As 2009 draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the music that impacted us during the first decade of the 21st century. Here’s a list of my favorite pop songs of the decade. To keep it fair, I’ve chosen one song from each year! Although many of these songs had their greatest impact in the year following their release, I’ve categorized them in their actual release year.
2000 – “Beautiful Day” (U2): This song was the first single from the U2’s tenth album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. It is arguably the band’s biggest hit, peaking at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. What makes this song memorable for me is that it celebrates life and the challenges we often face getting through each day. In some ways, this one might be my favorite of the decade. “Beautiful Day” won three Grammys in 2001.
2001 – “Fallin'” (Alicia Keys): “Fallin'” was the first single from Keys’ debut album, Songs in A Minor, and shot to the top of the charts. The song highlights not only her vocal skills, but also her piano artistry and songwriting prowess. What makes this song special to me, however, are the powerful lyrics, which really hit the mark when it comes to the ebb and flow of a relationship. “Fallin'” won three Grammys – Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
2002 – “Hurt” (Johnny Cash): In 2003, we said goodbye to Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” who is one of the most influential country artists of all time. His final gift to us was a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which was released in 2002 on American IV: The Man Comes Around. No, Johnny was not at his vocal best on this one, but the combination of his plaintive vocals and the strong lyrics gave us a peak into his soul. It was his goodbye to his fans and a special moment in music history. “Hurt” was awarded a Grammy in 2004 for Best Short Form Music Video.
2003 – “Hey Ya” (OutKast): “Hey Ya” was written by Andre 3000 and appeared on the band’s 2003 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It shot to the top of the Billboard charts and introduced this creative band to an entirely new audience. I love this song because it is fresh and energetic, yet very edgy. Live performances of “Hey Ya” were crazy good as well! The song won a Grammy in 2004 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
2004 – “Since U Been Gone” (Kelly Clarkson): “Since U Been Gone” was released in December 2004 as the second single from Kelly’s second album, Breakaway. This song was Kelly’s opportunity to step up into an edgier, more rock performance and was key in establishing her as a legitimate artist. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning Kelly her first Grammy Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. With this, she also became the first ‘American Idol’ alum to win a Grammy.
2005 – “Gold Digger” (Kanye West): Kanye’s monster hit “Gold Digger,” was the second single from his second album, Late Registration. It shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2005 where it remained for ten weeks. It earned a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 2006. This song remains a favorite in that it has an awesome beat and amazing orchestration. It’s Kanye at his very best.
2006 – “Be Without You” (Mary J. Blige): This song was the first single from Mary J’s seventh album, The Breakthrough. It signified a powerful return for this artist who had been through some difficult years. It also introduced Blige to a wider audience and secured her place as one of the best R&B artists of the decade. “Be Without You” earned Blige two Grammys – Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and remained on the Billboard R&B chart for 16 weeks.
2007 – “Home” (Daughtry): “Home” was the second single from Daughtry’s debut album, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was No. 1 on the Adult Top 40 for ten weeks and also appeared on Hot Christian Songs and Hot Adult Contemporary Songs. It was also the song ‘American Idol’ chose to play over each contestant’s farewell video during Idol’s seventh season. Chris Daughtry wrote this song prior to appearing on ‘Idol’ where he finished fourth. It speaks to the travails of being on the road and was eerily foreshadowing of the reality he faced first on the ‘Idol’ tour and then touring with his band. But it also speaks to the listener as well all have had that feeling of yearning for home.
2008 – “Don’t Stop the Music” (Rihanna): “Don’t Stop the Music” was the third single from Rihanna’s third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, and really brought her to the publics’ attention. It’s a straight-out high-energy, feel good dance tune with great texture. It may not be the strongest song from 2008, but for me, the most memorable.
2009 – “Poker Face” (Lady Gaga): If you didn’t know Lady Gaga prior to 2009, you certainly know who she is now after her string of hits this past year. “Poker Face,” from her debut album The Fame, kicked things off and established this talented artist as a legitimate force. In a sea of sound-alike female pop artists, “Poker Face” stands out in its originality. It stays within the realm of respectability, but just barely. Lady Gaga is certainly the breakout artist of the year, and possibly even the decade.