It’s funny how things happen. Regarded as one of the best groups of the 80s, U2 was considered a joke by the end of the 90s. After releasing two odd and critically panned albums Zooropa and Pop; coupled with embarrassingly gaudy stage shows, U2 stated that they would be “reapplying for the job of the best band in the world.” And in 2000 they released one of their best albums to date, some say surpassing the mighty Joshua Tree, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Produced by Brian Eno, this album “left behind” all the glitz and over production their past few albums were laden with. U2 presented the world with a record filled with hope and joy as well as sorrow and loss. It was their comeback record. Then September 11 happened. This is not an event anyone wants to remember, however after that fateful day, it was U2 to America’s emotional rescue. Their music healed a nation- we cried with songs like “With or Without You” and our hearts swelled to the hope of “Beautiful Day.” The ultimate moment of their fame in this decade is undoubtedly their Superbowl halftime show performance in 2002, with names of September 11 victims scrolling behind him, Bono opened his patented leather jacket and revealing the American flag sewn into the lining. It was a moment many will never forget and U2 once again was the best band in the world. While their last two albums, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon, while solid records, have not equaled All That You Can’t Leave Behind’s excellence, their massive fan-friendly priced stadium tours has U2 kept that as the #1 band of the 00s.
They say idle hands make the devil’s work, so to avoid a dance with the devil Dave Grohl has remained the busiest man in rock ‘n’ roll music. Grohl and his band, The Foo Fighters, with a roar, pumping hit after hit from their 1999 record There is Nothing Left to Loose. Since then they have turned out three albums and a greatest hits package all of which have spawned a number of hit singles, platinum records and Grammy awards. The band also evolved into one of America’s top stadium performing bands selling out venues throughout the country. However what makes Grohl a top artist is his involvement in a slew of other bands including: Tenacious D, The Killing Joke , Nine Inch Nails, Them Crooked Vultures, The Prodigy, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, Queen, David Bowie, Juliette & The Licks and Queens of the Stone Age. He also went onto produce Probot, a heavy metal concept band in which Grohl recorded almost all the instruments and then recruited singers from Motorhead, Seplatura and other heavy and death metal outfits.
Little Jackie White has come a long way from Detroit. After garnering a buzz with The White Stripes, mostly due to the “are they married or brother & sister” controversy, the band was immediately lumped into the infamous “The” garage band craze of the early 00s with The Strokes, The Vines and The Hives. However White transcended “the” garage rock label and become the decades undisputed guitar god. With The White Stripes he took the infectious garagey sound of Red White Blood Cells and infused it with electric blues producing Elephant one of the top records of the decade. After Elephant, The Stripes phenomenon exploded throughout the world, allowing White to create a culture based in retro curiosities, Holga cameras and throwback rock ‘n’ roll. Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump were also released, producing more hits, more critical praise and more legend to the iconic figure of Jack White. White has also created two other, distinct bands- The Raconteurs, a bluesy rock super group whose records do not do their resurrected Led Zeppelin live shows justice and The Dead Weather- a female fronted rock band on which White plays drums. He’s also gone on to launch Third Man Records and has become a favorite of filmmakers appearing in Coffee & Cigarettes, Cold Mountain, Walk Hard and It Might Get Loud.
It’s extremely hard to count just how many hit singles Jay-Z has, but let’s just say it’s been enough for him to build an empire. Jay-Z has gone from second banana to acts like Foxy Brown to running the hip-hop game. He’s worked with just about anyone who matters in the hip-hop and R&B community and despite his brief retirement, he has proven with his latest release The Blueprint 3 (thanks in part to the Yankees adopting Empire State of mind as their theme song) that he still is the king. However his star power doesn’t end in hip-hop, he was part of a resounding hit record Collision Course, a mash-up album he did with Linkin Park and he even performed on stage with the jam band Phish in Brooklyn. Combine that with owning The Nets, a chain of super clubs/sports bars, producing Broadway shows, owning a clothing line and being married to Beyonce, Jay Z is definitely a top player in the 00s.
Justin Timberlake kicked off the 00s with a bleach blonde McFro, choreographed dance moves and the stigma of being the lead singer of being a boy band. Today, when he’s not being regarded as on the top acts in the pop world, he’s appearing in hilarious bits on Saturday Night Live, is a pitchman for numerous products, is a sought after guest performer, is starring in indie films and is actually taken serious by critics. And who does he have to thank? Well, besides obvious talent, the production team behind his song “Cry Me A River” should take a lot of credit. A mature song and thinly veiled song about his break-up with Britney Spears, the use of Timbaland’s outstanding production skills and the very mature music video that followed solidified Timberlake as his own man, leaving his image from ‘NSYNC in the history books.
Much like U2, the music of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band was there for us after September 11. His music for the common man lifted many an American spirit. At every charity concert there was you could find Bruce sweating and strumming his guitar. His album, The Rising, was a reflection on the event and one that lifted spirits in times of darkness. However, Bruce didn’t stop there. He came back, he pulled the E-Street Band out of the attic and becoming the ultimate touring band. He’s had a few missteps (e.g. The Seeger Sessions), but Bruce is just as relevant today than he was when he young, innocent and doing the E-Street shuffle. His old hits are on the radio everyday, people not even born when he debuted at The Pony are buying hundreds of dollars of tickets, his music is heard in every bar in Jersey and yet you can still find him walking the streets of Jersey, just like anyone else. Now that’s rock star.
In the 90s Green Day released an album entitled Dookie- yes an album named after a euphemism for poop. In the 00s, all jokes were put aside and Green Day became The Clash, Queen and The Who wrapped up into one guy-linered ball. Their album American Idiot, much like their first hit album Dookie, was everywhere. You couldn’t turn on a rock radio station without hearing a song from it- and for good reason. The album showed these guys had grown up, were through with songs about poop and porn, and wanted to discuss what they thought was wrong with America (American Idiot = George W. Bush). The masses responded and turned the band into an arena rock sensation.
An odd choice to be on this list. However, Kelly Clarkson, in my opinion, is the reason American Idol became an American institution. Had her album Thankful tanked in 2003, the American Idol franchise would have died with it. It would have shown that the success of the first season was a fluke, that they couldn’t produce a star (which has happened) and the show most likely would’ve ended after another season or two. However, her white bread R&B and rock hybrid along with girl next door looks became a sensation throughout the country and allowed other Idol contestants like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry burst onto the scene and become even more successful than Clarkson.
9. Bon Jovi: Their hair was cut, the glitter and make-up were gone yet somehow and someway in 2000, despite being at the height of boy bands and nu metal, Bon Jovi returned to rock superstardom with the album Crush. One of their best albums to date, Crush was a return to the fun pop metal and soulful ballads about the working man that made these central Jersey boys worldwide icons. Crush allowed the band to become a stadium staple this decade and put them back into the collective conscious of music, not just Jersey. The bands’ follow-up albums paled in comparison to Crush, but the band has put out consistently solid music and became a huge hit in the country world with the album Lost Highway.
Metallica makes this list because throughout this decade they have been dogged by just about everyone- and for good reason. Whether is be Lars Ulrich’s attack on free music downloads, the firing of fan favorite Jason Newsted or a string of forgettable albums, Metallica looked like they were done for. However in 2008 they released the absolute best metal record, ever recorded, Death Magnetic. The perfect hybrid of the band’s 80s speed metal with the slick production of their 90s releases, Metallica was able to put together a near flawless album of aggressive crunching riffs, killer bass, machine gun like drums and enough guitar solos to satisfy your inner guitar hero. The album was #1 on the charts, helped sell out stadiums around the world, bring back an army of disgruntled fans and reassure us that Metallica is the best metal band period.
Honorable mention: Beyonce should obviously be on this list, but since this my top 10, Metallica made it on in her place. She’s the undeniable queen of pop and has created an anthem for “all the single ladies” for years to come. Linkin Park and Nickelback became the sole survivors of the death of nu metal and became rock gods. You also can’t deny the hit-making power that: Ludacris, 50 Cent, Radiohead, Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Andrea Boccelli, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, John Mayer, Coldplay, and The Black Eyed Peas, amongst others have had this decade.