Years from now when people look back at my life, I want them to look at the entirety of it to make a judgement. Not just look at a short sample and say, “Wow, he seems like a piece of shit.” To fully grasp or judge something you need to take a look at a large-scale demonstration of its contributions and accomplishments.
But that’s not what happens. We’re busy people and don’t have time to look at the grand scheme of things. We get in, out, and go on with life. And that’s how future generations will treat music of the past. With infinite amounts available, they’ll take a quick look, maybe 15-20 minutes worth, and then form an opinion. How might future generations quickly judge the aughts? I did a quasi-experiment with the first five shuffled songs of the, “00s Smash Hits” playlist on Spotify to make a judgement on a huge era of music with an extremely tiny sample.
1. “Hey, Soul Sister” – Train
God dammit. Probably the official song of white people who wear knee-high socks, this song was everywhere when it came out, especially your grandma’s radio. It’s also the official song of doing your taxes, eating mayonnaise sandwiches, and driving a Prius. “Hey, Soul Sister” is the song that someone perpetually depressed would turn on to try to make themselves feel a little more upbeat, then realized how much emptier and soulless it makes them feel.
So annoyingly catchy and truly embarrassing; not a great look for the 2000s to begin with.
2. “Bye, Bye, Bye” – N’SYNC
Honestly? A jam. Straight up jam. This was the absolute peak of boy bands, and the peak boy band jam. Better believe your boy had this on cassette. If this is going to be the only thing repping the early part of the decade, it’s a solid pick. Huge play by shuffle to slide in the best that boy bands have to offer instead of something that doesn’t really bring the heat. Looking at you Nick Lachey and your 98 Degrees of bad music.
Poppy, catchy, and (of course) has some dance attached to it. Plus, you just can’t really argue with the song/album that proved to be JT’s launching pad into greatness.
3. “U Got It Bad” – Usher
We got pre-peak Timberlake with the last song choice, and now we get pre-peak Usher. This smooth jam also still holds up as the years go on. Usher absolutely slayed the decade. The man turned cheating on his girl and knocking up a random piece of strange into a monster album with “Confessions.” This song was just the beginning of his run of dominance but brought straight fire nonetheless. The fact that I could still recite a majority of the lyrics just proves the staying power.
Pre-“Confessions” Usher was like pre-steroids Bonds. Perennial All-Star and a dual-threat player, but the PEDS (A dumpster fire of an infidelity situation providing prime material) took him to a new level. Like pre-juice Barry, old Usher needs to be remembered, and “U Got It Bad” was a great place to start.
4. “Family Affair” – Mary J. Blige
Four songs in and we get an all-timer. Shuffle is favoring the early part of the decade, but I don’t hate it. Mary is the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” and this track is her defining moment. Frankly, this song goes hard as fuck. If someone held a gun to my head and said I have to put on a giant FUBU jacket, baggy ass jeans, and gyrate to an early-2000s hip-hop song, I’m going “Family Affair” with zero hesitation.
Although, so far it’s been a disproportionate ratio of men/women with this shuffle, you can argue that the quality of “Family Affair” trumps the first three combined. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re out at any drinking establishment, get this one on the speakers, then take notice of how many people squint their face and go, “Ooooooooooooooh shit!”
5. “Toxic” – Britney Spears
Britney was emerging from the “Baby One More Time” & JT relationship era and proved that she wasn’t going away. This is one that I feel would slide right into the Billboard Top Ten anytime in the past twenty years. “Toxic” isn’t a game changer, but if you don’t like it you’re an asshole. It’s catchy and oozes sexuality.
Maybe not the definitive song of the decade, but the video for this one is elite. If this had won over “Single Ladies” at the VMA’s Kanye woulda just nodded and golf clapped. I was 13 when this song & accompanying video came out, and needless to say, it contributed to me boosting the stock of Jergens single-handedly (See what I did there?). I’d hope that anyone taking a glimpse into this music would think to themselves, “I wonder what the video for this was like…”
The sample size proves the aughts are worthy of more listening and research, which would, unfortunately, lead the first-time listener down some unfortunate Wikipedia entries for the singers of the aforementioned songs:
“Wait, what happened to N’SYNC???”
“Usher did what to his girlfriend???”
“Britney did WHAT??? HER WHOLE HEAD?”
“TRAIN IS STILL ALLOWED TO MAKE MUSIC?!?!?!?” .