Continuing an attempt to work out my favourite 50 21st Century singles for a music challenge. As before, what I’m doing is trying to reduce my longlist (>200 tracks) to a more manageable shortlist. It’s proving a challenge.

JAY-Z – “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”: At this point Jay-Z was probably my favourite MC, just on the level of “how much do I enjoy the sound of this guy rapping”, and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” is still an almost perfect example for me of how hard you can own a beat without even sounding like you’re trying. Kanye’s beat, of course – Ye himself is one of several artists whose terrible behaviour ruled them out, but I can still listen to this production with real pleasure. YES.

DAFT PUNK – “One More Time”: I once would have confidently called this my favourite single of the 00s, and the most audacious part – that yawning, yearning breakdown – is still a beautiful, remarkable thing to have pulled off. The rest… I love it, but its power to thrill and move me has worn off a little. A victim of the one song per artist rule (entirely self inflicted). NO.

MISSY ELLIOTT – “Get Ur Freak On”: An instant classic and its rep has never really wavered. Its all the little ad libs and asides around the riff that keep it fresh for me. Is it my favourite Missy Elliott single, though? Last year I said no – this time… well, it really is sounding VERY good. YES.

MARY J BLIGE – “Family Affair”: One of those records where I look at it on a list and think “eh, I’m a bit bored with this” until roughly 0.5 seconds after the beat actually starts. I’d be interested to know if and how the records from this (what seems to me) unbelievable golden age of R&B sound dated now – what about them says “20 years ago”. I’ve lost all perspective. YES.

ANDREW WK – “Party Hard”: I’m not doing a great job of winnowing these down! There are more rock records than you might think on this shortlist, but most of them are doing what this does – a straightforward, heads-down attack in service of a big hook. I don’t think any of them do it quite like “Party Hard” does though, like a happy hardcore take on hard rock. YES.

BEENIE MAN ft MYA – “Girls Dem Sugar”: These few years are the prime of the Neptunes but they rarely had vocal hooks this great to work with. I want to get a Jamaican dancehall artist into my 50 if I can. Beenie Man’s sweet lovers’ track has a decent shot. YES.

RADIOHEAD – “Pyramid Song”: Amnesiac is my favourite Radiohead LP and this is my favourite Radiohead single – Thom Yorke as vocalist does my nut in so credit to the band for finding a musical backdrop he really suits, an attempt in the wake of apocalypse to reconstruct what “ballads” might have sounded like. One of the great drum entrances in 00s rock too. Even so, NO.

BASEMENT JAXX – “Romeo”: Another one I played to death, and alongside “Get Ur Freak On” an absolute mainstay of the club night Carsmile Steve and I did in Oxford. Basement Drain Smell more like, etc. Love how staccato the keyboards are, real jab-you-in-the-ribs stuff. But like most Jaxx stuff, it’s faded for me a little. NO.

AALIYAH – “More Than A Woman”: The groove here – which is gorgeous, opulent, expensive sounding – is really dwarfed by Aaliyah’s vocals, shining out in a dozen different ways while never grandstanding. YES.

SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR – “Murder On The Dancefloor”: Even more than her meeting with Spiller (never considered), Ellis-Bextor’s encounter with Gregg Alexander really brought out the best in her – her arched-eyebrow voice the perfect match for Alexander’s “is he really going to be this corny? oh shit he IS” songwriting. YES.

JUSTUS KOHNKE – “So Weit Nie Noch Nie”: I want something from the cool European zones of 00s dance music – the schaffel, the Kompakt, the microhouse, the minimal – but not sure this is it. All about the way the vocal sounds summoned onto the track as if at a seance. NO.

DAFT PUNK – “Digital Love”: One of the funny things that’s happened with Discovery is that the yacht-y, soft-rock-y elements that seemed almost scandalous in 2001 – surely they’re putting us on! – have now been entirely recuperated into hipster taste. There’s no other way to take this lush keytar jam in 2023 except at face value, and that suits “Digital Love” just fine. YES.

LEXXUS – “Monkeys Out”: Spectral dancehall folding Max Martin’s Britney chords into (I believe) a Lenky riddim, Lexxus toasting on top. I could (should?) have two dozen early 00s dancehall tracks in this list, all of which would have no chance of making a Top 50 but every chance of making a Top 250. That’s constraints for ya. NO.

FREELANCE HELLRAISER – “A Stroke Of Genius”: One of the crown jewels of the bootleg scene, a moment I still have extremely happy memories of. Are those memories enough to put this ancient remix, whose joins are more audible than ever, through? The best bits are where Freelance Hellraiser coaxes a new climax from the original structure, very much the way Richard X did on “We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends”. Which is a better single, and not going in, so nor can this. Should have had its own remake. NO.

THE STROKES – “Hard To Explain”: OK, so what about the original, the Strokes’ closest approach to the dancefloor and – for me – the only record you need from the entire NYC return-of-rock scene? Listening to it reminds me both how much the Hellraiser did but also how much he didn’t NEED to do – the music here judders and twitches in all the right places. A surprise YES.

OSYMYSO – “Intro-Inspection”: The best version of “Intro-Inspection”‘s delirious pick-and-mix overload is – I still maintain – the non-expanded 7-minute version – but even if there’s too much (of the too muchness) the extended 12 minute version is still a tremendous achievement, pushing the boundaries of listenability with its blend of radio pop quiz and plunderphonics, every comforting moment of recognition immediately snatched away. YES.

Hmm, 10 out of 16 YESes – not ideal. Join me next for 2002 – Sugababes (again!) Missy (again!) and we get faster – harder – SCOOTER.