Moving into the Top 20 with the first mentions of some of the decade's signature artists: Jay-Z, M.I.A., the Hold Steady, and TV on the Radio.
Song Sample: "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)"
Single: "Kerosene" — Miranda Lambert (2005)
A runner-up on Nashville Star self-pens a break-up song as class-rage anthem then rips off (and betters) Steve Earle's "I Feel Alright" to put it across. Pop music: where the unexpected can always happen.
Song Sample: "Golden Age"
Single: "What's Up Fatlip?" — Fatlip (2000)
Ex-Pharcyde MC goes solo with this deliriously self-deprecating, deadpan-sad gem, and with an equally astounding video:
"You're pretty good with words, but words won't save your life," a woman advises poet John Berryman on the album-opening "Stuck Between Stations," but songwriter supreme Craig Finn might be singing that line to himself. On Boys and Girls in America, Finn rachets down the verbosity that dominated previous records and gives more conventional song structures (and more conventional singing) a spin. The band also trades in their previous dense conceptualism for something breezier: a theme album about romance amid the kind of messed-up teenage lives chronicled on 's Separation Sunday. The result is as observant, compassionate, and subtly funny as rock-and-roll gets. Don't be surprised that America's greatest rock band is such a subterranean sensation: With rare exceptions, it's been that way as long as there have been American rock bands.
Song Sample: "Stuck Between Stations"
Single: "Galang" — M.I.A. (2005)
Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts: