NME.com has been running for more than fifteen years now, and in that time we've seen more bangers than a Walls sausage factory. Whether you're Julian Casablancas' number one fan, a Doherty-ite 'til you die, never gave up on nu rave or a total God like Kanye, there'll be something here for everyone. Viva the 21st century and all who sail within it! Words: Priya Elan, Luke Lewis, Tim Chester, Mike Williams, Tom Goodwyn, Rebecca Schiller, Krissi Murison, Emily Mackay, Matt Wilkinson, Laura Snapes, Jamie Fullerton, Alan Woodhouse.

60Let's Go Surfing

And lo, with a stripped back Joy Division bassline and a chirpy whistle The Drums made themselves known. And this simple ode to surfing (from a New York-based band who have barely hung ten between them and soon grew tired of questions about the sport) made itself comfortable in our brains. An effortless balancing act of the maudlin and the perky propelled by Jonathan Pierce’s inimitable vocals and of course some well-timed handclaps it quickly shifted Peter, Bjorn and John off the coveted ‘best whistle track’ top spot. (TC)


Piledriving a path for a legion of grime-dance crossover pretenders, no one ever really topped Dizzee and Armand’s armour-plated radio-eater for sheer ridiculous fun. It took some months before we could muster the self-control to stop sneaking up on people and saying ”BONKERS” in their ear in that stupid robot voice. Beyond the larks, though, lyrically it was a pretty complex beast, as much alienation and self-disgust as rave and lolz: “I wake up every day it’s a daydream/Everything in my life ain’t what it seems/I wake up just to go back to sleep/I act real shallow but I’m in too deep”. Dancing, with tears in his eyes: that’s our Dizzee, smart but in the charts. (EM)

58Say My Name

Wunderkind producer Rodney Jerkins seemed to peak early before disappearing behind less-than-stellar work that came later in the decade, but 2000’s ‘Say My Name’ found Darkchild at his innovative best, only rivaling Timbaland and Missy Elliot in the bold sonic innovations department. The track shakes all over itself with about three different rhythms happening at once while de facto DC leader Beyonce proves her mettle by perfecting an offbeat vocal style that would later become her trademark. A decade on, it still sounds utterly fresh. (PE)

57Lose Yourself

'Lose Yourself' was Eminem at the absolute peak of his powers. Written to support 8 Mile, the film that told the story of his life, the track laid bare his early struggles over a brooding guitar sample and built to a huge, swooping chorus line. He might have sold more records since, but this was when no rapper on the planet could touch him. 


56All These Things That I've Done

Was there ever an album more outrageously stuffed with room-igniting, we-have-lift-off choruses than ‘Hot Fuss’? ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ is just one such sky-scraping moment among many. The fact it was (oh dear) used as David Cameron’s campaign song during the 2010 general election should not detract from its amazing power to uplift and exhilarate, even if - as Bill Bailey likes to point out (“I’ve got ham but I’m not a hamster”) – the lyrics are a load of old guff. (LL)


One of those ballads that’s transcended indieville to the point where people who’ve never heard another Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in their life would be like ‘oh yeah, that one, I loooooove that’, where you hear it on emotional teen dramas on the telly, where it’s on bloody Guitar Hero, given the amount of times we’ve all listened to it drunk and teary, we should all be sick to death of ‘Maps’ by now. The fact that we’re not even close is testimony to its masterful control. Especially given the hairy histrionics that we know Karen and the boys are capable of, the restraint here is what kills. “I exposed myself so much in that song, I shocked myself” Karen told Rolling Stone, and from her real tears in the video to her beautifully broken delivery, she’s the sad and solitary star here, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner keeping drums and guitar sensibly subdued while Karen mangles your heart, until the crashing climax brings the curtain down on the tragic heroine. Put it on again, will you, and pass the gin. (EM)


I’ll never forget the disappointment I felt when someone told me that Tyondai Braxton’s screwy, obscured lyrics to this otherworldly song were in fact not “Dinglehopper, dinglehopper, dingle-hopper” but “People won’t be people when they hear this sound/Glowing in the dark on the edge of town”. Still, I’ll definitely concede that his fit better – ‘Atlas’ sounds like something that couldn’t have been written by anyone familiar with the boring old rules of rock’n’roll, with its galloping, militaristic drums and bounding squelch, a kind of alien beat that completely takes you out of yourself. (LS)


Post-VMAgate, Kanye was the monster, or as he put it on ‘My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy’, “The abomination of Obama’s nation,” and whilst his verse was good, it was star turns from Jay-Z (channeling his world-weary hip hop legend who just needed a cuddle) and Nicki Minaj (a show stealing turn from the heir apparent who was battling herself as much as the haterz) that took this track over the edge. Boisterous as it was reflective and revealing, this was an anthem for all the outsiders but also all the multi-millionaire rappers and their devil may care attitudes. (PE)


This was the track that took the Essex mentalists from basement-playing chancers to arenas. Everything that made people fall in love with The Prodigy is here: snarling verses, a huge bombastic breakbeat and then that little dash of controversy to top it off. Despite being released to a Top 40 dominated by manufactured bands riding on a post-Spice Girls boom, it went straight to Number One and they've pretty much never looked back. (TG) How We Wrote 'Firestarter' Liam Howlett On the recording process: "Some of the tracks are very complicated, and you couldn't have all the equipment on stage to run them live - so when I've finished a full mix of the song, I strip down elements. For example, in 'Firestarter', I take the guitar out, because we've got a live guitarist who plays off the backing. I've got all the other samples on the keyboard, and Keith is doing the vocals. On writing the song's lyrics: "With 'Firestarter', me and Keith wrote the lyrics together. I'd done the track and played it to him, and he said he'd really like to get some lyrics on it. I was quite surprised, because he's never done it before. He came round a few days later, sat down and we eventually got over the embarassing situation where everything you say with the lyrics sounds terrible. Once it's on record, it doesn't matter what you say. On other tracks, I come up with lyrics, then I might get Maxim to come over." On the success of 'Firestarter': "I was very surprised, but I was more surprised that more people didn't comment on how we'd gone away from what we were doing before. A lot of people thought it was the best thing we've done, especially people at Radio One, who did support it quite a lot -- maybe to show that they were more in touch with youth culture. We never look for success, but I'd say we're at a level now where we've got a following, and people respect what we're doing. The records don't have to be really commercial every time, as long as they follow the Prodigy rules - that they're hard and 'in your face'. That's what The Prodigy's music is about, whether it's got guitars on it, or whether it's industrial, techno, or whatever. For an album, I guess, you might have the odd track where it's a bit more soundtrack-based, a bit more string-orientated, or more ambient, but with singles, it's pretty in-your-face stuff." (soundonsound.com)


After the Spice Girls’ universe-conquering and All Saints’ tales of rampant egotism, this non-starry girl band felt like they were pulled straight from the real world. ‘Overload’ was frontloaded with great, unexpected ideas: the sauntering rhythmic breaks, the sparse guitar line with pitches up like a hip Flamenco dancer, and of course the cool girl lyrics from Mutya, Siobhan and Keisha. It wouldn’t last of course, but for one album (‘One Touch’) and especially this single, they felt untouched by the machinations inside that notoriously wonky vessel that is the girl band. (PE)

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