As the new decade quickly approaches, a number of music publications have unveiled their Best of the 2000s lists. The diversity of profiled artists proves the last 10 years were prolific for numerous genres. This makes it nearly impossible for any two sources to agree on the absolute best album or song. However, at MensFitness.com, we have very strict criteria for rating a song: Does it pump us up?
Below are the 10 songs that answered that question with a resounding affirmative. They range in genre from indie rock to thug rap, but all follow the standards of great sports rock: simple, driving, catchy, and emotive. These are guaranteed must-haves on workout playlists.
10. “Let’s Get Retarded” by Black Eyed Peas
The group recorded a politically correct version called “Let’s Get it Started,” which the NBA teams played ad nauseam at events and in commercials. Thus, many sports fans can’t stop their skin from crawling when hearing the overplayed rant. However, revisit the original version and be surprised at how catchy it sounds again. The current Black Eyed Peas feel like a Disney version of what they were. The relative edginess of this song will make you feel cocky. Its beat is great for the beginning of any workout, helping you establish a rhythm.
9. “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” by The Darkness
The same reason Queen’s “We Will Rock You” is a great arena anthem is the same reason this ’70s throwback is a great motivator. It’s startling-direct, fast-paced, and overflowing with confidence. Its simple lyrics make it a perfect scream-a-long, best shouted at full volume, but more likely said under your breath at the gym. You’ll remember a time when some idiot drunk couldn’t take a polite hint to get lost and the resulting fury will drive up the bench press. Listen to it any time you need a shot of high-voltage rock to get through a repetition.
8. “The Rat” by The Walkmen
Easily one of the most underrated bands in America, The Walkmen have created a song that will one day be pumped though the speakers of a basketball arena during a game. These five talented musicians go full throttle though this hyper anthem, a relentless assault of drums, bass, and guitar. The lead singer’s unhinged voice wails at an unknown villain, “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor.” It’s everything a great workout should be: driven, focused, and well-choreographed. The raw emotion of it hits you like an open nerve. It’s best listened to at the beginning of a workout or when you need an extra boost.
7. “American Idiot” by Green Day
What makes Green Day a better listen than Fall Out Boy or All-American Rejects is their long record of originality. Whether you’re a fan or not, their songs—and Billie Joel Armstrong’s voice—have been implanted in the public consciousness for the last decade and a half. Their hard-driving style makes you feel like you’re working out with a team of drill sergeants, which can really help when motivation levels falter. The upbeat riffs and angst-filled lyrics about striving not to be complacent are like a coach’s halftime pep talk, so put it in the middle of you exercise playlist.
6. “99 Problems” by Jay-Z
It may be impossible for anyone to feel more comfortable in his own skin than Jay-Z. His sure-footed demeanor booms in droves here alongside monster guitar inhalations and exhalations. Mr. Roc-A-Fella raps matter-of-factly about his problems but assures everyone that a woman never troubles him. While that may not be completely true, it’s stirring to believe. Everyone has problems, but we can also choose not to let them bother us. When Jay-Z recorded this, he towered higher than anyone in the music industry and it’s easy to hear his exuberance towards the song’s end. That energy is infectious and makes it a good listen anytime before or during a workout.
5. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
This is contemporary garage-rock’s anthem. Its thumping, insistent drum and steady bass-y riff is menacing. Just that alone gives a jogger with headphones the feeling of being 100 feet tall. The complementing lyrics, “I’m gonna fight ’em off / A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back,” and sudden whips into high-pitched, riotous guitar riffs will make that same jogger feel like fighting every demon in hell. The rumbling intro and quick finale make it great to end workouts with, leaving you feeling as nimble as Jack White’s guitar skills.
4. “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy [ft. Lil Jon and Twista]
Okay, so Trick Daddy has an unfair advantage with this track because he samples Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” which is one of the best all-time tunes for sporting events. However, the dirty southerner still earned this spot because he expertly combined the madness of Ozzy’s scream with the confidence of thug culture. The driving guitars and bombastic lyrics defy anyone not to feel like they can punch over a mountain. You’ll seethe with the memory of a bully from childhood and take it out on a punching bag or sprint. This is best listened to before a workout to feel invincible.
3. “Romantic Rights” by Death From Above 1979
The reason more people don’t worship this Canadian power duo is they sadly broke up in 2006. Luckily, they left us with the best macho album title ever, You’re A Woman, I’m a Machine, and this dance-punk gem. This will satisfy both those who love pumping iron to heavy metal and those who choose catchier rock. Channel the rage from every woman who has ever turned you down and rock that dead lift like nobody’s business. As the lead singer screams, “I don’t want you / I need you,” adrenaline will surge through your spine. Use the tune early in the workout to bring your energy to a boil.
2. “Stronger” by Kanye West
While Kanye loves cutting-down George W. Bush and Taylor Swift, he’s also amazing at building people up . . . usually himself. Still, his chest pumping in this rap is contagious. As Daft Punk’s robot voice chants, “Work it, make it, do it, makes us / Harder, better, faster, stronger,” Kanye reminds haters what “don’t kill me, will only make me stronger.” The catchy beat may fool you into forgetting you’re working out and make you feel like you’re dancing. Hit play on it when you’re three-fourths of the way through your routine and need a pick up.
1. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
This song won the Academy Award for Best Song solely for its ability to motivate even 75-year old voters to shadowbox in the mirror. Every person reading this right now has pumped themselves up for a run, b-ball game, performance, or a night of picking up women by listening to Eminem command us to “lose yourself in the music, the moment / You own it, you better never let it go.” Its five minutes and 27 seconds packs the same inspiration as all of 8 Mile . . . with Rocky to Rudy stacked on top. Arguably the best workout song of all-time, it’s good anytime before, during, or after exercise.