The Noughties was a decade of lists. Indeed, at the turn of the millennium you could barely move for TV shows called I Love This, Top 100 of That, The Best of the Other and so on. Which is fine, but one can only eke so much entertainment out of repeatedly hearing what Stuart Maconie and Kate Thornton thought of the Rubik’s Cube, deeley-boppers and Howard Jones. This nostalgia for the last three decades of pop culture in the 20th century has meant that, at times, it has felt as if the first decade of the 21st century has struggled to assert its own identity, although all this assignation of identities to blocks of ten years is totally spurious and arbitrary. The list below – and the list of my Top 100 albums in a few days’ time – won’t attempt to comment on what particular zeitgeist any of the music caught. It’ll just be content that it was, is and always will be great music.
The one criterion I’ve used for inclusion is that these must have been released as singles (in whatever format) in the UK at some point between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2009. As for how they’ve been ordered, well that’s far from scientific – in fact, I’ll freely admit it’s largely gut instinct, and although the top end has remained pretty much fixed, things have moved about and gone in and out further down, depending on what mood I’ve been in when I’ve reviwed my list. So, not surprisingly, it took a good deal of time to get the list down to the final 100, and some fine tunes were sacrificed in the process. Also, I had initially considered restricting each act to one entry, but when one considers the oeuvre of, in particular, Girls Aloud, this was clearly not going to be feasible.
So here we go then, one more list in the listiest decade since time began. Starting with 100, all the way down to 21. Please feel free to break open the Babycham and imagine either Yellow Pearl or The Wizard playing in the background as John Peel (R.I.P. music’s greatest loss of the last ten years) and Janice Long intone the countdown. Or not. It’s entirely up to you:
100 – Avalanches – Since I Left You
99 – Groove Armada – Song 4 Mutya
98 – Mull Historical Society – Watching Xanadu
97 – X-Press 2 Feat. David Byrne – Lazy
96 – Will Young – Leave Right Now
95 – Girls Aloud – The Promise
94 – Young Knives – The Decision
93 – Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts
92 – Kelis – Trick Me
91 – Lily Allen – Smile
90 – Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
89 – Pet Shop Boys – Love Etc
88 – Alphabeat – Fascination
87 – Junior Senior – Move Your Feet
86 – Sugababes – Round Round
85 – Scissor Sisters – Comfortably Numb
84 – MGMT – Time To Pretend
83 – Gorillaz – Dare
82 – All Saints – Black Coffee
81 – Misteeq – Scandalous
80 – Art Brut – Emily Kane
79 – Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
78 – Take That – Patience
77 – La Roux – In For the Kill
76 – Rufus Wainwright – I Don’t Know What It Is
75 – Spiller – Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)
74 – Sugababes – Push the Button
73 – Kaiser Chiefs – Oh My God
72 – White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
71 – Joan As Policewoman – Christobel
70 – Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
69 – British Sea Power – Waving Flags
68 – Estelle – American Boy
67 – Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At?
66 – Girls Aloud – Sexy! No No No…
65 – Coral – Pass It On
64 – Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position
63 – Wild Beasts – Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants
62 – Girls Aloud – Love Machine
61 – Grace Jones – Williams Blood
60 – Kylie Minogue – Spinning Around
59 – Kate Bush – King of the Mountain
58 – Liberty X – A Little Bit More
57 – Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To?
56 – Goldfrapp – Happiness
55 – Concretes – You Can’t Hurry Love
54 – Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On
53 – Girls Aloud – Something Kinda Ooh…
52 – Ms Dynamite – It Takes More
51 – Royksopp Feat. Robyn – The Girl and the Robot
50 – Luke Haines – Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop
49 – Roisin Murphy – Overpowered
48 – Britney Spears – Oops… I Did It Again
47 – Leisure Society – Last of the Melting Snow
46 – Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground
45 – Elbow – Leaders of the Free World
44 – Futureheads – The Hounds of Love
43 – Madonna – Hung Up
42 – Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes
41 – CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above
40 – Guillemots – Made-Up Lovesong #43
39 – Gossip – Standing In the Way of Control
38 – Cardigans – You’re the Storm
37 – Black Box Recorder – The Facts of Life
36 – Klaxons – Golden Skans
35 – Girls Aloud – The Show
34 – Long Blondes – Giddy Stratospheres
33 – Annie – Songs Remind Me Of You
32 – Sugababes – Overload
31 – Destiny’s Child – Independent Women Part 1
30 – Bat For Lashes – What’s A Girl To Do
29 – Aaliyah – Try Again
28 – Liberty X vs. Richard X – Being Nobody
27 – Nelly Furtado – Maneater
26 – Girls Aloud – No Good Advice
25 – Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
24 – Doves – Black and White Town
23 – Rihanna – Umbrella
22 – Michael Andrews Feat. Gary Jules – Mad World
21 – Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
Is your appetite suitably whetted for the Top 20? Good, because here it comes, starting with 20 up to 11:
20 – All Saints – Pure Shores
In 2000, the producer to have was William Orbit. All Saints had him for this and Black Coffee and produced two Number Ones of pure class.
19 – Robyn Feat. Kleerup – With Every Heartbeat
Her feisty self-titled album was shamefully overlooked, but this Number 1 smash certainly wasn’t.
18 – Britney Spears – Toxic
Between the teen/slut mixed messages and the meltdown came this class act, grown-up and vampish.
17 – M.I.A. – Paper Planes
The face and sound of young Britain, doubtless to the great distress of Nick Griffin and his cronies. A prime spot on the Slumdog soundtrack helped as well.
16 – Elbow – Grounds For Divorce
After a long struggle for proper recognition, Guy Garvey and his mates got their breakthrough. The best singalong ever written for a departed friend.
15 – Peter, Bjorn & John – Young Folks
More Swedes, and these ones very fond of whistling. Even chronic overuse couldn’t dampen this songs wistful charm.
14 – Annie – Chewing Gum
Whilst over in Norway they preferred their whistling to be electronically generated, courtesy of Mr X. How this only got to Number 25 remains one of the great mysteries of our time.
13 – Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken
Dismiss this as B&S-lite indie twee at your peril – this gorgeous answer to Lloyd Cole’s 1980s song Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken was utter pop loveliness.
12 – Goldfrapp – Strict Machine
Alison Goldfrapp’s first outing was dreamy ambient pop that was fairly common currency at the time. But then she turned all dominatrix and the result was pure sex. With bells on.
11 – Rachel Stevens – Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex
With sharp, whip-smart production, the former S-Clubber kicked off her solo career with the finest of several strong singles.
Getting good, eh? But even these sonically superb singles couldn’t quite make it into the very top echelon of the decade’s superhits. For here are they, counting down from 10 to 2:
10 – Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
This was a Number One that made the history books, as the first to top the charts on download sales alone. However, that pales into insignificance besides the brilliance of this song. Fashioned to sound like one of those records you think you’ve known all your life, yet seeming utterly fresh and vital at the same time, Crazy nevertheless ends up being only the second greatest song of the decade by a male hip-hop duo.
9 – Feist – 1234
This might surprise some people, but for my money it deserves to be here. Accompanied by a brilliantly choreographed one-take video, the some-time member of Canadian indie popsters Broken Social Scene did for finger-clicking what Peter, Bjorn & John did for whistling, the almost childlike, nursery rhyme and rhythm belying sad, wise lyrics about the pitfalls of love.
8 – Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
“Music for girls to dance to” is what they promised, and what they delivered was music that anyone in their right mind would be unable to resist dancing to. Only the voluminous Michelle McManus could keep this from being a Number One. The moment that indie music remembered it could be sexy. Yes yes YES!
7 – Outkast – Hey Ya!
And here is THE greatest song of the decade by a male hip-hop duo (and indeed the greatest song of the decade with a male lead vocal). Although the flamboyant Andre 3000 is hardly your average hip-hop artist. Hey Ya isn’t a song more a miniature pop symphony, dazzlingly inventive, romantic and funny. In short, most of the things you could want a pop song to be.
6 – Kelis – Milkshake
Hard, minimalist production, lyrics not so much suggestive as blatant (although that didn’t stop some people from coyly inquiring as to what her “milkshake” Might Actually Mean) and a taunting, knowing playground chant. Milkshake was seductive pop music as interpreted by the woman who had previously screamed “I HATE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW” over and over on Caught Out There. And all the better for it.
5 – Amy Winehouse – Rehab
Try and forget everything that’s happened since this song came out, all the art imitating life, the snide jokes etc etc. Instead, admire this for what it is: a superbly crafted 60s soul creation about an addiction that can’t be shaked or faced up to. We’ll call it love and leave it at that. After all, that proved to be the most destructive addiction of all for her, albeit the one that also spurred her on to create the masterful Back to Black album – from which this is the highlight amongst many gems.
4 – Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
After experimenting with a more alternative sound and collaborating with the likes of Nick Cave and the Manic Street Preachers, La Kylie signalled her return to full-blown pop in 2000 with Spinning Around. However, the song’s giddy dance-pop and golden hotpants were put in the shade a year or so later by this masterwork. This was Kylie meets Kraftwerk, all cool Teutonic beats and seductive, come-hither vocals, accompanied by a truly striking video. This was a song that not only fully restored Kylie’s commercial credibility, it also gave her some serious critical kudos.
3 – Sugababes – Freak Like Me
Due to popular demand, Richard X re-recorded his underground hit using the only group up to the task of producing detached, couldn’t-give-a-shit vocals over the Gary Numan sample. Enter Sugababes, who had turned heads with their debut hit Overload, but who now got the mega-hit they needed to move their chart career to the next level. ‘Babes have come and gone, and indeed there are now no original bandmembers left. However, this record, one that crucially manages to trump its two original sources, remains, and will do for a very long time to come.
2 – Beyonce – Crazy In Love
Okay, so you’re in the biggest girl group on the planet, but they aren’t doing anything at the moment. How are you going to keep yourself busy? Answer – by releasing this soaring, unstoppable juggernaut of a record. This is about two people who are indeed crazy in love, both with Jay-Z. More than that, however, it is (in common with much else in this chart) a record that transcends fiddly little genre pigeonholes to become something that anyone of any age should be able to relate to and to love. Crazily.
And yet, and yet… even Beyonce with her uh-oh-uh-ohs and her craziness and those powerhouse vocals… even she can’t quite make it to Number One. So who has? Well, it’s an act you may have noticed cropping up once or twice further down this chart, but whose greatest work has been saved until last. Or rather, until first:
1 – GIRLS ALOUD – BIOLOGY
Where does one start? The fact that this isn’t so much one song so much as about five different songs seamlessly merged together (as brilliantly highlighted by the video)? The seemingly endless array of styles? The meta references in song and artwork to the likes of Chris Izaak and X-Ray Spex? Or shall we just settle for the fact that this, in the face of severe competition (not least from Girls Aloud’s own back catalogue) stands as a glorious testament to the never-ending innovation and joie de vivre that marks out the very greatest pop music? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Well done girls. You are Top of the Pops.
And so there you have it. Or possibly not. It depends. Maybe you think something else should have been at the top, or that there were some unforgivable omissions from the chart. If you do think that, then feel free to comment on here! And in the meantime, let’s all met up in the year 2019…