Ah, the 2000s: the era of frosted tips, bedazzled crop tops and a lexicon made up entirely out of “Mean Girls” references. It’s a decade that we look back on fondly, though often questioning what our adolescent selves were thinking when we stepped out wearing jeans under a dress or rocking an all-denim ensemble. It wasn’t just fashion that defined the 2000s but music. Some of the most distinct sounds came out of the early aughts. This was post-grunge, just as indie rock was entering the mainstream, but the definitive voices were artists like Britney Spears, NSYNC and 50 Cent. Reminisce about your younger, MTV-fueled days with our picks for the best early 2000s jams.
“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Elliott Smith
Connor Gatesman, Editor-at-Large
The enigmatic Elliott Smith had long forgone the use of elaborate instrumental accompaniment, preferring instead the simple elegance of guitar and vocals. His penultimate album “Figure 8” was the last record released before his untimely death. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a brilliant example of Smith’s grasp on songwriting and guitar playing. The tune is somber, reflective and hopeful. His famed acoustic strum melds perfectly with the sinewy yet powerful vocal delivery. The lyrics are passionate and impressionistic. This is what pure songwriting sounds like.
“Rumors” by Lindsay Lohan
Ryan Mikel, Arts Editor
The early-2000s were full of cringe fashion and horrific CGI, but the thing that made them so iconic — and partially the inspiration for this week’s staff recommendations — was Lindsay Lohan’s reign as the princess of pop — well, at least to then-teeny boppers like me. Lohan exploded onto the scene with childhood staples “Life-Size,” “Freaky Friday” and “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,” not to mention the iconic “Speak” album. I almost forgot about its existence until a recent video surfaced of the 32-year-old dancing to its chart-topping lead single “Rumors” in Mykonos during the filming of her new MTV reality series. While her moves were a little rusty, that gorgeous auburn hair and freckled face remained and the feisty dance-pop diss to the paparazzi and haters took me back to my compact disc player mornings on the bus to elementary school. The feisty “Mean Girls”-esque anthem hears the diva sing “I’m tired of rumors starting, I’m sick of being followed, I’m tired of people lying, Saying that they want about me” against a very distinct, Y2K beat. I am not famous, and no one is following me. However, I will scream this song in the shower any morning as if I was the Disney Channel heiress herself. “Why can’t they let me live?”
“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Nicole Rosenthal, Music Editor
Unofficially declared the Myspace generation’s “Go Your Own Way,” “Since U Been Gone” is hailed as one of the ultimate breakup anthems of all time. Between quiet-to-loud verse and chorus structure of late ‘80s alt-rock and the badass bridge in which Clarkson hits all the high notes, “Since U Been Gone” is sonically one of the better radio hits of the early ‘00s. Who didn’t turn up the volume all the way and dance angstily whenever the music video played on VH1?
“Hey Ya!” by Outkast
Yasmin Gulec, Under the Arch Editor
“1, 2, 3, UGH.” As soon as you hear the first few seconds of “Hey Ya!,” you know you are in for a treat. This song exceeded all expectations of a song from the 2000s and has established itself as a timeless classic that will — no matter your age or circumstance — make you dance and sing. This song is the musical equivalent of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s all-denim outfits, unforgettable and undeniably a product of the early 2000s.
“Bye, Bye, Bye” by *NSYNC
Guru Ramanathan, Film & TV Editor
We began the decade with two important events. First, U.S. boy band *NSYNC released a new single, “Bye, Bye, Bye,” which went on to peak at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Second, I was born a few days later. But back to the bop. Let’s hone in on this timeless song that is as entertaining as it was almost two decades ago. I can’t tell most *NSYNC songs apart, let alone differentiate between boy bands in general. But every note and lyric from “Bye, Bye, Bye” is memorable, fun and just makes you want to sing and dance. It’s a chart-topper that you want to leave on repeat for days. Though it pulls on our heartstrings, the song also works as a sassy breakup anthem. It’s nice to be able to look back on one that doesn’t intensify my sadness but alleviates it. The music video is just as amazing, famous for starting off with an incredible puppeteer dance sequence.
“Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne
Ali Zimmerman, Deputy Arts Editor
Though I started out the decade in diapers, the 2000s was a magical decade in music for me that churned out some of my favorite indie rock hits to this day. But few songs really bring me back to afternoons spent watching Nickelodeon until dark like “Sk8r Boi” by Avril Lavigne. In the music video, Avril is a vision of badass punk chick I like to think I would have been had I been born 15 years earlier, complete with a skinny tie, backward baseball hat and thick, studded bracelets. The drums, guitar riffs and Arvil’s vocals on the track are everything a good pop-punk song should be; high energy, infectious and catchy, almost to the point of being annoying. Whether or not you believe that Avril herself survived the 2000s, “Sk8r Boi” will forever live on as an anthem for a time when you could still turn on the TV and see a “skater boy rocking on MTV.”
“Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan
Daniella Nichinson, Arts Editor
I’m not a fan of the 2000s — in fact, it’s my least favorite decade — but Y2K did witness two great feats: the Curtis Hanson helmed the film adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel “Wonder Boys” and Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” an original song written for the film. This era of Dylan shows us a voice that’s raspier, deeper and backed by an emotionally experienced life. The song captures Dylan in a state of uncertainty, existing in a hazy in-between world. He describes a stagnant life, singing, “No one in front of me and nothing behind.” The theme of seeking some purpose, some greater meaning, resonates in each verse and is a proper anthem for “Wonder Boys.” Yet again, Dylan’s inner poet shines in “Things Have Changed” as he manages to convey a sense of entrapment in a cycle of your own malaise in just one song.
Email the Arts Desk at [email protected]