Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
In the year of <i>Kid A</i> and <i>Stankonia</i>, some great music still went unheard

In the year of Kid A and Stankonia, some great music still went unheard

The Year: 2000

Billboard Hot 100’s Top 20 Songs Of 2000

1. Faith Hill, “Breathe”
2. Santana featuring Rob Thomas, “Smooth”
3. Santana featuring The Product G&B, “Maria Maria”
4. Joe, “I Wanna Know”
5. Vertical Horizon, “Everything You Want”
6. Destiny’s Child, “Say My Name”
7. Savage Garden, “I Knew I Loved You”
8. Lonestar, “Amazed”
9. Matchbox Twenty, “Bent”
10. Toni Braxton, “He Wasn’t Man Enough”
11. Creed, “Higher”
12. Aaliyah, “Try Again”
13. Destiny’s Child, “Jumpin’, Jumpin’”
14. Sisqó, “Thong Song”
15. 3 Doors Down, “Kryptonite”
16. Pink, “There You Go”
17. Madonna, “Music”
18. Janet Jackson, “Doesn’t Really Matter”
19. Christina Aguilera, “What A Girl Wants”
20. Brian McKnight, “Back At One”

The dam sprung a leak the year before, but nobody paid much mind to the water gathering at their ankles until 2000. That was the year Napstermania really took hold, a state of mind that manifested as both rapturous downloading zeal and righteous litigious fury. “Your hard drive” was the album of the year. Overnight, anybody with a CD burner (or, what luxury, an MP3 player) became the coolest record dealer and DJ in town. Computers with broadband internet access were declared public enemy number one by the major labels.

For music as a business, 2000 was last call at the open bar. According to the Recording Association of America—a professional organization that was about to face its biggest moment of public awareness since the introduction of the Parental Advisory Label—the year’s revenues from music sales totaled $14.3 billion. Zoom in on the compact disc’s contribution to that income, and you’ll find that Y2K marked the CD’s peak as the industry’s most lucrative format. Of course, one of the factors driving those figures was also one of the keys to Napster’s appeal: Over the preceding decade, consumers had grown begrudgingly accustomed to purchasing whole albums just to hear the one or two songs they heard in their cars or saw on TV, an intentional effort on the labels’ part that kept coffers and used-CD bins overflowing. Along came the peer-to-peer services asking, “Why buy the cow when you can get ‘Cryin’’ for free?” and, well, the RIAA website allows you to trace what happened next.

But the fascinating thing about this point in pop music history is that, artistically, there were a ton of reasons to buy CDs by the ton in 2000. Not that you’ll see it reflected in the top slots of the year-end Hot 100, populated by inescapable Faith Hill and Carlos Santana cuts that spanned charts and calendars. The year’s biggest albums tell another story: one that still has a role for Santana’s Grammy-hoarding comeback, but also spotlights long-playing documents of creative evolution like Oops!… I Did It Again, The Marshall Mathers LP, and No Strings Attached. The last of those releases shattered first-week sales records in March of 2000, though you didn’t have to be a Florida boy band severing ties with your management in extremely public fashion for your latest album to make an auspicious debut. You’d be hard-pressed to find something as adventurous, challenging, and ultimately influential flying off the shelves the way Kid A did on October 2, 2000—until a few weeks later, when Stankonia was doing the same. Everything in its right place, indeed.

Napster and its cohort were making it easier than ever to cultivate eclectic and informed musical tastes, but as critic Sasha Geffen points out, a lot of that groundwork was laid not online but over the air. Just take a look at the survey of the year’s Billboard hits that preceded this article, where pop-punk goofballs, weirdo R&B, and precision-tooled bubblegum written and produced by Swedish hired guns sounded right at home with pop royalty that was both on the ascent and keeping its ear to the underground. (There was also a song about thongs!) Blink-182 clowned on ’N Sync and Britney Spears in the “All The Small Things” video, but when they’re all showing up in the same Total Request Live countdowns, who was to say that one artist was better, or cooler, or more talented than the other?

Such a monumental year throws a wrench into the way this feature is supposed to function: The tracks that climbed to the top of the charts in 2000 are just as worthy of celebration as the ones that barely scraped the bottom. Perhaps that’s why this edition of Off The Charts is so largely defined by the authors’ personal tastes in guitar music—though you could also chalk that up to a rock mainstream that had found some interesting strains of nü-metal but was also skulking through the wreckage of Woodstock ’99. Our selections encompass a handful of next big things, reinventions and reclamations from seasoned veterans, enduring cult favorites, and one top 40 act inviting Spanish-speaking listeners to come on over. And odds are we first came across most of these tracks on a burned CD-R—though we swear we eventually bought the deluxe vinyl reissue.

Songs: Ohia, “Lioness” (January 17)

Any Jason Molina song is best appreciated lying on your back on a hardwood floor with the lights off, but if you’re not careful, “Lioness” will rip your guts out like the huntress of the title. Against a death march of shuffling cymbal and raw acoustic guitar, Molina finds himself caught in the tractor beam of a magnetic, cruel woman, inspiring this masochistic plea: “Want my heart to break, if it must break, in your jaws / Want you to lick my blood off your paws.” Dark and somnambulant, the song equates lust and longing with self-destruction—reflecting not only Molina’s eventual, sad demise, but also the miserable sexuality of Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat and David Gow, both of whom guest on the album. [Katie Rife]

Appleseed Cast, “Fishing The Sky” (February 9)

Mare Vitalis is the post-hardcore scene’s enduring ode to the sea, and “Fishing The Sky” is the song that sweeps you into the deep. Yeah, “Forever Longing The Golden Sunsets” has the better chorus, but The Appleseed Cast’s starry-eyed vision of melodic rock is never so inspiring as it is during those opening waves of guitar. “The falling skyline is washed away,” Christopher Crisci shouts during the song’s brief vocal break, conjuring the image of a sky as glimpsed from beneath the water’s surface. Like the red heart that bobs on the LP’s cover, “Fishing The Sky” embraces both the romance and the grandeur of being adrift, the world’s natural wonders consuming all. [Randall Colburn]

Dashboard Confessional, “Again I Go Unnoticed” (March 1)

Before Chris Carrabba became emo’s resident heartthrob and the subject of stupid arguments about “authenticity,” he was just an awkward Floridian playing acoustic weepers before Snapcase shows. But, hushed as many of The Swiss Army Romance’s songs are, a whiff of South Florida’s hardcore scene can be heard in “Again I Go Unnoticed,” a storm of self-pity that rages on string-snapping acoustic strums across two and a half minutes. Its lyrics about a partner’s waning passion are as on the nose as it gets, but Carrabba nails the near-pathetic desperation of blinding oneself to inevitability. “I’ll wait until tomorrow,” he sings. “Maybe you’ll feel better then, maybe we’ll be better then.” Spoiler: We won’t, but at least we’ll have songs like this. [Randall Colburn]

Alkaline Trio, “Radio” (March 14)

Alkaline Trio’s devilishly snotty “Radio” gives you a permission that few breakup songs do: to wish the person who ruined you would just fucking die already. Forget the hurt, the longing, the stride toward self-betterment—Matt Skiba would like nothing more than for you to take his radio into the bath, plugged in and ready to fall. Skiba’s red-hot yowl cuts like a razor blade, while his melodramatic talk of “red eyes on orange horizons” and sailing off the edge of the Earth (you know, “if Columbus was wrong”) gives the song a comic hyperbole that speaks to the high-stakes drama of youthful romance. Still, for all its gleeful immaturity, there’s perhaps no more satisfying chorus to bellow while alone in your car. We’ve all had “a big, fat fucking bone to pick” at one point or another. [Randall Colburn]

Broadcast, “Come On Let’s Go” (March 20)

In a year that had for so long been a shorthand for the future, Broadcast forged an alternate vision of the past, one where BBC science-fiction scores and mass-market paperback cover designs were among pop music’s biggest influences. These qualities would get their own shorthand a few years later; until then, there was Broadcast’s debut LP, The Noise Made By People, and its second single, “Come On Let’s Go.” It’s an invitation to retreat from the madding crowd and into the world the Birmingham act had built across a series of acclaimed singles and the two-years-long Noise Made By People sessions, a place where mellow baroque-pop horns and chittering Motown guitars are patched into an analog synth swirl. “It’s hard to tell who is real in here,” Trish Keenan sings, and it’s both the emotional core of the song and a description of Broadcast’s essential mystique. It’s music for a false memory, the theme to the greatest spy thriller never made—even though you distinctly recall hearing that placid voice wafting over psychedelic projections on bare torsos. (Well, “The Book Lovers” was in the first Austin Powers movie.) [Erik Adams]

Death Cab For Cutie, “Photobooth” (March 21)

You could (and should) listen to Death Cab For Cutie’s We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes, an artistic breakthrough of snaking guitars, major-league atmosphere on an indie-label budget, bad habits, spinning wheels, and inopportune feelings. Or you could (and should) get all of that—minus some of the six-string complexity, plus additional earworm potential—on “Photobooth,” the first track from the EP Death Cab released a scant seven months after We Have The Facts. Coming into his own as a lyricist who works best in recollection and memento, Ben Gibbard stacks the Forbidden Love opener with the debris of a fling that dared not speak its name: meaningful (yet secret) snapshots and party garbage juxtaposed like the song’s rinky-dink Casio intro and the lush Chris Walla production that blooms out of it. The picture that emerges from the evidence is one that’s about a fleeting romance, yes, but much more so about recognizing when it’s time to stop measuring life by hookups and fluid ounces. [Erik Adams]

The Hives, “Hate To Say I Told You So” (April 10)

An unwashed, Converse-and-Camels look came to define the garage-rock revival of the early-’00s—ironic, considering the stage wardrobes of the bands who were already putting out records while The Strokes were still gigging at Mercury Lounge. Looking like they ought to be trading blows in a Dutch tilt with Adam West and Burt Ward, The Hives took a “Biff! Pow! Sock!” approach to proto-punk on Veni Vidi Vicious—though it’d take two years and a reissue for “Hate To Say I Told You So”’s punches to land. Technically, the 11 weeks it spent in the lower quadrant of the Hot 100 in 2002 should disqualify it from Off The Charts consideration. But who are we to punish the song’s hook—where Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist earns his stage name over “My Sharona” drums—for calling its shot? More than the sharp suits or the spotless shoes, oversized confidence is the most important part of The Hives’ costume, which comes through loud and clear as the Swedish five-piece smashes through the fine line between stupid and clever in the songs’ fevered final 40 seconds. [Erik Adams]

Clinic, “The Return Of Evil Bill” (May 1)

Clinic burst onto the indie-rock scene in the twilight of the Britpop era, jittery and fuzzy as if they’d climbed out of the static noise of a scrambled Blur video. The group’s debut, Internal Wrangler, encompasses a number of retro musical styles, all performed with a sweaty exuberance on beat-up instruments to give them that signature Clinic sound. Beyond a general sense of mischief, however, “The Return Of Evil Bill” is a difficult song to classify. Is it pop? Is it rock? Is it an arcane ritual designed to summon the spirit of Spring-Heeled Jack’s cousin, Evil Bill? It’s distinctive, whatever it is, and a twitchy, demented good time. [Katie Rife]

Aimee Mann, “Red Vines” (May 2)

Bachelor No. 2 is full of musical portraits of disappointing men, but it’s the world that’s letting down the subject of “Red Vines.” Film director Paul Thomas Anderson, who used six songs that would later end up on Bachelor No. 2 in his 1999 film Magnolia, has confirmed this interpretation of Mann’s lyrics; according to Anderson, the song is about him, and Mann is the friend “on the sidelines / With my hands tied” worrying that mainstream recognition would be as fleeting for him as it had been for her. Even the catchy ascending chorus has a cynical edge to it, considering that her label was pressuring Mann to come up with something more commercial after the failure of her second solo album, I’m With Stupid. That pressure led Mann to break up with Interscope Records and release Bachelor No. 2 on her own label, Superego. How ironic, then, that the album ended up revitalizing her career—even without what a music executive might deem “radio-ready hits.” [Katie Rife]

Sleater-Kinney, “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun” (May 2)

Building on the ode to a roadie “Ballad Of A Ladyman,” “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun” is Sleater-Kinney’s version of Pavement’s “Range Life,” a snapshot of the male musicians the trio encountered on the road who’d pay them lip service with “whiskey drinks and chocolate bars,” but are too self-important to “hang out with the girl band.” Not that the “girls” give a shit—they’ve got hooks that are better than anything these navel-gazing pricks could ever come up with, and they know it. Fighting condescension with condescension, it’s an infectious nugget of impeccable pop songcraft that delivers sugar-sweet harmonies with a punk sneer. [Katie Rife]

Deltron 3030, “3030” (May 23)

It was a good year for concept albums and alter egos in hip-hop. Madlib pitched his voice up over jazz loops and kitchen-sink samples for the first Quasimoto album, The Unseen; before introducing the world to Gorillaz via “Clint Eastwood,” Del The Funky Homosapien and Dan The Automator teamed with DJ Kid Koala to create the 31st-century epic Deltron 3030. The album’s seven-and-a-half-minute opener, “3030,” introduces a world of battle rap and battle mechs in dizzying verses where Del cherrypicks dystopia’s greatest hits—Gibson, Bradbury, Akira, Ghost In The Shell—in the same way his Deltron Zero persona raids the post-apocalyptic landscape for musical artifacts. It’s a lot, but it’s utterly enveloping, a sense helped along by an orchestral swell lifted from French composer William Sheller. [Erik Adams]

Bright Eyes, “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh” (May 29)

“I know not who I am!” Conor Oberst sings with a vessel-popping yelp on the final chorus of “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh.” Bright Eyes made its name on emotional outbursts, but it was its songwriting chops that established Oberst’s foothold among the third wave of artists to shrug off the “emo” label: the literal and the metaphorical details of “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh,” as vivid as any of the heartbreak and self-loathing the song articulates on the way to its ironically bounding bridge. Producer and bandmate Mike Mogis captures the doomed lovers’ frozen breaths in curlicues of pedal steel and vibraphone, essential elements in the strain of Americana that became Saddle Creek Records’ calling card. (Jenny Lewis tells of sharing Fevers And Mirrors with the rest of Rilo Kiley, and you can hear this song’s influence all over the records they’d make with Mogis.) The Oberst of “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh” might not have known who he was, but the same was true for most people outside of Omaha. But that was bound to change, thanks to everyone who saw themselves reflected in Fevers And Mirrors. [Erik Adams]

Queens Of The Stone Age, “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer” (June 6)

There’s no mistaking what Queens Of The Stone Age are getting at with “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer”—it’s a song about getting as fucked up as possible, on as many drugs as your body can handle, all at the same time. The serendipitous addition of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford on backing vocals further cements the song’s party-hearty credentials, but even if altered states aren’t your thing, the energizing, propulsive tempo of this heavy metal-tinged rock ’n’ roller should put lighting in your veins all on its own. [Katie Rife]

Modest Mouse, “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes” (June 13)

Modest Mouse didn’t truly break through (or sell out, depending on how committed you are to ’90s-style DIY ethics) until 2004 and “Float On.” But the Pacific Northwest indie kings releasing an album on a major label was enough to make some fans throw their trucker caps down in disgust. But it was their loss, because while Modest Mouse’s sound did get more polished on its third studio album, The Moon & Antarctica, it got weirder—both musically and lyrically—as well. “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes” perfectly encapsulates this shift, pairing Vonnegut-esque lyrics about a nicotine-stained road trip with a rubberized bass line, bewildered electronic flourishes, and, of course, Isaac Brock screaming at the top of his lungs. [Katie Rife]

Dillinger Four, “Let Them Eat Thomas Paine” (June 20)

Few punk bands can balance humor, politics, melody, and incredibly loud guitars like Dillinger Four, the raucous Minneapolis rockers that dropped four fiercely beloved albums between 1998 and 2008. Versus God is arguably their best LP, and “Let Them Eat Thomas Paine” a contender for their best song. The riffs roar, the gang vocals soar, and the title taunts with a smirking sense of subversion. And then there’s the lyrics: “We act like we didn’t know / Then kids shoot kids or community defies its role / Then of course it’s everyone’s fault / Except for anyone we might know.” That nearly every 20-year-old Dillinger Four song sounds like it was written yesterday speaks not only to their prescience, but also to the irreparably broken system they relentlessly railed against. [Randall Colburn]

The White Stripes, “Apple Blossom” (June 20)

In 2000, stadium-rock stardom was still a few years off for The White Stripes, who opened for Sleater-Kinney on the All Hands On The Bad One tour that year. And Jack White wasn’t stacking the amps quite as high on the group’s second album, De Stijl, as he would on future hits like “Seven Nation Army.” But his fondness for blending blues guitar and Beatles-esque melodies is already fully formed on the sweetly romantic “Apple Blossom.” Drummer Meg White’s brilliantly stripped-down (and underrated) drumming sets the tone for this nostalgic number, where White offers with a childlike innocence to “put your troubles in a little pile, and I will sort them out for you.” [Katie Rife]

The Weakerthans, “Aside” (July 25)

Left And Leaving is an album about the liminal space between here and there, that place where one’s identity and relationship to place becomes fluid. “And I’m leaning on this broken fence between past and present tense,” John K. Samson belts on “Aside,” a power-pop anthem that doubles as Left And Leaving’s thesis statement. It’s not the LP’s best song—we’ll let you argue about that—but its big chorus and electrifying power chords make it the most accessible, not to mention a natural bridge between Samson’s early work in Propagandhi and his more melodic songwriting. [Randall Colburn]

Goldfrapp, “Human” (September 11)

Goldfrapp’s impeccably cinematic debut album, Felt Mountain, has a stylishly aloof quality that would make even Andy Warhol jealous. But while being unattainably hip may open doors, it doesn’t sell records. The British duo rebranded with a more danceable sound on its sophomore record, Black Cherry, but it’d be a mistake to count out “Human,” off of that first, less commercially successful record. Sure, it brings to mind a tango and not a crowded club, combining mysterious strings that fall like icicles with a shimmying beat and futuristic electro flourishes. But as the soundtrack to an imaginary Blade Runner spin-off where Rachel runs off from the Tyrell Corporation to open an android nightclub—or perhaps a sci-fi Bond sequel set in the year 2167—it’s dance-floor perfection. [Katie Rife]

At The Drive-In, “One Armed Scissor” (September 12)

Of course the Trojan horse is on the cover of Relationship Of Command. Recorded with nü-metal architect Ross Robinson, preceded by a touring spell that saw At The Drive-In go from splitting club bills with The Get Up Kids to opening arena shows headlined by Rage Against The Machine, the album was heavy and aggressive enough to slip past alt-rock-radio programmers whose tastes favored watered-down variations on Korn, Slipknot, and other Robinson-produced acts. What’s inside “One Armed Scissor” was something else entirely: a road-tested post-hardcore ferocity and prog-rock technicality that’s cerebrally and physically electrifying—particularly if you first heard the song during the acrobatic late-night spots At The Drive-In did to promote Relationship Of Command. The band initiated its own self-destruct sequence a few months later, but not before throwing the gates open for everyone exposed to “One Armed Scissor” between spins of “Butterfly” and “Outside.” [Erik Adams]

Christina Aguilera, “Falsas Esperanzas” (September 12)

Not every song from the late ’90s/early 2000s Latin pop boom was a winner. For every hit by Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, there was an odd fit like 98 Degrees’ “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche).” Christina Aguilera, whose father was an Ecuadorian immigrant, learned Spanish in preparation for recording Mi Reflejo, her Spanish-language follow-up to her eponymous debut. Filled with translated versions of “Reflection,” “Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You),” “Genie In A Bottle,” and “What A Girl Wants,” Mi Reflejo also included some new songs (including a duet with pre-Despacito Luis Fonsi). Among the best of those original creations is “Falsas Esperanzas.” Backed by a brassy horn section and piano by Miami Sound Machine collaborator Paquito Hechavarría, the uptempo track leaned into the roots of traditional Latin music much more than most of Iglesias’ and Martin’s U.S. radio offerings. Just try and not move your hips while listening to it. [Patrick Gomez]

The New Pornographers, “Letter From An Occupant” (November 21)

It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to call your new band a supergroup, despite none of its members being even close to famous. Sure, Neko Case was a rising alt-country musician at the time, but with all due respect to A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar, the label spoke more to The New Pornographers’ confidence than the renown of any of its individual artists. With the exuberant Mass Romantic, the can’t-lose collective of Canadian indie rock musicians came out of the gate at a sprint, piling hook upon hook and layering enough pop melodies and vocal harmonies to make Brian Wilson green. The album is loaded with certifiable bangers: the title track, “My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism,” “Letter From An Occupant.” Front to back, Mass Romantic nearly demands listeners sing along, but you could seriously hurt yourself trying to hit the high notes on “Letter.” Neko absolutely wails on the track, throwing her voice around like she’s trying to hurl herself across a canyon. Twenty years on, Mass Romantic is still one of, if not the group’s best album, its reckless abandon proving the “supergroup” moniker was less bold posturing than ecstatic statement of purpose. [Laura Adamczyk]