The Best Songs of the 2000s Defined Generation Y

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In the 2000s, it seemed that anything interesting, with enough hits on YouTube, was solid enough to be worth something – our attention, reverie, sympathy, whatever. From Rihanna covering strange Romanian pop songs, to William Hung’s soaring success covering an already crappy Ricky Martin number, it seems almost impossible to pick out the songs that were actually significant in a way YouTube hits can’t measure; songs that represented something even if that something isn’t quite tangible. It is often the ephemeral things that mean the most. The previous decade was not a happy one. Two wars, economic collapse, bloody revolutions, terrorist attacks both at home and abroad – these musicians offer no answers, they simply attempt to chart the experience, and questions, of the average Generation Y-er.

5 “Little Lion Man” – Mumford and Sons

With banjo in toe, Mumford and Sons made waves across the pond in their native England before hitting the American shores. But when they did, it took hard work and long tours to get to where they deserved to be. Little Lion Man is a modern day love song fitting for anyone growing up in the 2000s. Relationships seemed more fractured, with an ‘it’s complicated’ option on Facebook and the invention of the term “friends with benefits,” the definition of what makes a relationship is slowly falling apart – melting, oozing into an amorphous blob. And if we thought we were freeing ourselves with these non-label-labels, we were wrong. And “Little Lion Man” proves it. “Little Lion Man” represents the love and the loss (it was not your fault / but mine vs. weep for yourself / you’ll never be what is in your heart), the confusion in communication when we never quite say what we mean, and the sadness we feel when we “really fucked it up this time.” It’s perfect, quick and melancholy music emulates the ups and downs of these bizarre pseudo-relationships we face today. A poetic unraveling of modern day lovers, “Little Lion Man” will stand the test of time and remain one of those songs we all love.

4 “Crazy” – Gnarls Barkley

YouTube nearly combusted when the music video for “Crazy” came out. With three minutes of psychedelic Rorschach test images kaleidoscoping in and out, the full audio and visual experience of “Crazy” was just that – absolutely bat-shit insane. With Cee Lo Green’s gentle voice crooning “I think you’re crazy, just like me” in the background of his ink-blot face zooming in and out you had to think to yourself – wait, am I insane? (Yes, is the answer by the way). You’d be hard pressed to find a Generation Y-er who doesn’t know all the words to “Crazy,” and doesn’t enjoy belting them out at the top of their lungs. It was a song that completely unified all different types of music lovers because it had a universally accessible message. We’re insane. And it’s a damn good place to be (better than the world of our parents, that’s for sure).

3 “Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

In stark contrast to the previous song, Home is a three-minute flashback to an era of flower power and love. The song first came to my attention during a college class where we were discussing nostalgia and the meaning of home. As pretentious as that sounds, I think it is exactly what makes “Home” an amazing song. It challenges us to question what it means to be “Home.” For a generation of kids roaming the planet, whether physically or virtually, our concept of home is always changing. Is it Guatemala, where we spent a semester abroad? Our college campus? The dorm room where we fell in love? According to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” The simplicity of love in those few words is so poignant that it manages to cut through the bullshit of Facebook statuses and drunken text messages. The sweet, childlike whistling and uplifting cheers throughout the song cause your spirits to soar. If you’ve ever been in love, you know exactly what they’re singing about. And I would argue that they are right – “Home is wherever I’m with you,” whoever you happen to be for whoever the listener is. Similar in this aspect to our number two, “Home” is a song that really translates to any listener, no matter what their sexual orientation, life experience, or place in this world. It is a song that chronicles the leaving of your Ma and Pa, no matter how much you love them, onto your own non-traditional adventures. It is the perfect song the feed the wanderlust of Generation Y. It evokes, professes, and perpetuates love in every way shape and form.

2 “Everything in its Right Place” – Radiohead

Deemed one of the top bands of the 2000s, it is only fitting that the opening track on Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A is a top song of the same decade. Ten years old by now, Radiohead soared into the 21st century with quite a fanfare. “Everything in its Right Place” was a distinctly different sound from the Radiohead we loved in the 90s (a la “Creep”), but in a good way. It was an audible dissimilarity from one decade to the next, and it somehow signified a change for all of Generation Y. Somehow, all of these intangible facets came together in “Everything in its Right Place.” The slow, melodic opening notes trick you into thinking a babbling brook of music is flowing, and then you’re hit with bizarre electronic sounds, accompanied finally by Yorke’s unmistakable croon. The surreal juxtaposition of the sheer sounds within the song are enough to make your heart swell. You can identify with the deeper message behind the repetitive message. Of course, we don’t know what that message is really – it’s different for every person. “I woke up sucking a lemon” can be attributed to anything, and Radiohead leaves it up to the listener to pick and choose what the song means to them. That is what Generation Y is all about – individuality. And “Everything in its Right Place” is the perfect combination of individuality and unity that make up what it means to be part of Generation Y – this Peter Pan generation.

1 “Clint Eastwood” – Gorillaz

When Clint Eastwood came out all of a sudden Generation Y had its own anthem (after all, we could only hold onto “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for so long.) The slow, off key, haunting opening melody made shivers run down your spine as the chorus rattled off of the animated tongue of vocalist 2D. Every second of “Clint Eastwood” is pure perfection. “I’m useless but not for long / the future is coming on” is an exact metaphor for what all of Generation Y was just starting to feel the pressure of. It is an unflinchingly honest look at our generation, at what we were living, doing, experiencing, and perpetuating. A social scientist might say that the song is about managing a life in a de-personalized world. Everything is de-personalized (death and annihilation, life and hope), and that is what the song is responding to. Tuning in, tuning out, not sure what’s up or down – this is exactly the world we’re in. The Gorillaz are speaking for, and from, Generation Y. The song is a controlled intensity, the same controlled intensity that courses through the frustrated veins of every unemployed millennial, each ex-college student in debt up to their eyeballs, living at home with no hope of moving out; of each kid who couldn’t get into college because they couldn’t afford SAT classes; of each kid who lost a friend in Columbine (9 months shy of the new millennium), Virginia Tech, or a parent in 9/11 or a cousin in Iraq; for each of us. All of this is rolled up into the five minutes and forty-two seconds of “Clint Eastwood.” Each moment, word, note of “Clint Eastwood” is significant to the despondency of our generation – and no one managed to chronicle it as perfectly as The Gorillaz did in “Clint Eastwood.” It will always be the anthem of Generation-Y.

Conclusion

According to our favorite websource, Wikipedia, Generation Y is also called “The Peter Pan Generation”; a generation delaying rites of passage into adult hood… after having watched our parents get divorced, lose the jobs they hated in the first place, and have to move from a city they may not have wanted to settle in at all, it’s no wonder we’re stalling. We’ve seen mass gun violence, in our schools and on our streets; we’ve seen towers crash, economies collapse, and cultures crumble. And all the while we’ve been told to sit tight and everything will be okay – but obviously, they were wrong. The lessons we’ve learned in the last decade have taught us that the traditional path isn’t necessarily the right path. Each of these artists broke the mold in their own ways, carving out their own place in the bizarre decade of the 2000s. In a decade that seems almost culturally void for all the global culture we have, these songs prove that true (and honest) art will always stand above the rest; these songs truly speak for a generation, and that is what makes them the best.

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