The Decade: A Retrospective The Best Songs 85-71

"Ms. Jackson"
Stakonia (2000)

OutKast's first No. 1 single brought this innovative, largley sample-free hip-hop duo to the general public's attention and marked the first step towards the genre's domination of America. While Andre 3000 apologized to his baby mama's mama, Big Boi stuck up for himself telling her that her grandchild is a baby and not a paycheck. The woeful account of of post-break up politics in a post-nuclear family world is for reeeeal.

"Without Me"
The Eminem Show (2001)

"I'm not the first king of controversy, I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley to do black music so selfishly and use it to get myself wealthy," rapped Eminem in 2000. The biggest white rapper became one of the most important musical forces on the planet at the turn of the century. A cross-over star, his incredible talent made critics look the other way as he celebrated drugs and murder and bashed women and homosexuals.

Justin Timberlake
Futuresex/Lovesounds (2006)

It's a pretty bold claim to say you brought sexy back, especially if no one is really sure wthat it left in the first place. Dropping the new Michael Jackson schtick for a song, Timberlake channeled Prince in his fiersest, cockiest, and sexiest song yet. The haphazard and hypnotic synth grooves along with vocals that sound like they were recorded over a cell phone and gives the song an apocolyptic futuresex sheen.

"Viva La Vida"
Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)

Its not often that a song that doesn't use its title anywhere in its lyrics becomes a trans-Atlantic No. 1 smash. Of course, most of those songs don't get massive exposure via an iPod commercial or come as heavily anticipated as anything Coldplay puts out. Religious references and church bells raise "Viva La Vida" to the level of a rock hymn which, put out by the band at its peak of popularity, ironically chronicles a man recollecting his past glories.

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (2009)
Competing with the hordes of post-punk bands in the United Kingdom, Kasabian needed to keep the caffinated in-your-face rock songs coming while still evolving their sound.They did so on "Underdog" which used pulsating droid synth, hip-hop-like percussion beats, and fuzzed out country guitar riffs. The song, an ode to sticking it to the man, is defiant and danceable, angry and energetic, and ensures that Kasabian is no underdog in the battle for Brit rock supremacy.

"I'm A Slave 4 U"
Britney Spears
Britney (2001)
Britney Spears completely shed her squeaky clean Mickey Mouse club image with her Prince influenced, N.E.R.D. produced single. A radical shift in her sound, "I'm A Slave 4 U" succeeded in sounding dirty before Spears even starts panting thanks to the off-kilter minimalistic backing track. Just as you start to get dizzy, Spears begins demanding respect. "All you people look at me like I'm a little girl but did you ever think it would be OK for me to step into this world?" No Britney, we expected it.

"Beautiful Day"
All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
With an opening is reminiscent of the "Chariot of Fire" theme , and a simplicity that enhances its beauty, "Beautiful Day" is not only one of U2's most triumphant moment of the decade, but one of the greatest moments of their career. Bono said the song was about a man who was optimistic despite losing everything. It seems to encapsulate everything the band stands for. It's epic, it's beautiful, it's love, and it's hopeful.

"No One"
Alicia Keys
As I Am (2007)
Alicia Keys is hip enough and catchy enough to win over mainstream radio yet friendly enough for your mom to go out and buy her album, which is exactly what Clive Davis was hoping for. "No One" is a song that you hear for the first time but you swear you've heard it before; an instant classic. The soulful and melodic Stevie Wonder-esque tune charms you with its emphatic declaration that, "no one can get in the way of what I'm feeling".

"Cry Me A River"
Justin Timberlake
Justified (2002)
Breaking up is hard enough, but having your ex tell you to cry a river and for the world to hear (not to mention make a music video where he breaks into your house and puts a video of him kissing another woman on your television) makes it a million times worse. The song is claustrophobic with Timberlake's falsetto traversing the organic soundscape created by Timbaland. Interestingly enough, Britney Spears responded to Justin Timberlake's attacks with an apology in the form of "Everytime".

"Whenever, Wherever"
Laundry Service (2002)
Scoring hits in Spanish and English with equal ease, Shakira is the postergirl for international boundary-defying pop and "Whenever Wherever" is its theme song. Shakira's vocals are like a wild Latin version of Alanis Morisette singing over an orchestra of tribal drums and Australian didgeridoos. Her pleas that, "we're meant to be together" sound not only like a fiesta in your ears, but a call for world peace.

"In Da Club"
50 Cent
Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
50 Cent has become so irrelevant that its hard to remember the time he was one of the most important rappers around, if only for a moment. "In Da Club" was a slurred club banger and a bold debut for the one time drug dealer. Even with Curtis Jackson's rough past, including being shot nine times, his invitation, "come give me a hug," as well as reminding us that everyday is someone's birthday somewhere, made him lovable.

"Beware of the Boys"
Panjabi MC feat. Jay-Z
Legalised (2002)
There was a time in the mid-2000s when every pop hit had an Eastern flavor to it. Jay-Z's "Beware of the Boys" with Panjabi MC is one of the reasons why. Hova outsourced his backing track, using "Mundian To Bach Ke" by Panjabi MC and adding a rap over it. Like a snake charmer, Jay brings Brooklyn and Lahore together for four unifying minutes. The chorus is sung in Punjabi (no, that's not a slur, Punjab is a region in India) and the instrumentation is of the hypnotic bhangra variation.

"The Scientist"
A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
I still don't understand how Chris Martin pulled off the video for "The Scientist". Singing the entire song forwards while time moves backwards, Martin delivers one of the most poignant songs in Coldplay's body of work. "Nobody said it was easy," he sings, "Take me back to start". The piano is simple and steady, the percussion light and understated. Written about man's powerlessness in the face of love, the song was inspired by the solo work of George Harrison.

"Don't Tell Me"
Music (2000)
Madonna kick-started the decade with a tripped out electro-folk album and had the balls to simply name it Music. With "Don't Tell Me", the pop star waxes poetically over a stuttering guitar lick that was so ahead of its time that some listeners tried to return their copy of the album thinking it was faulty. Tell the bed not to make, take the black off a crow, but please, don't ever tell Madonna to stop.


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