beautiful metaphors ever for a relationship beyond repair and shows both singers at their most vulnerable, which is both harrowing and inspiring to behold.
“Welcome to Nellyville”. One of the best hook-ups in history, even down to the rhyming names. In 2002 Nelly was on fire. Hot off the back of his No.1 smash “Hot in Herre”, Nelly decided to take it down a notch for the third single from his second studio album Nellyville. “Dilemma” is a light and fluffy duet which was Kelly’s first solo outing after the disbanding of Destiny’s Child. The duo’s vocals blend beautifully to create the perfect smooth and silky confection which helped it win a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2003. Sure fire hit “Dilemma” also peaked at number one in the US, becoming Nelly’s second consecutive Billboard chart topper and Kelly’s first solo hit (and last single to break the US top ten to date). Interesting, the music video for “Dilemma” was shot on the same set which would later become Wisteria Lane a.k.a home to the ill-fated Desperate Housewives. In the video Nelly and Kelly can be clearly seen cavorting through the neighbourhood and Nelly performs a good portion of his rap on Susan Mayer’s front porch right where Mike was shot. 😦
“Everybody’s got something they had to leave behind”. It impossible to leave this classic, wintery ballad behind. “Never Had a Dream Come True” was released when S Club 7 were at their prime at the turn of the century and it was that year’s Children in Need single to boot which meant it was a guaranteed hit. Sure enough, it became the first of S Club 7‘s three consecutive number one singles in the UK when it shot to the top of the charts in late November 2000. The wistful and yearning “Never Had a Dream Come True” proved that S Club 7 were just as good at the ballads as with the uptempo stuff and even managed to chart in the US where it became S Club 7’s first and last top ten single.
After breaking free from shackles of poptastic boyband NSYNC Justin was first off the mark to score a hit single with the slinky “Like I Love You” which became a transatlantic hit single but it wasn’t until “Cry Me a River” that he really solidified his place as one of pop’s leading men. The Timbaland-produced “Cry Me a River” is a sonically unique synth ballad which combines a hodgepodge of genres, including gospel and beatboxing. The bittersweet kiss off was inspired by his former relationship with Britney Spears and even features a creepy Britney-lookalike in the video with Justin breaking into her house and stalking her. How did this video ever get approved by Justin’s record label? I still wish Justitney has been endgame. Perhaps he could have stopped her shaving her head…
(Did I get away with the Justitney portmanteau there…?)
No-one really knows what happened to Nelly Furtado as she kind of just disappeared after 2006’s chart-conquering Loose album, featuring monster hits “Promiscuous”, “Maneater” and “Say It Right”. But fans can always look back to the earlier part of the noughties to fondly reminisce about a time when Furtado was on top of the world. Released in 2001 “I’m Like A Bird” served as a cooler alternative to the pop princesses who dominated the charts at the time. A true liberation anthem, “Bird” manages to be empowering but unusual enough to avoid the pitfalls which takes a song into the realms of corniness. It exudes a positive and effortlessly sunny vibe which still strikes a chord with listeners today. For her efforts Furtado scored herself a hit both sides of the Atlantic and won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, making her the first female act to win the award for her debut single since Mariah Carey did so ten years earlier.
Inspired by the death of R&B singer Aaliyah, Alicia Keys wrote “If I Ain’t Got You” for her second studio album The Diary of Alicia Keys. The already highly successful R&B diva brought things back to basics with this soulful ballad about letting go of what doesn’t matter and focus on the important things in life. It is a timeless message which rings as true now as it did back in 2003. Keys’ inherent musicality means she knows exactly when to let this powerful ballad breathe in a way which enhances rather than diminishing its potency. As a result, the song deservedly received two nominations at the 2005 Grammy Awards, for Song of the Year and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, winning in the latter.
A little known fact about Norah Jones’ signature song “Don’t Know Why” is that it was actually written by singer Jesse Harris and originally appeared on his 1999 album, Jesse Harris & the Ferdinandos. So the song which catapulted the Indian-American beauty to fame, helping her debut album Come Away with Me sell 26 million copies worldwide and winning her three Grammy’s for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance is actually a cover. Mind officially blown! Despite Jones’ innocent, youthful voice this is undoubtedly one of the sexiest slow jams of all time with simple chords and progressions which create a luxuriously mellow vibe perfect for making babies to. Oh and “Don’t know why I didn’t come” is still one of the naughtiest lines in one of the nicest songs ever.
This slow-burning classic proved that a whisper is sometimes louder than a shout when it was released in 2006 to overwhelmingly positive critical reception. The song was inspired by lead singer Gary Lightbody‘s father who, in response to Gary telling him about a girl he fancied, commented “You’re like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it and you just wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did”. Upon release, “Chasing Cars” became the group’s most successful single, initially peaking at No.6 in the UK but selling consistently for years until it finally sold over a million copies in 2013. That’s 7 years after it was released! It also has several other distinctions, including being the last song performed live on the BBC‘s Top of the Pops and being most played song of the decade in the UK. Snow Patrol are so greedy with their record-breaking.
What noughties list would be complete without some input from this soft-voiced queen of heartbreak. After the massive success of her debut album No Angel, history decided to repeat itself with her second studio effort Life for Rent. “White Flag” was issued as the first single from this studio set and was met with critical and commercial success, as well as winning a Brit Award for Best British Single. A song about unrequited love, “White Flag” literally defines the word “wistful” with Dido’s stunning vocals taking centre stage.
During Take That’s inactive years between 1996 and 2006 I doubt Gary Barlow even remotely dreamed of having as successful a comeback as Take That enjoyed in the latter half of the noughties. But it really was the fairytale comeback to end all comebacks. Timed to perfection, Take That renewed interest in their back catalogue in late 2005 with the release of a greatest hits collection which went on to become one of the best-selling albums of the year. They then quickly capitalised on this success with the release of their first album of original material in 11 years Beautiful World, preceded by lead single “Patience”. Showcasing their new mature 90s-boyband-turned-00s-manband-look Take That succeeded in rekindling the UK’s love affair with them. “Patience” is was the perfectly titled comeback single complete with earth shattering harmonies, a grandiose organ and weathered man faces. Such was the success of the single that it shot straight to number one and subsequently won Best British Single Award and Record of the Year at the 2007 BRIT Awards.
This heartfelt ballad from 2005 is without a doubt one of the greatest love songs of all time. James Blunt, who had previously served as a soldier in Kosovo, became one of the biggest international stars in the world seemingly overnight when “You’re Beautiful” took him to number one all over the world. Upon hitting number one in the US he became the first British artist to have a UK number one single in this territory since Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” in 1997 breaking a drought of 8 years and it later receive Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. It’s not all positive however as many now consider “You’re Beautiful” to be one of the most annoying songs ever with even Blunt himself stating that he hates the song. But the fact is that songs as popular as this take on a life of their own and “You’re Beautiful” means so much to so many people that it rightly deserves to be celebrated as one of the best songs of the noughties.
So much of pop is down to fate. Well…to be more precise fate and record labels. After the failure of previous single “Follow Me” and their debut album Right Now peaking at a lowly No.39 the kittens were on last chance saloon, but they managed to convince their record label to release one more single which turned out to be the now classic “Whole Again”. This was the group’s final single to feature founding member Kerry Katona (now better known as a Reality TV star and general train wreck) after she fell pregnant Kerry and left the band a few days before the release of “Whole Again”. The definition of bad timing., Katona was quickly replaced by new member Jenny Frost (whose band Precious had previously competed in Eurovision) and “Whole Again” shot to No.1 in the UK. Atomic Kitten then went on to become one of the most successful girlbands of the 21st century, enjoying 2 further number ones and a string of top ten singles in the UK.
What noughties list would be complete without the Black Eyed Peas? They dominated the charts throughout the decade with a succession of ruthlessly effective chart assaults which solidified their place as one of the biggest bands in the world. “Where Is the Love?” was their breakthrough international single in 2003 and the beginning of their chart domination, but it is important to not forget that they too had their go through their share of hardship in order to attain commercial success. In fact, at the turn of the century the Black Eyed Peas sans Fergie had already released two rap albums to little chart success. There were doubts that BEP would survive and will.i.am was adamant that they would not compromise their sound for fear of being accused of selling out. However, he eventually agreed to adopt a more mainstream pop sound, even deciding to include a female singer in the band to increase commercial appeal. This very nearly could have been Nicole Scherzinger by the way, but she was busy with her band Eden’s Crush at the time and Fergie was chosen instead. During the writing sessions for what would eventually become the bands third album Elephunk Fergie invited former flame Justin Timberlake along and he expressed an interest in recording with the band which is why we can hear his vocals on the chorus of “Where is the Love?” However due to concerns of overexposure (Justin was promoting his debut solo album Justified at the time) his record label asked that his part on the track go uncredited. Upon release, “Where is the Love?” was met with critical acclaim for its universal message of love, as well as for tackling heavy hitting issues such as terrorism, U.S government hypocrisy and racism to name but a few. The track also attained massive commercial success, peaking at No.1 in the UK for 6 consecutive weeks and becoming the highest-selling single of 2003 in that territory. The Black Eyed Peas were officially the next big thing.
“Look in my life. Look in my heart. I have seen them fall apart but now I’m ready to rise again”. Simple lyrics which ring true due to the real life hardships suffered by the singer. After achieving success with her debut single “Dreams”, Gabrielle shot to fame very quickly, being heralded as the Queen of British Soul. Her dream had literally come true. But little did she know, the nightmare was still to come. In 1995 the love of her life and father of her son was sent to jail for the brutal murder of his stepfather who he stabbed 52 times before dumping his headless body at Cut Throat Bridge in Derbyshire. Most people wouldn’t have been able to survive living through real life horrors such as this, but not Gabrielle. She turned her emotional turmoil into motivation, making a spectacular comeback at the beginning of 2000 with the unashamedly autobiographical “Rise” which became her second number one single in the UK. “Rise” is both authentic and inspirational which is why it is one of my favourite songs of the last decade. It is also worth mentioning that this was the first time Bob Dylan allowed another singer to sample one of his songs, in this case “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.
Melismas galore! “Bleeding Love” was originally written by Ryan Tedder with US pop singer Jesse McCartney for McCartney’s third studio album, Departure. But shock horror! The record label vetoed the tune and it ended up with Simon Cowell who was searching for the perfect debut single for his X Factor protégée Leona Lewis. Her obvious vocal talent and stunning appearance made her the perfect vehicle to promote the fledgling show which had, up till that point produced only a slew of cruise ship quality winners. From then on it must have seemed like a dream for Cowell, “Bleeding Love” debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for 7 weeks, the longest run for a homegrown female solo artists in British chart history. It was also named the best-selling single of 2008 worldwide after peaking at No.1 in 35 countries. Even more importantly, the effect of Lewis’ success renewed interest in the X Factor and turned it into the hit factory whose alumni have dominated the charts for the last decade.
Prolific singer/songwriter from 4 Non Blondes, Linda Perry, originally wrote the deeply personal “Beautiful” for her comeback to the music industry. P!nk heard the song during the recording of her album Missundaztood (“Get the Party Started”, “Just Like a Pill”) and expressed her strong desire to include it on her album but Perry stuck to her guns and said she would keep it for herself. However, during the recording of Stripped Perry was so blown away by Aguilera’s vocal that she decided to let her include it on her album, sparking a feud between P!nk and Christina Aguilera. Upon release, “Beautiful”buoyed the flagging sales of Stripped in the US and was eventually adopted as a LGBT anthem for its uniting message of self-love and inner beauty.
The King of Latin ascended to his throne after the release of this breathy piano ballad dripping with more drama than an episode of Pretty Little Liars. Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the dishy Spaniard’s love interest in the music video which sees the Latino heartthrob taking on the role of lovable money launderer who is hunted down and eventually mortally wounded by his enemies (played by Mickey Rourke). Although he had enjoyed considerable success worldwide by this point, he was still relatively unknown in the UK until “Hero” sent him flying to the top of the charts where it stayed for four weeks and ended as one of the biggest selling singles of the year, not to mention of the decade.
“Yellow” will forever be known as the song which catapulted Coldplay into the public consciousness, revealing the London-based quartet to be the true heirs to U2’s suitably overblown “The Biggest Band in the World” title. Although “Yellow” has certainly cemented its status as an anthem, it never seems too overblown as can easily happen with bands who enjoy their level of success. Martin’s lyrics succeed in striking the perfect blend between a powerful, immediate chorus and simple yet intimate verses with his upper register being put to good use throughout. Ultimately “Yellow” is one of the band’s most simple tracks with a Martin singing about a classic case of unrequited love. In this way, it still serves as a sparkling indicator of everything that people love about Coldplay: big sing-a-long choruses, martin’s soft falsetto and universal lyrics that cut straight to the heart.
I immediately knew that this had to be my number one ballad of the noughties purely for the fact that it hasn’t aged a day since it came out 16 years ago in early 2000. “Pure Shores” has an ethereal, dreamscape vibe which is completely timeless. I could easily see it being a chart hit today. It’s undoubtedly still one of the most relaxing songs ever due to the futuristic William Orbit-production which incorporates elements of ambient music. “Pure Shores” gained notoriety due to being included on the soundtrack for the high profile film adaptation of the book The Beach which featured from a very fresh-faced Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist. Upon release “Pure Shores” opened at the top of the UK charts and finished 2000 as the second highest-selling single of the year. It also won various accolades including an Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work and was nominated for two Brit Awards. Never was there a more majestic and uplifting song released in the noughties.
Agree with my choices? Think I’ve missed something out? Whatever the case I would love to hear what you think! Please put the comment box below to good use as that’s what it’s there for! Also, please like and share and if you want to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this blog I have provided a handy Spotify playlist below. Good pop just makes me so generous 🙂