From Yeah! to Vertigo, 24 songs turning 20 in 2024

The pop-music landscape of 20 years ago was vibrant

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There is no doubt about it, 2004 was an important year for pop music.

It was a time when US modern RnB was at its commercial peak, indie groups from the UK were making their presence felt and The Killers released their second single, setting them on the path to becoming one of the biggest rock bands since U2.

On the subject of Bono's U2, the Irish band scored their own hit and soundtrack to a memorable iPod commercial and Beyonce continued to prove that the success of Crazy in Love was far from a fluke.

Here are 24 songs, in no particular order, that turn 20 this year.

1. Yeah! by Usher

The biggest-selling US single of the year was a sonic make-over for Usher and cemented the crunk subgenre as the dominant hip-hop sound of the day.

Where Usher cultivated a dedicated fanbase for his smooth balladry and RnB slow jams, Yeah! showed that he is just as comfortable playing with blazing synths and heaving club rhythms provided by producer Lil John.

While exploring these up-tempo sounds further in future collaborations with DJ David Guetta and pop producer Max Martin, Yeah! remains Usher’s quintessential club anthem.

2. Gasolina by Daddy Yankee

The song that put reggaeton on the mainstream map.

After a decade in which the genre bubbled away in underground clubs in the US and South America, the popularity of the exuberant track is regarded as the first crossover reggaeton hit.

Thanks to its infectious rhythm and lyrics, the summer anthem laid the seed for the genre's commercial ascendancy.

3. American Idiot by Green Day

This blistering punk missive transformed Green Day from perennial musical pranksters to the voice of their generation.

Marrying potent lyrics of political and social disenfranchisement with barrelling riffs, American Idiot not only heralded a bold new creative phase for the trio, but the track and resultant album – also called American Idiot – became the subject of a successful Broadway production.

4. Somebody Told Me by The Killers

In the follow-up to their record-breaking debut single Mr Brightside, the rockers dial up the synths in a barrelling song about the kind of misbehaviour associated with their home city of Las Vegas.

Strident, decadent and slightly tongue in cheek, Somebody Told Me set The Killers on the road to becoming one of the biggest bands of the era.

5. Toxic by Britney Spears

The best of Britney's club tracks, Toxic is an absolute banger with an East-meets-West production melding bhangra drums and Bollywood strings with darting synths and surf guitars.

Capped off by Spears' arresting vocals, it went on to land the star her first Grammy in 2004 for Best Dance Recording.

6. Call on Me by Eric Prydz

A bellwether for the rising popularity of electronic dance music, this UK chart-topper by the Swedish DJ features a prominent sample of Steve Winwood's 1982 track Valerie.

Where the original was a more genteel and breezy affair, Prydz turned the hook into the kind of jubilant house-disco stomper that’s now a staple of music festivals and New Year's Eve celebrations.

7. What You Waiting For? by Gwen Stefani

The opening track from Gwen Stefani's debut album Love. Angel. Music. Baby is an ambitious and slightly wild ride with its shifting tempos and hybrid of styles ranging between electro-pop, funk and rock.

The eclectic approach is not only thrilling, but a strong affirmation that her career can flourish as a solo artist after the dissolution of her former successful band No Doubt.

8. Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand

A memorable moment in this giddy track arrives towards the middle, where the strident rhythms slow down to a steady stomp before exploding into a firework display of jagged guitar riffs and call-and-response chorus.

It was a dynamic arrangement rarely heard in indie-music at the time and established this Glaswegian band as the stylish new leaders of the pack.

9. The Reason by Hoobastank

Sometimes a subpar rock song can be saved by an absolutely fabulous chorus, as in this case.

Only problem is, repeating the feat is harder than it looks. Hence, we never really heard from Hoobastank again.

10. 1, 2 Step by Ciara featuring Missy Elliott

Released 10 months after Usher's smash hit Yeah!, Ciara's breakout single acted as a bookend for a year where crunk music dominated the hip-hop charts.

Laced by an incessant synth riff, 1,2 Step is a wickedly fun hit and comes complete with the swaggering rhymes expected from rapper Missy Elliott.

11. She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5

How you feel about this song depends on your view on Maroon 5's career trajectory.

For some, this hit from the band's debut album recalls an era where the material was more organic and not written by a committee of super producers and songwriters.

Newer fans, weaned on Maroon 5's calculated viral and TikTok friendly work like Sugar and Girls Like You, may mistake She Will Be Loved’s majesty for blandness.

12. Somewhere Only We Know by Keane

For a guitar-less band like Keane to form in 2004 seemed like a revolutionary step.

This was the year when the garage rock revival was in full swing with bands like The Strokes, Kings of Leon and The Libertines leading the pack.

Then again the relative success of the single not only had the UK trio lauded as the next Coldplay, but also showed the power of a beautiful vocal paired with an emotive arrangement.

13. Locked Up by Akon

Smooth enough for the radio while equally brawny to appeal to hip-hop fans, Akon's breakout single established a distinctive template carrying him to stardom.

14. Let's Get It Started by Black Eyed Peas

The hit track that sealed Black Eyed Peas' transition from an indie hip-hop crew to an arena-selling pop group.

While some older school fans pined for the more intricate lyrics of past releases, there is no denying the sheer joy of this summer anthem.

15. Naughty Girl by Beyonce

Following 2002's Work It Out, and 2003's Crazy in Love, Baby Boy and Me, Myself and I, Beyonce mixed things up with Naughty Girl. The taut and hypnotic interpolation of Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby was co-produced by the hitmaker of the moment, Scott Storch.

The track is also defined by an eastern-sounding synth groove more at home in Arabic pop music.

16. Slither by Velvet Revolver

It all started so promisingly for rock-supergroup Velvet Revolver.

Made up of members of Guns N'Roses and Wasted Youth and led by Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, the debut single was a near-perfect distillation of these backgrounds.

Guitarist Slash lays down his meanest groove-ridden riff since Guns N'Roses's You Could Be Mine, while Weiland glides from silky Bowie-like croon to a roar in the powerful and cathartic chorus.

While Velvet Revolver never captured the same intensity before splitting in 2008, Slither can be considered a classic of modern rock.

17. Amazing by George Michael

A late career gem by Michael, the breezy and carefree Amazing not only harkened back to his time with Wham! but provided a much-needed respite in his bloated and turgid final album Patience.

18. If I Ain't Got You by Alicia Keys

With RnB at the time sounding as slick and club-oriented as ever, Alicia Keys' organic sound was a much-needed elixir.

Taken from the previous year's Grammy Award-winning debut album The Diary of Alicia Keys, the mournful If I Ain't Got You can almost be viewed as a riposte to bling-wearing peers when she declares, "some people think the physical things define what's within, I've been there before but that life's a bore".

19. Take Your Mama by The Scissor Sisters

After their colourful take on Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, the Scissor Sisters channel the spirit of Crocodile Rock-era Elton John in their euphoric breakout single Take Your Mama.

More than the irrepressible and flamboyant vocals of Jake Shears, it is the songwriting craftsmanship here that’s the real tribute to the band’s seventies pop heroes.

20. Drop It Like It's Hot by Snoop Dogg

More than the brilliantly icy and minimal production from The Neptunes, it's Snoop Dogg's velvet flow and deft switches in cadence responsible for one of his biggest hits.

21. Let Me Love You by Mario

The song was so big that it reduced RnB singer Mario to one-hit-wonder status, despite the later single Here I Go Again being just as good.

That said, Let Me Love You is the kind of timeless single singers dream of and remains a fine example of the time when RnB music was a commercial juggernaut.

22. 1985 by Bowling for Soup

Some forgotten trivia about this pop-punk hit: 1985 was originally written and released by US rock group SR-71 as a new-wave track before Bowling for Soup recorded the successful remake the following year.

The latter's success is probably down to the fact that it ditched some of the ardent new-wave stylings of SR-71 and dialled up the sunny pop-punk riffs and harmonies.

While Blink-182 conceptually did it better five years prior with their 1990s boyband-baiting anthem All The Small Things, Bowling for Soup's infectious ode to eighties-era pop music and pop culture remains a hoot.

23. How We Do by The Game

It was one of the biggest hip-hop singles of the year.

While The Game had the proverbial red carpet rolled out for him courtesy of production by Dr Dre and guest verse by superstar 50 Cent, the Los Angeles rapper more than held his own in his stellar debut.

24. Vertigo by U2

Looking back, it's hard to know what made Vertigo such a success.

Was it down to the band rarely sounding so thrillingly unshackled then and since, or thanks to its position as the soundtrack of the era-defining Apple iPod television advertisements?

Either way, Vertigo remains one of U2's most potent works.

Updated: January 17, 2024, 7:26 AM