I used to spend hours watching music videos on MTV. Even once I progressed to looking them up on the dusty family computer that was the size of a small car, I was obsessed. I barely watched TV shows back then as I was just so busy watching and dancing to all of these iconic music videos in my bedroom alone.
They truly don’t make music videos like they used to. They used to have a story, a purpose, a dozen backup dancers swaying in the same direction.
But out of all the INCREDIBLE music videos of the early 2000s, there are 14 that truly stand out, and permanently altered my brain chemistry (for better or worse, definitely worse).
1. “Circle of Life” — Disney Channel Stars
Let’s be real, the That’s So Raven crew ate this up! They left no crumbs. This music video as a whole is something else. I have never felt The Lion King this intensely, not even when Mufasa was yeeted off that cliff.
The riffs, the growls, the harmonies, it’s absolute crack to my brain. Also when Hilary Duff pipes in for that little pop girlie moment. You go, Lizzie, you go.
I love the little Under 18s nightclub they appear to be in, with those bright drinks scattered around. You can also tell the girls were griping for the best solos, and Christy Carlson Romano was not getting a foot in the door in that business casual outfit.
I love rich kids who haven’t even graduated high school telling me about “The Circle of Life” and all their many life lessons.
2. “Come Clean” — Hilary Duff
Hilary staring out of the window into the rain thinking she’s the main character is honestly me on any car ride as a kid. These deep lyrics are seared into my brain, like “perfect didn’t feel so perfect” and “trying to fit a square into a circle was a lie.” How did this song not win all the Grammys? Step aside, Taylor Swift.
The dark colors of the music video really showed us that Hilary was edgy now. Not America’s Sweetheart anymore. I think she originated the sexy wet dog look right here. Also, I get she’s “coming clean,” but was the posing in a dressing gown by the bathtub really necessary?
I love how the music video is essentially her preparing for a massive storm by closing all the windows of the house, and then doing a spot of scrapbooking? To pass the time as this hurricane hits? Also, her love interest is totally texting and driving, like, sir????
But oh no, scrapbooking time is over, her friends are here to party and watch TV together. Should they be traveling during this tropical storm that’s so bad it cut all cell service?
When they’re reunited at the end (don’t worry, guys, he survived the tornado), I love that they just stare at each other and hug. Like she might wear black eyeliner now but she can’t be seen making out in a music video. Disney has limits!!
Either way, I need that off-the-shoulder white sweater IMMEDIATELY.
3. “Single Ladies” — Beyoncé
If this music video wasn’t in black and white, it would be far less interesting. I guarantee that. We’d be bored so fast. But because it looks like a yassified Charlie Chaplin film, we are hooked.
This dance. I don’t even know how to put it into words. The fact that WHENEVER this song comes on (which is shockingly often) we all sprint into formation. Get a few glasses of rosé into me and I genuinely think I look like Bey in this. I am shaking my butt, certain that people are recognizing the dance.
Like the hand point. The hand point that defined a generation. The cultural significance of this music video is so underrated.
Also, why have I only just noticed that Beyoncé is wearing a Thanos gauntlet in this? Did this music video in 2008 predict Avengers End Game? Is the Illuminati behind this?
4. “Sneakernight” — Vanessa Hudgens
PUT YOUR SNEAKERS ON EVERYBODY!! GET THEM ON RIGHT NOW!!!
Fresh off her High School Musical fame (still think Sharpay was better, but okay), Vanessa was ready to show us she was a bad girlie now. But not too bad, as her entire income was still dependent on her young fans. So let’s put on a fedora, glow-in-the-dark sneakers, and sing about dancing (no booze!!).
She’s a party animal at the most Disney Channel house party of my life. All of these guys are fighting over her due to her neon sneakers. Like big tits are great but glow-in-the-dark sneakers?? SO HOT. If only Troy could see her now.
Also, Vanessa becomes a DJ for a hot second, putting a single vinyl on. I just hope that vinyl contains this banger.
How has this not become a Halloween costume? Next year, I’ll go as Vanessa on Sneakernight!!
5. “Hollaback Girl” — Gwen Stefani
Guess what? I ain’t no hollaback girl. Still no clue what it means, but I was always determined to inform everyone.
This video is so tongue-in-cheek, innocent, and yet raunchy, like I can’t even explain it. Gwen introduced the croppest of crop tops and yet is covering her mouth to say “shit.” She’s in the marching band and yet she is the sexiest person alive?
This music video defined a generation to come. Looking at it now, they could literally all be Gen Z in those outfits. I’ve never noticed the return of Y2K fashion trends this much, except only celebs were dressing like this back then.
Also when they mess up the grocery store? Captivating. Let’s go hit Walmart on Pink Wednesday.
6. “Potential Breakup Song” — Aly & AJ
If I am ever in a coma and they run out of ideas to wake me up, please come in and blast this banger. I guarantee I will be instantly revived, and I’ll even join in for the most iconic bridge of all time.
I have two flexes in life: I’m consistently in the top 0.01% of Taylor Swift listeners on Spotify and I was a real Aly & AJ fan back in the day. I downloaded all of their songs on Limewire (plz don’t arrest me!!!) and knew all the lyrics. I cut out their posters from TigerBeat magazine to plaster all over my room and was determined to meet them.
So when this song made a comeback during the pandemic, I was thrilled at the sudden recognition they sorely deserved, but also kind of peeved at all these fake fans. This music video is so edgy and badass and I am now realizing that they might have been my bisexual awakening. Wow, that explains a lot…
7. “He Said She Said” — Ashley Tisdale
The first CD I ever bought with my own money was an Ashley Tisdale one. When I say I am a Sharpay fan, I am not exaggerating. I have watched everything Ashley has ever been in, including the lesser-known 2008 film, Picture This (Which also had Annie from 90210???).
Just like Vanessa, this was Ashley’s chance to prove to the world that she wasn’t a little girl anymore. The difference is that Ashley truly proved it. Like that dancing told us everything we needed to know.
You’re right, Ashley, we don’t need a he said she said, because we all agree you’re phenomenal.
Big applause for the wind machine which was really working hard for this video. I can’t even imagine the tangles she must have had by the end.
And the moan at the end. Deceased. Cause of death: Ashley’s breathy moan.
8. “7 Things” — Miley Cyrus
All the Disney girls are really earning those big paychecks on this list. It wouldn’t be a complete list without Miley herself, perhaps the most successful of them all. It was hard to pick between all the excellent options (and I very nearly went for her identical twin, Hannah Montana) but this is the one that has stuck with me the most.
Miley really taught us a lesson about heartbreak with this. She was like come on, girlies, we deserve better!!!! She got us to see that fuckboys will be fuckboys (although she’d never swear obviously).
Having the real down-to-earth girls in the video? Absolutely inspired. These are nobodies just like us.
The seventh thing she hates? THAT SHE LOVES HIM!!!! THAT SHE CAN’T HELP LOVING HIM!! STOP IT, MILEY, I AM SOBBING RIGHT NOW.
Honestly, I don’t know what Miley put into this song but I am still lapping it up as a 26-year-old teenager.
9. “Since U Been Gone” — Kelly Clarkson
This is my go-to karaoke song, not kidding. I do “Since U Been Gone” to showcase my talents, then “Party in the U.S.A” for a crowd pleaser, and when everyone is too drunk to stop me, I go for a niche Hamilton song complete with rapping. Feel free to invite me to your next karaoke night, I swear I’m a blast!!!
So I have been a Kelly fan since her time on American Idol (I voted for you, bestie!!!) and that will never change. But this song in particular is something else, and this music video started the female rage movement. This music video walked so Gone Girl could run.
Trash his stuff bestie. Ruin it all. Screw him!!!! Put on your fedora and saunter out of the house just in time to run into him.
This music video forever changed the notions around unhinged women and revenge behavior. Kelly would definitely support you glitter-bombing your ex.
10. “Before He Cheats” — Carrie Underwood
Another karaoke favorite of mine, and a fellow contender in the unhinged women club. Carrie showed us that it’s totally okay to smash his car if he smashes your heart. Like really, which is actually worth more?
This is the best song to sing/scream after a breakup. This song has done more for me than therapy or Lexapro.
It doesn’t matter that you’d sing Shania Twain at karaoke or drink fruity little drinks and can’t stand whisky, this is still for you, this is for all of us!!! This is Carrie’s gift to all of the girlies out there.
While I’m not saying you SHOULD key his car, I’m also not not saying that.
11. “Love You Like a Love Song” — Selena Gomez
While we’re on the subject of karaoke, let’s talk about the most meta music video ever made!!! Selena Gomez is literally doing karaoke of her song as her music video. I’m not going to lie, I think aspects of this are a little EHHH, but let’s not look too closely at that right now — SHE WAS JUST A BABY!
The different outfits are incredible. The characters, the passion, the themes, the look of utter boredom on everyone’s faces. They just would not make a video like this nowadays.
My favorite part is the massive piñata that pops up for no reason and then she dances under it as it explodes. Iconic. Plus her little riffs are so edgy and cool.
I like to copy that main hairdo after a night out when I forgot to brush my hair upon returning home in a drunken stupor.
12. “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” — LeAnn Rimes
LeAnn Rimes + hot female bartenders = a dream come true!
Her singing dispersed with clips from Coyote Ugly (ICONIC FILM) is truly something else. Like that’s how I imagine I look when I try to drunkenly climb onto a bar. At my last office Christmas party, I performed a song on the bar and I genuinely thought it would go like this. Luckily, the CEO sent me a video the next morning to show me how I actually looked. But that’s a story for another day.
This video has changed my brain chemistry in ways I can’t explain. It has given me a level of confidence I do not deserve and certainly did not earn. It inspired a generation of women to climb onto bars and is responsible for all the injuries they obtained by falling off.
13. “4 Minutes” — Madonna and Justin Timberlake
I know Justin Timberlake is super bad and we’re not a fan, but before all of that was revealed, this music video was truly something else.
Madonna was ready to show us she still got it, and yep she does. Why in that first shot does she look a little like blonde Kendall Jenner? Make it make sense.
There is no cohesive theme or storyline to this music video, it’s all just so random. The bath and rubber ducky? Her wearing a jacket only to immediately take it off? The two of them watching a couple get it on? Are they sexing it up or is he supposed to be her sidekick?
I am still trying to unpack this music video a decade later, and I won’t lie, I think of it every single time something is four minutes long.
14. “Maneater” — Nelly Furtado
Wow, this is one scary start to a music video! Her dog escapes, where is he going? Has she lost her dog forever? He’s gone into that creepy building with the flickering lights, where people are standing around and not moving at all. Is Toby okay? Is she about to get mugged?
It gives me very Eclipse vibes when all the vampires are fighting each other. Like Nelly starts dancing and they’re all transfixed. Don’t worry, she’s safe because of how well she can shake that booty.
My main question is…why? Why include the dog in the first place? Why not just have her in a club?
I’m not complaining as this music video truly changed me in ways I can’t describe, especially with the sweaty windows, but I am a little confused. Looking back, they should’ve gone for a Jennifer’s Body maneater vibe.
Thank goodness Toby was okay in the end. I watched just to make sure of that, and not because of how tight and see-through that white tanktop is.