By Bill Lamb
This stunning single introduced Alicia Keys to pop music fans. Her record label initially wanted her to release something more commercial, but Keys stuck confidently to her own music. The result was a smash #1 pop single that was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won the accolade of Song of the Year. There is a mature soulful vibe that far exceeded Alicia Keys' own age of 20.
If anyone ever needed proof that pop music need not be at all complex to be great, they simply need to listen to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" one time. Within one minute, the simple bass beat, tasteful strings, and Cee-Lo's voice drive the hook into your brain to remain for a long time.
Lady Gaga capped a stunning debut year by letting the love monsters out of the closet. The song is an intense litany of nearly pathological romantic entanglements all set to beats designed to crowd the dance floor. Lady Gaga's singing moves from snarling threats to floating sweetness and back again.
Every once in a while a love song rises to the top of the pop music world that strikes a perfect chord with a wide spectrum of pop music fans. "Hey There Delilah" expresses young love irresistibly. This may be the closest the decade came to a perfect love song.
One of the most tragic music losses of the decade occurred in late summer 2001 with the death of 22 year old singer and actress Aaliyah in a plane crash. "Try Again" is arguably her finest moment. It features an innovative, skeletal production from Timbaland. The song was included on the soundtrack to the film Romeo Must Die and is Aaliyah's only #1 pop hit. "Try Again" is the first song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 purely on the basis of radio airplay.
"Toxic" brought Britney Spears back to the pop top 10 for the first time in four years when it looked like her success was on the fade. The song hooks a listener the first time through and never lets go. It is one of the most covered pop songs of the decade and earned Britney Spears her first Grammy Award as Best Dance Recording.
The lead party song of the decade was written by Linda Perry during a period in which she was trying to learn to program drums. She says she finished the song using "every catch phrase you possibly could imagine." Pink took the song to the pop top 5, and it became one of her signature songs. "Get the Party Started" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Female Vocal.
Although "Beautiful Day" was not U2's biggest hit on initial release, it has gained a powerful reputation over time. The recording won three Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Rock Duo or Group with Vocal. Bono says the song is about, "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has." The song had particular poignance when performed live by U2 at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Andre 3000 of OutKast created a masterful blend of funk, soul and pop with an epic feel on "Hey Ya!" The call and response of "What's cooler than cool?" with answer "Ice cold" and "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" became instant catch phrases. The song went straight to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying for nine weeks, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
Kelly Clarkson collaborated with Max Martin and Dr. Luke to create pop perfection. Reportedly Kelly Clarkson pushed for the recording to incorporate more drums to give the song a bit more of a rock sound. Her instincts were directly on target. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal. The accompanying video won MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video and Best Pop Video.