Throwback songs just hit different. When we think of throwback songs, we mostly think of artists like Frank Sinatra, Rick Astley, or Queen. You know, the really old stuff from before the 2000s. But it’s 2021 now and that means the songs that many of us grew up with or loved in our teens are already throwback songs.
Don’t believe me? ‘MAGIC!‘ by Rude is now seven years old, ‘What Makes You Beautiful‘ is nine years old, and Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby‘ is 11 years old. And who can forget Lenka’s ‘The Show’? The 2009 hit is turning 12 years old this October.
Feel your bones creaking yet? Sit down and take out your old iPod as we jam out to these throwback songs from the past couple of decades.
1. Bring Me to Life by Evanescence (2003)
Our first throwback song is a classic from the American rock band Evanescence. Bring Me to Life is an anthem for every scene, emo, and goth kid from the 2000s up until today. It has all the hallmarks of a top-tier alternative subculture hit, including black eyeliner and a controversy involving the Christian community.
Where are they now?: In a 2020 article from Rolling Stone, lead singer Amy Lee shared that the band was coming back together to work on a new album. That album turned out to be The Bitter Truth, an LP released earlier this year. It features the same haunting vocals we’ve come to expect from Lee and stays in the same genre of nu-metal that they became famous for. Honestly, in a time of so much radical change, it’s comforting to listen to something that’s familiar.
2. Yellow by Coldplay (2000)
Tender and romantic, this next recommendation for your playlist of 2000s throwback songs comes from British rock band Coldplay. Yellow peaked on the Billboard charts on February 17, 2001, in a cushy sixth position. It stayed on the chart for 26 weeks and in the hearts of music fans for the next two decades. It may have taken the song a whole decade to get its own music video, but fans still come back to it on the reg.
Where are they now?: Coldplay is still going strong and released a new song called Higher Power on May 7, 2021. The band is set to release its ninth album this year. By the sound of Higher Power, we can expect a stronger pop influence in the upcoming album. You can listen to their new song here.
3. Toxic by Britney Spears (2003)
There are few iconic throwback songs from the 2000s that can hold a candle to the cultural reset that is Britney Spears’s Toxic. Except maybe Hit Me Baby One More Time or Oops!..I Did It Again which are also Britney Spears’s songs. The song may have peaked at just ninth place on the Billboard Hot 100 but its impact and popularity mean that it still makes about $48,000 a year. The only problem? Britney doesn’t have control over that money.
Where are they now?: Britney Spears is currently under a conservatorship. For those of you that don’t speak legalese, a conservatorship is when a legal adult is appointed a guardian by the court due to a perceived inability to take care of oneself. Usually, the people who end up under conservatorships are the elderly, mentally ill, or those with developmental dysfunctions.
So, why is Britney under a conservatorship? Apparently, it all started when she had a public breakdown after which the singer was put under the care of her father. And then it was extended.
Until now, Britney is still not free to manage her own affairs. In fact, she was only given the right to choose her own lawyer this year. But there’s still a long legal battle up ahead and to that: #FreeBritney.
4. Miss Independent by Ne-Yo (2008)
The song may be over a decade old but it’s still a staple for events where there are beautiful, powerful women. Miss Independent was among the songs used in the 2018 Miss Universe pageant where Ne-Yo performed in a peacock-patterned suit and fedora combo that just screams 2000s R&B goodness.
Its catchy tune and forward-thinking lyrics made this song peak in the second position on the Billboard charts and kept it there for 13 weeks.
Where are they now?: Ne-Yo stepped away from the limelight in 2012 when he became the vice-president of record label Motown. But it seems Ne-Yo’s ready to start making waves again with his new songs which were released just this 2021. Y2K is trending again but whether Ne-Yo regains his momentum is yet to be seen.
5. Complicated by Avril Lavigne (2002)
Let’s pass the mic back to the scene kids.
Canadian singer Avril Lavigne was one of the biggest stars of the 2000s. Unlike the tamer or more traditionally feminine teen stars of the 2000s, Avril’s brand of music was loud, proud, and punk with its strong themes of defiance. Her hit song Complicated reached the eleventh position on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 20 weeks.
Where are they now?: While some say she’s been replaced by a clone, the singer who made a name for herself as a rebellious teen has since made a shift towards Christian music after a difficult battle with Lyme disease. She’s kept her signature eye look and still sounds just as she did when she first hit the airwaves.
To the Gen Alpha and younger Gen Z out there: Even if you’re not big on religious music, seriously, check out her old songs. Avril walked so Billie Eilish could run.
6. Love Story by Taylor Swift (2008)
Few artists are able to stay in the spotlight for more than a few years, let alone decades. But Taylor Swift has managed to stay wildly popular since 2008 up until today. Her song Love Story skyrocketed the country-pop singer-songwriter onto an international stage.
Taylor’s sugary retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet peaked at fourth on the Billboard 100 when it was first released. After the release of her Taylor’s Version of the song, a series of re-recordings of her old albums, Love Story topped the Billboard country chart.
Where are they now?: Taylor Swift is still slaying the music industry. Though she started out as a country-pop singer, the singer-songwriter continues to re-invent herself and her music. Just last year, Swift released two folk-inspired albums Evermore and Folklore with little fanfare, driving her fans wild when it turned out they were getting two albums back to back.
Taylor’s keeping the Swifties fed which is more than what this next singer’s fans are getting.
7. Umbrella by Rihanna (2007)
Umbrella remains the biggest hit from Rihanna. Released in 2007, this catchy tune topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed there for 33 weeks. The iconic song made a splash again ten years after its release when Tom Holland, best known for his role as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), lip-synced to ‘Umbrella‘ in a corset top on Comedy Central.
Where are they now?: It’s been ages since we got new music from Rihanna. No surprise there. RiRi has been busy running her make-up company Fenty Beauty. But the singer promises we’ll be getting a new album from her soon.
8. Poker Face by Lady Gaga (2008)
Poker Face is to Lady Gaga what ‘Love Story’ is for Taylor Swift. This late 2000s party anthem got to the top of the Hot 100 chart in 2009 and has stayed on the charts since. It’s become one of the biggest pop hits of all time and Mother Monster hasn’t taken her foot off the gas pedal since Poker Face put her on the map. The artist has been the subject of several controversies like that one time she showed up in a meat dress to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.
Where are they now?: The controversial pop artist has been shaking things up by getting involved in film. She played the role of Ally in the 2018 film A Star Is Born which came with a new hit, the ballad Shallow. But Lady Gaga hasn’t abandoned her pop origins and has recently released a new song 911.
9. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People (2010)
Moving into the 2010s, this next suggestion for your throwback songs playlist is indie pop staple Pumped up Kicks. The catchy song from Foster the People climbed to the top of the Billboard charts and kept its place of honor for a full 113 weeks. A lot of people danced to this song without realizing what it was really about.
If you stop to make out what lead singer Mark Foster is saying, you’ll catch the following lyrics: “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks. You better run, better run, outrun my gun.”
Foster has admitted that Pumped up Kicks references school shootings as he was troubled by gun violence in schools that followed in the wake of Columbine. Unfortunately for the band, their hit song would be pulled from radio stations following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Where are they now?: Foster the People left their old label last year. The band’s relationship with the label ended on amicable terms, terminating instead due to the band’s desire to go back to their more indie roots. But while we’ll still be hearing music from Foster the People, we may not be hearing them perform Pumped up Kicks again. The controversial song has been associated with the Parkland school shooter and unpleasant associations like this have driven the band to consider retiring their most popular song.
10. The Only Exception by Paramore (2010)
It may be a decade old but Paramore’s The Only Exception remains one of the most popular love songs to come out of the 2010s. The song stuck to the Billboard charts for 12 weeks and peaked at the seventeenth position. The secret to The Only Exception’s staying power likely has something to do with its heart-wrenching story of re-discovered love and finally allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Where are they now?: Paramore may have taken a four-year hiatus since the release of After Laughter, but the band’s members have just been working on their own projects. If her May 2021 tweets are to go by, it seems lead singer Hayley Williams is taking a mental health break but a new Paramore album is still very much on the table.
11. Born to Die by Lana Del Rey (2011)
Tumblr girls rise up. If Bring Me To Life was the song of the scene kids, Born to Die is the anthem for all the sad girls (and guys!) of Tumblr. Lana Del Rey’s opulent and feminine aesthetics live on today in the old-world beauty of the Dark Academia aesthetic.
But outside of being a major cultural reset for the internet, what else does Born to Die have going for it?
Well, it’s just one of three albums by female artists to spend 300 weeks on the Billboard 200 Chart.
Where are they now?: Lana Del Rey is still making music in 2021 and she’s still making being ‘the other woman’ sound good. The singer isn’t having the easiest time, though. Aside from the relentless mockery that the ‘Blue Bannisters’ album cover received, the singer has been in hot water for remarks about the difference in reception that her music gets compared to music by women of color.
12. Royals by Lorde (2013)
Wrapping up our list of throwback songs is Lorde’s breakout hit Royals. The song’s stripped back, catchy beat, the singer’s powerful voice, and vivid lyrics captured the hearts of listeners in the early 2010s. Royals has been included by Billboard in its list of songs that defined the 2010s.
Joel Little, the song’s producer, expressed surprise that Royals became such a big hit considering that few songs from New Zealand ever make it big. But as he said, Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s lyrics are like “poetry on a page” and it shows in every song on Pure Heroine.
Where are they now?: The Lorde has returned. Following the release of her album Melodrama in 2017, a vulnerable tell-all of the singer’s darkest feelings, Lorde seemed to lay low from the music scene. Her long hiatus made fans worry that they’d be waiting as long as Rihanna’s fans. But then 2021 happened and Lorde came back with the release of her new single Solar Power. The actual album comes out on August 20th so if you’ve been on the edge of your seat for her next album, don’t worry. We’ll all be fed soon.