Words: Tim Chester, Ash Dosanjh, Priya Elan, Jamie Fullerton, Tom Goodwyn, Matthew Horton, Luke Lewis, Hamish MacBain, James McMahon, Emily Mackay, David Moynihan, Krissi Murison, Ben Patashnik, Martin Robinson, Rebecca Schiller, Alan Woodhouse, Matt Wilkinson
80‘Hounds Of Love’
For all the lazy comparisons of modern-day female artists to a wily singer-songwriter most recognisable for her creative output in the '70s and '80s, there's only one band in the indieverse that has managed to capture the true essence of Kate Bush's quirky greatness. With their 2005 hit 'Hounds Of Love' Sunderland four-piece The Futureheads not only managed to cleverly reimagine a well-loved classic by the aforementioned Bush into a dancefloor sensation along with its unforgettable call and response chorus, they also propelled themselves into the public's conscious when they reached the UK Top 10.
79‘Plug In Baby’
The first single from their second album, 'Origin Of Symmetry', 'Plug In Baby' marked the moment Muse stopped being Jeff Buckley/Radiohead copyists and found their own voice. It started life as a ballad before Matt Bellamy realised it'd work better as full-pelt moshpit-fodder. The lyrics are pretty dumb – the "plug-in baby" with which he "crucifies his enemies" is actually his guitar (not a vibrator, as some have speculated). But with a chorus hook this cataclysmically huge, who's paying attention to the words?
One of those tracks that has the ability to instantly make everything else around it seem sham and flimsy, ‘Daddy’s Gone’ sounded like nothing else at the time. Sonically in an echo-washed, cold urban Spector world of its own, opening with that heart-wrenching “Oh-oh, how you’re my hero/Oh-oh, how you’re never here though”, lyrically it took simplicity and openness to a level few could stomach without being self-indulgent or maudlin. James Allan later revealed he’d found it hard to release the song, apprehensive of the reaction of his own father, and embarrassed by its honesty. Lucky for us he managed to grit his teeth and bear it.
"Nah-nah-nah-naah-nah-nah-na-na-na, Nah-nah-nah-naah-nah-nah-na-na-na" – the opening riff of the Wakefield brothers' most anthemic moment has become an indie dancefloor catchphrase in itself. Alex Kapranos' under-appreciated production, using silence brilliantly between riffs for full whack, helps elevate this above similarly scraggy efforts from the band's peers into a jean-ripping triumph of what you can do with just three blokes, a couple of guitars and some wires. It also was a huge factor in pushing the band on from cult heroes to one of the UK's best-loved bands.
Prior to 2006 you'd have been forgiven for not knowing the names Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green; two men who were little more than footnotes in hip-hop, so averse to mainstream success were they. But 'Crazy' changed all that when it became a Number One hit in the UK singles chart, as well as bagging the duo a Grammy. With its soulful vocals provided by Cee-Lo, tormented lyrics and crooning hip-hop beats it proved the crossover track of the year, going on to be covered by such unlikely artists as The Kooks, Nelly Furtado and The Zutons.
75‘Staring At The Sun’
Pairing the cool vocals of Tunde Adebimpe and the funk sensibilities of Kyp Malone with suave electronic beats and post-rock guitar onslaughts, TV On The Radio have made their name by sounding out against indie rock mediocrity. No song encapsulated such a stance more than the sky-soaring majesty of ‘Staring At The Sun’, from their 2004 album 'Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes'. And for all David Sitek's masterful work on the production desk for the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals and Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johansson, it's with TV On The Radio that he has really left an indelible mark.
74‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’
Whether you were an indie purest or a rock traditionalist, there was one certainty with Kylie’s 2001 hit, and that was that it wasn’t just the fodder of sugared dance pop zealots. For here was a song that encapsulated everything enviable in a well-crafted song. Catchy hooks, a salaciously cool video and lyrical content that did exactly what it said on the tin. Reaching Number One in over 40 countries, 'Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ may not have been the last decent song that this Neighbours alumnus released, but it is arguably still her best.
‘Without Me’, the lead off single from Marshall Mathers' third LP, serves not only as a reminder to the world of the rapper's brilliance, but a roll call of anyone who scorned him in the years previous. This includes: Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, the FCC and MTV, Chris Kirkpatrick, Limp Bizkit and Moby, as well as – as is traditional in an Eminem tune - his own mother, for the lawsuit she filed against him for the lyrics of his debut single ‘My Name Is’. Sigh. Don’t you wish he still made tunes as brilliant as this?
It’s one of life’s great injustices that probably more people know José González’s cover version than the glorious original from The Knife’s ‘Deep Cuts’. Ironically, it was just such an emphasis on acoustic or traditional instrumentation as more real or emotional that the Swedish brother and sister duo set out to debunk, by refusing to use any organic sounds and declaring “we want to react against the organic, improvised expression”. The songs on ‘Deep Cuts’ are some of the most beautiful of the entire decade, and no more than this perfectly aching tale of the glory and pain of a fleeting affair. Take your stupid acoustic guitar and shove it, González.
Kelis' biggest UK single was inescapable upon its release in 2003, even though it only managed to reach Number Two in the charts (where it stayed for a month). It's a lesson in classic pop subversion, because it manages to be both playfully innocent and undeniably crude at the same time. Produced and written by The Neptunes (featuring Pharrell Williams), The Dixie Cups' similarly schoolyard-esque 1965 hit 'Iko Iko' is likely an inspiration, though Kelis' confrontational, bullish dialect on 'Milkshake' lends an air of steely noughties confidence to proceedings that nearly every other female popstar of the decade would have struggled to master.