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Best 2000s songs
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The 50 best songs of the 2000s

Check out the very best rap, pop, rock, R&B, hip hop, dance and indie tunes from the 2000s

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Is it too soon to get nostalgic about the 2000s, noughties, aughts or whatever the hell we’re supposed to call them? Of course not: this is the decade that gave us cheap af downloads and not-so-cheap iPods to play our favourite bangers on. This list includes the very best rap, pop, rock, R&B, hip hop, dance and indie tunes from the decade, though sadly there wasnt quite space for James Blunts inescapable ballad ‘You’re Beautiful’. Soz, JB, though we’re sure the royalties will provide some comfort

The 50 best 2000s songs

‘Dirrty’ – Christina Aguilera

‘Dirrty’ – Christina Aguilera

Xtina truly let the genie out of the bottle with this incendiary lead single from her fourth (and best) album ‘Stripped’. Sure, formerly wholesome teen-pop stars have a tendency to get their sexy on when they want us to know they’ve grown up, but when it’s done with this much aplomb, who cares? And the video’s a shameless classic. Nick Levine

‘Date with the Night’ – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

‘Date with the Night’ – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

And lo, in 155 seconds, Karen O became a solid-gold, badass icon. The first single from the New York art-punk trio’s flawless debut ‘Fever To Tell’, the screaming, hedonistic blitzkrieg of ‘Date with the Night’ didn’t so much open the door as kick it in with a steel-toe boot, set it on fire and throw a party on its ashes. Job done. Lisa Wright

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‘Dry Your Eyes’ – The Streets

‘Dry Your Eyes’ – The Streets

The Streets’ most successful single, ‘Dry Your Eyes’ was a tear-jerker for burly lads and proto #sadbois. It’s all about the destructive sadness that comes after a break-up, tapping into Mike Skinner’s signature mix of street and sentiment. The musical equivalent of Gazza’s tears at Italia ‘90. Kyle MacNeill

‘22 Grand Job’ – The Rakes

‘22 Grand Job’ – The Rakes

These days, a 22-grand-job will just about get you a room in Zone 3 and the occasional Uber. But back in 2005, Londoners The Rakes were detailing the entry-level slog with a twinkle in their eye and a pep in their angular, art-rock step. In and out in less than two minutes, it was an anthem for the young and broke – best toasted with a cheap pint of snakebite and black. Lisa Wright

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‘What’s Your Fantasy’ – Ludacris feat Shawnna

‘What’s Your Fantasy’ – Ludacris feat Shawnna

It’s hard to write a whole song about being UNBELIEVABLY horny and yet avoid coming over like a massively sexed-up, sexaholic sex maniac… but… Ludacris managed it with élan on his debut – ahem – release. Riding one of the most outrageously hype beats in hip hop history, ‘What’s Your Fantasy?’ knows no bounds – and no end of places (the library, the White House, the sauna…) of places to – y’know – do it. Oliver Keens

‘Don’t Mess with My Man’ –  Lucy Pearl

‘Don’t Mess with My Man’ – Lucy Pearl

R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl only made one album, 2000’s self-titled debut, but it’s a bit of a lost classic. Standout track ‘Don't Mess with My Man’ sees singer Dawn Robinson (formerly of En Vogue) warn off a romantic rival in infectiously sassy fashion. It wasnt a huge hit at the time, but being sampled by Ed Sheeran (on Dont) and covered by dance duo Booty Luv has boosted this tune’s legacy. Nick Levine

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‘Two Doors Down’ – Mystery Jets

‘Two Doors Down’ – Mystery Jets

Emerging from their early incarnation as Eel Pie Island-dwelling oddballs, Mystery Jets came back on Album Two with a natty line in pastel suits and a shiny love of all things ’80s. ‘Two Doors Down’, a twinkling, doe-eyed ode to the girl next door but one, was its finest moment, a slice of pure, wide-eyed indie-pop magic. Lisa Wright

‘Wearing My Rolex’ – Wiley

‘Wearing My Rolex’ – Wiley

Wiley must have lost his Rolex sometime after 2008, because these days he rarely turns up to his sets on time. Back when he was wearing it, though, he hit the Number Two spot with ‘Wearing My Rolex’, a street banger that’s stood the test of time with its electro-grime mashup. Kyle MacNeill

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‘Hollaback Girl’ – Gwen Stefani

‘Hollaback Girl’ – Gwen Stefani

Produced by red hot noughties beatmakers The Neptunes, this Stefani solo smash was actually inspired by a diss from Courtney Love, who dismissed the No Doubt singer as a ‘cheerleader’. Stefanis crafty response was to create an attitude song built around a naggingly catchy cheerleader motif. It topped the US singles chart in 2005, proving that sometimes, revenge is a dish best served with epic pop hooks. Nick Levine

‘Smile’ – Lily Allen

‘Smile’ – Lily Allen

Londoner Allen cemented her status as one of the decade’s most refreshing new pop stars with this bittersweet pop-reggae gem. When she sings, ‘At first, when I see you cry / Yeah, it makes me smile,’ her candy-coated vocals only make the lyrics sting harder. It’s definitely one to play after a painful break-up. Nick Levine

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 ‘The Rat’ – The Walkmen

‘The Rat’ – The Walkmen

Seven albums and nearly 15 years later, New Yorkers The Walkmen are still remembered as ‘the ones who did ‘The Rat’”. An albatross? Possibly. But what an albatross. The aural equivalent of doing 20 shots and running as fast as possible down an open road, its 100mph cathartic headrush made a shitty break-up sound vital, and bitter heartache seem important. Lisa Wright

‘Black and Gold’ – Sam Sparro

‘Black and Gold’ – Sam Sparro

Australia’s Sam Sparro soared to number two in 2008 with this instant-classic pop stomper. ‘Black and Gold’ may sound pretty perky, but it was actually inspired by an existential moment in which Sparro found himself questioning whether God really exists. So there we are: its deep as well as danceable. Nick Levine

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‘Only’ – Nine Inch Nails

‘Only’ – Nine Inch Nails

In 2005, UK guitar music was dominated by Kaiser Chiefs ‘woooooahhhhh’-ing all over the shop and the inexplicable success of Hard-Fi. But across the Atlantic, Trent Reznor and his pals were busy making an altogether saucier kind of racket. Deliciously sleazy as only NIN know how, ‘Only’ might be one of their most commercial hits, but it was still the crotchless pants to Ricky Wilson and co’s sensible bloomers. Lisa Wright

‘American Boy’ – Estelle feat Kanye West

‘American Boy’ – Estelle feat Kanye West

Hammersmith’s Estelle Swaray rubs shoulders with the one and only Yeezy on this slick modern disco track. It’s fun hearing Kanye rapping about being ‘dressed smart like a London bloke, but Estelles parts are just as entertaining. Don't like his baggy jeans but I might like what’s underneath them, she sings with a wink. However often you hear it, this solid-gold noughties bop never loses its sparkle. Nick Levine

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‘Clint Eastwood’ – Gorillaz

‘Clint Eastwood’ – Gorillaz

Damon Albarn’s virtual band made an immediate splash with this awesome debut single, a loping mix of rap, rock and trip-hop. Its titled ‘Clint Eastwood because the group reckon the melody has ‘a kind of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” feel’, but sadly, the man himself has never given any feedback. Come on Clint, tell us what you think? Nick Levine

‘Boy from School’ – Hot Chip

‘Boy from School’ – Hot Chip

This wasn’t the only big hit of the decade from London indietronica posse Hot Chip – ‘Ready for the Floor’ and ‘Over and Over’ were both pretty epic, too. But ‘Boy from School’, with its balmy synths and sublime male-female harmonies, edges it on sheer loveliness. Listening to it is almost like taking a nice bubble bath on the dance floor. Nick Levine

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‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’ – Khia

‘My Neck, My Back (Lick It)’ – Khia

A top five hit back in 2002, this dirty rap banger has stood the test of time – perhaps because few artists tell us exactly what they want in the bedroom quite so bluntly. Khia herself has since expressed surprise that it became her signature hit, saying: ‘I guess the world is just nasty and freaky like that.’ Nick Levine

‘Seven Nation Army’ – The White Stripes

‘Seven Nation Army’ – The White Stripes

DUHHH, DUH-DAH-DUH-DUH-DUUUUH  – yeah, you know the rest. Everyone loves this one - from footy lads to shredder-heads – mainly ‘cos it’s got the biggest riff ever noodled. Six-string puppeteer Jack White used a low guitar tuning to make it sound like a bass, creating a monstrous anthem fit for music and football stadia alike. Kyle MacNeill

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‘My Girls’ – Animal Collective

‘My Girls’ – Animal Collective

It’s no accident that this experimental bop from Baltimore’s Animal Collective sounds atmospheric AF: the intro even contains an audio sample from a spacecraft which explored Saturn’s atmosphere and rings. Though it never charted in the UK, ‘My Girls’ has become such a classic that Beyoncé sampled it on ‘Lemonade’ track ‘6 Inch’. Nick Levine

‘Crazy’ – Gnarls Barkley

‘Crazy’ – Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ was so popular back in 2006 that after nine weeks at UK Number One, it was taken off sale to stop people from getting pissed off. In hindsight, this was a smart move because it still sounds fresh today, its soulful vocals and hip-shaking groove making it an earworm rather than a tune that bugs you. Kyle MacNeill

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‘Dance wiv Me’ – Dizzee Rascal feat Calvin Harris & Chrome

‘Dance wiv Me’ – Dizzee Rascal feat Calvin Harris & Chrome

Calvin Harris was more than acceptable in the noughties thanks to heaters like this. ‘Dance Wiv Me’ saw Calv and Dizzee trying to pull in a club, with charm, poor grammar and a groovy-ass beat to bring it home. Sure, Dizzee was great at grime – but he was just as good at pop songs that make you want to bathe in blue WKD. Kyle MacNeill

‘Time to Pretend’ – MGMT

‘Time to Pretend’ – MGMT

The lyrics of MGMT’s 2005 breakthrough tune ‘Time to Pretend’ sounded like they were spliced from scripts for The ApprenticeCribs and Nathan Barley‘You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars,’ Andrew VanWyngarden tongue-in-cheeks over squelchy synths and more hooks than a Peter Pan convention. Timeless, let’s not pretend. Kyle MacNeill

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‘Umbrella’ – Rihanna feat Jay-Z

‘Umbrella’ – Rihanna feat Jay-Z

The song that made Rihanna a superstar spent ten weeks at number one during the summer of 2007 – a subtly shady comment on the state of the British weather for sure. La Fenty has since scored edgier-sounding hits, but ‘Umbrella’ remains a colossus of a pop song with a lovely, life-affirming message, and Jay-Z’s guest app adds an extra touch of class. Nick Levine

‘White Winter Hymnal’ – Fleet Foxes

‘White Winter Hymnal’ – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold has said the band’s snow-dappled folk tune is ‘lyrically fairly meaningless’, But that hasn’t stopped it becoming an eternally affecting alternative Christmas classic. So much so, in fact, that everyone from Kim Wilde to Alexander Armstrong (!) has covered it. Nick Levine

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‘Hounds of Love’ – The Futureheads

‘Hounds of Love’ – The Futureheads

In theory: a disaster. In practice: the stuff of indie disco dreams. Maybe it was their pacy tempo adjustment; maybe it was because most things sound 10-20 percent more endearing sung in a Mackem accent; maybe it was just that people like to yell ‘uh uh oh oh oh’ when they’re pissed, but Kate Bush’s classic found a glorious new lease of life in the hands of The ’Heads. Lisa Wright

‘Stan’ – Eminem

‘Stan’ – Eminem

We still stan ‘Stan’, obvs. The fragile Dido lyrics, the perfectly developed narratives, the of-its-time emotional music video. And yes, its protagonist gave its name to the hip term for extreme fandom, and it’s no wonder – because it’s hard not to be a fan of ‘Stan’. Kyle MacNeill

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‘With Every Heartbeat’ – Robyn feat Kleerup

‘With Every Heartbeat’ – Robyn feat Kleerup

After a decade away from the UK charts, Robyn cemented her comeback in 2007 with this tremulous electro-house gem, a collaboration with producer Kleerup. Her signature hit Dancing on My Own’ came three years later, but ‘With Every Heartbeat’ proved that Robyn was already pop’s queen of tears on the dance floor. Nick Levine

‘Biology’ – Girls Aloud

‘Biology’ – Girls Aloud

From humble beginnings on ‘Popstars: The Rivals’, Girls Aloud blossomed to become the great pop group of their era. ‘Biology’ is their finest moment, a Frankenstein’s monster of a pop song that stitches together various elements that probably shouldn’t gel, but somehow do, in gloriously uplifting fashion. Its an absolutely transcendent banger. Nick Levine

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‘Standing in the Way of Control’ – Gossip

‘Standing in the Way of Control’ – Gossip

Though synonymous with the oh-so-noughties ‘Skins’ soundtrack, this dance-punk missile was actually written as a response to US legislation that aimed to outlaw same-sex marriage. Beth Dittos mighty vocals quiver with an infectious energy, making this the ideal soundtrack to a bit of catharsis on the dance floor. Nick Levine

‘Maneater’ – Nelly Furtado

‘Maneater’ – Nelly Furtado

Talented singer-songwriter Furtado teamed up with genius producer Timbaland just as his innovative R&B sound was primed for pop crossover, resulting in the brilliant ‘Loose’ album. Promiscuous and Say It Right are classics too, but ‘Maneater' offer its purest pop rush and the immortal line: Move your body around like a nympho. Well, if you insist… Nick Levine

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‘Helicopter’ – Bloc Party

‘Helicopter’ – Bloc Party

Bloc Party’s turbo-charged breakthrough single was rumoured at the time to be a takedown of George W Bush – mainly because of the ‘just like his dad, just like his dad’ line. But frontman Kele Okereke says the zingy, critical lyrics are actually about himself, making Helicopter’ a spanking-great self-awareness banger as well as twitchy indie par excellence. Nick Levine

‘Just Dance’ – Lady Gaga feat Colby O’Donis

‘Just Dance’ – Lady Gaga feat Colby O’Donis

With its classic shout-out intro (‘RedOne... Konvict... Gaga!’), this track will transport you straight back to 2008. It’s basically a song about going out, getting smashed and doing your thing on the dance floor, and perhaps for that reason, remains one of Gaga’s most purely enjoyable moments. Just one question: whatever happened to featured artist Colby O’Donis? Nick Levine

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‘We Are Your Friends’ – Justice vs Simian

‘We Are Your Friends’ – Justice vs Simian

Forget the horrific Zac Efron film that took its name and remember this house missile that became the sound of summer ‘06. Famous for Kanye doing a Kanye and interrupting the presentation of its EMA for Best Music Video, being the last tune ever played on MTV Dance, and generally being a gargantuan hit. Kyle MacNeill

‘A-Punk’ – Vampire Weekend

‘A-Punk’ – Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend’s breezy signature hit may have been rinsed by everything from ‘The Inbetweeners’ to the James Corden-led Peter Rabbit’ movie, but its twinkly indie-pop charm remains undimmed. Come on now, don’t even try to pretend you don’t still love that ‘ey ey ey ey! hook. Nick Levine

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‘Heartbeats’ – The Knife

‘Heartbeats’ – The Knife

Somehow, this wonky synth-pop banger by brother-sister duo The Knife manages to be catchy, creepy, life-affirming and moving all at the same time. Proving that the British record-buying public sometimes suffers an epic failure of taste, a comparatively bloodless cover version by acoustic troubadour José González became a bigger chart hit than the dazzling original. Nick Levine

‘Blind’ (Frankie Knuckles mix) – Hercules and Love Affair

‘Blind’ (Frankie Knuckles mix) – Hercules and Love Affair

A song absolutely bathed in pathos and beauty, this bonafide modern gay anthem united three very disparate icons onto one dreamy-as-hell disco record. H&LA’s Andy Butler wrote the words, Anohni sang, and house godfather Frankie Knuckles bound it all together with a remix that gives a saintly, almost cloud-like delicateness. Oliver Keens

 

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‘Hung Up’ – Madonna

‘Hung Up’ – Madonna

Madge’s biggest hit of the decade was the sort of boss move only she could pull off – who else would think to sample an Abba banger? And who else could persuade Benny and Björn to clear the sample with a simple handwritten letter? The result is pure dance-pop perfection from one of the genre’s all-time masters. Nick Levine

‘Since U Been Gone’ – Kelly Clarkson

‘Since U Been Gone’ – Kelly Clarkson

This belter helped transform Kelly Clarkson from ‘that singer who won “American Idol”’ to a legit pop star. Co-written by Swedish genius Max Martin, it’s glossy pop-rock at its most unstoppable, and an amazing song to scream along to while thinking about your shittiest ex. Nick Levine

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‘Toxic’ – Britney Spears

‘Toxic’ – Britney Spears

Co-written by early ’90s pop star-turned-songwriting maven Cathy Dennis, ‘Toxic’ is the Britney tune even Britney-deniers like. Decked out in high-pitched Bollywood strings, its a perfect pop song about a love that’s wrong but feels so right. And I love what you do,’ Britney sings on the chorus, ‘don't you know that you’re toxic? Oh babes, we relate. Nick Levine

‘House of Jealous Lovers’ – The Rapture

‘House of Jealous Lovers’ – The Rapture

Produced by LCD Soundsystem supremo James Murphy, this six-minute dance-punk banger is a near-wordless tour-de-force on which all four Rapture band members shine bright like diamonds. Can we call it ‘The Chain’, but indie? Yes. Yes, we can. Nick Levine

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‘Push the Button’ – Sugababes

‘Push the Button’ – Sugababes

Before it all went to shit at the end, Sugababes were one of the UK’s very best pop groups. This shimmering electro gem, which became their fourth number one hit, shows off their knack for catchy but classy bangers. Fittingly enough, it also inspired the name of London’s best pop nightNick Levine

‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ – The Libertines

‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ – The Libertines

‘Have we enough to keep it together?’ Pete asked Carl on The Libertines autobiographical career highlight. The answer, history dictates, would be sort of’, then definitely not’ and then a decade later, ‘yes, for a hefty fee’. But in the early noughties, there was no more riveting an indie soap opera than that of The Libs’ bromantic duo, and ‘Cant Stand Me Now’ encapsulated it in a giddy sing-along with a dash of heartbreak. Lisa Wright

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‘Valerie’ – Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse

‘Valerie’ – Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse

Without wishing to sound like Louis Walsh, Ronson and Winehouse really made this Zutons song their own, turning the indie original into a full-on Northern Soul stomper. Their ‘Valerie’ is a guaranteed floor-filler that’s acquired poignancy because it was among the last – and most uptempo – songs Winehouse recorded. Nick Levine

‘Last Nite’ – The Strokes

‘Last Nite’ – The Strokes

From the single repeated scrappy guitar note that announced its arrival to Julian Casablancas’s throaty, 100-a-day howl, ‘Last Nite’ was the track that cemented The Strokes as the damn coolest leather jacket-wearing mutherfuckers around, thus ending the reign of Travis-dominated bore-offs and re-crowning the holy triumvirate of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And it still sounds ace. Lisa Wright

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‘Take Me Out’ – Franz Ferdinand

‘Take Me Out’ – Franz Ferdinand

Sharply tailored, named after an assassinated Archduke and – gasp! – in their thirties, Glasgow art school chaps Franz Ferdinand were always slightly left of centre. Kudos, then, that they managed to craft one of the decade’s most crowd-pleasing indie bangers. Simple but oh-so-effective, ‘Take Me Out’ served up a chant-along riff to rival ‘Seven Nation Army’, infiltrated the Top Five and catapulted Franz to stardom. We’ll leave our light on for that. Lisa Wright

‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ – Arctic Monkeys

‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ – Arctic Monkeys

Of course, this lot soon paled into obscurity, but for a hot minute Arctic Monkeys really threatened to have something special. JK! They’re still massive, obvs! But, though Alex Turner and co continue to evolve and experiment, let’s not forget the en-masse excitement that the Monkeys’ razor-sharp debut evoked. It’s a communal jaw-drop that only happens in the presence of true one-offs. Lisa Wright

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‘Paper Planes’ – MIA

‘Paper Planes’ – MIA

Climbing all the way to number four on the US singles chart in 2008, ‘Paper Planes’ is one of the decade’s most distinctive hits. Built around a looped sample from The ClashStraight to Hell, this deceptively breezy, Diplo-produced gem sees MIA skewer Western societys often negative perception of immigrants. The chorus’s cash register and gunshot sound effects are the irresistible cherry on top of a very clever package. Nick Levine

‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ – Daft Punk

‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ – Daft Punk

Before Kanye West turned it into a rap monster, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ was part of Daft Punk’s robotic rise to rule the dance world. Smooth but edgy, it encapsulated the nu-disco sound of the early noughties – and still sounds more French-house than a shindig in a chateau. Kyle MacNeill

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‘Mr Brightside’ – The Killers

‘Mr Brightside’ – The Killers

The Killers’ debut single is so enduringly popular that in 2018 – a full decade and a half after it came out – it was still one of the UK’s 100 biggest hits of the year. What is it about ‘Mr Brightside’ that continues to bang so hard? It’s surely something about the way Brandon Flowers’s anguished lyrics (about a girlfriend’s infidelity) merge with the anthemic melodies to create something both uplifting and cathartic. It’s pretty much impossible not to sing along. Nick Levine

‘Crazy in Love’ – Beyoncé feat Jay Z

‘Crazy in Love’ – Beyoncé feat Jay Z

Expectations were sky-high for Beyoncé’s solo career following the success of Destiny’s Child, but she knocked it out of the park. Featuring a genius Chi-Lites sample and a snappy rap from future hubby Jay-Z, ‘Crazy in Love’ was an instant classic – one of those songs that floors you the first time you hear it, and somehow never gets old no matter how often it’s dropped at weddings and second-rate club nights. To sum the whole thing up in four words: a superstar is born. Nick Levine

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