The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (2024)

Table of Contents
John Mayer, "Daughters" Interpol, "Slow Hands" Beenie Man, "King of the Dancehall" Christina Milian, "Dip It Low" Keith Urban, "Days Go By" The Walkmen, "The Rat" Ghostface feat. Jadakiss, "Run" Linkin Park, "Breaking the Habit" Anthony Hamilton, "Charlene" Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying" Velvet Revolver, "Slither" John Legend, "Used to Love U" Los Temerarios, "Qué De Raro Tiene" Annie, "Heartbeat" Phoenix, "Everything Is Everything" Nelly feat. Tim McGraw, "Over and Over" Sean Paul feat. Sasha, "I'm Still in Love With You" Bowling for Soup, "1985" Sia, "Breathe Me" Trilville feat. Cutty, "Some Cut" Missy Elliott, "I'm Really Hot" J-Kwon, "Tipsy" Loretta Lynn feat. Jack White, "Portland Oregon" Alejandro Fernandez, "Me Dediqué a Perderte" Madvillain, "All Caps" Gavin DeGraw, "I Don't Want to Be" Los Lonely Boys, "Heaven" Josh Groban, "You Raise Me Up" The Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get It Started" Jesse McCartney, "Beautiful Soul" U2, "Vertigo" LCD Soundsystem, "Yeah" My Chemical Romance, "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" Avril Lavigne, "My Happy Ending" 50 Cent, "Disco Inferno" Kevin Lyttle feat. Spragga Benz, "Turn Me On" N.O.R.E. feat. Daddy Yankee, Nina Sky, Gem Star & Big Mato, 'Oye Mi Canto' Marco Antonio Solis, "Más Que Tu Amigo" Gwen Stefani, "What You Waiting For?" Ludacris, "Get Back" Jay-Z/Linkin Park, "Numb/Encore" Jill Scott, "Golden" Crime Mob feat. Lil Scrappy Audioslave, "I Am the Highway" Petey Pablo, "Freek-a-Leek" Scissor Sisters, "Take Your Mama" Hoobastank, "The Reason" Prince, "Musicology" Counting Crows, "Accidentally in Love" Terror Squad, "Lean Back" Maroon 5, "She Will Be Loved" Gretchen Wilson, "Redneck Woman" The Game feat. 50 Cent, "How We Do" Bloc Party, "Banquet" Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo" Evanescence, "My Immortal" OutKast, "Roses" Beastie Boys, "Ch-Check It Out" Nina Sky feat. Jabba, "Move Ya Body" Kanye West feat. Syleena Johnson, "All Falls Down" Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim, "Slow Motion" Kelly Clarkson, "Breakaway" Blink-182, "I Miss You" The Strokes, "Reptilia" Rascal Flatts, "Bless the Broken Road" M.I.A., "Galang" Ciara feat. Petey Pablo, "Goodies" T.I., "Rubber Band Man" Beyoncé, "Naughty Girl" Grupo Climax, ""El Za Za Za (Mesa Que Más Aplauda)" Hilary Duff, "Come Clean" Gwen Stefani feat. Eve, "Rich Girl" Yellowcard, "Ocean Avenue" Britney Spears, "Everytime" Green Day, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" Twista feat. Kanye West & Jamie Foxx, "Slow Jamz" Big & Rich, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" Destiny's Child, "Lose My Breath" Jay-Z, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" Usher, "Confessions Pt. II" Ashlee Simpson, "Pieces of Me" JoJo, "Leave (Get Out)" OutKast feat. Sleepy Brown, "The Way You Move" Alicia Keys, "If I Ain't Got You" Maroon 5, "This Love" Beyoncé, "Dangerously in Love 2" The Killers, "Somebody Told Me" Ye, "Jesus Walks" Modest Mouse, "Float On" Ciara feat. Missy Elliott, "1, 2 Step" Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps" Daddy Yankee, "Gasolina" Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out" Green Day, "American Idiot" Jay-Z, "99 Problems" Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell, "Drop It Like It's Hot" Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris, "Yeah!" Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone" Britney Spears, "Toxic"

By the time the 2000s reached 2004, the decade was hitting its stride, with an identity totally its own. Newly crossed over sub-genres like crunk, emo and reggaetón had found their way to the center of the mainstream, while dancehall and indie rock were reaching the charts and MTV in ways they rarely had previously. Neither the sunshine pop of TRL‘s peak or the post-grunge rock still dominant in the late ’90s were nearly as ubiquitous as a half-decade earlier, but they’d found a sort of midpoint in the guitar-based pop-rock blanketing top 40 and Hot AC radio. And rap was everywhere: particularly at the top of the Hot 100, where even the R&B chart-toppers had more of a hip-hop edge than ever before.

The way 2004 redefined popular music for the ’00s can be best seen in perhaps the two biggest albums of the year, both by artists whose stardom was previously established in the ’90s. Usher’s Confessions raised the stakes on the pop and R&B that had made him a teen heartthrob at the turn of the century, with newly heavy and distinctly adult subject matter, and turbo-charged beats courtesy of producers of the moment like Lil Jon and Just Blaze. And Green Day’s American Idiot redefined the one-time couch-dwelling pop-punkers as stadium-rocking, machine-raging theater kids, using their Who-worthy full-length rock opera to protest both suburban teenage alienation and the Iraq War.

Those were just two of the many huge albums and singles that helped the ’00s reach their midway peak in 2004: It was also a year for brand-new artists like Gretchen Wilson, Los Lonely Boys and Ashlee Simpson, as well as a comeback year for long-established legends like U2, the Beastie Boys and even Loretta Lynn. And of course, at the middle of it all was the man then known as Kanye West, an artist and personality the likes of which neither pop nor hip-hop had never seen before, whose inextricable place in the middle of music and culture — for better and occasionally for worse — was sealed for the next 20 years with the release of his game-changing debut album The College Dropout.

Relive all of this and so much more as we 1, 2 step back in time to revisit our 100 favorite singles from the massive year that was 2004 — including songs that reached or topped the Hot 100 for the first time in 2004, but not ones that waited until future years to make or top the chart. We think you’re ready now.

  • John Mayer, "Daughters"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (1)

    The third single from Mayer’s second albumHeavier Thingswas a song he could have very well called “Daddy Issues,” but more politely titled “Daughters.” A tender acoustic appeal for fathers to treat theirdaughterswell, as “girls become lovers who turn into mothers,” the song was a No. 1 Adult Top 40 hit — if not Mayer’s preference for a single, a point he emphasized while accepting the 2005 song of the year Grammy when “Daughters” won. “It’s still not the right choice of the single, but this is nice to have,” he said, dedicating the award to his grandma, “who had an awesome daughter named ‘my mom.'” — KATIE BAIN

  • Interpol, "Slow Hands"

    If, as frontman Paul Banks told NME in 2004, “every song is as good as ‘SlowHands‘” on Antics, Interpol’s second album, then that set would still be discussed today as one of indie rock’s best ever. That’s not an indictment of Interpol or their sophom*ore set – most bands are lucky if they produce one song as strong as this lead single, which fortifies its sharp guitar riffs and wounded lyricism with muscular drums and bass that cement Interpol in the dance-punk canon. — ERIC RENNER BROWN

  • Beenie Man, "King of the Dancehall"

    From the thumping drums to the militant chants of the hook, “King of the Dancehall” immediately announces itself as the aptly titled theme song for Beenie Man, arguably the dancehall star with the most claim to the title of King. Peaking at No. 80 on the Hot 100, “King” is perhaps the best showcase of all the components that make Beenie’s catalog one of the most consistent in all of dancehall: slick, flirtatious couplets in the verses, a sultry melodic edge in the hook, and a vocal rhythm found right in the pocket of Tony “CD” Kelly’s irresistible production. While the title will always be up for grabs, do any of Beenie’s challengers for the crown have a 20-year-old smash hit that still feels this fresh?— KYLE DENIS

  • Christina Milian, "Dip It Low"

    With its slinky vocals, thumping bass and a highly choreographed video to pair, “Dip It Low” saw Christina Milan churn out a bad girl anthem for all the good girls out there. On the three-minute track, the star made a run for the title of R&B “It” Girl, singing about making her man wait until he returns home to get spicy. While its success arrived only after production revisions, “Dip It Low” still hits — even if longtime millennial fans may no longer be able to comply with the physical demands of its title. — JAMES DINH

  • Keith Urban, "Days Go By"

    In a catalog full of addictive songs, “Days Go By” counts as one ofUrban’s absolute catchiest. The exuberant tune, which spent four weeks atop Hot Country Songs, captures the rush of literally speeding down the highway, while realizing that life goes by as quickly as the white lines on the road, and you better embrace it or risk missing it at your own peril.Urbanis one of country music’s best mixologists, and here he comes up with the perfect blend of country, jangly pop and rock, with banjo and mandolin thrown in for good measure. — MELINDA NEWMAN

  • The Walkmen, "The Rat"

    The Walkmen was among the most composed, sophisticated and poetic of the many buzz bands to emerge from New York in the early ’00s — but on the rare occasions when the band decided to kick out the jams, it could also be an absolute force of nature. “The Rat” sees the group conjuring the elements in a way that few of its peers could even imagine, with downpours of guitar, thunderous drums, and a singular electrical-storm vocal from Hamilton Leithauser that makes a quarter-life crisis of romantic yearning and social alienation sound like it might literally split the earth’s core in two beneath him. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER

  • Ghostface feat. Jadakiss, "Run"

    You want to talk about a Big 3? The Almighty GFK and Manteca Jada with the Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah behind the boards makes for a classic rap song with Pretty Toney Album highlight “Run.” The track starts off sounding like a chase is about to go down — funny enough it’s a sample RZA lifted from a Flintstones movie where Fred steps in for a spy as a lookalike — while Ghost and Jada take us on an audio mission as they run from dirty cops. The most memorable moments are still highly quotable all these years later, especially Jada’s intro laugh and “I might gotta take my shirt off” claim, along with “My Timbs startin’ to feel like they Nike Airs on me.”— ANGEL DIAZ

  • Linkin Park, "Breaking the Habit"

    As Linkin Park got deeper and deeper into their run of Meteora singles, it seemed like we should have been getting into obvious leftovers territory. But “Breaking the Habit” was the nu-metal hitmakers’ most stunningly fresh-sounding single yet, with drum-and-bass-filtered production, Nirvana-worthy verse-chorus-bridge dynamics — with no Mike Shinoda rap needed to up the intensity, despite him being the song’s primary writer — and perhaps frontman Chester Bennington’s most resonant vocal in a catalog full of them. When his voice glitches and dissolves on the final “Tonight!,” the gap between them and their then-commercial peers feels positively oceanic. — A.U.

  • Anthony Hamilton, "Charlene"

    Following a string of various record label dalliances, Charlotte singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton hit his stride collaborating with songwriter-producer Mark Batson (Eminem, Alicia Keys) on this Grammy-nominated second single from his resulting RIAA platinum-certified So So Def albumComin’ From Where I’m From. His warm yet aching vocals breathe real life into the song’s ageless theme about choosing between love and career. And one lyric line says it all: “But I forgot about loving her.” Listening to Anthony Hamilton’s breakthrough single is definitive proof that pure soul never gets old. — GAIL MITCHELL

  • Tim McGraw, "Live Like You Were Dying"

    Songwriters Craig Wiseman (a co-founder of Big Loud Records) and Tim McNichols penned this all-too-believable story of a singer’s encounter with a man “in my early 40s/with a lot of life before me” who gets a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Soft piano and strings give way to McGraw’s plaintive voice and soaring harmonies as the man describes his response. But his adventures — ”skydiving… Rocky Mountain climbing” — pale beside his self-discovery: “I loved deeper/ And I spoke sweeter/ And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.”What other Hot Country Songs chart-topper offers such an enduring mantra? — THOM DUFFY

  • Velvet Revolver, "Slither"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (2)

    Yeah, here comes the supergroup! Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, Slash and Matt Sorum, along with David Kushner, shot onto the scene as Velvet Revolver with this lead single off debut album Contraband. It was the perfect melding of grunge and metal and a touch of glam, of STP and GN’R, with the hit reaching No. 56 on the Hot 100 and nabbing a Grammy. While Weiland has shuffled off this mortal coil, the band’s GN’R contingent has since reunited with Axl Rose, performing “Slither” on their 2023 world tour.— ANNA CHAN

  • John Legend, "Used to Love U"

    Although the artwork for JohnLegend’s debut single features the young singer-songwriter sitting solemnly in front of a piano, “Usedto Love U” is much more playful than the ballads that have helped powerLegend’s career: the neo-soul production, helmed byLegendand an ascendant Kanye West, mixes gospel-choir chants and rap-anthem hollering, and a mid-twentiesLegendapproaches the breakup track like a seasoned crooner. — JASON LIPSHUTZ

  • Los Temerarios, "Qué De Raro Tiene"

    LosTemerarios— comprised of siblings Gustavo and Adolfo Ángel, the latter writing all the duo’s songs for his brother to sing — took a departure by recording a covers album, which included the classic “Qué de Raro Tiene.” Originally penned by Martin Urieta Solano, Gustavo and Adolfo gave the song — about dying over the love of a girl — their own ranchera/grupero twist. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Adolfo had written this song, as it perfectly fits into his style of romantic songwriting, and shot to No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in July 2004. — GRISELDA FLORES

  • Annie, "Heartbeat"

    After her bratty, goofy electro-pop single “Chewing Gum,”Anniedelivered a sonic and thematic 180 with “Heartbeat.” Gorgeous, melancholy and earnest, “Heartbeat” snaps along thanks to an indie-disco drum beat while the Norwegian singer-songwriter’s breathy, sweet coo spins a bittersweet story about a dancefloor romance that’s no more. “I won’t forget/ The greatest times I’ve had when I was dancing with you,”Anniedeclares as Röyksopp’s crisp yet pillowy production floats along underneath. Possibly her finest moment – and arguably stickier than “Gum.” — JOE LYNCH

  • Phoenix, "Everything Is Everything"

    In just under three minutes,Phoenixdistills an at once existential and pragmatic life philosophy into a perfect pop-rock package: Stop hand-wringing over things you can’t change (“the more I talk about it, the less I do control,” as Thomas Mars sings) and just roll with the punches. Sure, you could read some of the lyrics as nihilistic, but maybe the true meaning of life is just to loosen your grip and dance along to some blissful French indie pop. –KATIE ATKINSON

  • Nelly feat. Tim McGraw, "Over and Over"

    Long before acts like Florida Georgia Line and Jason Aldean were incorporating R&B and rap elements in their songs and Morgan Wallen and Lil Durk teamed up for “Broadway Girls,” Nelly and Tim McGraw collaborated on this slinky, sultry R&B ode to a failed romance. Everything that went wrong in the romance plays like a highlights (lowlights?) reel again and again as the two trade lines about lost love over an insinuating, 808 beat. Odd as it sounds now, it was a risky move for both artists that paid off big time: the song appeared on seven Billboard charts (none of them country), including topping Mainstream Top 40 and Rhythmic Airplay. — M.N.

  • Sean Paul feat. Sasha, "I'm Still in Love With You"

    Twenty years ago, Sean Paul, the affable Kingston-born deejay, was leading the charge on dancehall’s pop culture takeover. His sophom*ore album, Dutty Rock, birthed a string of hits — but the album’s real sleeper was his last single, “I’m Still In Love With You.” A modern interpretation of Alton Ellis’s lovelorn classic of the same name, Paul’s version finds him gently explaining that while a woman may still be in love with him, he’s a “hustler and player” not a lover and stayer. The riddim isn’t as upbeat as his earlier singles, but it still became a club staple and hit No. 14 on the Hot 100. That’s that dutty dutty love. — DAMIEN SCOTT

  • Bowling for Soup, "1985"

    Thanks originally to “Right Now” hitmakers SR-71, we were given the song “1985,” which climbed to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was covered by pop-punk peers Bowling for Soup the same year, and continues to be a head-bopping fixture on playlists of 2000s essentials. Even today, the guitar hits are hard to resist shaking your hips to, while lyrics like “She hates time, make it stop” evoke a nostalgic feeling of simpler times — similar to the song’s protagonist as she dreams of what could have been. — RYLEE JOHNSTON

  • Sia, "Breathe Me"

    Help: The fact that this song never even cracked the Hot 100 is a crime! While the haunting “Breathe Me” didn’t find much initial success on the charts, it eventually helped U.S. audiences discover the Australian singer-songwriter when it soundtracked Six Feet Under’s perfect 2005 series finale. Since then, the heart-stopping track — with lyrics that make listeners ache to their bones — has helped emotionally amplify countless additional film and TV moments, from Demi Lovato’s 2012 documentary Stay Strong to a season 29 episode of The Simpsons, as Sia has become a Hot 100-topping pop mainstay. — A.C.

  • Trilville feat. Cutty, "Some Cut"

    Atlanta hip-hop trio Trillville fantasize about a freaky night with a shorty from the mall on the crunk staple “Some Cut.” Lil Jon rocking back and forth in his chair at Stankonia Studios laid the foundation for the song’s sexually charged production, while Dirty Mouth, Lil LA, Don P and Cutty trade explicit verses about what will go down once a girl comes home with them. While the Hot 100 top 20 track remains the group’s biggest hit single, its salacious squeaking bed sample has been revived decades later in songs like Drake’s “Currents,” Ty Dolla $ign’s “Or Nah,” Doechii’s “What It Is (Block Boy)” and Tinashe’s “Ooh La La,” among many others. — HERAN MAMO

  • Missy Elliott, "I'm Really Hot"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (3)

    “I’mReally Hot” didn’t reach the chart heights of some of Missy’s other singles (it peaked at No. 59 on the Billboard Hot 100), but it’s a timeless bop just the same, with Timbaland’s trademark syncopated beats and horror-movie synths during the chorus melding seamlessly with Missy’s understated delivery. It’s a sexy song that’s not about sex (“Straight to the hotel/ I’m celibate, so boy, you gets no tail”) but rather the seductive power of a track perfectly engineered to get bootays moving on a Friday night. — CHRIS EGGERTSEN

  • J-Kwon, "Tipsy"

    One more year and “Tipsy” will finally be able to legally get wasted. The first line of J-Kwon’s party-starting anthem mocking drinking laws perfectly captured the attention of rebellious college students across the country. Even those too young to sip on booze turned up to the lunchtable-shaking track while getting crunk off apple juice. Back in 2013, Kanye West paid J-Kwon’s breakout hit the ultimate compliment: “‘Tipsy,’ people would think that’s like a lower-quality, less intellectual form of hip-hop, but that’s always my No. 1.” In a testament to its lasting impact, Cowboy Carter contributor Shaboozey put a country twist on “Tipsy” while interpolating J-Kwon’s counting flow for his drunken “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” single, helping the song become his top 40 solo breakout hit. — MICHAEL SAPONARA

  • Loretta Lynn feat. Jack White, "Portland Oregon"

    Rapid, keening guitar fromJackWhite resounds for nearly a full minute here before resolving into a full-band jam andLorettaLynn’s twanging opening vocal: “Well, Portland, Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ If that ain’t love, well, tell me what is.” White, then in his late 20s, and Lynn, then in her early 70s, were a match made in honky-tonk heaven on this rave-up (which Lynn had composed decades earlier). “Hey bartender, before you go, pour us one more drink,” they sing together, as in the song’s video, White leans over to give Lynn a kiss. — THOM DUFFY

  • Alejandro Fernandez, "Me Dediqué a Perderte"

    While a ranchera/mariachi singer at his core, Alejandro Fernandez has fully embraced pop more than once over the course of his enduring career. This song in particular is one of the best pop ballads in his catalog because of its striking lyrics — penned by the great singer-songwriter Leonel García (of Sin Bandera) — and Fernández’s evocative delivery. “I dedicated myself to losing you,” he sings with pathos. The track peaked at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs for two weeks. — G.F.

  • Madvillain, "All Caps"

    Years before vanity capitalizations became de rigueur for artist names and song titles, Madvillain unleashed “All Caps” as a single from its groundbreakingMadvillainyLP to remind people how to render MF DOOM, one half of the duo alongside Madlib, when spelling it out on those backpack rap message boards. Madlib provides a cleverly looped instrumental score lifted from the ‘60s cop dramaIronsideas DOOM polices how people type his name and peaco*cks on the mic: “He won’t stop till he got the masses/ And show ’em what they know now through flows of hot molasses.” — J. Lynch

  • Gavin DeGraw, "I Don't Want to Be"

    Gavin DeGraw had a meteoric rise in the early 2000s with his Vanessa Carlton-adjacent blend of gentle rock with sweeping piano pop. With his floppy hair hanging out of a beanie or early ’00s (tragic) staple trucker hat, DeGraw was destined to steal the hearts of teens with his righteous lead single “I Don’t Want to Be,” where the sensitive heartthrob encourages kids to be themselves. The chugging singalong’s popularity was only bolstered by its use as the opening theme song for CW teen drama One Tree Hill. — TAYLOR MIMS

  • Los Lonely Boys, "Heaven"

    With its soulful blend of bluesy rock and pan-Latin fusion, “Heaven” catapulted LosLonelyBoys into the spotlight. Built around an infectious groove and heartfelt lyrics, the song resonates with a sense of longing and redemption. As the Texas trio — composed of brothers Henry, Jojo, and Ringo Garza — grapple with their own struggles and seek solace in faith, the universal question echoes: “How far is heaven?” The bilingual hit reached No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and entered the top 20 on the Hot 100. The soul-stirring ballad remains a timeless anthem that speaks to the human experience of hope in the face of adversity. — ISABELA RODRIGUEZ

  • Josh Groban, "You Raise Me Up"

    There’s an oft-quoted interview in which the late Whitney Houston describes one of her songs as fit for “weddings, graduations [and] funerals.” That description also applies to Josh Groban’s rousing “You Raise Me Up.” Lightly sprinkled with typical early-’00s top 40 proclivity for Christian-adjacent lyricism, “Raise” infuses Groban’s traditional pop roots with the enduring concept of an ever-dependent support that arrives in the eleventh hour. A cover of a 2001 Secret Garden track, Groban’s Grammy-nominated rendition not only finds a home for David Foster’s grandiose ’90s-defined production, but it’s also a winning vocal showcase that captures what innocence the world had left in 2004.— K.D.

  • The Black Eyed Peas, "Let's Get It Started"

    The clean version of the now not-super-easy-to-find, decidedly non-PC original, “Let’s Get It Started” was the fourth single from the group’s endlessly hit-spinning third album,Elephunk. The sonic equivalent of a Four Loko, the track is pure, punchy, adrenalized fun, with the grouptaking turns on verses about partying your way to giddy incoherence. The track spent 20 weeks on the Hot 100, won the 2005 Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group and can still inspire a certain wild-eyed glee among the millennialswho were there for it.— K.B.

  • Jesse McCartney, "Beautiful Soul"

    In an age where child actors trying to find success as solo artists was the norm, Jesse McCartney stood out as a success story. After earning some mainstream attention thanks to his short-lived stint in the boy band Dream Street, McCartney broke big with “Beautiful Soul.” It’s easy to see why; this blissful teen pop track effortlessly mixes in plenty of ‘90s R&B influence to nail that particular feeling of adolescent infatuation McCartney aimed for. In a sea of lovestruck pop songs from the mid-2000s, “Beautiful Soul” stands out as much more than another pretty face.— STEPHEN DAW

  • U2, "Vertigo"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (4)

    Sparse, raw, growling opening guitars — and of course, Bono shouting “Unos, dos, tres, catorce”— give way to one ofU2’s best stadium-ready, chant-along choruses on “Vertigo.” The song, on which The Edge’s guitar duels constantly with Bono’s vocals, toppedBillboard’s Adult Alternative Songs chart, earned the band three Grammy Awards including best rock song, gave its name to the band’s globe-spanning Vertigo Tour of 2005-2006 and served as the backing track for an Apple iPod ad. AU2classic. — T.D.

  • LCD Soundsystem, "Yeah"

    How “Yeah” relates to the sound of the year 2004 is irrelevant — that was never its intent. In fact, it’s not intended to exist in any year at all, and when it first was released was essentially defined as the culmination of underground dance music up to that point — an amalgamation of influences, artists, sounds and scenes, all tied together with such a brainless, repetitive “yeahyeahyeah” that it simultaneously brings any dance floor together and yet keeps the focus strictly where it was always intended: on the music. In retrospect, it helped to herald greatness. At the time, it just was. — DAN RYS

  • My Chemical Romance, "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"

    Before The Black Parade marched into the car speakers of normies and emo kids alike in 2006,MyChemicalRomance broke out as a band of self-appointed weirdos looking to make music for other outsiders. With the heart-racing guitar lines and melodramatic vocals of “I’m NotOkay(I Promise),” the boys of MCR cemented themselves at the forefront of the mainstream emo movement, earning their first placement on the Hot 100. Perfectly straddling the nebulous line between the rollicking, rebellious punk and danceable, catchy pop-rock of the mid-2000s, “I’m NotOkay” is much more thanokay— it’s the optimal gateway track to a genre that’s emphatically returned to the mainstream consciousness decades later. — S.D.

  • Avril Lavigne, "My Happy Ending"

    Co-written with radio-friendly rock savant Butch Walker, “My Happy Ending” sounded like a less-upbeat (though no less catchy) sequel to 2002’s “Sk8er Boi.” Its relatable sad girl vibes were very 2004 — a year when singer-songwriters like Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch also thrived — and with its crunchy guitars, anthemic choruses and standard-setting emo-pop bridge, it peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100. Twenty years later, the signature Lavigne blend of angst and earworms epitomized on “Ending’ is still echoing in popular music.— REBECCA MILZOFF

  • 50 Cent, "Disco Inferno"

    There haven’t been many – if any – rappers hotter than 50 Cent was coming off his Get Rich or Die Tryin’ debut album. With expectations higher than the Empire State Building, the G-Unit boss knew he had to deliver with his first single heading into The Massacre while adversaries like Nas, Fat Joe and Ja Rule waited for him to slip up. Enter the bouncy, club-friendly “Disco Inferno” to continue 50’s winning streak. He shrewdly balanced having bars street enough to satisfy the hustlers, paired with a catchy chorus spotlighting the ladies. That formula led Fif to commercial dominance time and time again — and to this day, “Disco Inferno” is a fan-favorite when the Queens icon touches the stage. — M.S.

  • Kevin Lyttle feat. Spragga Benz, "Turn Me On"

    Whether it’s a college party in the South or a summer kickback in Flatbush, you’re still almost guaranteed to hear “Turn Me On”; in fact, not hearing “Turn Me On” is a sign that the function was a dud, even two decades later. Originally a soca ballad, the most popular version of this track features anthemic additional lyrics from Spragga Benz, which provide a gruff complement to the smoothness of Kevin Lyttle’s buttery tone. A smash hit around the world – including a No. 4 peak on the Hot 100 — not only was this a definitive inflection point for 2000s Caribbean music, but it also captured the pure essence of a party track: sweaty sensuality framed by a wistful reminder of the how fleeting the night is.— K.D.

  • N.O.R.E. feat. Daddy Yankee, Nina Sky, Gem Star & Big Mato, 'Oye Mi Canto'

    “You see? This is what they want. They want reggaetón.” So proclaims N.O.R.E., one of New York’s biggest rappers of Puerto Rican descent, at the beginning of his opening “Oye Mi Canto” verse — and by the end of the song, his point was already proven. The single featured an a brilliant supporting cast of hitmakers — including Daddy Yankee, on his way to becoming the genre’s defining star for the decade, in the video version — and was tied together by a narcotic Nina Sky hook, with the sisters’ hypnotic harmonies turning the banger into an anthem. “Oye” reached the top 25 on both Hot Latin Songs and Hot Rap Songs, and hit No. 12 on the Hot 100 — the first truly undeniable evidence that there would be no stopping reggaetón’s global takeover. — A.U.

  • Marco Antonio Solis, "Más Que Tu Amigo"

    With one of the most infectious and joyous rhythms in Latin pop history, “Más Que TuAmigo” stands as a pinnacle of the genre, exuding euphoria with every beat. With his unmatched vocal prowess, Marco Antonio Solís effortlessly traverses tender lows and exhilarating highs, enough to set hearts aflutter. “Me gustas tanto me enloqueces,” he passionately declares, igniting a flame of passion within the listener. The song dazzles with its riveting instrumentation and expert arrangement, courtesy of El Buki. From the captivating brass to the gripping accordion riffs, each element embellishes the song perfectly, culminating in a Mexican cumbia masterpiece for the ages.— I.R.

  • Gwen Stefani, "What You Waiting For?"

    WhenGwenStefani dipped from No Doubt for a solo album that unabashedly embraced pop, she knew the “sellout” accusations were incoming — and took them head-on with the opening track toLove. Angel. Music. Baby.“What You Waiting For?” simultaneously sends up industry pressures to cash in as a pop star while she’s “still a super-hot female,” at the same time as she explores her own anxieties about making music without the band she’d been a part of since her teens. It’s a lyrically hilarious, sonically ridiculous new wave rocker with a nervous propulsion and pissed-off crunch that make it worth repeated listens (and karaoke sing-alongs) all these years later. — J. Lynch

  • Ludacris, "Get Back"

    Ludacriswas inescapable in the mid-’00s — and while he courted that fame, pop culture ubiquity takes a toll. Enter “Get Back,” the Atlanta rapper’s ode to hangers-on who just won’t quit. But what could’ve been another tiresome dispatch from an out-of-touch star is saved by its humor and relatability. Despite his roid-rage muscles in the video, Ludacrisisn’t out for blood here — he just wants to “enjoy my Jack/ Sit back and watch the women get drunk as hell/ So I can wake up in the morning with a story to tell.” — E.R.B.

  • Jay-Z/Linkin Park, "Numb/Encore"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (5)

    Jay-Z teaming up with Linkin Park for theirCollision CourseEP was such a natural extension of the massive popularity of nu-metal in the ’00s that you can almost forget how bold it still felt at the time. Sure, Mike Shinoda was already rapping on LP’s biggest hits, but Jay-Z reaching across then-much-more-pronounced genre lines to bring together mainstream hip-hop with mainstream rock blazed a trail for top 40 hybridization and collaboration that is still felt today. The seamless “Numb/Encore” mash-up, with its sighing LP synth-pad hook chopped up until it feels Black Album-appropriate, is the EP’s most successful example of what a good fit this pairing was. –K.A.

  • Jill Scott, "Golden"

    There’s a reason GloRilla referenced “Golden” in an interview in which she skirted around answering explicitly political questions about the impending 2024 U.S. presidential election. Scott’s sunny, soulful tune epitomizes “good vibes.” The reverence she holds for life coats every note she croons over the breezy amalgamation of plucky bass, shimmering synths and steady percussion. Just the twang of “I’m taking my freedom” is transformative, and it’s exactly that universality that makes “Golden” such a classic.— K.D.

  • Crime Mob feat. Lil Scrappy

    You gotta know what time it is when “Knuck if You Buck” comes on: You better be ready to mosh and throw some bows or get out of the way. Even the quietest and most reserved people absolutely lose it when this track — practically a metal song — drops at the club. Each verse hits harder than the next and Lil Jay’s production gets nasty once those 808s awaken things in your soul you didn’t know existed. A whole 20 years later and “Knuck” can still easily start a riot. — A.D.

  • Audioslave, "I Am the Highway"

    A hallowed hymn for anyone who’s ever emerged from a bad relationship with emotional bruising and a hard-earned sense of defiance, this song was the fourth single from the rock supergroup’s self-titled debut. Chris Cornell is in peak form as he lists the reasons he is so much bigger and more important than the situation at hand, declaring that “I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway” — the last line of which was the title of the memorial held for the singer after his 2019 death.— K.B.

  • Petey Pablo, "Freek-a-Leek"

    Petey Pablo kicks off “Freek-a-Leek” as a radio DJ playing his own single by listener request — a self-fulfilling prophecy, as before long, just about every other hip-hop DJ in America was spinning the Hot 100 top 10 hit too. Impressive when you consider what a, well, freaky song this is: the NC MC not only promising to fulfill all sexual desires (except for that one thing you’ll need a friend to help with, at least until he gets a couple drinks in), but then listing all the ladies he swears to satisfy by name. Then again, no Lil Jon-helmed jam could possibly be too X-rated for the airwaves in 2004, as the producer’s combination of menacing synths and sublime guitar wah-wahs ensured it would be FM catnip even with Pablo reading off the items on his grocery list. — A.U.

  • Scissor Sisters, "Take Your Mama"

    “Take Your Mama” sounded like nothing else released in 2004, and immediately got singer Jake Shears a slew of Elton John comparisons for good reason. He shared John’s penchant for humor and theatricality — and sounded like a vocal doppelganger — but their commonalities also went deeper. Like his predecessor’s prime early ‘70s hits, “Take Your Mama” blended deeply personal songwriting (inspired by the actual story of how Shears came out to his mom) with a piano-driven, stomping pulse, a dancefloor party-starter at the gay clubs Shears was singing about and way beyond. — R.M.

  • Hoobastank, "The Reason"

    Rocking? Check! Yearning? Yep! Earworm? Absolutely! And that’s why we need you to know that Hoobastank’s signature smash should’ve gotten all the way to the Hot 100’s summit — but a No. 2 peak is something we must live with every day. Nevertheless, “The Reason” remains a gift, its chorus perfect for belting with gusto (“I’ve found a reason for meeeeeeeeee! To change who I used to beeeeeeee!”) during drunken karaoke sessions. And it’s an enduring cover favorite, as guitarist Dan Estrin told us last year, as well as a pop culture staple, as its memorable synch in the 2023 hit Netflix series Beef shows.— A.C.

  • Prince, "Musicology"

    Prince never truly stopped recording or releasing music during his highly prolific career — but if anything ever represented a true comeback for him, it wasMusicologyand its title track lead single. His first release under his own name on a major label in a decade — after his highly-publicized feud with Warner Bros, he went by an unpronounceable symbol for years — “Musicology” is a pure, boisterous funk record, as tight a performance as he had put out since the 1990s. It put his stamp back on the mainstream, announcing once more that Prince was one of the best performers, singers and songwriters of his, or any, generation. — D.R.

  • Counting Crows, "Accidentally in Love"

    Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” might have had the most impactful music sync of 2004. A truly perfect song of the summer, “Accidentally” was initially released in May 2004, just weeks before it was featured in the opening scene of blockbuster movie Shrek 2, which went on to gross nearly a billion dollars. From its toe-tapping beat to the irresistible come on, come on chorus, it’s a two-thumbs-up, fun for the whole family hit, whether in the theaters or on the minivan radio. — T.M.

  • Terror Squad, "Lean Back"

    When Scott Storch’s memorable drums and strings hit to introduce “Lean Back,” it’s essentially law in New York City to move your shoulders accordingly. Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s duet ran the summer of 2004 with a club banger that Terror Squad rode from the streets of The Bronx to the top of the Hot 100. Two decades after first hitting the Rockaway, Fat Joe hosted a 20 Years of “Lean Back” concert at the famed Apollo Theater, where the spirit was so transportive it even felt like Joey Crack’s 7 7/8ths fitted Yankee cap half hanging off his head was finally back in style.— M.S.

  • Maroon 5, "She Will Be Loved"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (6)

    Adam Levine’s golden voice absolutely soars on this mid-tempo ballad that’s equal parts catchy and emotional, proving the band’s versatility beyond their boppier smashes. Written by Levine and guitarist James Valentine inless than an hour, “SheWillBe Loved” solidified the group’s place as frontier pop-rock hitmakers with a knack for staying power, and became their second straight Songs About Jane single to reach No. 5 on the Hot 100. — HANNAH DAILEY

  • Gretchen Wilson, "Redneck Woman"

    Gretchen Wilson announced that she was Here for the Party with her debut studio album, and the biggest throwdown on the tracklist was her bold and brash celebration of self, “Redneck Woman.” The rollicking record embraced all things “trashy”: swillingbeer instead of champagne, forgoing Victoria’s Secret for Walmart, recognizing that Christmas lights don’t have to be seasonal. Hilarious as it was, Wilson’s song became a common-ground anthem for many who proudly embraced its love of the lowbrow with a resounding “Hell yeah!”— C.W.

  • The Game feat. 50 Cent, "How We Do"

    Fresh off the success of 50 Cent’s gargantuan Get Rich or Die Tryin’ album, Dr. Dre decided to do something for the home team and signed a young Compton rapper with moderate mixtape success named The Game. The plan was simple: Put The Game in the studio with the guy who just took over the world and get out of the way. It worked like a charm — and there’s perhaps no better example of that than the album’s Dre-produced second single. With one of the best hooks 50’s ever penned and equally sharp guest verses, “How We Do” was so great, Dre said “f–k it” and put The Game on G-Unit. We all know how that turned out, but at least we got The Documentary and this incredible song. — D.S.

  • Bloc Party, "Banquet"

    “And if you feel a little left behind/ We will wait for you on the other side.” Was the “Banquet” bridge a statement of empathy and compassion or of light-years-ahead braggadocio? Both were plausible from Bloc Party in 2004, as the U.K. post-punk revivalists came roaring out of the gate with this breakthrough hit that expressed both the tender lyrical verve of frontman Kele Okereke and the brilliant ferocity of the band’s four-way sonic attack. Other indie bands would have bigger hits in 2004, but none matched sensitivity with swagger quite so strikingly. — A.U.

  • Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo"

    Name a more 2004-coded artist pairing than Usher and Alicia Keys; we’ll wait. “My Boo” saw both Usher and Keys at the zenith of their cultural impact, and once they fused their voices together to create a love song this syrupy and instantly relatable, the public had virtually no choice but to send it to No. 1. The pair’s vocal chemistry sold the world on the song’s friends-to-lovers-to-exes storyline, climaxing in a potent post-chorus that still echoes throughout the crowded halls of timeless romantic duets. — S.D.

  • Evanescence, "My Immortal"

    If you’re going to write a power ballad called “My Immortal,” you better make damn sure you write and perform it strong enough for it to be eternal. Luckily, Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee (with help from co-writer and guitarist Ben Moody) was up to the task, imbuing the Fallen smash with all the real-time melodrama and lingering ghostliness you’d expect from a song of its title. The single version gives the power ballad the full-band kick in it deserves, but there’s also something to be said for the purity of the album version — just Lee, her piano, and some similarly weeping synth strings for sympathy. — A.U.

  • OutKast, "Roses"

    The ultimate diss track for an ex — how can “Roses” not endure 20 years later? Heartbroken but full of swaggy and clever verses,OutKastdoes not hold back singing about those superficial women who are not worth it, personified specifically as “Caroline.” Andre 3000’s smooth, funk-based track was released as the third single off the hip-hop duo’sSpeakerboxxx/The Love Belowalbum, and became the set’s third top 10 hit, peaking at No. 9 on the Hot 100.— J.R.

  • Beastie Boys, "Ch-Check It Out"

    More than 20 years after their debut, the Beastie Boys harnessed their classic sound for a modern-day hit, ushering the legendary trio back to the Hot 100 for the first time this century, and becoming their lone Alternative Airplay chart-topper.Ch-checkoutwhy this one worked: Just like their best catalog cuts,it’s easy to shout along to,itspotlights each member’s distinct cadence,itsprinkles in goofy pop-culture references, andithas a thumping production you can move to.It’s basically a greatest-hits comp for the veteran group rolled into one song. –K.A.

  • Nina Sky feat. Jabba, "Move Ya Body"

    “Move Ya Body” continues to age like fine wine. With almost 200 million streams to its name, mashup placement on Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour and a recent spiritual shoutout from Kehlani’s latest single via its usage of the same coolie riddim, the sister act’s debut single surged into dancehall party culture in 2004, and has seemingly never stopped since. While the song pulsates courtesy of several lifts — including one of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s ’80s freestyle gem “Can You Feel the Beat?” — the duo earned their own 21st century pop classic with “Move.” — J.D.

  • Kanye West feat. Syleena Johnson, "All Falls Down"

    In an interview with Billboard, producer No ID explained how the artist formerly known as Kanye West arrived at the idea for his seminal debut album The College Dropout. “He was like, ‘I figured it out…I’m going to rap about this accident… I’m going conscious with my music.” From there, he said, Ye “let go of the gangsta persona.” The clearest distillation of his new approach was College Dropout’s third single. First premiered a cappella on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, “All Falls Down” sees Ye wrestling with his insatiable need to stunt and floss, while acknowledging just how harmful that mindset can be. It’s the best example of the Roc-A-Fella-meets-Rawkus paragon he built as his rap persona, and it’s a shame it all fell down years later. — D.S.

  • Juvenile feat. Soulja Slim, "Slow Motion"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (7)

    When Soulja Slim starts singing “Slow motion for me” you better make sure to get your ass on that dancefloor. It’s pretty wild that Juvenile was able to do it again after 1999’s “Back That Azz Up”: There aren’t too many rappers that can say they have two songs that will forever make people instinctively dry hump. Unfortunately, Soulja Slim didn’t get a chance to enjoy the smash hit this became, as he was murdered before the song was released. The video ended up being a tribute to him — another rap legend gone too soon. — A.D.

  • Kelly Clarkson, "Breakaway"

    The first season of American Idol made Kelly Clarkson a household name, but – despite having the voice of an angel – she could have faded into obscurity after her debut album, with her 15 minutes of fame fully up. Instead, Clarkson’s sophom*ore set was one of the best pop albums of the last quarter century, and the stunning title track (co-written by Avril Lavigne) was the first of five smash hits from it to prove that she was here to stay. “Breakaway” is both an airy pop-folk song and a top-of-your-lungs singalong anthem, while also being a perfect showcase for Clarkson’s enormous talent. — T.M.

  • Blink-182, "I Miss You"

    Blink-182 may have preceded their demonstrably more mature 2003 self-titled album with the wistful tone and dueling harmonies of lead single “Feeling This,” but follow-up single “IMissYou” was truly the moment that the trio transcended their penis jokes of yore. Proudly emo and deceptively complex in its instrumentation, “IMissYou” places forlorn verses from Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge side-by-side before unveiling a chorus that would be screamed during countless late-night drives away from heartbreak: “Don’t waste! Your time! On me! You’re already! The voice inside my head.” — J. Lipshutz

  • The Strokes, "Reptilia"

    A defining track by a now-iconic New York rock band, “Reptilia” pulses with the gritty and raucous energy that reshaped the landscape of early 2000s indie. With its electrifying blend of garage rock and post-punk, the song’s sonic intensity grips from the first riff to the last chord. From the frenetic guitar and steady drum interplay that kicks things off to Julian Casablancas’ bloody, punishing, yet still swoon-worthy vocals, every member of The Strokes delivers unparalleled conviction and intensity. As the driving rhythm propels forward, “Reptilia” becomes a relentless anthem of urban angst and raw emotion that captures the essence of New York City’s underground music scene, with its unyielding energy and undeniable charisma. — I.R.

  • Rascal Flatts, "Bless the Broken Road"

    Shakespeare may have been first when he wrote “the course of true love never did run smooth,” butRascal Flattssaid it best on this powerful piano ballad, which won the Grammy for best country song and spent five weeks at No 1 on Hot Country Singles & Tracks. Recorded originally in 1994 by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose Jeff Hanna co-wrote the track, the original version went nowhere. Clearly, it needed the gentle, emotional delivery ofRascal Flatts’ lead vocalist Gary LeVox to deliver its message about how all the wrong turns and broken hearts led to exactly the right person, even though there were times when it didn’t look like a happy ending was in the cards. — M.N.

  • M.I.A., "Galang"

    “Galang” was already in circulation in 2003, but a MySpace upload the next year helped extend its reach well before M.I.A.’s debut LP Arular came out in 2005. Every sound the genre-defying artist incorporated into her dancehall-inspired, London street-surviving breakout track was in service of the rhythm, whether it swished, bubbled or bounced, resulting in a funky, beat-driven song that worked as well on catwalks as it did at downtown New York dance parties. Well ahead of its time, “Galang” served as the introduction to M.I.A.’s boundary-pushing cool, which would continue to influence the direction of popular music for years to come. — C.W.

  • Ciara feat. Petey Pablo, "Goodies"

    An 18-year-old Ciara confidently stepped onto the Atlanta crunk scene with her grown-and-sexy debut single “Goodies.” Recorded as a response to Petey Pablo’s earlier-in-2004 hit“Freak-a-Leek” — and good-naturedly inviting Pablo himself to offer a guest verse —the song dangles Ciara’s symbolic “goodies” in any man’s face as part of her playful tease, replete with her come-hither vocals and Lil Jon’s spacey, whistling beat that instantly set off the clubs. The song earned Ciara the “Princess of Crunk&B”title and her first No. 1 on the Hot 100, where it remained for seven consecutive weeks, launching her into the forefront of an urban music landscape that she continued to dominate for years.— H.M.

  • T.I., "Rubber Band Man"

    After his first album bricked, T.I. set out to hone his sound and take control of his career. He started Grand Hustle with his business partner Jason Geter, signed a joint venture with Atlantic Records, and recorded Trap Muzik, to act as a rebirth and reset.Gone were the bubbly Neptunes beats and in its place were more songs with the searing synths of longtime collaborator DJ Toomp. But it wasn’t until he released the David Banner-helmed “Rubber Band Man” that everything changed for the Bankhead legend. As bouncy as it is catchy, the song serves as the perfect encapsulation of just who Clifford Harris was at the time: an extraordinarily exacting rapperwith a drawl that could turn to a bite in a moment’s notice, who also happened to be a seven-time felon. It hit No. 30 on the Hot 100 and set the stage for thesoon-to-beKing of the South’s reign. — D.S.

  • Beyoncé, "Naughty Girl"

    Beyonce made a brilliant choice of interpolating Donna Summer’s 1976 disco hit “Love to Love You Baby,” because that’s exactly how it felt and continues to feel listening to “Naughty Girl.” It’s a seductive single that flexes Bey’s vocal range and (with discreet-enough lyrics) was played non-stop everywhere from radio to nightclubs to middle school dances. As part of her debut solo album, the song – with influences from dancehall, funk, reggae and Arabic music – is a perfect example of the sheer depth Beyoncé would bring to pop music for the next two decades. — T.M.

  • Grupo Climax, ""El Za Za Za (Mesa Que Más Aplauda)"

    Twenty years ago, Mexican-based Grupo Climax (in collaboration with DJ Mailo) dropped its biggest hit to date: “El Za ZaZa (Mesa Que Más Aplauda).” With its repetitive catchy chorus, backed by a fast-paced merengue beat laced with an electronic cumbia sound and a sample of Fulanito’s “El Cepillo,” the track — about seeing which table (or group of friends) is the most hyped at the club — has become a staple for any Latin party. The track is part of Climax’s albumZa ZaZa, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart for five consecutive weeks and nabbed a pair of awards at the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards. — J.R.

  • Hilary Duff, "Come Clean"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (8)

    In her teen queen transition from Disney Channel to MTV, Duff brought on the rain with her first Hot 100 top 40 hit single, pairing elements of pop/rock and soft electronica for the Kara DioGuardi- and John Shanks-penned track. Duff has grown reluctant to embrace her musical contributions to the ’00s, but “Come Clean” remains the pinnacle of her discography, and the nostalgic rush it provides — instantly propelling you back to the beachside reality TV of 20 years ago and soothing your now-grown, still-angsty teen heart — is without peer. — J.D.

  • Gwen Stefani feat. Eve, "Rich Girl"

    Gwen Stefani aspired to be richer and more famous than she already was on “Rich Girl. After being featured on Eve’s 2001 Grammy-winning “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” collaboration, the No Doubt frontwoman enlisted her for the Dr. Dre-produced remake of Louchie Lou & Michie One’s 1993 dancehall favorite “Rich Girl,” which interpolates the classic Fiddler on the Roof showtune “If I Were a Rich Man.” Stefani’s happy-go-lucky attitude about having all the wealth in the world and playful Na-na-na-na-na refrain, paired with the chirpy pop, reggae and hip-hop-blended production, makes the aspirational anthem feel achievable. The Hot 100 No. 7 hit helped Stefani step out into the spotlight outside of her ‘90s ska punk band and enter pop stardom, with her controversial urban and Japanese aesthetics. — H.M.

  • Yellowcard, "Ocean Avenue"

    Like the “Hey Jealousy” of the emo era, “Ocean Avenue” captures the single most intense moment of a young couple’s history — one where the past, present and future crash together in a desperate blur of passion, pain and urgency — over three stunning minutes of jaw-dropping pop-rock perfection. Not a second is wasted in “Ocean Avenue” with the stakes so high, but the most indelible section is unquestionably the bridge, where frontman Ryan Key’s idealized visions of what had been and what could still be are chastened by the reality of what actually was (“I remember the look in your eyes, when I told you that this was goodbye”). But with racing guitar, drums and yes, fiddle urging him on, Key can’t help but leave room for hope: “We’ll be together for one more night, somewhere, somehow.” You really hope he’s right. — A.U.

  • Britney Spears, "Everytime"

    Long before we were aware of the extent of Britney’s personal struggles, we had “Everytime,” a gut-wrenching ballad that came on the heels of her breakup with Justin Timberlake. Unusual in the scheme of her discography, the track boasts just one other songwriter, Annet Artani, while Britney composed the stirring piano melody herself. It provides a rare, pre-Woman in Mewindow into the superstar’s true feelings while also offering a fascinating peek into what she was capable of when given freer rein to express herself. — C.E.

  • Green Day, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

    If “American Idiot” broke open the door to a new era ofGreenDayafter their raw pop-punk ’90s, “Boulevardof Broken Dreams” crystalized them as a band that still spoke for their original audience, just in a newer, more mature (if not any less disaffected) era. But the song’s appeal went even broader, capturing the disillusionment of the post-9/11 Bush years, and 2004 in general, when it seemed like American leaders were throwing its youth away in endless wars without any regard to outside opinion — an idea that was then capped by a No. 2 Hot 100 hit and a Grammy for record of the year. — D.R.

  • Twista feat. Kanye West & Jamie Foxx, "Slow Jamz"

    The sample of Luther’s version of the Bacharach/David composition “A House Is Not A Home” helped popularize the chipmunk soul sound, and put Twista’s rapid-fire delivery on the radar of the casual rap fan. Both were especially important contributions to the genre during a time when hip-hop was becoming the commercial monster it is today. The Hot 100-topping “Slow Jamz” was such a banger, Ye recycled it as his second single on his own The College Dropout debut album, solidifying him as a star both as a rapper and a producer. — A.D.

  • Big & Rich, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"

    We dare you to find someone who was there for this song’s release who can’t still recite every word of the song’s “I’m a thoroughbred, that’s what she said…” spiritual center of a rap verse. Indeed, you didn’t have to be a country fan to hear and enjoy this ubiquitous barnburner from Nashville duo Big & Rich, with thelusty, unapologetically silly, totally undeniable country/rock hybrid spending nine weeks on the Hot 100, rocking the country establishment, and soundtracking many a night out for members of a certain generation. — K.B.

  • Destiny's Child, "Lose My Breath"

    As Beyoncé was already well on her way to being the biggest solo superstar in the known galaxy, she reunited with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams for one more go with original R&B group Destiny’s Child. The trio’s return for final-to-date full-length effort Destiny Fulfilled was properly announced by the marching-band drums of this teasing, demanding lead single, which proved the fully grown Children could still leave the top 40 world breathless when assembled. Best part: the harmonies that creep out on the bridge underneath the final word of Williams’ questioning, “Why you ask for some?/ You ain’t really want noooone.” — A.U.

  • Jay-Z, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"

    Among other things, The Black Album was a snapshot of hip-hop’s best producers circa 2003, and “DirtOff YourShoulder” – the album’s biggest chart smash, reaching No. 5 in April ’04 –was Timbaland’s contribution. Like the best Timbo beats, it somehow still sounds like the future, even 20 years later. But it’s Jay’s braggadocious verses and shout-along hook that elevate it to all-time status, and prompted then-candidate Barack Obama to “brush thedirt” off hisshoulders when responding to campaign attacks from his 2008 primary rival Hillary Clinton. — E.R.B.

  • Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"

    With “Neighborhood#1 (Tunnels),”ArcadeFire achieved the rare feat of crafting a song equally suited for both bedrooms and arenas, marrying the specificity of its seemingly post-apocalyptic lyrics (“Then we tried to name our babies/But we forgot all/ The names we used to know”) to a cinematic momentum that sweeps you away in a bracing crescendo of twinkling piano, skybound guitar, Regine Chassagne’s ghostly backing vocals and, puncturing it all, Win Butler’s urgent wail. Twenty years later, the song retains a timeless power. — C.E.

  • Usher, "Confessions Pt. II"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (9)

    Usher performed a whopping seven tracks from his Diamond-certified Confessions album during his 2024 Super Bowl Halftime headlining performance, but only one of them provided the entire framework for his video announcing the gig. Confessional in a way that was almost predictive of the reigniting reality television industrial complex, the Hot 100-topping mid-tempo ballad effortlessly combines the timeless allure of celebrity, the emotionally revelatory nature of R&B lyricism and Usher’s silky vocals for a ballad that understands the true appeal of drama: using it as a reflection for your own life.(Even though the story of “Confessions” was really that of his longtime writer-producer J.D., not Ush’s own.) — K.D.

  • Ashlee Simpson, "Pieces of Me"

    With pop-rock performers like Avril Lavigne, P!nk and Kelly Clarkson carving out their audiences in the early 2000s,AshleeSimpson could have easily been ignored from the jump. But when you have a debut song as singularly feel-good as “Piecesof Me,” attention is warranted. From the opening lyrics detailing a week’s worth of longing to a belt-along chorus that’s been filling karaoke bars for the last two decades, “Piecesof Me” is the unquestioned anthem for every person skipping down the street while living out a real-life rom-com. If you’re looking to rest your head on something real, you’ll definitely like the way this song feels. — S.D.

  • JoJo, "Leave (Get Out)"

    Joanna Levesque had officially been a teenager for all of two months when her debut single was released, but “Leave(Get Out)” did not sound like an angry missive from a middle schooler: The rhythmic pop cast-off, which alternates between its two titular commands in its chorus, is seething with hurt, asJoJosings about dashed dreams (“Hope you know that when it’s late at night/ I hold on to my pillow tight / And think of how you promised me forever”) and shocking betrayal (“How could you ever be so cold?”). Even if the pain scans as melodramatic coming from a 13-year-old, “Leave(Get Out)” remains a sleekly effective banger, balling up its emotions during its verses and throwing them in your face across the hook.— J. Lipshutz

  • OutKast feat. Sleepy Brown, "The Way You Move"

    You can’t help but start smiling and gliding across the floor whenever you hear the opening notes — or watch the video — of this fun and soulful paean to women. Another testament to OutKast’s skillful genre-melding, “Move” mesmerizes with its vibrant blend of southern hip-hop, bass music and R&B/soul plus live horns. After factoring in Big Boi’s suave flow and Sleepy Brown’s sexy crooning, it’s no surprise the track reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 as the second “lead” single — after André 3000’s own chart-topping “Hey Ya!” — from OutKast’s bifurcated album of the year Grammy-winning double LPSpeakerboxxx/The Love Below.G.M.

  • Alicia Keys, "If I Ain't Got You"

    Thisinstant-classic love song boils true romance down to one simple phrase: “Everything means nothingifIain’t got you.” We’ve heard a lot of songs that prioritize love over fame and fortune, whichis what makesit so remarkable thatAliciaKeys was able to craft a hit that feels so timeless and lived-in that was also a perfect hit for modern pop and R&B. Creditis due to her signature piano playing and yearning vocal for selling just how much she can’t live without her love. –K.A.

  • Maroon 5, "This Love"

    Maroon 5 became America’s No. 1 purveyor of highly accessible, markedly inoffensive top 40 pop-rock so quickly (and for so long) that it can be a little jarring to go back and remember what a nasty edge — relatively speaking, of course — the group’s first-ever Hot 100 top five hit had. “This Love” is pissed off, funky and almost dangerously horny, with frontman Adam Levine lending perhaps his most impassioned vocal to its story of a toxic relationship that still leaves his mind electrified, but his heart (and the rest of his body) bruised and broken. It didn’t really sound like anything else on the radio at the time, though it spawned enough imitators that it would basically be the last time that was true for the band. — A.U.

  • Beyoncé, "Dangerously in Love 2"

    How many songs have the honor of being both one of the best ballads of the 2000s and the opener for the highest-grossing female tour in Billboard Boxscore history? Just one: Whether it’s the riff-tastic Beyoncé Experience version, the OG Destiny’s Child rendition or the soulfully nostalgic Renaissance World Tour edition, “Dangerously in Love” reigns as not just a quintessential Queen Bey song, but one of the most seminal songs from the early ’00s. The title track to the icon’s classic debut solo album presents the ethos of her catalog: fearlessly baptizing yourself in the rocky, but ultimately rewarding, waves of love in its deepest manifestations. Between the evocative fingerpicked guitar and Beyoncé’s impassioned vocal performance, only “Dangerously” can make love simultaneously sound like the most terrifying and sacred thing in the world.— K.D.

  • The Killers, "Somebody Told Me"

    As statements of grand ambition go, it doesn’t get much bigger than the first two singles from the Vegas rockers’ debut studio album Hot Fuss. Before the runaway train that was “Mr. Brightside,” this wall-of-sound blast of guitars and synths got the band off and running, with a chorus driven by one of the more excellent scroll-down one-liners(“Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year”). But it’s Brandon Flowers’ strutting vocal deliverythat sells the song — and the idea of The Killers as arena rock’s heirs apparent. — R.M.

  • Ye, "Jesus Walks"

    Ye rammed his head against the 3XL jerseys and street hustler raps dominating hip-hop in the mid-’00s, while shouting to the masses that his pink polo and chopped-up soul samples were about to give the genre a cultural reset. Still, he had his doubts about whether debut LP The College Dropout‘s Christianity-themed third single could cross over: “If I talk about God, my record won’t get played,” Kanye West testified near the end of “Jesus Walks.” But with the relatability of the song’s inner spiritual conflict and the rousing production and performance through which he delivered his message, the song became perhaps the album’s most acclaimed, and Ye ultimately proved himself wrong with the Hot 100 No. 11 hit. Even those who have understandably hopped off the West bandwagon in recent years can’t deny the breath of fresh air he delivered to millions of lungs with The College Dropout and “Jesus Walks.”— M.S.

  • Modest Mouse, "Float On"

    If you’d been following along since Modest Mouse’s first album in 1996, you were either shocked that this once lo-fi, weirdo, somewhat depressive alt-rock band was suddenly getting regular radio play, or you knew that it was only a matter of time before Issac Brock’s evocative songwritingconnected in a big waywith the masses — he just had to put a positive spin on things. On any other Modest Mouse song, if Brock had backed his car into a cop car, he would’ve been on the hood in seconds — but this time, “Well, he just drove off, sometimes life’s OK.” Whether losing a job or getting scammed, Brock shrugs it off, dreamily repeating, “We’ll all float on, OK,” on the chorus. It served as an unexpected bright spot on the airwaves,at a time when radio was also filled with news about George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Of course, the song was never intended to bring peace in the Middle East — but it did cut through the noise, offering a momentary escape at a time when it felt like the walls were closing in. — C.W.

  • Ciara feat. Missy Elliott, "1, 2 Step"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (10)

    “Ladies and gentleman, this is a Jazze Phizzle productshizzle,” announces producer Jazze Pha at the outset of “1, 2 Step” – but you could be forgiven for not remembering that, consideringCiarasteals the spotlight the moment she hits the mic. Even at 19, her voice was steeped in a soulful purity and unshakable self-confidence. Hell, even withMissyElliott – one of the greatest rappers of all time — delivering a killer guest verse with characteristic panache,Ciarais the “Step” master. With “Goodies” going No. 1 for seven weeks and this one hitting No. 2, the song was almost prophetic in its title – and certainly proved thatCiarawas in this for the long haul.— J. Lynch

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (11)

    By the time Yeah YeahYeahs’ debut albumFever to Telldropped in 2003, frontwoman Karen O had already become well-known for her unhinged, beer-spitting stage presence. So it was unexpected when “Maps,” the album’s heart-wrenching third single and emotional centerpiece, became the band’s breakthrough hit the following year. And yet the song’s success also made perfect sense, tapping into a universal vein of romantic desperation with that simple chorus, delivered by Karen O in a way that makes you feel like you’re witnessing the anguished last gasp of a relationship in real-time (“Wait/They don’t love you like I love you”). Yeah YeahYeahshave continued to put out compelling work since, but “Maps” remains the band’s enduring statement for distilling romantic agony into its most primal form. — C.E.

  • Daddy Yankee, "Gasolina"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (12)

    A simple-yet-memorable phrase — translated as “She likesgasolina, give her more gasoline” — single-handedly changed the future of reggaetón music two decades ago. Inspired by the housing project where he lived in Puerto Rico, where he observed the prettiest girls in the barrio accept rides from the guys with the flashiest cars, Daddy Yankee unleashed “Gasolina.” With a hard-hitting beat helmed by Luny Tunes and Eddie Dee, and rapid-fire verses from Yankee, “Gasolina” not only helped bring reggaetón music to the global stage in 2004, but it also altered the business and sound of Latin music for years to come. “Gasolina” marked the first single off of Yankee’sBarrio Fino, which debuted at No. 1 onBillboard’sTop Latin Albums chart and became the first reggaetón album to hit that spot. In 2023, the song also became the first reggaetón recording to be inducted into the National Recording Registry.— J.R.

  • Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (13)

    Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos has suggested that both Giorgio Moroder and Howlin’ Wolf influenced the band’s culture-shifting single “Take Me Out.” And given the song’s relentless beat and yearning lyrics, the connection isn’t as far-fetched as it seems on its face. Plenty of songs in the early ’00s rock revival went hard – but few, if any, also grooved like “Take Me Out,” among the best guitars-on-the-dancefloor tracks ever. As great DJs do, just when the track seems to be dying down, Franz Ferdinand brings the chorus back – a final, 40-second victory lap for a new band already at the top of its game. — E.R.B.

  • Green Day, "American Idiot"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (14)

    This propulsive, thrashing title track to Green Day’s 2004 punk-rock opera, which looked at a country fueled by misinformation and mired in its own post-9/11 ignorance and disillusionment, never takes its foot off the gas for its full three minutes. American Idiot revived the pop-punk trio, who were coming off 2000’s disappointingWarning,by hanging around the Billboard 200’s top 10 for a full year, and later being turned into a hit Broadway musical. “Idiot” went on to become one of the most significant songs in Green Day’s canon — opening up a whole new chapter for the group with its spiky, unrelenting beat and pointed, cynical lyrics, which are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago, if not sadly more so. — M.N.

  • Jay-Z, "99 Problems"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (15)

    By 2004, Jay-Z had conquered it all: a handful of No. 1 albums, sold out tours around the world, the acclaim of the rap game and Beyoncé by his side. But if anything, “99 Problems” proved he still had limits to push. His first-ever musical collaboration with Rick Rubin — the Def Jam co-founder whose label he would subsequently retire from rapping to run — the song is the first pure rock-heavy song of Jay’s career, foreshadowing his rock-rap collab with Linkin Park later that year. But more than its sonic impact, the “99 Problems” lyrics would become embedded in the public consciousness, from its bombastic, Ice T-borrowed hook to its brash, indignant verses, each taking on a different target: the first, his haters and critics in the rap game; the second, a BS police traffic stop that illustrated the Black experience with law enforcement that still characterizes the country; the third, celebrity itself and its consequences. It’s a triumph, and 20 years later it feels as fresh (and hits as hard) as the day it came out. — D.R.

  • Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell, "Drop It Like It's Hot"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (16)

    A half decade into The Neptunes’ reign as hip-hop and pop’s go-to beatsmiths — and a full decade into Snoop presiding over West Coast hip-hop as the Doggfather — you might not have thought either artist or producers had any new tricks up their sleeves. But within 30 jaw-dropping seconds of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” it was clear no one involved had ever done anything like it before: The beat hissed like a live wire and popped like a firecracker, while Snoop sounded simultaneously seductive and menacing on the hook, threatening violence but promising the best weed and champagne. And if you needed any further proof we were in unprecedented territory, Pharrell even emerged from behind the decks for a surprisingly good guest verse, including the most unforgettably filthy couplet you’d hear (most of) on the radio in ’04: “Eligible bachelor, million dollar boat/ That’s whiter than what’s spillin’ down your throat.” — A.U.

  • Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris, "Yeah!"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (17)

    Who knew such a simple word could hold so much power in popular music? Released as the lead single from Usher’s magnus opus Confessions, “Yeah!” is an uproarious club anthem centered around Lil Jon’s titular chant, backed by a recurring ring of synths and a booming bass pattern that sounds like a turnt alarm clock, that’ll usher (pun intended) anyone onto the dancefloor. But Ush, whose seductive R&B vocals give the crunk smash a smoother edge, is still caught up by who he brought back with him to the bedroom (“Her and my girl used to be the best of homies,” he reveals in the chorus). Meanwhile, Ludacris brags about getting women in their birthday suits and how his flow, Lil Jon’s beat and Usher’s voice all can “make ya booty go” *clap.*

    “Yeah!” unsurprisingly racked up the accomplishments and accolades, spending 12 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 (and ending up the Year-End Hot 100’s No. 1 single for 2004), while also winning the 2005 Grammy Award for best rap/sung collaboration and getting nominated for record of the year. And it’s still doing it: “Yeah!” also earned 13-times platinum status in the U.S. just two days before Usher, Ludacris and Lil Jon performed it as the climax to the former’s Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show last February – proving it can still make booties go *clap* on the world’s biggest stages, even 20 years after its release. — H.M.

  • Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (18)

    In the moment, “Since U Been Gone” accomplished a lot.KellyClarkson, then known best as the winner of American Idol’s first season, had scored hits before, but nothing with the brash personality and guitar-rock teeth of the second single to her Breakaway album, and she strode away from adult-pop singles like “A Moment Like This” towards true pop stardom. Meanwhile, Max Martin used “Since U Been Gone” to catapult out of the turn-of-the-century teenybopper era and into a lucrative new production phase — while also launching the career of studio collaborator Lukas “Dr. Luke” Gottwald.

    Professional successes aside, though, “Since U Been Gone” endures two decades later as a flamethrower of a pop-rock song, setting fire to everything in its path with pristine production, enthralling soft-loud dynamics and a dynamite vocal throwdown by a breakup-healed Clarkson. There are moments in which Clarkson harmonizes with herself, and her higher octave makes it sound like she’s levitating — that’s how “Since U Been Gone” co-exists with lesser hits, identifying the standards of modern top 40 and floating above them.— J. Lipshutz

  • Britney Spears, "Toxic"

    The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (19)

    The addictive love that Britney Spears describes in “Toxic” could easily translate to the habit-forming song itself. “There’s no escape, I can’t wait/ I need a hit, baby, give me it”: To hear “Toxic” once is to need to hear it again — immediately.

    Is it the high-pitched strings from Bloodshy & Avant? Or the venomous lyrics from the Swedish production duo alongside Cathy Dennis and Henrik Jonback? Or maybe the cheeky superspy-spoofingmusic video? (It’s impossible to hear this song without immediately picturing Spears in a futuristic blue flight-attendant uniform.)

    Whatever it is, theIn the Zoneearworm infected everyone within its reach, as it toppedBillboard’s Pop Airplay and Dance Club Songs charts (as well as our staff’s ownBest Britney Spears Songslist). It earned Spears her first, and so far only, Grammy (for best dance recording). And even Jay-Z chose it as his favorite Britney song in a random 2013 Twitter Q&A (“jamming my G”). The song’s most enduring legacy, though, might be its whiplash-inducing range of covers, from Local H’srocker, to The Chapin Sisters’folk version, to Mark Ronson’s ODB-featuringhip-hop spin, to, naturally, a cappella takes from both thePitch Perfectfranchise andGlee(twice).

    What all the above endorsem*nts add up to is that “Toxic” has seemingly become Spears’ most universally beloved song, using her already-established superpowers (the unmistakable breathy vocals, her magnetic onscreen presence and flawless choreography) and adding an electronic pop sound that put a legend who could have been forever linked to the ’90s instead at the forefront of top 40’s new frontier. The results were anything buttoxic, but they were still definitely lethal. –K.A.

The 100 Greatest Songs of 2004: Staff Picks (2024)
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