The fact that 2000 is more than two decades away is enough to send most millennials into a cold sweat. It wasn’t all good, but the middle school days were enough to get you ready for the world. Once the new millennium opened up, it felt like anything was possible, and there was a kickass soundtrack to go with it, too. And these are just a small fraction of the songs that soundtracked the days of skateboarding, going to the mall and getting into a little too much trouble than you bargained for. The new school may kick ass, but we’re dialing things back with these song selections. 

Read more: 15 best punk albums of 2004, from Green Day to My Chemical Romance

“Complicated” – Avril Lavigne

We're kicking things off with the breakup song that was the go-to anthem for every teen who got their heart broken. To be fair, this is one of Avril Lavigne’s greatest hits for a good reason, with a killer hook and a vocal that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs. It might not be as, well, complicated as the title implies, but the emotional scars here are bulletproof.

“California” – Phantom Planet

Any kid who dreamed of leaving their small town can probably read the lyrics to this song like the back of their hand. While the band first started to catch fire in the late ‘90s, it wasn’t until the next few years that they released an anthem for this next generation. Even though most of us can only dream of California, the journey is always the first step, and this song gives you hope that it’s going to be a blast.

“Stacy’s Mom” – Fountains of Wayne

It’s a damn shame that Fountains of Wayne never broke out like most of their pop-rock peers. If they had to be known for just a handful of songs, though, “Stacy’s Mom” is still perfect for the tween age crowd, toeing the line between being a kid’s fantasy and ‘60s pop rock. Sure, it might not be the most enlightening song in the world, but there’s enough sweetness in this song to give you a sugar rush.

Without Me” – Eminem

Granted, not everything in the 2000s had to be happy-go-lucky all the time. There were more than a few smartasses in the room, and we all knew every single line in this song, like Em taking a shot at the FCC and calling himself one of the unsung heroes of hip-hop. The public was ready to call him the villain of music, but wouldn’t we be missing something if Slim wasn’t on the charts?

Get Ur Freak On” – Missy Elliott

In the grand tradition of women rappers, Missy Elliott still seems to get overlooked at the turn of the century. Things are looking up now. Artists such as Lizzo and Cardi B are building off the template that Elliott set with this song, complete with a sticky hook that will never leave your head. Along with some amazing production from Timbaland (whose hands are all over our musical memories), this was when bangers started to get more artsy.

I Gotta Feeling” – Black Eyed Peas

The career trajectory of Black Eyed Peas has been odd. From Fergie collaborating with rock stars to to turning to acting toward the end of the decade, music has seemed to be a back seat for the past few years. For a brief moment, though, they captured lightning in a bottle on “I Gotta Feeling,” having nonstop energy in the chorus and keeping the party going all night long. After getting to the end of the decade, this was one of the last big parties before we fell into the 2010s.

“Feel Good Inc.” – Gorillaz

The 2000s was a bizarre time to be on MTV. In between the different pop-punk and nü-metal videos, you also had Eminem becoming the biggest star in the world and acts that felt like cartoon characters. So why not groove to actual cartoons in the meantime, especially with a bassline that slaps this hard? Most of this shouldn’t go together as well as it does, from 2-D’s verses to the floating chorus and De La Soul’s guest verse. ConsideringMurdoc is known to be a demon, there’s got to be some dark magic behind this tune’s catchiness.

“Dirty Little Secret” – The All-American Rejects

In between pop punk’s revival, can we also bring back the amazing soundtrack songs? Without fail in the 2000s, there would always be teen dramedies coming out with unstoppable songs on the soundtrack. This was one of the best, especially with the great guitar line and Tyson Ritter’s chorus hammering it into your chest. Even as the credits roll, you’ll still be screaming this song at the top of your lungs. 

“Find Your Love” – Drake

You forgot that Drake had been around for this long, didn’t you? Thanks to his classic period on Degrassi, Mr. Graham was already coming up with some amazing bars on his mixtapes, but his R&B side was always the best look. With production from Kanye West, this is the kind of smooth lover man we needed a lot more of around this time. Usher can’t hold that mantle alone, so we might as well get it from this artist out of Toronto. 

“Hey Ya!” – OutKast

For most of the songs on this list, you can really tell which decade they came from. “Hey Ya!” isn't one of them. Even though Big Boi and Andre 3000 were drifting apart, OutKast came together for one of the single greatest pop songs of the decade, with infectious energy and dark lyrics once you read further into it. We’ve been shaking it like a Polaroid picture ever since.

“Crazy In Love” (feat. JAY-Z) – Beyoncé

Remember that time when people were worried about Beyoncé being in the shadow of Destiny’s Child? Such innocent times back then. This song turned her into a star, with those sampled horns blasting out of the speakers and JAY-Z delivering one of his greatest guest verses at the time. Hell, the whole thing sounds like an announcement of royalty, as it should. Queen Bey had officially arrived. 

“The Anthem” – Good Charlotte

During the TRL era of rock, Good Charlotte were just the kind of band that most of us wanted to hear, singing about not growing up to be your parents and doing whatever the hell you want. The feeling that this song conjures is one that we'll remember forever.

“The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World

The 2000s weren't always the most comfortable years of our lives. Growing up is scary, and sometimes you need someone like Jimmy Eat World to make you come to your senses. Aside from the kickass guitar solo, this is the ultimate example of pop-punk bands nailing the chorus, taking three chords and telling us all the words we needed to hear at the time. Things might not look good now, but we’ll be OK. 

“Drive” – Incubus

In the wake of 9/11, things became serious fast, with no real end in sight. Then we get this quiet acoustic jam that gives us a bit of optimism in between all the dread. The Iraq War was about to kick into high gear, and this wasn’t going to soothe the wound, but it at least gave us comfort. Tomorrow’s going to bring a lot of baggage, but we at least have friends beside us.

“That’s What You Get” – Paramore

Misery Business” may have been the soundtrack to the fantasy that most teens wanted at the time, but this is by far the most grown-up scenario, with Hayley Williams showing this guy what happens when he lets his heart make the decision instead of his head. Sure, pop punk was called whiny, but this was an example of its maturity.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down” – Fall Out Boy

This is where the emo pop-punk scene started to kick into high gear. Back when we all had fringe haircuts and song titles were obnoxiously long. In between the fashion, though, Fall Out Boy captured every single emotion we had in this song and stole our hearts anyway. No matter what kind of mood you’re in at the time, the minute you throw this on at emo night, the singalong is going to be deafening. 

“Helena” – My Chemical Romance

It’s not like the naysayers were wrong about emo being melodramatic. The melodrama was part of the genre's charm from day one. Though a couple of years shy of The Black Parade, Gerard Way was already one hell of a frontman and aimed straight for our hearts on this song, being an ode to his late grandmother. This isn’t just a banger, though; this is the song for the grand finale because you know that nothing is going to top it. 

“Check Yes Juliet” – We The Kings

There seem to be conflicting arguments from the scene community about when everything started to fade. While there are people claiming that things were over by 2006, allow us to raise you this song, with one of the most unstoppable choruses about young love. This was the kind of music that had Bruce Springsteen-level ambitions, arriving right as most of us were venturing out into the real world. 

“The Great Escape” – Boys Like Girls

You have to remember that pop punk was not always about being whiny and sad all the time. Pop isn't a dirty word in this genre, and Boys Like Girls knew the appeal of going for something more catchy on their first handful of breakout singles. Though a song such as “Thunder” was a more straightforward love song, “The Great Escape” is the kind of track that puts you right back in the late 2000s and getting a little bit too rowdy. Emo had its place at the time, but punk was still about having fun too.

“Bring Me To Life” – Evanescence 

Before you say it, yes, this song has been meme-ed to death. Yes, it can be melodramatic to look back on. But this song gave us all of the anger we needed at the time, from Amy Lee’s breathtaking voice to the hip-hop verses that you still likely know all the words to. Of all the other songs on this list, this is the kind of tune that takes all of the teenage angst we felt at the time and puts it into one neat package.