Aware that "single" is a term as quaint as "45 rpm," we approached this category with trepidation. But "single" still compresses several ways of consuming music even as its physical and ontological nature have changed; the "single" still defines summers, Christmas, and dancing. The alumni of Stylus Magazine bring you our favourite pop cultural bombs of the noughties. We can't promise we won't keep calling them "singles" either.

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Slow Jamz

Atlantic, 2003

The track’s unwillingness to stick with Jamie Foxx’s opening brief, which positions it as a fond celebration of ladies’ choice classics, and the dynamic tension arising from Kanye’s and Twista’s increasingly lewd attempts to subvert his mission (“Imma play this Vandross, you gon’ take your pants off”), is central to its fascination. On Kanye’s album version, the balance lies more in Foxx’s favour—even if his attempts at feminine empathy eventually flounder in typically blokey list-making (“Smokey Robinson, Freddie Jackson, Ashford and Simpson….”) But on Twista’s single version, the late-to-his-own-party rapper gets the last word, his quick-fire flow obliterating all lingering traces of the original premise.

– Mike Atkinson


Gwen Stefani
What You Waiting For? (Thin White Duke Mix)

Interscope, 2004

Even though No Doubt's Rock Steady dabbled in club-friendly fare, Gwen Stefani's transformation, at age 35, into a purveyor of glossy 1980s-inspired pop still came as a minor shock. As it turns out, she was very much aware of the challenges of reinvention: her first solo single, "What You Waiting For?" is a self-directed pep talk on the importance of taking risks. It's also proof that the risks pay off, as Stefani channels her inner cheerleading coach to produce a buoyant neon aerobic stomp. Even better, though, is Stuart Price's remix (in his Jacques Lu Cont guise), which excises some of the overt silliness and adds an entrancing melancholic veneer.

– John M. Cunningham


Blood on My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos' Apocalypso Now Remix)

Skull Disco, 2006

It’s fitting that the opening salvo of the dubstep/techno crossover movement that threatened to swallow the latter part of the decade’s dancefloors whole came from the kingpin of the genre it was ushering out the door—minimal techno. Ricardo Villalobos spins his beat-weaving magic over a pitch-black backdrop for nearly 20 minutes of voodoo madness, neatly channeling the tribal rhythms and dark ruminations of the climactic scenes of the film from which the mix slyly borrows and adapts its name. “The horror,” indeed.

– Todd Hutlock


Ricardo Villalobos

Playhouse, 2003

Listening back to “Dexter”, one thing is clear; that Villalobos’ endlessly debated persona as current primo techno auteur doesn’t matter at all when it comes to this track. If it had only ever existed on white label from a complete no-name, it would still have been the decade’s strangest, most beguiling anthem. The constant pulse throughout the track sounds like a mobile phone interfering with hi-fi equipment, the kick drum wanders in and out like a drunk that’s forgotten something, weird gunk clogs the stereo image, and over it all, a melody as perfectly unresolved as a drowsy 4 AM conversation.

– Patrick McNally


Matias Aguayo
Minimal (DJ Koze Remix)

Kompakt, 2008

The original version of "Minimal" is odd enough, pairing Aguayo's ironic diatribe against the titular techno movement with a clip-clomping soundtrack to a spaghetti western set in Buenos Aires. To make matters all the more freakier, DJ Koze shows up. But, as weird as a Koze mix can get, it nearly always contains a certain suave, gleeful sheen. With "Minimal," Koze takes that sensibility to the limit, sawing off Aguayo's clunky edges for a patent leather-slick disco workout peppered with steam whistle, guitar, and cowbell, the latter of which unexpectedly emerges at song's end for a hypnotic minute-long coda.

– Mallory O’Donnell


Golden Boy
Rippin Kittin (featuring Miss Kittin)

Playhouse, 2001

In 1982, Glenn Danzig of the Misfits bellowed at his mother, “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” He was 27 years old at the time. Twenty years later, Miss Kittin asked the same question in an icily polite manner (she was 29; what’s with these mummy issues?) Compared to Kittin’s surgically sterile electroclash tracks with frequent collaborator The Hacker, though, “Rippin Kittin” is as warm as the blood flowing through the veins that Kittin wants to slash with her stolen kitchen knife. Everything that rides the bouncy electro-bass is so simple, from the filtered chords to the measured vocal melody to the recursively looping synth gloop, that you have to constantly replay the track just to make sure that it really is so perfect.

– Patrick McNally


H “Two” O
What's It Gonna Be

Hard2Beat, 2008

Bassline may have lasted as a genuine UK chart concern for roughly the same amount of time as the notions people had that Hatton could beat Mayweather, but it was a pretty dope ride while it lasted. “Heartbroken” may have been one for the teenage poetry books, but “What's It Gonna Be” repackaged the nth generation of 2-step sound for the Hard2Beat crowd, and therefore became the first time black and white working class cultures of the UK had successfully come together outside of car modding conventions in over a generation.

– Dom Passantino


Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard

(A True Story)

Warp, 2003

Besides still sounding amazingly fresh and powerful exploding out of that virulent lime-and-black sleeve, besides being a crucial riposte to that absurd cabaret law, "Me & Guiliani" summarizes an era and a rebirth for the greatest of all music cities. Gritty, funky, brash, yet tuneful, !!!'s finest nine minutes remind us that there is still defiance in dancing, still something to be said for sheer cussin' joy, still a reason to believe in New York Fuckin' City.

– Mallory O’Donnell


New Order

London, 2001

If the first version you heard was the extended one on the album, you'd think Manchester's greatest dance band was trying too hard. Ominous synth bass rumbles, disco diva shouting hysterically, drums clattering like trash cans, repeat, rinse, serve, for almost seven minutes -- it was like these guys (which is what they literally were, now that utility player Gillian Gilbert sat out this iteration of the band) wanted to pummel their audience with their strengths instead of reintroduce them. A generation that remembered "Bizarre Love Triangle" rather than Brotherhood may have rankled them. For the first two minutes, actually, everything is rather too "Broken Promise" instead of "Weirdo," until Peter Hook's post-chorus bass run goes up, down, turns around, and doesn't hit the ground. The best reminder that New Order still lived: singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner's boneheaded chorus couplet ("Here comes love, it's like honey/You can't buy it with money"). The best reminder that New Order could still influence: an art-damaged wannabe named Brandon Flowers named his band after the floppy-haired youths miming "Crystal" in its video.

– Alfred Soto



Warp, 2007

Three years later, I still don’t understand “Atlas.” Pop has always been at its best when it’s been confusing and otherworldly, but what Battles do here is something entirely different—I’ve never heard anything else of its ilk. The deranged pixie vocals, the glam-stomp drumbeat, the mathematically precise guitars and keyboards, the deconstructionist arrangement; it could have been a horrific mess, po-faced and insufferable, but instead it’s a joyous, dancefloor-filling, moshpit-rocking behemoth. Monumental like the black slab from 2001, and just as confusing, it might also, like that slab, signal the next step of human evolution. Or it might just rock weirdly.

– Nick Southall



Def Jam, 2007

It’s a snowball of a song: accruing power as its arrangement steadily builds, its anthemic status boosted by each week spent at the top of the charts (seven in the US, and a decade-besting ten in the UK). Even as late as January 2009, we could still buy into its happy-ever-after sentiment—as demonstrated on the last Chris Brown tour, where Rihanna habitually strolled out unannounced, dressed down in sweater and jeans, for a re-worded duet (Brown: “You can be my Cinderella, ella, ella.”) But as the fairy tale fractured, key elements of the track’s magic drained away, perhaps diminishing its stock value in polls like these. Well, didn’t we all expect it to place higher than 70th?

– Mike Atkinson


The Avalanches
Since I Left You

Modular, 2000

What happened to the bright new dawn of collage pop? You'd be forgiven for hearing this record eight years ago and predicting that this decade would be full of songs just like it: cheaper, faster computers, better software, and Napster surely meant that millions of kids would be able to knock up a seamless montage of an afternoon. It didn't quite happen like that, but don't blame the lawyers: there's plenty of unauthorised mash-ups and remixes around. Perhaps we just didn't realise how outrageously skillful The Avalanches were. A decade in, nothing's come close to matching "Since I Left You"'s distillation of pure joy from a hundred different songs.

– Ally Brown


Up Your Speed

All City Music, 2005

The only other time Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain” was involved in something that had this powerful an impact, Ayrton Senna was hitting a wall at Imola at 180 mph. Back when Sway was still the UK's next to blow rather than a weedcarrier for Akon. Back when Skinnyman was going to be the broadsheets' preferred ugly white street poet rather than Plan B or Jamie T. Back when I had the slightest clue who Bigz and Triple Threat were. A tune to remind us of when the most unlikely of futures seemed possible: that a British rapper could make it on their own terms. Ah well.

– Dom Passantino


Le Tigre
Deceptacon (DFA Remix)

Le Tigre/Mr. Lady, 2001

The original “Deceptacon”: Best art-school tech-punk song of all time. By removing the distortion and spacing out the beats, Murphy and Goldsworthy pulled a savvy trick by leaning on decompression. Then they liquefied some clavichords to fill in the gaps, letting Kathleen Hanna splash around. Any hints of anger are gone. In the DFA’s playground she can just roam freely. Every day and niiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

– Tal Rosenberg


Modest Mouse
Float On

Epic, 2004

Tired of shouting himself hoarse and /or mumbling into the endless middle distance of the American expanse Isaac Brock sees the sun, tastes the salty sea breeze and decides “sometimes life’s ok”. There are still rough edges—what exactly are those strange growlings low down in the mix saying?—but the band play with a sprightliness that seems determined to leave demons for dust. Like REM in the late ‘80s, this was the sound of an insular indie band opening up and letting the light in without losing what made them special in the first place.

– Paul Scott


Girls Aloud

Polydor, 2005

"Biology" is all hooks—sprouting in all directions, stuffed with more complex subtext than they're often credited with, hooks that build and build until "they give it up, and then they take it away/a girl's got to zip it up, and keep her head in the shade." And that's not even the chorus, or at least not the only one. You can't mistake their biology, but whatever Girls Aloud's genesis or growth, the reason they're so beloved is because they're pretty infallible at making this kind of surprisingly, loveably deep (with hooks, with ideas, with personality) pop.

– Ian Mathers


(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan

Plug Research, 2002

The Postal Service and its unlikely (some would say unholy) team of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and glitchy laptop artist Dntel (aka Jimmy Tamborello) might be the most notable electro-pop to cross over into the mainstream, scoring a hit with “Such Great Heights” in 2004. It all started with “(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan,” arguably a far superior cut back on Dntel’s 2001 Life is Full of Possibilities. The vision in question actually started as a dream Gibbard once had involving Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and Lemonhead Evan Dando. Gibbard narrates the dream via stream-of-consciousness lyrics stretching almost six minutes over a breakbeat and a snub-nosed keyboard line, almost too perfect to end. But then the dream is interrupted by the “ringing ringing ringing ringing off” of the real world, and Tamborello fades the song into the staticky reality of morning. We can’t just say that this collaboration is more than the sum of its parts. We’re gonna have to start multiplying parts.

– Mike Orme


Lady (Hear Me Tonight)

MCA, 2000

Romain Tranchart and Yann Destagnol’s evergreen early-decade hit demonstrates an idea later adopted by Todd Terje, whereby you take a disco song that already sounded like a million bucks and then polish it up for the dancefloor so that it sounds like about 2.65 million bucks. It carries over the sense of yearning of its source material (“Soup for One”), but where Chic’s original lyric was mopey and shit outta luck, “Lady” uses Destagnol’s Smooth French House Dude Vocal Stylings to invoke the kind of unstoppable seductive glamour Nile Rodgers’ diamond-plated guitars always hinted at.

– Fergal O’Reilly


Justin Timberlake
Cry Me a River

Jive, 2002

The best pop, from “Strawberry Fields Forever” through “Once In A Lifetime” to “Atlas,” has always sounded like it was beamed from another planet. Timbaland, at his early ‘00s peak, was possibly the most alien of them all, and this breakthrough moment from in Justin’s solo career is arguably the peak of his peak. Maybe it’s the stereoscopic beatboxing fucking with your balance; maybe it’s the strings, swirling and stabbing and swooning like someone who’s just had a nasty uppercut planted on their heart. Maybe it’s Justin’s falsetto, a weapon we didn’t really know he possessed. Astonishing to think that it’s probably about a girl as headmental as Britney.

– Nick Southall


Gui Boratto
Beautiful Life

Kompakt, 2007

Many tracks on the Kompakt label—and by extension minimal techno songs generally—are accused of being either “too cold,” or “too clinical,” or et cetera. With “Beautiful Life,” the climax of his stunning Chromophobia, Gui Boratto shows how the bridge conjoining ‘80s new wave and ‘00s minimal techno is not as wide as it may seem. Swelling synthesizers, a keyboard loop ripped right from Kim Carnes, and a swooning vocal refrain comprise the tracks on the railway between Berlin and Ibiza. Then Peter Hook loans out a bass line.

– Tal Rosenberg

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