5 Songs That Defined the 2000s

With the rise of MP3s and devices like the iPod, and later the iPhone, the 2000s allowed for the creation of pop hits across many genres, as new music became more accessible than ever. Not only was music consumption changing, but the soundscape in and of itself was changing as well.

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Riding on the coattails of mega-pop stars like Madonna and the rock, grunge, and R&B movements of the 1990s, 2000s pop hits were varied in genre but just as massive (if not more so). Here are five songs that would define the 2000s, as well as the music of the decades to come. 

1. “Oops!…I Did It Again” by Britney Spears (2000)

Written by Max Martin and Rami Yacoub 

This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one entry from the Princess of Pop. Britney Spears was a global phenomenon at just 18, proving to be an above-and-beyond singer and on-stage performer with her iconic award show performances and music videos. After entering into the industry in 1997, Spears had her first pop hit by 1999. “…Baby One More Time” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the album …Baby One More Time topped the Billboard 2000. 

Spears would replicate her 1999 claim to fame with ease, starting in 2000 with “Oops!…I Did It Again.” The song, which would appear on her sophomore album of the same name, was written by Max Martin and Rami Yacoub. Martin previously worked with Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, and would later go on to write with Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Ariana Grande. Yacoub collaborated with Martin on “…Baby One More Time,” and did so once more for this new Spears chart-topper. “Oops!…I Did It Again” centers around leading someone on romantically, and subverting the “innocent” image associated with Spears at the time. 

2. “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé (feat. Jay-Z) (2003)

Written by Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Rich Harrison, Eugene Record, Shawn Carter

Transcending her days in Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé achieved untouchable fame in the 2010s, between her 2014 self-titled album, Lemonade from 2016, and RENAISSANCE from 2022. 

That footing, though, is partly owed to her early solo efforts, which further featured her soaring voice. Her debut album, Dangerously in Love, released in 2003, achieved near-instant success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and going on to sell more than 11 million copies globally. 

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What could be considered the album’s flagship song, “Crazy in Love,” featuring future husband Jay-Z, spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. The song’s opening horns are a call to action, urging listeners to dance or strut along before being taken away by Queen Bey’s voice. That’s not to mention the famous cymbals, enacting a stripped-down refrain guided by Beyoncé singing Uh oh, oh no no. The song is about the artist abandoning all composure and inhibitions, and letting her love for another take over. Beyoncé would collaborate with Jay-Z throughout the 2000s, and go on to marry him in 2008. 

3. “Yeah!” by Usher (feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris) (2004)

Written by Ludacris, James Phillips, Lil Jon, LaMarquis Jefferson, Patrick Smith, Sean Garrett

Considered a club classic today, “Yeah!” by Usher, Lil Jon, and Ludacris had an incomparable hold on pop radio in 2004. The song stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks, making it one of the biggest hits of the year. To this day, the song is a mainstay at clubs, parties, and receptions. 

The lyrics themselves are fairly straightforward, but conversational at times since they are essentially about picking up girls at a club. However, the song was groundbreaking in terms of its production, blending elements of hip-hop, R&B, crunk, and pop to create a sound that pounces on listeners, forcing them out of their seats to dance. Usher takes over a majority of the verses, and Lil Jon and Ludacris are meticulously placed throughout. Lil Jon acts as hype-man, his signature ad-lib echoing throughout the beat. Ludacris takes over the bridge, adding another steady, catchy flow to the tune. 

4. “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne (2007)

Written by Avril Lavigne, Lukasz Gottwald

On the flip side of Usher-approved club ragers, anthemic rock songs continued to infiltrate the pop charts in the 2000s as well. This movement was spearheaded by Canadian pop-punk purveyor Avril Lavigne, who especially helped carve out a space for pop rock sung by women. Her debut album, Let Go, released in 2002, combined grunge, punk, and rock touchstones. With songs like “Sk8er Boi” and “Losing Grip,” fans were left to wonder how she could follow up that album’s level of octane. “Girlfriend,” from her album The Best Damn Thing, was her flashy answer, and went on to become her best-performing song to date on Billboard‘s pop chart, reaching the top slot. 

Compared to the honest, often somber notes of her debut, “Girlfriend” lets loose with heavier guitar tones and a downright cocky attitude. Lavigne wants a boy who already has a girlfriend, believing she’s a far-better fit for him. 

“Girlfriend,” and much of Lavigne’s discography, would go on to influence the teen rock explosion of the mid-2000s, giving way to artists like Miley Cyrus and Miranda Cosgrove, and later, artists like Olivia Rodrigo, GAYLE, and others involved in the so-called “pop-punk revival” of the 2020s.

5. “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga (2009)

Written by Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga was a relative newcomer in contributing to the club and dance-pop music craze of the 2000s. She got her mainstream start in 2006, embracing pop but also incorporating glam rock aesthetics into her look and musical style; “Lady Gaga” is even a direct reference to the hit “Radio Ga-Ga” by Queen. 

“Poker Face” appeared on her album The Fame. The song not only ruled the Billboard charts, but it became the top selling song on digital for 2009 globally, surpassing Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” and another single from The Fame, “Just Dance.” Gaga embodied a new wave of pop stardom that truly defined popular music in the 2000s.

Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage

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