The best rock songs of the decade came in many forms. Some had colossal riffs, some were epic ballads, while others were just guilty pleasures we couldn’t get out of our heads. But whether it was a band that got their start in the early ’80s or it was a younger band that finally found fame in 2009, the Top 20 Rock Songs of the ’00s had room for artists of all shapes and sizes.
Metallica’s contribution to 2000’s Mission: Impossible II soundtrack was during the lauded metal band’s transition to a more streamlined rock approach. By the end of the decade, James Hetfield and the rest of the guys would return to their head-banging ways with the gargantuan Death Magnetic, but “I Disappear” stands as a reminder that when they wanted to set their sights on radio hits, they could do it quite well.
19. U2 – “Vertigo”
As U2 entered their third decade, they were more of a graceful, melodic band than a straight-up rock group. They changed that impression a bit with “Vertigo,” one of their most energetic up-tempo numbers. As always with this quartet, the secret weapon is the Edge’s brilliant guitar work, which ranges from the lethal opening riff to the shimmering, fluid solo.
No song on this list will probably cause as much disagreement as “How You Remind Me.” This Nickelback smash was everywhere in the fall of 2001, and, yes, its success merely paved the way for this mediocre band’s path to superstardom. But as an example of mainstream songwriting chops and flawlessly slick production, “How You Remind Me” is absolutely undeniable. A guilty pleasure, to be sure, but one that has its share of fans.
This Deftones song sounds menacing enough, but what’s even creepier are the lyrics. Frontman Chino Moreno sings in a whisper as he watches his significant other change into a fly. This could all be a metaphor, of course, but how he responds to her metamorphosis is disturbing enough no matter how literal you want to interpret the lyrics.
As the ‘00s came to a close, a lot of rap-rock songs from earlier in the decade felt awfully dated. But a notable exception was Linkin Park’s “In the End,” which balanced Mike Shinoda’s rapped verses with Chester Bennington’s sung choruses. Coming on their breakthrough debut, Hybrid Theory, “In the End” cemented this band’s status as a commercial force, dominating just about every radio format it came across.
The feisty all-female trio Sleater-Kinney’s best song takes good-natured pot shots at the male-dominated rock genre. With a lively, swinging beat backing her up, singer Corin Tucker is both coy and confrontational, accusing her competition of lacking the danger and sex appeal that once made rock ‘n’ roll great. It should go without saying that “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun” is a lot of fun – and a nice rebuke to a lot of the sexism going on in rock.
You take the lead singer of Soundgarden and put him with the musicians from Rage Against the Machine, and what do you get? A band that sounds like Chris Cornell fronting RATM, of course. Audioslave were a hit-or-miss hybrid, but “Cochise” was definitely a hit. Tom Morello’s booming guitar and Cornell’s stunning voice worked in perfect union here, and as a result the song is pure adrenaline.
Dave Grohl may supposedly have been displeased with his band’s 2002 album, One by One, but this single off it proved memorable. Starting with a tense, scratchy riff, “All My Life” is all coiled tension until the guitars are finally unleashed. As for the lyrics, they’re some of the most pessimistic of the Foo Fighters’ career – Grohl seems to be searching for something lasting, but everything lets him down. “I’m done/Done/And I’m on to the next one,” he screams near the song’s end, suggesting that he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.
Kurt Cobain may have taken his life in 1994, but that didn’t stop one of that decade’s biggest bands from having a huge hit this decade. “You Know You’re Right” was recorded a few months before his death, and the song contains all of Nirvana’s hallmarks – slow verse, loud chorus, powerful melody. When it made its debut on the band’s greatest-hits album in 2002, it was just another sad reminder of what a talented songwriter he was.