The noughties were the golden era of pop. The Spice Girls, Steps and various other manufactured groups enjoyed a streak of success with loud and proud pop hits in the late nineties which helped pave the way for unabashedly fun and increasingly ridiculous pop acts who were not afraid to use everything at their disposal to bag themselves a hit. In short, pop went through a pretentiousness liberation.
Suddenly everyone loved pop and it almost exclusively dominated the charts. Today’s charts are a lot more diverse which is, of course, a very good thing. However, for the most part pop itself has severely lost its way amid a sea of singer/songwriters who are too concerned with being “a serious artist” to have any fun. The essence of pop is to entertain and I believe that this has been largely forgotten. So for that reason I will always look back to the turn of the century to experience pop in its purest form served the way god intended (with a bucketload of cheese). So therefore I have decided to compile a list of the Best Songs of the Noughties which I have divided into two categories: Uptempo and Ballads. Why you ask? Well because it was like picking between two of your children and since I am a mere mortal I couldn’t trim down the list any further. All the songs mentioned in both lists have ingrained themselves so deep into my subconscious that they play a role in my everyday life however sad that may seem (it will explain this later). The first part of the list contains all the uptempo tunes so get ready to party like it was 1999 a few years ago. Here’sa couple of observations I made while creating the list:
- There are a lot of good girls gone bad. This really became a pop phenomenon in the noughties with various pop stars going from nice to naughty.
- There is an unsurprisingly large amount of Spice Girls-inspired girl power going around (hangover from the nineties).
- Most of the top ten songs have hooks which consist of repeating a random syllables which means absolutely nothing at all. So expect a glut of las, a cacophony of ohs and a sprinkling of muh-muh-muh-mah. The conclusion that I’m drawing from this is that human beings are at heart simple creatures and, when it all boils down, we like our ear worms bitesize and easily digestible (i.e. they don’t require too much thought or indeed any at all!)
So let’s get down to business:
20) Jennifer Lopez – Jenny From the Block
Back in her heyday at the turn of the century Jennifer Lopez was one of the most prolific hit makers around. But by 2003 the media has pigeonholed J-Lo as a materialistic diva who basked in the limelight while parading around in Bentleys wearing mink fur coats. “Jenny From the Block” was her less-than-subtle declaration that she was still the same down to earth girl from the Bronx in spite of her fame and fortune.
19) Liberty X – Just a Little
Back in the days when Reality TV was box fresh and even predating Pop Idol there was a little show called Popstars which documented individuals auditioning for a spot in a new pop band. When the groups were formed the series was eventually won by Hear’Say with the group who finished second, Liberty X, cruelly being labelled flopstars. No one really expected much from Liberty X and, despite scoring two top 20 hits, they never managed to shake the stigma of being losers. That is, until “Just A Little”. It was essentially their last chance and, for that reason, the band literally threw everything and the kitchen sink at the song and music video. Cue more PVC than a Catwoman convention and some spectacularly camp dancing with canes. To this day, every time I come across a cane or even stick I still do the “Just a Little” dance and I also have to follow the word sexy with “everything about you is so sexyyyyy”. This is the effect of good pop. “Just a Little” went straight to number one in the UK and finished as the 7th best selling single in the UK for 2002. What’s more, it went on to win a Brit Award for Best British Single at the 2003 ceremony. Who’s a flopstar now!?!
18) Christina Aguilera Feat. Redman- Dirrty
The original good girl gone bad before Miley, Rihanna and Selena all jumped on the bandwagon. Having already attained massive success with her eponymous debut album Christina Aguilera decided a change of tack was in order for her second studio effort. Keen to shed her bubblegum pop image Aguilera decided to literally get down and dirty for her comeback single, dubbing herself Xtina and gyrating in a pair of ass-less chaps in what is one of the sexiest and most iconic videos of the 21st century. While Xtina did manage to bag herself a UK No.1 single and worldwide top ten with “Dirrty”, the track bombed in the more conservative US market where it charted at a lowly 48. It’s important to recognise however that, despite initial negativity towards “Dirrty” in the US, it is now considered as one of Christina’s signature songs and it undeniably set the precedent for many other popstars in the latter half of the decade who pulled off dramatic image overhauls.
17) Kelis – Milkshake
“La-la-la-la-la the boys are waiting”. In this post-Pharrell revival world, “Milkshake” shines bright as one of his best production credits to date, proving that he has always loved his cowbells. In 2004 Kelis wasn’t really on many people’s radar, despite several critically acclaimed albums, “Milkshake” is the track which put her on the map. This can be definitively measured by the fact that “Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” has now entered pop culture as a perfectly acceptable way of describing someone’s sex appeal. It’s without a doubt one of the more creative metaphors for sex out there. One thing is certain, after Kelis the world never looked at a milkshake the same way again. “Milkshake” was released as the lead single from her third album Tasty and charted strongly across the world, becoming one of the best-selling singles of 2004.
16) Mary J Blige – Family Affair
Mary J Blige experienced something of a career renaissance in the summer of 2001 with her fifth album No More Drama. Despite maintaining a very respectable level of success in the US, interest had begun to wane internationally, that is, until she hollered “let’s get drunk cos Mary’s baaaaack!” and the world was never the same. The Dr.Dre-produced “Family Affair” helped her to finally fulfil her commercial potential, becoming her only US No.1 single and finishing the decade as the 12th best-selling single in the US . As if that weren’t enough, with “Family Affair” Mary J can be certain in the fact that she is the only person ever to write a song containing the words “percolatin”, “hateration” and “holleratin”. Mostly because only one of those is an actual word.
15) Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground
After the success of the Popstars Reality TV show, ITV commissioned another season with added influence from the wildly successful Pop Idol formula. The result? A rebranding as Popstars: The Rivals with not just one winning group but separate boyband and girlband being crowned. So it ended up as a good old fashioned girls v. boys with the groups’ debut singles simultaneously released to compete head to head for the coveted Christmas Number One position on the UK singles chart. One band was doomed to failure and the other was destined for eternal glory. The girls definitively won this round with their surprisingly gritty “Sound of the Underground” taking poll position with 213,000 copies sold while the boys’ limp track “Sacred Trust” charted at No.2 with sales of 147,000. This kick-started Girls Aloud’s career and they went on to best-selling girlband of the 21st century in the UK.
14) Avril Lavigne – Complicated
Dude you wanna crash the mall? After being signed to the prestigious Arista Record Label sk8er girl Avril spent several years struggling to find her sound until she stumbled across “Complicated” which perfectly summed up this teenage punk rocker’s attitude towards life. This is still my go-to jam when times get rough. Talk me down Avril! Talk me down! In an expert marketing move, Avril was presented as the cooler alternative to Britney, shining like a little punk beacon among the sugary sweet pop princesses of the time. As a consequence “Complicated” got her career off to a flying start, charting top ten worldwide and helping her debut album Let Go sell shed loads.
13) MIKA – Grace Kelly
“I wanna talk to you!” Effervescent British singer MIKA’s debut single “Grace Kelly” boasts some of the best spoken word lines in any song ever interspersed throughout the track like confetti. “Humphry! We’re leaving!” Inspired by his record label telling him to be more like Craig David, MIKA wrote this ironic masterpiece as a declaration that originality is best and generously introduced us to his glass-shattering falsetto which he slips in and out of like a knife through butter. “Grace Kelly” was a sure fire hit and formed the basis of a career which is still going strong today.
12) Nelly Furtado – Maneater
“You wish you’d never ever met her at all”. Are you kidding me! The world went wild when the new and improved Nelly Furtado was revealed complete with one of the dirtiest beats known to man which is still guaranteed to have you skankin’ around like a proper good girl gone bad. Indeed, It was such a dramatic transformation for Furtado, who had previously rocked a hippie-chic vibe with earthy tunes like “Powerless” and “I’m Like a Bird”, that it attracted accusations of “selling out”. One thing is for undeniable however, the sales boost which the Canadian singer’s image overhaul provoked will keep her and her daughter in poutine for many years to come.
11) Destiny’s Child – Independent Women Pt. 1
To this day if someone says the word “question”, I immediately reply by saying “tell me what you think about me”. That’s when you know you have created pop art (or artpop as Lady GaGa would say). Written for the group’s third studio album Survivor “Independent Women” was included on the soundtrack for the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. The song was met with huge critical and commercial success, spending 11 consecutive weeks atop the US Billboard Charts and giving the band their first No.1 single in the UK, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the process. This means that a whole host of people are able to smugly quote the girls themselves in saying “I bought it”, which is possibly the most capitalist message of all time. Jokes aside, “Independent Women” still remains one of the purest and most influential female empowerment jams this side of the millennium boasting girl power to rival even the Spice Girls.
10) S Club 7 – Don’t Stop Movin’
Who could dislike S Club 7? For me, they represent the height of bubblegum pop which blew up around the millennium. They were literally a phenomenon and the true successors of the Spice Girls in terms of branding and style. All 11 of their official singles peaked top 5 in the UK, including 4 number ones and 5 number twos. The disco-inspired, string-laden “Don’t Stop Movin’” became one of the band’s biggest hits upon release in 2001, reaching number one on two separate occasions in the UK. The spectacularly retro track samples “Billie Jean” in the verses which makes it immediately familiar to any listener and, probably for that reason, it remains the band’s highest selling single in their home country.
9) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Murder on the Dancefloor
Riding off the back of her wildly successful Spiller collaboration and the top two smash Cher-cover “Take Me Home” relative pop newbie Sophie Ellis-Bextor burnt the house right down with her now signature song “Murder on the Dancefloor” at the beginning of the decade. The London-born belle took out the competition just like she did in the dance contest-themed video with this finger-snapping tune which went on to become the most played song of 2002 in Europe.
8) Britney Spears – Oops…I Did It Again!
Can any child of the nineties say to me with an honest heart that when anyone says the word “oops” you don’t immediately hear “I did it again”? Be honest…I thought not. It was never really going to happen but Britney could have potentially been a one album wonder if it weren’t for this irresistible pop gem which saw the still 18 year old Britney shedding her innocent schoolgirl label and simultaneously boosting the sales of red latex catsuits. “Aww you shouldn’t have…”
7) Lady GaGa – Poker Face
A song which boasts not only one monosyllabic repetition, but two! “Muh-muh-muh-maaah” and “puh-puh-puh poker face” had us all “bluffin’ with our muffins” back in 2009 to the sound of this bisexuality themed robopop song about cockteasing. “Poker Face” always transports me right back to when Lady Gaga was literally unstoppable and everything she touched turned to gold i.e the good old days before she went a bit far with the whole “I’m an artsy kook” schtick. Upon release “Poker Face” became GaGa’s second number one single after “Just Dance”, making her the first person to debut at No.1 with their first two singles in the US since Christina Aguilera a decade previously. Seems that GaGa played her cards just right.
6) Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head
Although it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kylie Minogue singing “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, in fact it was originally written for bubblegum pop band S Club 7 and later rejected by Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her debut album. “La-la-la” just didn’t seem to work for them. But pop adores sloppy seconds and Kylie, who after making a successful comeback with “Spinning Around” in 2000 was back on top of her game and ready to reconquer the world, saw potential in the fledgling electropop genre. Needless to say, upon release “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” became her biggest hit to date, driven by the hyper sexy video which shows Minogue sporting several risqué outfits, including one which shows some major side-boob. The innovative nature of the song and video sent it soaring to No.1 all over Europe and even helped Kylie break into the notoriously difficult-to-crack US market.
5) Shakira – Whenever Wherever
When Shakira burst out of the ocean in the now iconic “Whenever Wherever” video, the world titled on its axis a little. Pre-“Whenever Wherever” the Colombiana had already broken the Latino market, scoring a No.1 Billboard Latin album with ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? but she wanted to make waves in the English speaking world, despite having barely written in English before. To think, if Shakira had just decided to rest on her laurels we might never have had lines such as “lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains”. In fact, come to think of it we DEFINITELY wouldn’t have had that line. “Whenever Wherever” boasts a universal message of love and devotion as well as the best use of panpipes ever in pop which is probably the reason why it became the biggest worldwide hit of 2001. It’s curious that Shakira had never really done much hip shaking in her previous Spanish-language work but that’s what she became known for everywhere else in the world. Well, that and “ne-lo-lo-le-lo-le-lo-le”…
4) Rihanna Feat. Jay Z – Umbrella
You can’t win ‘em all (unless you’re Charlie Sheen). This is a lesson which Britney Spears and Mary J Blige had to learn the hard way when they passed on the now ubiquitous “Umbrella”. Spears’ record label outright rejected the song before the pop diva even got a look in and Mary J was too busy to record it, which meant that Rihanna got the chance to cash in on this mammoth hit. The Barbadian had already scored a Billboard number one single with “SOS” and had enjoyed various other hit singles but it was “Umbrella” which made her a household name. In a Pavolv’s dogs-esque trained reaction, this song unfailingly plays in my head every time I see an umbrella, hear or say the word “umbrella” or indeed upon use of the item in question. I’ve been trying to figure out what makes the song so compelling and I think it has something to do with the contrast between Rihanna’s disconnected, deadpan delivery and the meaningful lyrics. Either way, it sure made it rain on the UK singles chart in 2007, reigning for a massive 10 weeks during one of the wettest summers on record. We were all clamouring to stand under her umbrella “ella-ella-eh” that year. As pathetic fallacy would have it, as soon as “Umbrella” was knocked off the top spot the rain promptly stopped. The universe can be kind of creepy sometimes.
3) Beyoncé Feat. Jay Z – Crazy in Love
To think we ever questioned that Beyonce could make it on her own without her Destiny’s Child galpals! The thought seems laughable now considering her success over the last 14 years but that’s exactly what we did before this fiercely independent woman scored her first international solo number one with the bold, brash “Crazy in Love”. Beyonce had scored a few hits previously but she was in need of a big smash if she was going to forge a respectable career outside of the confines of Destiny’s Child. The retro horn-laden sound of “Crazy in Love” initially divided opinions in Queen B’s camp but it’s the diva’s confident and assertive vocal delivery which steals the show. Combine that with an “uh-oh, uh-oh, you know” hook and a killer rap from Jay Z and there was no stopping us falling in love with Beyoncé.
2) Shakira Feat. Wyclef Jean – Hips Don’t Lie
All the haters who ever questioned whether hips lie were silenced forever when Shakira made one of the most spectacular career saves in music history. Way back in 2005 things were looking pretty grim for the Colombian beauty when the lead single from her second studio album “Don’t Bother” had slightly flopped her album Oral Fixation Vol. 2 sunk like a stone (at least in comparison to her previous studio set Laundry Service). Shakira’s career outside of the Spanish speaking world was seriously under threat of extinction until she hooked up with Haitan rapper Wyclef Jean for this floor filling, showstopper of a track. Originally titled “Lips Don’t Lie”, Jean had written the song specifically for the Fugees comeback but when the song was met with disapproval by Lauryn Hill he decided to give the song to Shakira who, drawing on all her many assets to make one of the most fun and vibrant music videos ever, sent the song to the top of the charts in 55 countries.
1) Britney Spears – Toxic
This Kylie Minogue reject is one of the most shining examples of how innovative pop can be when it is done right both in terms of song quality and music video creativity. The Bollywood style strings ooze drama which, combined with the international intrigue of the video, allows Spears’ to metamorphose into the female James Bond. Released around the time of Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, MTV made the decision to only show this risqué video after the evening watershed. A bit of an overreaction perhaps but, then again, Britney does writhe around in a diamond encrusted body sock for most of the video. In spite of everything however, critical reactions were overwhelmingly positive and “Toxic” earned Britney her first Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Some pop has a limited shelf life but now, more than 12 years later “Toxic” is just as much of a stone cold jam as it was when Spears first donned that suggestive air hostess garb (pointy shoulder pads alert!) and, to this day, every time I use a landline phone or travel on an airplane my heart is crying out to pick up the receiver and purr “Baby can’t you see I’m calling!”
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 🙂