In the 1990s and 00s, pop music underwent an astounding revival characterized by huge boy bands like New Edition and *NSYNC as well as girl groups like Spice Girls. Furthermore, music became more influenced by folk, Indian classical, and psychedelia genres.
This era was eclectic in every sense of the word; file sharing and randomly created personal playlists encouraged musicians and listeners alike to explore all styles and genres of music.
Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah”
“Hey There Delilah” became one of the iconic songs of the 2000s with its release by Plain White T’s out of Chicago’s emo underground and became an anthem for young love during that decade.
Tom Higgenson from Tom Higgenson Band surprised a young cancer patient named Delilah when he showed up unexpectedly at her hospital room to play her favorite song live – something she had been listening to throughout four years of chemotherapy treatment – to incredible applause from everyone present. Delilah’s response to Higgenson was priceless!
Even after their successful acoustic hit, the band’s meteoric rise didn’t last. While they went on to release three albums and tour with bands like At the Drive-In, their sleeper hit was their only mainstream breakthrough. Now back together again with new material on its way this summer!
Britney Spears – “Toxic”
Britney Spears’ early 2000s hit “Toxic” became one of her signature hits, initially written for Janet Jackson but ultimately recorded by Spears herself and then Kylie Minogue before becoming iconic due to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande covering it. Additionally, its video, featuring Spears dressed up as everything from an air hostess to a dangerous bad girl has also become significant; seen both in movies like Knocked Up and television shows such as Glee.
Bloodshy & Avant, who produced this song, expertly mixed together an eclectic variety of sounds that may seem disjointed – from an old Bollywood love song to electric surf guitar – but Spears made them all work perfectly with her silky vocals making an unorthodox mix work well together. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called both this track and its successor “Showdown”, irresistible ear candy on what Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls her most experimental album to date.”
Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”
Gnarls Barkley made this song an ubiquitous part of life in the 2000s – radio stations, stores, and even friends’ playlists all played it! It became an instant classic.
CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse brought together R&B, pop, and alternative styles in order to produce something special – their debut album St. Elsewhere featured hits like “Crazy” as well as more serious themes about suicide and paranoia.
The music video for “Psychiatrized” matches its lyrics perfectly, featuring mirrored inkblots that change into various ambiguous forms such as gunshot/heart logos from both artists, Satan’s head, centipedes and skulls among many more.
This song became an international success, selling over four million copies worldwide and charting at number one through digital sales alone. It’s been featured in movies and TV shows and is a frequent TikTok trend; making it the ideal karaoke choice.
Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”
Lady Gaga’s most well-known hit song wasn’t written entirely by herself – rather, it was co-authored with Moroccan born songwriter and producer RedOne. Premiering for the first time during Lady Gaga’s performance on Saturday Night Live on October 2, 2009, RedOne helped develop the track which quickly went on to become an international success; debuting at number two on both Hot Dance Club Songs and Pop Songs charts respectively in the US alone.
Lady Gaga recently spoke to Grazia magazine and revealed that her song was inspired by loneliness she often experienced in relationships. She believed she attracted unromantic men, leading her to conclude she had poor taste in partners.
The music video for “This Is War” is an intricate, dark fairytale-esque depiction of obsession and love gone wrong, showing Gaga being kidnapped, drugged and sold off to a Russian mafia group who then auction him off before finally dying when his bed bursts into flames at the end of it all.
Owl City – “Fireflies”
Fireflies was a hit song by Owl City that features an unforgettable melody and is easy to listen to; however, its lyrics have caused considerable debate.
This song chronicles the singer’s experience of sleeplessness and his vivid mental images that occur, such as him hugging fireflies. Additionally, it depicts his struggle from becoming a child to adulthood by using toys running around as symbols in its music video.
Steve Hoover directed this music video for “Hold On to Something Good”, featuring Adam Young playing a Lowrey spinet organ amongst toys belonging to children (such as an astronaut; Tyrannosaurus rex; Speak & Spell and toy cars including one featuring UK children’s television character Brum). When the video begins playing, magical transformation occurs as all these toys come to life!
Janet Jackson – “Feedback”
Janet Jackson has long been one of the leading voices in music. Her 2008 album ‘Discipline’ showcased her distinctive artistic voice and talents; its dance track “Feedback” provided an outstanding showcase. Not only did its catchy beats captivate listeners but its lyrics delivered an important message about communication and vulnerability in relationships.
The song uses metaphors and questions to emphasize the significance of communicating effectively with one’s partner. The music video for the song features Jackson jumping off planets in outer space while dancing on a surface covered with white liquid; critics have lauded its visuals and choreography, making this upbeat track an irresistible club banger.
M.I.A. – “Galang”
M.I.A is unrivaled when it comes to merging genres and cultures into her music, as evidenced by this infectious track featuring gunfire samples. Her Caribbean-infused sound delivers both exotic dynamism and an urgent call-to-arms against global tyranny – two elements which perfectly embody M.I.A’s mission statement of resisting global tyranny through music.
Attesting to her skill is that with only piano and strings she was able to captivate listeners with such beautiful music. Yet behind the apparent simplicity lies an abundance of depth.
MIA expertly blended the residual demand for Clash/Public Enemy heroes with modern pop reality through blog buzz, mixtapes circulating online (such as Piracy Funds Terrorism) remixes and mash-ups. She combined rebel rock slogans with post-rap/post rave culture’s beats bass lines and MC catchphrases; her Amazon song fused both intrigue and threat to an intoxicating level that has never been equalled – no surprise then that this song reached number one on charts worldwide!
Ne-Yo – “Closer”
After several successful songwriting collaborations with Rihanna (“Take A Bow”) and Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”), Ne-Yo released his third album Year of the Gentleman in 2008 to great acclaim and featured this soulful single on it – another massive hit! The minimalist production featuring piano chords and subtle beats allows listeners to focus solely on vocals and lyrics of this timeless track.
This R&B ballad explores the pain of heartbreak. Ne-Yo’s smooth and soulful voice brings life and authenticity to his lyrics; while piano chords create an atmospheric soundscape which allows listeners to really connect with the song.
Ne-Yo has written hits for artists like Usher and Jennifer Hudson as well as his own hits. In 2010, his fourth studio album Libra Scale was released, followed by Non-Fiction in 2015. By 2022 he had transitioned into acting and competing in talent competitions before returning to music with “Good Man” single and Self Explanatory album release.
The Neptunes – “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Love songs have long been a universal aspect of culture and society; however, in the 00s love songs took on an entirely different meaning. From S Club 7 and B*Witched for young audiences to Natasha Bedingfield, Natalie Imbruglia, All Saints, this era was defined by female pop idols with girl power; their music continues to impact our culture today as evidenced by its lasting relevance.
Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, more commonly known as The Neptunes — responsible for this hit — were two of the most prolific producers during this era, known for their forward-thinking eclecticism that ranged from future funk, power pop, slow jam balladry and SWV’s New Beginning album track as their inaugural major hit; their signature sound would later produce hits such as LL Cool J’s “Rock Your Body” and Mase’s “Lookin’ at Me”. To this day their distinctive sound still rules club scenes!