At the dawn of the new millennium, the age of Rock ‘N’ Roll appeared to be in decline. Not so fast! From pop-rock to the garage rock revival to nü-metal, the 2000s saw the genre explode in new directions that have come to define music today! Here, we take a look at 33 of the best 2000s rock bands that helped push the genre into new and exciting directions:
1. The White Stripes
The duo of Meg and Jack White released a suite of iconic albums across the decade. Blending a lo-fi garage rock sound with a blues-rock vibe, The White Stripes’ 2001 White Blood Cells and 2003 Elephant propelled them to the top of the rock genre. The divorced couple masqueraded as brother and sister to make sure people focused on the music, not their past romance. Whatever they did worked! Today, the classic Seven Nation Army remains a stepping stone for all aspiring rock musicians and Jack White’s Third Man Records remains a music tastemaker.
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers
While the Los Angeles alt-rock band got together in the early 1980s and reached commercial success with 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Red Hot Chili Peppers reached their mainstream pinnacle in the 2000s. Their 1999 album Californication made them a household name and 2006’s Stadium Arcadium was one of the decade’s most defining releases, reaching the top of the Billboard charts. This cemented Anthony Kiedis and Flea as household names and made them one of the best 2000s bands, certainly.
The 2000s were a challenging time for female-led rock groups, but Evanescence bucked that trend with their iconic 2003 album Fallen. Led by Amy Lee, the gothic metal outfit had massive hits with “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal”, driven by popular music videos. While the band has continued, in various configurations, to make new music and tour, Fallen remains one of the most successful and recognized metal performances of the decade.
4. Linkin Park
Hailing from Southern California, Linkin Park formed in the mid 90s. Bringing together nü-metal and rap, Linkin Park released some of the most iconic tracks of the decade on their 2000 Hybrid Theory and 2003 Meteorea. Hybrid Theory was Grammy-nominated for Best Rock Album in 2002. The band soared to its cultural apex with the 2004 Grammy-award-winning collaboration with Jay-Z, Collision Course. Tracks such as “Numb” and “In the End” have come to define the nü-metal wave of the 2000s.
5. The Killers
With their 2004 Hot Fuss, the Las Vegas indie-rock quartet, led by Brandon Flowers, was catapulted into super-stardom. The album was nominated for the Grammy’s Best Rock Album category and singles like “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” became radio staples including 2006’s Sam’s Town and 2008’s Day & Age. The band continued to release albums across the decade and, with their catchy anthems, remains one of the most influential bands of the decade.
6. The Strokes
Few bands have been more influential in defining the alternative rock genre than The Strokes. Hailing from New York City, they had some major success in the 2000s with their 2001 album Is This It being regarded as one of the best masterpieces of the decade. Led by Julian Casablancas, The Strokes brought an edgy, catchy, upbeat sound that has influenced countless bands over the past two decades. They released Room on Fire in 2003, featuring the single “Reptilia” and First Impression of Earth in 2006.
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Led by frontwoman Karen O, the garage rock Yeah Yeah Yeahs shot to prominence in the wake of the success of The Strokes with their debut 2003 album Fever to Tell. The single “Maps” was played widely on alternative radio. All three of the albums they released across the decade – including 2006’s Show Your Bones and 2009’s It’s Blitz – were Grammy-nominated for Best Alternative Album. Yeah Yeah Yeahs often defied genre, ranging from garage rock to a more electronic sound on their hit “Heads Will Roll”.
While the band formed in California in the early 90s, the alt-metal outfit shot to global prominence with their 1999 release Make Yourself. The single “Drive” reached the top of the Billboard charts in 2001 and continued to garner mainstream success with 2001’s Morning View and 2003’s A Crow Left of the Murder… Their 2006 album Light Grenades debuted at the top of the Billboard charts.
The indie alt-rock band arose from the ashes of the alt-country Uncle Tupelo. Wilco found its stride in 2002 when they released the classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which has been regarded as one of the best albums of the decade. The band continued to create music prolifically throughout the decade, including 2004’s A Ghost is Born, 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, and 2009’s Wilco (The Album). While they may not have received the same amount of radio airtime as other bands on this list, few bands from the decade have been held in higher regard by music critics and fans alike.
10. Foo Fighters
After Kurt Cobain’s death, Dave Grohl founded Foo Fighters. Bringing a driving heavy rock sound, Foo Fighters have proven to be one of the hardest-hitting rock’n’roll bands of the 21st century. Their songs feature driving rhythms and catchy choruses, with songs like “Everlong” and “Learn to Fly” garnering extensive radio play. Winning Best Rock Album Grammy’s for 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose, 2002’s One by One, and 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters secured their place in rock music history.
The pop-punk band frontier by Hayley Williams jumped onto the music scene in the middle of the decade. Their debut album All We Know Is Falling propelled them into the limelight, but it was their 2007 album Riot! which catapulted them into superstardom. With hits like “Misery Business” and “Crushcrushcrush”, the album garnered them a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. They followed the album the highly successful 2009 Brand New Eyes.
12. Kings of Leon
The Tennessee band brought a Southern rock sound with them into the 21st century, bringing in elements of alternative and arena rock to create a sound all their own. While their 2007 album Because of the Times topped the UK charts, it was their 2008 release Only by the Night that made them a household name. With singles like “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody”, Kings of Leon dominated the airwaves at the end of the decade.
13. Snow Patrol
The Irish-Scottish rock band got its start on the British Isles. Leading the post-Britpop movement, their 2004 Final Straw went platinum in the UK. It was their 2006 Eyes Open, featuring the hit single “Chasing Cars”, which propelled them to international superstardom. In 2008 they released A Hundred Million Suns.
While the British rock band rose to prominence in the 1990s, it was their 2000 release of Kid A that separated them from the rest of the pack. The album was declared the best album of the decade by many critics. With each release – from 2001’s Amnesiac, 2003’s Hail To the Thief, and 2007’s In Rainbows – Radiohead created a musical landscape all their own. As well, during this time, Radiohead also pioneered alternative music platforms as the music industry first began to flirt with internet streaming services.
15. The Black Keys
A duo inspired by the likes of The White Stripes, The Black Keys started as a lo-fi, garage blues band. Out of Akron, Ohio, the duo first came to gain acclaim with their 2004 Rubber Factory. Picked up by a major label, The Black Keys released Magic Potion in 2006 and Attack & Release in 2008. The pair catapulted their success into the following decade, expanding their sound while staying true to their blues-rock roots.
16. Good Charlotte
Good Charlotte’s triple-platinum 2002 album The Young and Hopeless represents one of the greatest pop-punk, emo albums of all-time. With radio hits like “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous” and “The Anthem”, the Maryland-based band was catapulted to superstardom. The band continued their success throughout the decade with 2004’s The Chronicles of Life and Death and 2007’s Good Morning Revival.
17. 3 Doors Down
Few bands began the 2000s with a stronger start than the Mississippi band 3 Doors Down. Their 2000 The Better Life – featuring hit single “Kryptonite” – was certified 6x platinum. They followed it up with 2002’s Away From the Sun which included radio hits such as “When I’m Gone” and “Here Without You”. The band continued their success with 2005’s Seventeen Days and 2008’s 3 Doors Down, both of which debuted at the top of the Billboard charts.
While TOOL rose to prominence as an alt-metal band in the 1990s, they gained widespread commercial success with the epic 2001 Lateralus, which rose to the top of the Billboard charts. The band’s musical experimentation, incorporation of visual arts, and themes on personal growth helped them create a cult following. Their 2006 release 10,000 Days continued their success and established them as one of the greatest genre-defying acts in music history.
19. The Mars Volta
Like TOOL, The Mars Volta defied the boundaries of genre, bridging together hardcore, psychedelic rock, and jazz. They rose to fame on the merits of their live performances, garnering fandom as they toured with The Red Hot Chili Peppers at the beginning of the decade. While they had many earlier releases, their 2008 Bedlam in Goliath established them as a hard rock powerhouse. The track “Wax Simulcra” received the 2009 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.
20. Matchbox Twenty
While the Florida pop-rock band, led by vocalist Rob Thomas, initially came to fame with their 1996 Yourself or Someone Like You, they carried this momentum into the new century. In 2000, they released Mad Season to critical acclaim, followed by 2002’s More Than You Think You Are. MB20 was on regular radio rotation throughout the decade and their success propelled Rob Thomas to great solo success.
21. No Doubt
While the new wave ska band came to prominence in the 90s, they opened the decade with two excellent contributions: 2000’s Return of Saturn and 2001’s Rock Steady. The 2000s were a challenging time for female-fronted rock bands, as the industry was more interested in solo female vocalists. This transition was exemplified by No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani, who spent most of the decade on top of the charts as a solo performer.
22. System of a Down
The Armenian-American band from Glendale helped to define the nü-metal sound of the decade. System of a Down enjoyed decent success from their eponymous 1998 debut album. To celebrate their 2nd album in 2001, System of a Down scheduled a free live concert at a venue capable of holding several thousand people. But, over 10,000 people showed up, forcing local authorities to cancel the show, which resulted in mass rioting and the destruction of the stage and the band’s equipment. The 2001 album Toxicity catapulted them to superstardom, which they followed up with 2003’s Steal This Album!
23. Modest Mouse
While the outfit had started receiving acclaim in the 90s, Modest Mouse achieved critical success with the 2000 The Moon & Antartica. However, it was the 2004 release Good News for People Who Love Bad News – featuring hits “Float On” and “Ocean Breathes Salty” – which solidified their place in the music landscape. Blending multiple genres, poetry, and complex percussive elements, Modest Mouse continued to dominate airwaves and record sales throughout the decade with 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank also achieving commercial success.
24. Green Day
While the pop-punk band first came to fame in the 90s, the 2004 rock opera American Idiot brought them back into the limelight and dominated radio play for the rest of the decade. The album won the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album. While they experienced a significant departure from their earlier sound, it would be impossible to talk about rock in the 2000s without including Green Day.
Emerging from SoCal’s skate-punk scene, the pop-punk band came to mainstream prominence with their 1999 Enema of the State and 2001 Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. While often straightforward and containing simple arrangements, songs like “All The Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?” effectively spoke to the disaffected suburban youth at the turn of the century.
Recognized as one of the best live performing bands of the decade, Muse hit the ground running with their debut album Showbiz in 1999. Their sound evolved, incorporating more complex instrumentation that veered from spacey to electronic. They released successful albums throughout the decade, starting with 2001’s Origin of Symmetry and 2003’s Absolution. In 2006, they released the iconic Black Holes and Revelations, featuring their most well-known single “Supermassive Black Hole”. Muse continues to evolve, trying new instrumentation and addressing complex social themes in their music.
27. Maroon 5
While today Maroon 5 may be thought of as a pop group, their iconic 2002 album Songs About Jane established them as pop-rock titans. Merging an edgy rock sound with soulful sensibilities, from day one Maroon 5 received critical acclaim and heavy radio play, earning the 2005 Grammy for Best New Artist. They continued this trend with 2007’s It Won’t Be Soon For Long, remaining a staple of rock and pop radio stations. They rode their success into the following decade, gravitating towards a more pop-driven sound.
While the Irish rock band had achieved global fame in the 80s, they experienced a downswing in the late 90s as they tried their hands at dance music. In 2000, they returned to their rock foundations with All That You Can’t Leave Behind, featuring their hit anthem “Beautiful Day”. The album garnered many Grammys, including Record of the Year. They followed that up with 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The single “Vertigo” gained global recognition as the soundtrack for an Apple ad campaign. They closed the decade out by releasing 2009’s No Line on the Horizon and embarking on the U2 360 Tour – an iconic tour which set ticket sales records that wouldn’t fall for another decade.
29. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Similar to U2, The Boss rocketed to fame decades before. While Springsteen had focused on his solo career throughout the 80s and 90s, the E Street Band reunited in 1999. They released their first album in nearly 20 years with 2002’s The Rising. The album garnered the band the Grammy for Best Rock Album. While other projects were not as successful, the band was culturally prominent given the political nature of the music, Springsteen’s critical views towards the War on Terror, and his support for Barack Obama’s presidency.
Interpol was at the front of the post-punk revival of the decade. Their debut 2002 album Turn On the Bright Lights was met with widespread critical acclaim. They continued to build on this success throughout the decade with 2004’s Antics and 2007’s Our Love to Admire. They toured extensively, playing with powerhouse groups like U2 and The Cure and in 2007 they headlined Lollapalooza in Chicago.
The alt-metal group from Sacramento came onto the music scene in the mid-90s, gaining a following through intense tour schedules and a loyal following. Their most critically acclaimed work was released starting with 2000’s platinum release, White Pony. This release took their music in a more experimental direction that would define their subsequent albums. They won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance for the single “Elite”. They continued to produce critically acclaimed albums with a self-titled 2003 release and 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist.
32. Arctic Monkeys
Formed in 2002, the English garage rock band released their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not in 2006. It is considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time, becoming the fastest-selling debut in British music history and the second-fastest in US history. They bolstered their status as legit newcomers with a highly-acclaimed tour of North America to promote the new album. They continued this success with 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare and 2009’s Humbug. The next decade only had more success in store for the British group.
33. Arcade Fire
A list of the best rock bands of the 2000s would not be complete without this Canadian indie rock band. Their 2004 album Funeral is considered one of the best albums of all time, with many publications rating it as high as 2nd best of the decade (only failing to topple the masterpiece of Kid A. Arcade Fire followed this up with the successful 2008 release of Neon Bible, establishing them as one of the most critically acclaimed rock acts of the decade.
The 2000s represented a strange time in music history. The advent of the internet was actively changing the music landscape drastically and the political turmoil that followed 9/11 reshaped the social consciousness. Bands were experimenting with sounds both new and old. From garage rock to nü-metal, from a classic rock resurgence to a new wave of alt-rock sounds, the 2000s were defined by myriad different sounds and styles. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, what is clear is that the 2000s produced countless rock acts that changed the way we listen to music.
Did we miss out on any of your favorite bands from the era? Let us know by contacting us today and we’ll consider your suggestions. While we can’t guarantee the 2000s band that you recommend will get added to the list, we’ll be sure to mull over the band’s discography and determine if they rightly deserve a spot on this list.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.