"Rock Your Body" by Justin Timberlake
When we first heard Justin Timberlake was going to release a solo album, many of us knew that he'd been in a boy band. We didn't necessarily know which one – it could have been 98 Degrees, the Backstreet Boys or Menudo, for that matter – we just knew that 12-year-old girls had posters of him, and that was reason enough to believe his solo album would suck. So when the 'N Sync member released this solo disco tune, co-written with the Neptunes, even the most ardent haters gritted their teeth and conceded that it was actually quite catchy. The song purposefully channeled Michael Jackson, and Timberlake performed it when MJ's sister Janet had her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
"In Da Club" by 50 Cent
When we still weren't quite sure if it was cool to call him Fiddy, Curtis Jackson – a.k.a. 50 Cent – was an underground rapper with a Rasputin-like fortitude, having once survived nine gunshot wounds. But after releasing this fun-at-the-club song – produced by Dr. Dre, on Eminem's label – the only thing getting shot up was Fiddy's bank account. The album it appeared on sold 872,000 copies in its first four days, and "In Da Club" became ubiquitous. When an MTV news correspondent went to Kuwait City to report on the pending war, "In Da Club" was the first song he heard on the radio, showing the international appeal of "gettin' rubbed."
"Clocks" by Coldplay
While the band's debut album, Parachutes, was a hit in the U.K., most Americans still didn't know about Coldplay until this song started showing up in films, TV shows, commercials and movie trailers. Featuring a hypnotic piano riff, the song helped make Coldplay ginormous. The band that performed at the 1,150-seat Showbox in Seattle in 2001 would eventually play to nearly 60,000 fans at the Acer Arena in Sydney.
"Hey Ya" by Outkast
Unless you weren't born yet, chances are you heard the lyric "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," made popular in this funk- and rock-influenced song, and repeated it more times than you needed to. Still, it was fun and infectious and helped make Outkast a huge act in 2003. Andre 3000, who performed all the song's instruments, told Rolling Stone that the chords – the first he'd ever learned – were inspired by the Smiths, the Ramones and the Buzzcocks. Just as their fame skyrocketed, Outkast fell to the earth, and their follow-up album in 2006 was their last.
"Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes
As popular music steered heavily toward pop and hip-hop, many rock purists saw a beacon of hope in the White Stripes when they heard the now-familiar guitar riff that opened this song. Recalling garage rock, British blues and punk, the song's genesis came during a sound check in Australia. Before long, it could be heard blasting at sporting events worldwide. As we kept wondering if Jack and Meg White were siblings or lovers, this song became their signature tune. Later we learned that Jack and Meg White were married for four years. Their band lasted 14.
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