When people talk about rock music in the 2000s, it sounds like they’re talking about the dropping of an atomic bomb. And painted on that bomb? The words “butt rock.” Whether we like it or not, the butt rock movement was the last popular movement of conventional rock music this millenia, as most of the current rock music you hear on alternative radio stations today can barely be defined as such. If a band on the alt stations crosses over to the pop charts, you’re definitely not gonna hear a rock and roll song.
But we are not here to ask why rock music in the mainstream died, so much as that we are here to celebrate and highlight its lowest lows and its highest highs of its last relevant era. While not every song on this list can be defined as “butt rock,” at least in its truest form, all of these songs came out in its wake. So, let’s take a look at Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart and decide the best and worst songs that hit #1 in the 2000s.
10. “All My Life” by Foo Fighters
So in case you don’t know, what sparked the idea to do this list is the Butt Rock Number Ones, a series by the Indieheads Podcast that I hosted. “All My Life” is one of the earliest songs we talked about on the series and, at the time, we didn’t think much of it other than it being a mid-tier song on the list overall. Then, after the recording of the episode that “All My Life” was featured on, we learned that the song was partially about eating pussy, and Dave Grohl’s overall fondness for giving oral sex. I do not want to hear Dave Grohl yell about chowing down on some poontang over some boring-ass arena hard rock.
9. “Always” by Saliva
This song is one of the many butt rock equivalents to Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie.” If that comparison doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the song, maybe lead singer Josey Scott’s dumbass blouse in the music video will tell you the rest.
8. “Headstrong” by Trapt
“Headstrong” is a truly awful song that has only aged worse and worse per every angry, right wing online rant frontman Chris Brown has put out there. The songwriting, production and instrumentation is some amateurish, battle of the bands shit, not helped by Brown’s vocals being deflated as fuck and lacking the passion that the best butt rock bands were able to at least showcase. And yet, this was the biggest Modern Rock Track of the decade. We’ll just leave it at this: the dudes of America post-9/11 were not in a good place.
7. “Know Your Enemy” by Green Day
There’s a comment on YouTube on one of the songs from the new Green Day album where user Klike says “It kind of reminds me of the type of music used in a jeep commercial.” I would say the same thing about “Know Your Enemy.”
6. “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
In his 2005 autobiography, Scar Tissue, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frontman Anthony Kiedis brags about committing statutory rape. In the book, he describes a sexual relationship he had at 23 years old with a 14-year-old girl:
“The next day we drove to Baton Rouge, and of course, she came with us. After we got offstage, she came up to me and said, ‘I have something to tell you. My father’s the chief of police and the entire state of Louisiana is looking for me because I’ve gone missing. Oh, and besides that, I’m only fourteen.’ I wasn’t incredibly scared, because in my somewhat deluded mind, I knew that if she told the chief of police she was in love with me, he wasn’t going to have me taken out to a field and shot, but I did want to get her the hell back home right away. So we had sex one more time.”
I wanted to make sure I mentioned this before saying anything about the song proper, as Anthony Kiedis is a shitty creep who deserves to be sent to the Hague. And also he, and especially “Can’t Stop,” are extremely annoying, which is a much more minor crime than statutory rape, but a crime nevertheless.
5. “Hit That” by The Offspring
There are so many… bizarre choices made in this song. Why do all the synth noises sound so bad? Why is this song so loud? Why did they want to write a song about this subject? Why does Dexter Holland’s voice sound like that? These are the many questions I asked myself listening to “Hit That.” I do not want to hear answers to my questions either, as I would simply like to erase this song from my mind, if possible.
4. “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace
If there is one band that sums up what butt rock is all about, Three Days Grace is that band. Really basic, distorted guitar riffs that repeat ad nauseum? They got plenty of those. The lead singer sounds like a horrific combination of all the four main grunge rock voices (Cobain, Vedder, Cornell, Staley)? Yup, Adam Gontier sure sounds like shit. Proto-incel lyrics that scream “I hate women and my stepfather” loudly? Oh yeah baby, Three Days Grace has that in strides. While artists in this era like Linkin Park used the confines of butt rock/nu metal to express male vulnerability in a meaningful way, Three Days Grace simply decided to go the other route. But “Animal I Have Become” is not their worst song that hit #1, not by a long shot.
3. “Brother” by Pearl Jam
Unless you’re a Pearl Jam diehard or have strong memories of a certain few weeks in 2009 when this was released, you probably don’t know “Brother.” I certainly had never heard it until we started doing the series. But famously among fans, this song almost broke up the band early on in their career. While making TEN, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Arment got in a spat about “Brother” that almost ended the band, with Arment liking the song and wanting to finish it while Gossard was so opposed to it that he threatened to quit. Gossard is the one who wrote the music to the song.
But the music is only a minor problem on this song, as Eddie Vedder’s vocals are some of the worst I’ve heard not only in Pearl Jam, but just music in general. Vedder’s slurred and grimacing styling isn’t for everyone, but it can be put to effective use with the right songwriting. “Brother” has terrible songwriting as, if you’ll recall, the person who wrote the music of “Brother” hated this song, treating it like a hellspawn he never wanted to unleash for almost two decades. Overall, I wish the band considered leaving this on the cutting room floor, but alas, it will haunt me for years to come.
2. “Pain” by Three Days Grace
My co-hosts over at the Butt Rock Number Ones consider this the worst song on the list by far. It is a close second for me, but my god this song is just gross. Adam Gontier, on top of being a misogynist, is a pervert. I do not want to hear about his sadomasochistic sexual fetishes as he also sings to me, the listener, about not understanding the world like an aloof ditz. I really don’t like shaming people for liking certain music, but if the YouTube comments are anything to go off of, holy shit so many of you need help so bad.
1. “Second Chance” by Shinedown
Speaking of my co-hosts, they are very confused as to why I consider this the worst song of 2000s Modern Rock #1s. And I get it, because, on paper, this song seems kind of harmless. And truthfully, it probably is. It’s just a song about how a dude wants to get away from his parents and live his own life in a way that isn’t filled with total hatred. If anything, that should be a breath of fresh air compared to some of the characters that make up the genre of butt rock, but it doesn’t. This is one of the first songs I ever hated as a kid and it’s a hatred that has only grown now that I’m an adult. Every attempt this song makes to pull at my heartstrings fills me with an ever increasing dread. Surprisingly, not many songs in the genre activate my fight or flight response, but this one does. I do not like Mr. Shinedown’s voice. I do not like how overproduced this sounds. I do not like the stupid nonsense lyrics. I wish to never hear this song ever again, but young moms who love white Monsters will keep this song popular for the rest of my life, and for that I curse at God for putting me on this hell planet.
10. “I Miss You” by blink-182
I’d be killed by my co-hosts if I didn’t put a blink-182 song on here, so for that I’ll oblige with the better of the two #1s they notched in the 2000s, “I Miss You.” Though a classic for emos everywhere since its release, it didn’t quite catch my ear until this year, when I finally relented and realized I actually like a lot of blink songs. Everyone talks about Tom Delonge on this song, and rightfully so, because his verse and really just his entire vocal contribution seeps into your brain like nothing else. But Mark Hoppus is so good on this song! While Tom goes for the dramatics, Mark brings a restrained touch to his verse that really helps ground the song early on when Tom does whatever the hell he does. And I mean “whatever the hell he does” in a good way.
9. “Pain” by Jimmy Eat World
And here we have the good “Pain” on the list! Another band who briefly broke through butt rock’s dominance on the charts, “Pain” is remembered most by myself as the best song on the TONY HAWK’S UNDERGROUND 2 soundtrack, and that’s a fact that can’t be disputed.
8. “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence
Alternative radio stations have always had a problem with women, and from the looks of it it’s not going away anytime soon. Of the 2000s chart, only one female-led band went number one, and that was Evanescence with their smash hit “Bring Me to Life.” It’s become a bit of a meme, but it is time for us to admit that Evanescence was a good band, and Amy Lee was a huge breath of fresh air on alternative radio in the 2000s, as “Bring Me to Life” perfectly balances the melodrama of many of butt rock’s biggest hits with a deft, feminine touch that makes the song unembarrassing. Though guest vocalist Paul McCoy tries his hardest to ruin the song at times, Lee is just that powerful of a singer to right his wrongs with ease.
7. “Butterfly” by Crazy Town
Speaking of embarrassments, Crazy Town! For all intents and purposes, a majority of this band’s discog is among the worst of the worst of nu metal/rap rock. Despite employing a number of talented artists like DJ AM and drummer James Bradley Jr., the duo of Shifty Shellshock and Epic just could never put it together… with one exception. An exception that seems to be as such by complete accident, a cosmic set of circumstances that couldn’t happen at any other time or place. Though the lyrics are, frankly, embarrassing, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sample is so perfectly used and Shellshock and Epic’s flows are buttery smooth. Truly, this is the love song that the butt rock generation deserved.
6. “In the End” by Linkin Park
Before the death of Chester Bennington in 2017, many kids who were into Linkin Park in the 2000s who later transferred over to the indie-sphere in the 2010s saw Linkin Park as uncool. Not just their new music mind you, but everything before. At best, you wrote them off as a guilty pleasure, and at worst an embarrassment of your youth. So while under extremely tragic circumstances, the critical re-evaluation of Linkin Park has been well deserved and “In the End,” the first of their eight number ones in the 2000s, is one of their best. Chester and Mike Shinoda’s chemistry here is unparalleled, and God this song just sounds so massive. While not their best number one, it’s a song that towers over most.
5. “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd
Wes Scantlin, aka Wes Mudd, is one of the most deplorable figures in rock music. Just do a Google search and you’ll find out all the awful things he’s done. But when meddling in the genre of butt rock, you occasionally have to throw out your moral compass and all context of the world around you. Everything’s so blurry and everyone’s so fake, everybody’s empty and everything is so messed up. But seriously, the guitar work here is actually amazing, the production and instrumentation are really well laid out, and the lyrics actually kinda hit. The fact that this song is good is only the result of a cosmic set of coincidences and circumstances that we will never see repeat ever again. And thank God for it.
4. “Only” by Nine Inch Nails
For whatever reason, I avoided Nine Inch Nails like the plague when I was younger. Anytime I saw the video of that stupid Pin Art on MTV2, I changed the channel. But when I was finally forced to listen to this song for the Butt Rock Number Ones, I sat back in shock. Holy shit, this song is actually good? And not even good, but great? While I’ll probably not end up listening to a lot of the songs in this top 10 once I’m done writing, I’ll keep listening to “Only,” as it’s such a perfectly constructed song that honestly is way too good to be in a list that also includes “Animal I Have Become.”
3. “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance
The Modern Rock charts are weird, as the pop punk, “emo,” and post-punk revival waves are largely missing on these charts and also the Mainstream Rock charts, at least in the upper number spots. But there’s blips here and there, and one song I was so happy to see hit #1 was My Chemical Romance’s magnum opus, “Welcome to the Black Parade.” While MCR were also a minor victim in the indie-sphere transition of the 2010s, luckily it wasn’t for long, as THE BLACK PARADE and THREE CHEERS FOR SWEET REVENGE are seen as rightful classics in the 2000s rock canon. If only more of their songs hit #1.
2. “When You Were Young” by The Killers
“Mr. Brightside” is rightfully seen as a classic of 2000s pop music. The fact that it was one of the first songs The Killers ever wrote is absolutely insane and most people don’t think they’ve ever topped it. I am not most people, as “When You Were Young” is my favorite song from them. The best song Bruce Springsteen never wrote, Brandon Flowers is at the top of his game here as a performer, putting absolutely everything he has into this song, That said, let’s not leave the rest of the band out of this, as “When You Were Young” is the only song on SAM’S TOWN to have writing credits from all four members, and it shows. While The Killers have had their ups and downs over the years, this is, in my eyes, their peak. And what a wonderful peak it is.
1. “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park
As I mentioned earlier, Chester Bennington’s death put a tragic air over much of Linkin Park’s discography. Listening to any of their work now, you just want to reach out to Chester via your headphones and help him. “Breaking the Habit” is the song that makes me want to reach the farthest. I don’t really know what else to say here, as all you have to do is listen and hear all the pain Chester had for so long. If you’re reading this and dealing with depression, please know there are people out there to help you, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. It sounds corny, but there are plenty of people out there that love you, and want you in their lives.
In going through this journey through butt rock, it was surprising seeing just how much of this music dealt with extremely difficult topics regarding mental health. While not every band was able to articulate these issues that well, for many people, especially men, this is the music that allowed them to feel. Not always in a healthy way, mind you (as you can see from the worst list), but still, some of this music meant a lot to people and helped open up conversations about mental health and masculinity that we are having right now.
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