This Autumn I’m taking part in Arron Wright’s #FearOfMu21c challenge – a bunch of people selecting and listing their 50 favourite singles of the 21st Century, one a day.

It’s the sequel to last year’s #Uncool50 challenge (see below), which involved listing 50 favourite singles since 1976 (the same tracks can appear in both, in fact we’ve been sternly warned that they should – at least mostly). As the # sign suggests, the challenge is happening mainly on Twitter, though some players will be posting their choices on Bluesky instead, or as well.

My Uncool50 (and a bunch of near misses) from last year

So what is this blog post – series of blog posts, even – for? Well, I started making a shortlist for the challenge. And it grew. And grew. It’s currently over 200 songs long, and let me remind you I need fifty.

As I listened to it I felt like I had things to say about the tracks. Profound things? No. Bloggable things? Probably.

So these posts are a document of my sorting process. I’m not going to be spoiling my final list – in fact, I can’t, cos I’m nowhere near even starting to make it. But I want to get down to about 100 tracks and crunch it from there – so at the end of each mention here is a YES or NO: is this track getting through to the second, real shortlist? A YES doesn’t mean it will be in the list. A NO does mean it probably won’t.

The songs range from indelible favourites to “gosh, I remember that! Wonder if I still like it?” one-offs. If you’re shocked at an absence, tell me!

First up, tracks for consideration from the year 2000.

OUTKAST – “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad): The first 21st Century song in last year’s list – a last-minute inclusion, as Outkast fatigue had set in a bit. But irresistible as a marker of “yes, we’re in a new century now” shock-of-the-new, as well as one of the great pop duos when they were still aiming in the same direction. YES.

BROADCAST – “Come On Let’s Go”: A near-miss last year, which would also work very well at the head of a list, as a beckoning-in. It’s a very kind record and good advice too. However I plan to waste plenty of time on people that I’ll never know, and COLG doesn’t quite have the, dammit, hauntological vibe of something like 1999’s “Echo’s Answer”. NO.

AALIYAH – “Try Again”: Oh the happy times spent on message boards geeking out over Timbaland productions. His furthest out beat, or so it seemed to me – that acid squelch buzzing around everything like a big sexy wasp. I wonder if it gets in the way of Aaliyah a bit too much? I feel like as the years go by it’s her I want to focus on, more than the (brilliant) productions surround her. Still, a YES.

SUGABABES – “Overload”: I haven’t 100% decided whether to limit myself to 1 track per artist or not, if I decide not to then this might come back into contention, and I couldn’t bear to leave it off the longlist. “Overload” is still a dream, doing nothing you’d have expected a girl group track to do – it’s closest to All Saints in sound, but it doesn’t sound like a committee put it together: so diffident, so unresolved, what the hell is that guitar solo doing? But I’m guessing I’ll pick a different Sugababes track in the end. NO.

LAMBCHOP – “Up With People”: Like “Overload” it choogles, but it’s as comfortable as “Overload” is awkward and moody. A track I only remembered to include when I saw other people mention it – I knew it best from parent LP Nixon but damned if it doesn’t work wonderfully well as a build-it-up jam. Points off for obliquity, maybe? I want this to stick around so I can judge properly, so YES.

WU-TANG CLAN – “Gravel Pit”: Part of the fun of FearOfMu21c is trying to work out what other people might pick (“not hip-hop” is all too often the answer, though). I think “Gravel Pit” is the most likely Wu to draw support, so I thought I’d give it a go to see if I could find it in my heart to pick it. I can’t really – I mean. it’s great, it’s the most FUN Wu-Tang tune, Ghostface sounds great on it, but it’s just not my favourite eligible single by them. NO.

ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION – “Real Great Britain”: Obviously fiery lyrics but I think what I love most about this is how it did the “Sound Of The Underground”/”Addicted To Bass” surf-DNB before any of those. All about that chorus. YES.

LUDACRIS ft PHARRELL WILLIAMS – “Southern Hospitality”: A huge favourite from the NYLPM days, one of the first Neptunes productions I recognised and loved as such. Still sounds exceptionally cool but there’ll be better examples of Luda and the Neptunes to come. NO.

ALL SAINTS – “Pure Shores”: The first of a regrettable phenomenon – songs I really like but got a bit sick of when they were in a pop poll. It’s not your fault, All Saints! Sorry, William Orbit! I’ll come back to it. NO.

BRITNEY SPEARS – “Oops.. I Did It Again”: Peak TRL-era teenpop, peak Max, but is it peak Britney? That’s for later instalments of this to decide. For now I stand by my Popular verdict: a classic. YES.

THE ARK – “It Takes A Fool To Remain Sane”: Glam rock inclusivity anthem from the band Maneskin wishes they were, one of the great pop-rock vocal belters. Really glad I remembered this dark horse. YES.

SAINT ETIENNE – “Heart Failed (In The Back Of A Taxi)”: I had this with the Pet Shop Boys’ “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” last year, that weird feeling when you realise that some minor single (second off a little-discussed LP, here) is not just one of the best by a band but might be the best. Could find a slot depending on how political I’m feeling – it’s the Blair-era “S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G.” YES.

THE BETA BAND – “To You Alone”: The bass on this sounds so good! This was a very exciting single at the time, partly because the BB had fucked it with their first LP, partly because there were tantalising hints of a band listening to current UK dance sounds. Now it sounds like a pointer to Hot Shots II and probably works better as that than as a standalone. Great tune though. NO.

SWEET FEMALE ATTITUDE – “Flowers (Sunship Edit)”: One of the big issues with this shortlist has been which UK garage tunes to include, tricky in that I can never remember which came out when. Fortunately “Flowers”, perhaps the greatest UKG-pop track of them all, is April 2000. The drum programming on 2-step records is so beautiful and tactile I could honestly weep. YES.

JESSICA SIMPSON – “I Think I’m In Love With You”: Another big old school NYLPM tune, only helped by the fact I’d never actually heard “Jack And Diane” at this point (it’s better than “Jack And Diane”). Should be remembered alongside “Candy”, “Genie In A Bottle” as a high point of the post-Britney wave, but there are tracks doing this sort of 80s-tinged ecstatic pop better later, so NO.

3LW – “No More (Baby Imma Do Right)”: Thanks owed to Kieran Hebden interpolating this last year into “Looking At My Pager” and reminding me what a wonderful little teen-R&B track it is. (Except it isn’t little, like a lot of 2000s era tracks it gets an extra couple of minutes it doesn’t need at all, which is enough to put it out of contention). NO.

WU-TANG CLAN – “I Can’t Go To Sleep”: I didn’t realise this extraordinary track was a single – Ghostface Killah and RZA absolutely melting down and sobbing over a bleeding chunk of “Walk On By” before Isaac Hayes comes in like a cosmic Dad. YES.

That’s it for 2000! (Not every year has so many candidates). Next: 2001 – Missy! Basement Jaxx! Bootlegs! Radiohead?!?!

If you want to join in #FearOfMu21c – running from October 1 – then work out your own top 50 21st century singles and let Arron (@nonoxcol on Twitter and Bluesky) know.