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Best Rock Bands of the 2000s: The Artists Who Defined Millennial Rock

Best Rock Bands of the 2000s: The Artists Who Defined Millennial Rock

As a 90s kid, I was at the prime age when rock bands from the 2000s emerged. I was there when Linkin Park was played on the radio daily, worshipped emo bands, and attended my first Warped Tour when I was 13. Now that I’m in my 30s, I can look back on these times with fond memories — and yes, I still listen to this music on a daily basis.

But what was old always comes back in style. These days, I see more young people discovering the rock and emo bands of the 2000s, and see many bands from this generation, such as Fall Out Boy, achieving serious fame. I knew there were younger rock fans who wanted to indulge in a millennial’s favorite music, so I decided to compile this list of my favorite rock bands from the era.

While this list ultimately comprises the best rock bands of the 2000s, I decided to include some pivotal metal acts of the period. I hope you discover some new bands or enjoy old favorites!

red hot chili peppers Best Rock Bands of the 2000s
Red Hot Chili Peppers, a striking example of the best 2000s rock bands

The Rise of Rock Music in the 2000s

Let’s go back to a time before YouTube and Spotify when you still needed to discover new bands on the radio or MTV (because that was still a thing), dig through CDs at the record shop, or hope you had an awesome friend who somehow knew about the latest bands. We were done with the grunge era of the 90s and the hip-hop takeover of the same period.

But it wasn’t simply “rock” music that piqued interest. We were entering a new millennium, and innovation was at its forefront. Bands were emerging with sounds that hadn’t yet been discovered. I remember being eager to discover all these new bands and indulge in their talents.

Not only was I also attending concerts at a young age but I was also watching live DVDs and documentaries — everything about the modern rock n’ roll lifestyle captivated me, and I still have this passion.

While the internet wasn’t as advanced as today, we could still go on Myspace and find our favorite indie bands.

Most of these bands had personal or small artist accounts, so it was easy to connect with many up-and-coming artists. This created a sense of community in the rock industry — and it evolved into what it is today.

What Defined the 2000s Rock Music Sound?

It’s hard to say what defined rock music in the 2000s because there were so many different sounds. Bands from the era included those with a classic rock sound, others with a more 70s or 80s vibe, heavier metal bands, and ones that meshed different genres.

Lyrical themes also changed during this period. We emerged from the 80s, with partying themes, and the 90s, with depressive themes.

Bands of this area talked about everything from emotions and love (such as Taking Back Sunday) to politics (such as System of a Down), and some even had introspective themes (such as Tool).

No matter what the band sounded like, there were so many unforgettable bands during this time period.

How I Chose These Bands

arctic monkeys Best Rock Bands of the 2000s
Arctic Monkeys, a rock band from the UK

While there were countless bands from the 2000s, not all could be on this list. I used the following criteria to select the best bands:

  • Popularity: Since I grew up in the prime era of 2000s rock, I remember which bands were on MTV and the radio. Even if these artists didn’t achieve major airplay, I mentioned any bands that built a loyal fan base on Myspace or other underground means.
  • Influence: Since the 2000s were an innovative time for rock music, these bands went on to inspire the artists of today. I prioritized the bands that served the biggest influence and are still idolized by fans of all ages.
  • Notoriety: All these bands touched the rock music fans of the day, to where we still go back and listen to their music. Not only that, but my generation is starting to share these bands with the younger crowd — even their own kids. All this proves these bands have notoriety, and their name will live on for decades.
  • Innovation: Many bands of the 2000s meshed different genres together, used different effects to achieve their sound, created new subgenres of rock, and pushed the boundaries of rock music in other ways. These are the bands I emphasized in this piece.
  • Lyrical themes: In the past decades of rock music, bands have sung about concepts that fit the era. But in the 2000s, all these bands had different lyrical themes. Whether they discussed emotions, inspirational mementos, or disturbing themes, I tried to include various bands with different lyrical concepts.
  • Songwriting: There’s a reason why we revisit the bands from our youth — they were all excellent songwriters! Whether they wrote one-hit-wonders or you listened to an album on repeat for a month, one thing these bands have in common is they’re all excellent songwriters and released serious tunes in their careers.

The Best Rock Bands of the 2000s

Are you ready to discover the best rock bands in the 2000s? Since this will be an exhaustive list, I won’t be doing a countdown. Rather, I’ll list the bands from this era that impacted me the most — and the ones I always return to.

Fall Out Boy

  • Best album: From Under the Cork Tree
  • Best song: “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year”
  • Years active: 2001 – 2009, 2013 – present

Not going to lie. I regularly jam From Under the Cork Tree. Fall Out Boy was formed in 2001 in Wilmette, Illinois. One of the main reasons I fell in love with Fall Out Boy is they’re truly great songwriters.

I linked their single “Sugar, We’re Goin Down;” even though they have better songs on the album, I can still listen to this song a hundred times in a row and never get tired of it.

This band is also super nostalgic for me. My best friend and I would listen to this band every day, and they played at the first Warped Tour I went to.

Fall Out Boy is still active today, though they ditched their initial emo style and developed a more pop sound. They still make albums and tours to this day, and they have largely had the same lineup since their inception.

Linkin Park

  • Best album: Hybrid Theory
  • Best song: “In the End”
  • Years active: 1996 – 2017

You can’t mention “bands of the 2000s” without Linkin Park. Their debut album, Hybrid Theory, was released in 2000 and set the tone for the innovation that rock music would develop. It didn’t take long for Linkin Park to reach international fame — and for their music to blare on the radio all day (my dad got sick of them really quickly).

Songs such as “In the End” serve as anthems for the time period. Today, they’re one of the most influential bands, and many artists have tried to replicate Linkin Park’s perfect fusion of alternative rock and hip hop.

Tragically, Linkin Park’s clean singer, Chester Bennington, committed suicide in 2017. Since then, the band hasn’t been working on new music or embarking on any tours. That said, the band still does cool things for fans, such as uploading old demos and making an interactive video game for the 20th anniversary of Meteora.

Green Day

  • Best album: American Idiot
  • Best song: “Holiday”
  • Years active: 1987 – present

Green Day is arguably the most versatile band of this era. They formed in 1987 and revolutionized the pop-punk genre with the album Dookie. However, Dookie was released on February 1, 1994 — years before the 2000s. By the time Green Day released 2000’s Warning album, they were already at the height of their fame. Tracks like “Minority” prove that a song can be simplistic and catchy, but can still be a killer track.

However, Green Day did a 180 when they released the album American Idiot. They kept their pop-punk sound and image but also changed their image to appeal to modern emo fans. The result? One of Green Day’s most iconic albums — if not their best one.

You can hear this in a track like “Holiday;” the song has politically-driven lyrics like their past material, but is catchy and punky while still sounding mainstream. Green Day is still active today. They have a new album, Saviors, to be released on January 19, 2024.

My Chemical Romance

  • Best album: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
  • Best song: “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
  • Years active: 2001 – 2013, 2019 – present

For those of us who grew up in the golden age of emo, My Chemical Romance (MCR) was the king. This band defined the emo generation for many reasons. They had memorable songs, the quintessential “emo” look, talented musicians, and their lyrics ranged from teenage angst to horror stories.

But the real reason MCR dominated the genre is that their songs had a clear message. They reached out to the outcasts, the black sheep, and those who didn’t fit in. MCR’s music gives its listeners a sense of belonging, which is why they’re still popular today.

While I personally think their first album, I Bought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, is their best album, I initially fell in love with Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge — specifically the song, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).

My Chemical Romance is still active today. They briefly broke up in 2013 but reunited in 2019. They regularly tour, play major festivals, and release new music.

Queens of the Stone Age

  • Best album: Lullabies to Paralyze
  • Best song: “Little Sister”
  • Years active: 1996 – present

Queens of the Stone Age is a band that doesn’t need a cool genre title, a cool stage show, or fancy embellishments. They make hard-hitting rock and write great tunes…and that’s why they reached fame. Doesn’t get better than that, right?

Still, Queens of the Stone Age has an individualistic sound, and anyone can recognize frontman Josh Homme’s voice from anywhere. All their songs have so much energy — ones that take me back to the basement shows I attended when I was in my 20s. “Little Sister” is my favorite Queens of the Stone Age song, but they have countless solid tracks.

Queens of the Stone Age are still active today. They released their newest album, In Times New Roman, on June 16, 2023.

The White Stripes

  • Best album: Elephant
  • Best song: “Black Math”
  • Years active: 1997 – 2011

The White Stripes is one of those bands that popularized the garage rock sound. There are only two members of The White Stripes — Jack and Meg White. It’s always been debated whether or not they’re married or siblings (or other family members).

In reality, they are married (though Jack took Meg’s surname). After they married, Meg learned drums (Jack was already a seasoned musician and played in numerous bands in Detroit). When Meg got good enough, the two formed The White Stripes.

They released several albums before making it big with their fourth album, Elephant. Even though it was their major label debut, the album was still largely self-produced, with Jack White using 8-track tapes and other pre-1960s recording gear to give the album a “vintage production” feel. You can hear this in tracks such as “Black Math.”

The White Stripes became famous because they were raw; even today, it blows my mind that such a hard-hitting band made it so big. Their music is simple, but it offers a lasting impression. They’re still super distinctive — from their sound, Jack White’s voice, and imagery.

Unfortunately, The White Stripes is no longer active. That said, they are remastering their old albums, including Elephant.

Foo Fighters

  • Best album: The Colour and the Shape
  • Best song: “My Hero”
  • Years active: 1994 – present

There are many reasons why the Foo Fighters are one of my favorite bands from this time period. Even today, their music has inspired a generation of rock fans.

Foo Fighters proves that you don’t need fancy bells and whistles to create a good song — all you need are good songwriters and musicians. Plus, they put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

Foo Fighters was formed by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. When he was in Nirvana, he would jam on guitar and write songs, though never showed them to anyone. Although his original intent was to release solo material, Grohl added more members to the lineup, and Foo Fighters became one of the biggest bands of the generation.

Today, Foo Fighters is known for hits such as “My Hero,” “Everlong,” and “Learn to Fly.” I saw this band live in 2018 at Welcome to Rockville, and they had the best performance of any artist at that festival.

Unfortunately, longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins died in 2022 while the band was on tour in Bogota, Colombia. He suffered cardiac arrest after abusing multiple substances. That said, Foo Fighters is still prevailing. They released their eleventh studio album, But We Are Here, on June 2, 2023, and headlined Glastonbury Festival that same year.

The Used

  • Best album: USED
  • Best song: “The Taste of Ink”
  • Years active: 2000 – present

When emo took over, this was the first band in the movement that I discovered, and they’re still dear to my heart. With their debut self-titled album and follow-up, In Love and Death, The Used revolutionized rock music with their hard-hitting sound and emotional lyrics.

I can still listen to songs like “The Taste of Ink” and not get sick of them. Their sound is super nostalgic, and I remember when I saw them live and watched their numerous documentaries. Does anyone remember seeing singer Bert McCracken on The Osbournes when he and Kelly briefly dated?

The Used is still active today. Their newest album, Toxic Positivity, was released on May 19, 2023.

Taking Back Sunday

  • Best album: Where You Want to Be
  • Best song: “Set Phasers to Stun”
  • Years active: 1999 – present

Taking Back Sunday released some of the best jams in the 2000s. They were not only great songwriters, but this band captures so many raw feelings in their music. While I don’t feel their sound is as emo as a band like The Used, they emerged during the height of the emo movement, so they tend to get lumped in with those bands.

They also held many qualities that made them stand out from other emo bands. The most defining feature of this band is the vocal combination between lead vocalist Adam Lazzara and guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino.

Take a song like “A Decade Under the Influence” as an example. This song is minimalist yet intense, and their entire discography has these vibes.

Taking Back Sunday is still active today, though it has had a couple of lineup changes since its emo heyday. It released its eighth studio album, 152, on October 27, 2023.

Good Charlotte

  • Best album: The Young and the Hopeless
  • Best song: “Girls & Boys”
  • Years active: 1996 – 2011, 2015 – present

Good Charlotte bridged the gap between pop punk and emo, which made them an instant hit during the time. They had enough teenage angst but radio-friendliness to where they appealed to a mass audience, even to those who weren’t rock music fans.

I must admit, Good Charlotte wasn’t my favorite band of the period. Even back then, I was more into the harder rock music and the underground emo bands (that still became popular). But I will say that Good Charlotte wrote catchy songs — and I couldn’t help but sing along to some of their singles. “Girls and Boys” was the main one I remember liking.

Good Charlotte is still active today, but they don’t have the notoriety they did before. The last I remember hearing from them, they released the single “Last December” on December 18, 2020.

System of a Down

  • Best album: Toxicity
  • Best song: “Chop Suey!”
  • Years active: 1994 – 2006, 2010 – present

When I grew up, I became a total metalhead, partially thanks to this band. I thought the song “Chop Suey!” was insane, and guitarist Daron Malakian scared me. Still, this band became a favorite of mine, and I still jam the Toxicity album on a regular basis.

System of a Down was formed in 1994 after Malakian and singer Serj Tankian met while working on music in the same recording studio. They formed the band, Soil, and when that didn’t work out, they formed System of a Down.

While System of a Down’s debut self-titled album was successful, they achieved true fame with the release of Toxicity. It landed the No. 1 spot on both American and Canadian charts. The album yielded singles, such as “Chop Suey!,” which is still a fan favorite today.

I’m still shocked that this band became so popular. Toxicity is a metal album, with progressive song structures, heavy instrumentals, and screaming. Plus, the band had politically-charged lyrics, which I know are never popular on the radio. That said, I haven’t found a more daring and authentic rock band that reached commercial success like System of a Down.

The current state of System of a Down is unclear. They went on a hiatus in 2006 and only played shows during the 2010s. They have released some music here and there, such as the songs “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect the Land” in response to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. That said, there are no updates about a new album. Their bio still says they’re technically active, so I hope that means we’ll hear new System of a Down soon.

Coheed and Cambria

  • Best album: Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV
  • Best song: “Welcome Home”
  • Years active: 1995 – present

Coheed and Cambria is another band I’m shocked reached fame and MTV airtime. This band is complete prog worship; Claudio Sanchez is one of the most amazing guitar players of the decade.

Albums like Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV paved the way for a new generation of progressive rock bands. The song “Welcome Home” is the perfect example of Coheed and Cambria’s talent and notoriety. In addition to IV, In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is another album I jam regularly.

Even though this band achieved success, I still think they’re one of the most underrated bands of the decade. They still attracted a loyal fan base. Coheed and Cambria is still active today. They tour on a regular basis (though I’ve had to miss their shows every time they’ve come through here), and their latest album, Vaxis – Act II: A Window of the Waking Mind, was released in 2022.


  • Best album: Infiltrate-Rebuild-Destroy
  • Best song: “Shock and Terror”
  • Years active: 1998 – present

If it wasn’t for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, we wouldn’t have some of the best bands of the era- and CKY should be one of the first bands to come to mind. CKY was formed in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1998. The founding members are guitarist Chad I Ginsburg, vocalist and guitarist Deron Miller, and drummer Jess Margera (also famous for being the brother of Bam Margera).

Thanks to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, CKY is most famous for the song “96 Quite Bitter Beings.” However, Vol. 1 was technically released in 1999. That said, the follow-up, Infiltrate-Rebuild-Destroy, was released in 2002, so I will focus more on this album.

While I love Vol. I, I feel Infiltrate-Rebuild-Destroy is more memorable. With songs like “Flesh Into Gear” and “Escape From Hellview,” I used to jam this album nonstop when I was younger. Ginsburg and Miller, while not super virtuoso guitar players, unleashed some seriously killer riffs that get stuck in your head.

CKY is still active today. They still tour, play festivals, and plan to release a new album. I saw these guys live in 2018; while Deron Miller is no longer their singer, they still played a solid set and jammed some classics from the early 2000s.


  • Best album: Absolution
  • Best song: “Stockholm Syndrome”
  • Years active: 1994 – present

Muse is another of my favorite bands that emerged from this decade, but I didn’t get into them until I got older. Muse was formed in 1994 in Devon, England, but they didn’t achieve fame until the 2000s, specifically with the album Absolution. Absolution topped the charts in the UK, and yielded the number one hit “Time Is Running Out.”

They’re very experimental; again, I’m shocked they got as successful as they did. Their music sounds more like a cinematic soundscape, with synths and guitar effects.

Plus, you have some of the most serious virtuosos in one band; specifically lead singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy, who’s regarded as one of the best guitar players of the decade. To this day, they’re one of the most innovative bands I ever heard, and pushed the boundaries of rock music.

Muse is still active today. They released their last album, Will of the People, in 2022. Muse also regularly tours; I caught them in 2017, and they’re incredible live.


  • Best album: Lateralus
  • Best song: “Parabola”
  • Years active: 1990 – present

Tool is another rock band that pushed the boundaries of the genre, and they still remain one of my favorite bands today. Since their inception in 1989, Tool attracted a devoted following.

They’re famous for their psychedelic feel and their intricate musicianship. Bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey are some of the most influential musicians today.

While I wouldn’t say vocalist Maynard James Keenan is the best singer, he stands out because he conveys many emotions. Their lyrics also hold a ton of symbolism, and I never stop learning about this amazing band.

As I stated previously, Tool was formed in the late 80s. Tool technically gained success with their debut album, Undertow. But since this article is about the 2000s, I will jump to 2001, when they released their groundbreaking record, Lateralus. This is around when Tool took on a more progressive tone, and you can hear this style in a song like “Parabola.”

Tool is still active today. They tour regularly and play festival runs — they’re playing around my birthday next year! Tool released their last album, Fear Inoculum, in 2019, and they’ve been teasing a new album.

Nine Inch Nails

  • Best album: The Downward Spiral
  • Best song: “Closer”
  • Years active: 1988 – present

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the song, “Closer.” It felt so wrong to listen to the lyrics, but I couldn’t stop. This song helped me fall in love with Nine Inch Nails.

Nine Inch Nails formed in 1988, and reached fame with 1994’s The Downward Spiral. But again, since this article is about the 2000s, I will jump to 2005, when Nine Inch Nails released With Teeth.

Songs like “The Hand That Feeds” proved that Nine Inch Nails was still extremely innovative, even after all these years. I personally found this album more guitar-driven, which also appealed to many metal fans.

Nine Inch Nails is still active. Their last albums, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts, were released in 2020. That same year, Nine Inch Nails was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Nine Inch Nails also tours, though not as extensively as they did years ago.

Honorable Mentions

arcade fire Best Rock Bands of the 2000s
Arcade Fire, Canadian rock band which started their career in 2000s

There are countless amazing and influential rock bands from the 2000s. Unfortunately, I can’t fit them all on this list, so here are some honorable mentions:

  • The Killers
  • Arcade Fire
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Radiohead
  • The Strokes
  • Disturbed
  • Audioslave
  • Sigur Rós
  • Lamb of God
  • Slipknot
  • Mastodon
  • Opeth
  • Evanescence
  • Killswitch Engage
  • Three Days Grace
  • Breaking Benjamin
  • Altar Bridge
  • Seether
  • Kings of Leon
  • Paramore
  • Bloc Party
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Interpol
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Modest Mouse



Question: Does 2000s rock have a name?

Answer: “Alternative rock” is the general answer. However, numerous subgenres of rock music dominated this movement. These include post-grunge, post-Britpop, pop punk, nu-metal, post-hardcore, emo, indie rock, and metalcore.

Question: Who can we credit with the revival of rock in the 2000s?

Answer: I would say The White Stripes. They popularized the indie garage rock sound and influenced other bands to follow.

Question: What was the best-selling band of the 2000s?

Answer: Believe it or not, it wasn’t any of the bands on this list. The Beatles released their Greatest Hits Compilation I in 2000, the best-selling album of the decade. But technically, rapper Eminem was the best-selling artist in the 2000s.

Bottom Line

The 2000s saw the revival of rock music, which resulted in one of the most versatile movements in music history. I was a regular at my local CD shop and befriended other rock fans to discover the latest bands, and I still listen to these artists today.

Understand that this is a list of some of my favorite rock bands from the 2000s, not an exhaustive list of the best ones. There were so many different sub-genres of rock introduced in this time period and countless bands I could have mentioned. While I barely scratched the surface of 2000s-era rock music, I hope this list helped you re-discover old favorites and learn about bands from the era you never heard of.

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