21 songs that turn 20 in 2021: from Destiny's Child and Jennifer Lopez to Shakira and Kylie Minogue
2001 also marks the year Alicia Keys and Gorillaz released their debut singles
It was the year we were introduced to a talented singer called Alicia Keys and seasoned Colombian artist Shakira.
It was when Destiny's Child got their revenge and strong women dominated the charts individually – or collectively as they sang Lady Marmalade.
The year 2001 was also when Apple introduced the game-changing platform iTunes, RnB was a commercial force, Enrique Iglesias became a pop prince and Atomic Kitten began to implode.
Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit, in no particular order, 21 songs that turn 20 in 2021.
1. 'Hanging by a Moment' by Lifehouse
The biggest-selling US single of the year was initially a slow burn for pop-rock group Lifehouse.
Released to radio in 2000, it only premiered on the charts in February 2001 and hung around long enough to achieve tremendous sales without ever reaching number one.
While going on to be moderately successful, Lifehouse never managed to top their debut single.
2. ‘All For You’ by Janet Jackson
With commercial RnB riding strong on the airwaves at the time, Janet Jackson switched lanes with this euphoric slice of pop music.
While, let's face it, Jackson's voice has never been her strongest point, regular producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis surrounded her with sun-kissed production owing as much to vintage disco as contemporary soul.
The song became a global hit and a mainstay of Jackson's tours ever since.
3. ‘Drops of Jupiter’ by Train
By the time this anthem dropped in early 2001, Train were in the last-chance saloon.
Their make-or-break second album, also titled Drops of Jupiter, was their last shot. Luckily, the lush power ballad did the trick and established Train as a leading pop-rock band of the 2000s.
Chatting with The National in 2013, singer Patrick Monahan expressed mixed feelings regarding the hit and rued how the money generated was swallowed up in a previous divorce.
Fortunately, eight years later, the even bigger single Hey Soul Sister arrived to balance the books.
4. 'Family Affair' by Mary J Blige
Mary J Blige's work has mostly been a fans-only affair, but, for a brief moment in February 2001, the soul singer was the biggest name in pop music with this heaving club anthem.
Powered by irresistible production from Dr Dre, Family Affair had Blige dialling down the vocal fireworks and cooing on a global hit dominating charts and clubs worldwide.
5. 'Clint Eastwood' by Gorillaz
What a calling card from one of the most innovative groups of their generation.
Clint Eastwood is a bewitching melange of dub, hip-hop and Spaghetti Western soundtrack.
With verses by enigmatic rapper Del the Funky Homosapien and Blur frontman Damon Albarn on the hook, Gorillaz went on to form a sound all their own.
6. ‘Whenever, Wherever’ by Shakira
Better late than never for Shakira. After four well-received albums of Spanish pop, the Colombian singer focused on the US and UK market with Laundry Service, her first English release.
The album’s lead single, Whenever, Wherever, is a perfect transitional single.
Co-written by Latin pop pioneer Gloria Estefan, the track maintains Shakira's sound while injecting flashy production fit for the era.
The song also introduces us to one of the many nonsensical lyrics to become a hallmark of Shakira’s English pop tracks: “I would climb the Andes solely to count the freckles on your body.”
7. 'Lady Marmalade' by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink
A star-studded track fit for a blockbuster movie, this updated version of Labelle's 1974 hit was taken from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.
Also, considering the four big egos involved, each singer got their chance to shine.
Aguilera anchors the track with powerhouse vocals, Lil' Kim is boisterous, while Mya and Pink ram home the girl-power message.
The track went on to become a global hit and helped set the stage for the future stardom of Pink.
8. ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child
It is advised not to make any moves when mad – unless you are Beyonce, of course.
In response to a US radio show comparing Destiny's Child’s revolving door of former members to an episode of reality game show Survivor, Beyonce corrals the girls in the studio for an emphatic self-empowerment anthem.
Not only was it a massive hit, but it nabbed the group their first Grammy Award in 2002.
9. ‘Whole Again’ by Atomic Kitten
As Atomic Kitten member Natasha Hamilton told The National in 2020, the trio were "just girls who just left high school and then happened to be successful".
It is an understatement, of course.
By the time Whole Again was released in January 2001, Atomic Kitten's place as one of the UK's greatest girl groups was assured.
The ballad was the fifth and biggest-selling single from debut album Right Now (2001) and went on top the UK and a range of European charts.
As it turned out, the period was as good as it got for the group with member Kerry Katona acrimoniously leaving shortly after the song’s release.
10. ‘Don’t Stop Movin'’ by S Club 7
British group S Club 7 first found fame on the back of Miami 7, a 1999 scripted series following their quest to make it in the US.
While the septet was rarely afforded industry respect because of their contrived beginnings, they managed to produce strong material.
Don't Stop Movin' is the best of the lot: a smashing disco number hearkening back to the work of Boney M. No wonder it was a hit across Europe.
11. 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' by Kylie Minogue
After a forgettable period in the mid-1990s dabbling in alternative pop and trip-hop, Minogue realised her appeal lies on the dance floor.
Can't Get You Out of My Head is the kind of blissful pop rarely heard again until Dua Lipa came along with this year's Grammy-winning Future Nostalgia.
Slinky, sensual and powered by a hypnotic groove, Minogue's hit is not so much a disco retread but a harbinger of the clubby pop sounds Ariana Grande and Lipa would forge ahead today.
12. ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk
Daft Punk truly embrace their robot personas in this track.
Built around a buoyant piano melody taken from funk singer Edwin Birdsong's 1979 track Cola Bottle Baby, the duo injected house beats, funk guitar riffs and signature robotic vocals that tell us to work "harder, better, faster, stronger".
This all would have sounded dystopian if it wasn't for the infectious spirit coursing through the groove-tastic affair.
13. 'I'm a Slave 4 U' by Britney Spears
This means bright harmonies jettisoned for heaving beats and sweet vocals making way for sultry and panting sounds.
As well as being a global hit, the track is responsible for one of the great MTV VMA Awards performances, when Spears arrived on stage in 2001 draped with a white python.
14. ‘Hero’ by Enrique Iglesias
After tasting success with first English single Bailamos, Iglesias teamed up once again with the same writers for this power ballad.
As well as Iglesias's silky croon, the song's resilient message meant that it was used by New York radio stations in tribute campaigns after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
15. ‘Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)’ by Blu Cantrell
The first of US RnB singer Blu Cantrell's two big hits (the other is 2003's Breathe), Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!) is known for its brilliant memorably chorus.
This is one of those songs that becomes an ear worm upon the first listen and made Cantrell a star in the US and Europe.
16. ‘Where’s Your Head At’ by Basement Jaxx
An absolute banger still invigorating us 20 years on.
A frenetic melange of punk, hip-hop and garage music, the track destroyed festival stages across Europe and catapulted Basement Jaxx to pop-star status.
Another reason for its popularity is the chilling video featuring monkeys in a science experiment gone awry.
17. ‘I’m Real’ by Jennifer Lopez
This is an underrated JLo song.
A collaboration with hip-hop star of the moment, Ja Rule, I'm Real works as more a mood piece than radio fodder.
Built upon a sensual synth riff, the duo complement each other with Lopez's sweet vocals contrasting against Rule's guttural raps.
The smooth chorus, in which Lopez reaffirms her quest for authenticity in a material world, is unexpectedly moving.
18. ‘Fallin'’ by Alicia Keys
Just 20 years old at the time, Alicia Keys came across as an old soul with this debut hit single.
Listen carefully and you realise the intricacies of the production. The song is powered by a tasteful sample of James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World and staccato drum machines. Meanwhile, Keys’s bluesy vocals make all that lyrical heartache feel real.
Fallin’ was the beginning of Keys’s rise to being one of the important RnB artists of her generation – a fact Saudi Arabian school students witnessed when she performed the song during a recent visit to the kingdom.
19. ‘Blurry’ by Puddle of Mudd
Rarely has a rock song captured the anguish of divorce.
A lot has been said about Wes Scantlin's voice being similar to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain's, but it is not a distraction here.
From the hollow-eyed verse to the crushing chorus, Scantlin channels rage and sorrow, making Blurry stand alongside Harry Chapman’s Cats in the Cradle as one of the defining songs on family regrets.
20. ‘Get Ur Freak On’ by Missy Elliott
Brilliant, bizarre and bonkers, Get Ur Freak On is cutting-edge, even today.
Timbaland's production is built upon Indian bhangra rhythms and a Hindi song sample from Solitude, a track by German world music artist Karunesh.
Elliott more than matches the adventurous sounds with percussive raps full of quotable lines, including "hush your mouth" at the start of the final verse.
Get Your Freak On remains a reference point for peak hip-hop production.
21. ‘Chop Suey!’ by System Of A Down
A modern rock masterpiece that really shouldn't work, as it is several songs in one.
From hip-hop and metal to sweet balladry, Chop Suey! ricochets all over the place with gut-punching abandon.
What keeps it all from falling apart is the conviction by the American-Armenian group, even if we don't exactly know what they are all talking about.
Updated: May 2, 2021 11:26 AM