With the dawning of the internet and iPods changing the music industry forever, the 2000s were defined by the growth of options and genres for music fans to dive into. From pop to rap, nu-metal to pop-punk, we look at 31 of the best 2000s musicians.
Founded in 1992 by Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Outkast is considered one of the greatest hip hop groups of all time. While they rose to prominence throughout the 1990s, they gave the world their most commercially successful hits in the first years of the 2000s.
Releasing iconic albums in 2000, Stankonia, and 2003, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast established themselves as one of the decade’s most important musical acts with hits like “Ms. Jackson” and “Roses.”
Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, signed with Dr. Dre’s label in the late 1990s, but it was his first two releases of the 2000s—The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) and The Eminem Show (2002)—that catapulted him to international superstardom. In 2002, he starred in a fictionalized version of his life in the film 8 Mile, and he gave the world his biggest hit on the soundtrack, “Lose Yourself.”
3. Foo Fighters
The 2000s may not be remembered as the era of rock and roll, but if any band carried the torch of the genre in the decade, it was Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters. They would start the decade by winning 2001’s Best Rock Album Grammy with There Is Nothing Left To Lose, including iconic tracks like “Learn To Fly,” They would go on to repeat the feat in 2008 for their album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.
While Radiohead had established itself as a powerhouse alternative rock band in the 1990s, the 2000s would see them step into a new, more experimental phase of their journey. Their 2000 album Kid A is considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and they followed it up with Amnesiac (2001) and Hail To The Thief (2003).
They would then turn the music world on its head when it went independent and sold their 2007 album, In Rainbows, online for whatever price people wanted to pay.
When Coldplay gave the world their song “Yellow” in 2000, they established themselves as one of the premier acts of the upcoming decade. Their subsequent records throughout the rest of the 2000s, A Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002), X&Y (2005), and Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (2008), would net them multiple Grammy awards and were some of the top-selling records of the decade.
6. Kanye West
Initially gaining recognition as a producer, Kanye West would become a household name with his releases across the second half of the decade. Starting with 2004’s The College Dropout, he would continue to dominate the decade with Graduation (2007) and his iconic 808s & Heartbreak (2008). Today, he remains a cultural institution all on his own.
After rising to prominence in the 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé Knowles would establish herself as the queen with her 2003 album, Dangerously In Love. Her 2006 records B’Day and 2008 I Am… Sasha Fierce would establish her as one of the greatest divas of all time.
She was also a movie star, playing roles in movies like Dreamgirls and Cadillac Ranch. Beyoncé did not stop there, using her rise to superstardom in the decade to become the queen of her own artistic empire, and she continues to produce acclaimed music into the 2020s.
8. Avril Lavigne
The Pop Punk Queen catapulted herself to the top of the charts with her debut 2002 album Let Go. Featuring iconic tracks like “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi,” Avril Lavigne dominated the airwaves throughout the decade. She continued to release hit records throughout the 2000s, including 2004’s Under My Skin and 2007’s The Best Damn Thing.
9. The White Stripes
Leading the garage rock revival, Jack and Meg White’s band The White Stripes brought raw blues power to the stage and radio. With 2001’s White Blood Cells and 2003’s Elephant, they ushered in a new era of rock. Their hit “Seven Nation Army” is one of the most iconic rock songs of all time, and they would continue to dominate the decade with 2005’s Behind Me Satan and 2007’s Icky Thump.
10. Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco became one of the biggest names in rap when he released his debut 2006 record, Lupe Fiasco’s Food And Liquor. The album came to be after Jay-Z helped him get signed at Atlantic Records. He followed that up with Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool (2007), which included his biggest hit, “Superstar.” These albums would earn constant airplay and a slew of awards and nominations.
11. Linkin Park
Formed in Agoura Hills, California, Linkin Park was catapulted to international superstardom with their 2000 album Hybrid Theory. Featuring hits like “In The End” and “One Step Closer,” the album was one of the most successful nu-metal releases of all time. It garnered them several Grammy nominations and awards.
They followed this up with 2003’s Meteora, which featured some of their most iconic tracks, including “Numb” and “Breaking The Habit.” They then collaborated with Jay-Z on the 2004 project Collision Course, which included their hit song “Numb/Encore.”
12. Britney Spears
At the start of the 21st century, no pop star was bigger than Britney Spears. With her first two albums, 1999’s …Baby One More Time and 2000’s Oops!… I Did It Again, she established herself as one of the most popular and best-selling musical artists of all time.
She would continue to dominate the airwaves throughout the decade, though she became a target for tabloid and paparazzi harassment as she struggled in the latter half of the decade with problems at home. These stories overshadowed her 2007 album Blackout which many, in hindsight, now consider her best work.
While Usher Raymond IV rose to fame in the 1990s, his career would come to be defined by his mega-success in the 2000s. While his 2001 record 8701 would produce uber hits like “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad,” it was his 2004 release Confessions that solidified his place as one of the best artists of the decade.
Featuring four number-one singles “Yeah!” “Burn,” “Confessions Part II,” and “My Boo,” Usher established himself as one of the best modern R&B and pop singers and dominated the airwaves.
14. Maroon 5
With their 2002 album Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 established themselves as one of the best pop-rock acts of the decade. Featuring hits like “Harder To Breathe,” “This Love,” and “She Will Be Loved,” they earned the 2005 Grammy for Best New Artist.
Their second album, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, hit number one on the Billboard charts, featuring their hit “Makes Me Wonder.” Maroon 5 rode the momentum into the next decade, releasing hit after hit after hit.
15. Green Day
While Green Day rose to fame in the punk scene during the 1990s with releases such as 1994’s Dookie, they re-emerged at the top of the music world with their 2004 punk rock song, American Idiot.
The album featured several radio hits including a song of the same name, “Holiday,” “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” and the uber-hit “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.” They would release another hit in 2009 with 21st Century Breakdown, which was their most successful record in terms of sales and charts up until that point.
16. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Much like Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers rose to fame long before the 2000s, but their 1999 record Californication set them up to be one of the most successful and influential bands of the upcoming decade.
They would not disappoint the masses, releasing 2002’s By The Way, followed by their number-one mega album, Stadium Arcadium (2006). Featuring hits like “Dani California” and “Snow (Hey Oh),” they owned the airwaves for the remainder of the decade.
17. Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy first gained underground success for their debut album, Take This To Your Grave, in 2003. The album remains one of the most influential pop-punk albums of the decade. They would then release their breakthrough album, 2005’s From Under The Cork Tree, which featured megahits in “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” and “Dance, Dance.”
The album went double platinum, and the band earned the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2006. Their subsequent album, 2007’s Infinity On High, would hit number one on the charts and produce more hits like “Thanks For The Memories.”
The Barbados-born pop star and entrepreneur Rihanna first came to public attention with her 2005’s Music Of The Sun and 2006’s A Girl Like Me, which featured the Caribbean influence of her home country. It was her 2007 release, Good Girl Gone Bad, which established her as an international superstar.
Her hit single “Umbrella” and its music video would establish her as one of the hottest stars of the decade. She continues to produce hit music and is an entrepreneurial titan of the beauty industry.
19. Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood was catapulted to superstardom when she won the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. Her subsequent single, “Inside Your Heaven,” was the most successful debut track of all time.
She then followed this up with her 2005 record Some Hearts, which featured several pop-country crossover megahits, including “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and “Before He Cheats.” The album would garner her three Grammy awards. She closed out the decade with the successful releases of 2007’s Carnival Ride and 2009’s Play On, establishing her as one of the most successful country acts of the decade.
20. Arcade Fire
The Canadian indie rock band catapulted onto the global music scene with their acclaimed debut album, Funeral, in 2004. It is often cited as one of the best albums of the decade, with many publications rating it as their top choice. The release of the album made them instant indie rock stars.
They followed this up with the highly successful 2008 album, Neon Bible, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling nearly 100,000 copies in its first week out. While the decade introduced the world to Arcade Fire, the indie rock band was only getting started as 2010 would bring their classic album, The Suburbs.
The alt-rock band led by Jeff Tweedy initially gained notoriety in the 1990s, but it was their 2001 record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, that would be their magnum opus. In a wild story, Wilco recorded the album with Reprise Records, who disliked the album so much that they gave the band the recordings and rights to the music for free.
The album was picked up by another label and was an immediate success. Wilco would go on to win several Grammy awards for their 2004 record, A Ghost Is Born, and they would continue to release successful albums throughout the rest of the decade, including 2007’s Sky Blue Sky and their self-titled 2009 record.
22. The Strokes
When The Strokes, led by Julian Casablancas, released their 2001 EP, The Modern Age, major labels scrambled to sign the indie artists. After signing with RCA Records, they released their debut album, Is This It, in 2001. Featuring hits like “Someday,” the record remains one of the best indie rock albums of all time.
They would keep the momentum going with 2003’s Room on Fire, which featured some of their best songs, including the hit “Reptilia.” They followed this up with a successful release of First Impressions Of Earth in 2005 before taking a recording hiatus for the remainder of the 2000s. The Strokes’ music of the decade helped to define the rising indie sound and shape the industry going forward.
23. Alicia Keys
The talented vocalist and pianist Alicia Keys introduced herself to the world with her 2001 debut album, Songs In A Minor. The single “Fallin'” reached the top of the Billboard charts, and the album earned her five Grammy wins. She followed this up with 2003’s The Diary of Alicia Keys, which included hit singles like “If I Ain’t Got You” and “You Don’t Know My Name.”
Then, she released a duet with Usher, “My Boo,” and a 2005 live record with MTV Unplugged. In 2007, she not only released As I Am, but she was also cast in her first motion picture. She closed the decade out with The Element Of Freedom in 2009, which included her number-one hit “Empire State Of Mind,” making her one of the most prolific and successful artists of the decade.
24. System of a Down
System Of A Down was one of the most successful and popular heavy metal bands of the 2000s. After releasing their self-titled debut record in 1998, they planned to launch their second album with a free concert in Hollywood. However, nearly 15,000 people showed up at the much smaller venue, and when the show was canceled by authorities with little explanation, angry fans stormed the stage and destroyed much of the band’s equipment.
The album, Toxicity, debuted at the top of the charts and went triple platinum. System Of A Down would continue to ride success throughout the decade with 2002’s Steal This Album! and 2005’s Mezmerize and Hypnotize. Their 2006 hit “B.Y.O.B.” earned them a Grammy.
Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, came to prominence in the 1990s but was a central music figure as a lead man and collaborator throughout the 2000s. His 2001 record The Blueprint was an instant classic, which he followed up with 2003’s The Black Album and 2007’s American Gangster.
On top of releasing classic albums and advancing his entrepreneurial enterprises, Jay-Z appeared as a collaborator on hits throughout the decade with a lot of the artists on this list, including Beyoncé, Linkin Park, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna.
The Princess of R&B, Aaliyah was first discovered as a ten-year-old on Star Search. While her initial hits were released in the 1990s, at the turn of the 21st century, she was poised to be the queen of pop culture. She starred alongside Jet Li in the 2000 film Romeo Must Die, and the single “Try Again,” which she wrote for the movie, shot to the top of the charts on radio play alone.
Her 2001, self-titled album was highly anticipated and shot to number two on the Billboard 200. Tragically, Aaliyah died in a plane crash only a month after the album’s release. While she was only able to release one album in the 2000s, her abilities as an artist earned her a spot on this list, and we can only dream of the contributions to music, film, and art she would’ve made if she had had the opportunity.
27. Norah Jones
Norah Jones released her debut record, Come Away With Me, in 2002, establishing her as one of the best jazz and pop artists in the world. The record earned her the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist.
Throughout the rest of the decade, she released three more platinum albums, including 2004’s Feels Like Home, 2007’s Not Too Late, and 2009’s The Fall. In 2004, she recorded a duet of “Here We Go Again” with Ray Charles and Billy Preston accompanying on the organ.
While U2 was on top of the world in the 1980s, the quality of their work declined throughout the 1990s. All of that changed in 2000 when they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Hit tracks including “Beautiful Day” netted them seven Grammy awards, and they returned to the top of the charts.
They outdid themselves with their 2004 record How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The album, featuring hits like “Vertigo,” won the Irish group nine Grammy awards. In 2009, U2 embarked on a mega-tour that set records for attendance and revenue.
29. Lady Gaga
While Lady Gaga only came on the scene at the end of the decade, she made a monstrous impact. With her 2009 record, The Fame, she became a household name with hits like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.” The album rose to number two on the Billboard 200.
In 2009, she re-released the album The Fame Monster. The re-worked album featured eight new songs, including some of her most iconic, like “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro.” In just the final year of the decade, Lady Gaga established herself as one of the most exciting acts to come from the first decade of the century.
30. Good Charlotte
Pop punk had its moment in the 2000s and no band embodied the energy of the movement better than Good Charlotte. While their debut, self-titled album in 2000 was well-received, they shot to international superstardom with their 2002 album, The Young And The Hopeless.
Including a slew of hits like “The Anthem,” “Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous,” and “Girls & Boys,” which crossed over to pop radio, the album is one of the most successful pop-punk masterpieces ever produced.
In the 1990s, Shakira established herself as a major diva in Spanish-speaking countries. But, in 2001, she made the crossover to English with her hit record, Laundry Service. She followed this up with 2005’s Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, which included her mega-hit, “Hips Don’t Lie.”
The album skyrocketed to number five on the Billboard 200. She closed out the end of the decade with her 2009 album, She Wolf, establishing herself as the most successful Spanish-to-English crossover act of the decade.
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