The 15 Greatest Guitar Riffs of the 2000s

    Guitarist performing a riff

    The 2000s offered a variety of music style and riffs.

    With the addition of Nu Metal, Alternative metal, evolving alternative rock, and pop punk, the list reaches genre as far and wide as your own personal music library.

    With 2000 now being almost two decades in the past, some of these riffs will tug at the nostalgia strings and bring you back to simpler times of fat computer monitors and pre-camera cell phones.

    Let's dive right into these riffs that helped define the 2000s.

    Each riff is ordered by release date chronologically.

    Table Of Contents


    1. Down with the Sickness - 2000

    Artist: Disturbed

    Album: The Sickness

    Guitarist: Dan Donegan

    Due to the success of their album The Sickness, Disturbed took the early 2000s by storm.

    With the assistance of Draiman's "Ohh-wah-ah-ah-ah" vocals, Donegan's riff drives this popular song that spread to music listeners of all genres. It set the tone for the turn of the century and is still wildly popular today.


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    2. Plug in Baby - 2001

    Artist: Muse

    Album: Origin of Symmetry

    Guitarist: Matt Bellamy

    Bellamy's wailing riff in Plug in Baby drives the song into arguably one of the top riffs of the decade. 

    Total Guitar even conducted a survey in their magazine, and Muse's Plug in Baby beat out all competition and was voted best riff of the 21st century.


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    3. Fat Lip - 2001

    Artist: Sum 41

    Album: All Killer No Filler

    Guitarist: Dave Baksh

    Blending rap and punk-rock, Sum 41's launched into mainstream success with their album All Killer No Filler.

    Daksh riff starts the song alone before the whole band joins in and makes you want to jump around and cause havoc. Fat Lip made it to the 1 spot on the US Billboards Modern Rock Tracks, and the album went platinum.


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    4. Can't Stop - 2002

    Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Album: By the Way

    Guitarist: John Frusciante

    The funk-alternative rock legends, Red Hot Chili Peppers, hit the 2000s decade hard following Californication with By the Way.

    Can't Stop's intro builds for the about the first 20-25 seconds until Frusciante's bumping riff comes in and sets the rhythm for Keidis sharp vocals. 


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    5. No One Knows - 2002

    Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

    Album: Songs for the Deaf

    Guitarist: Josh Homme

    Homme's punchy-staccato riff in No One Knows pops immediately and delivers a robust and memorable song.

    While initially flying under the radar, No One Knows off of Songs for the Deaf pushed them into the mainstream. The assistance of Dave Grohl on drums certainly didn't hurt the song's chance of achieving success. 


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    6. Cochise - 2002

    Artist: Audioslave

    Album: Audioslave

    Guitarist: Tom Morello

    Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello, helped create the band Audioslave and provided a tasty riff for Cochise.

    With the main riff coming in around the one minute mark, Morello's heavy riff offers the perfect tone for their homage to the Native American Apache chief. Cochise was nominated for Best Single at the 2003 Metal Hammer Golden God Awards.


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    7. Seven Nation Army - 2003

    Artist: The White Stripes

    Album: Elephant

    Guitarist: Jack White

    When it comes to "memorable 2000 riffs," all others tend to bow to White Stripe's Seven Nation Army. 

    White's riff has that low tone that confuses listeners into thinking it is coming from a bass when, in fact, it is a semi-acoustic guitar run through a whammy pedal. It has even seeped into the sports world, as crowds at European football games chant the riff in unison.

    The iconic song and riff even catapulted the White Stripes to a Grammy for Best Rock Song.


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    8. Are You Gonna Be My Girl? - 2003

    Artist: Jet

    Album: Get Born

    Guitarist: Cameron Muncey

    The Australian band's signature song, Are You Gonna Be My Girl, was voted #1 in Triple J's Hottest 100.

    Percussion and bass start this tune, but then Muncey comes in strong with the riff that makes you want to get out of your seat and start dancing around. Popular and catchy, Are You Gonna Be My Girl has withstood the test of time.


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    9. Mr. Brightside - 2004

    Artist: The Killers

    Album: Hot Fuss

    Guitarist: Dave Keuning

    Keuining's song-long riff pops right at the beginning of the song. It sets the tone and literally continues the length of the song. Mixed with Flower's 80s style throw-back vocals, the melody and rhythm flows flawless and has the crowd crying, "I NEVER."

    Written in the key of D-flat major, Mr. Brightside was the Killer's first single and without a doubt their signature song.


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    10. American Idiot - 2004

    Artist: Green Day

    Album: American Idiot

    Guitarist: Billie Joe Armstrong

    Don't ever let anyone tell you that punk rock doesn't mix with politics. 

    As a response to the war in Iraq, Green Day released American Idiot with an unapologetic voice and a decade-defining riff. The response to American Idiot has been so critically acclaimed that an American Idiot stage adaptation premiered in 2009. 


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    11. Blood and Thunder - 2004

    Artist: Mastodon

    Album: Leviathan

    Guitarist: Brent Hinds

    Hinds creates a riff for Blood and Thunder that is as intense as the name of the song.

    The track is from their second album, Leviathan, and features Neil Fallon as additional vocals. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Mastodon blends heavy metal with unique southern roots that helped cement them as a top metal band during the decade. 


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    12. Take Me Out - 2004

    Artist: Franz Ferdinand

    Album: Franz Ferdinand

    Guitarist: Alex Kapranos

    Another #1 in Triple J's Hottest 100, Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out has a super catchy riff that you can't get out of your head.

    The Scottish band's hit single is playable in Guitar Hero, Rockband, and Just Dance 2. 


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    13. B.Y.O.B - 2005

    Artist: System of a Down

    Album: Mezmerize

    Guitarist: Daren Malakian

    In protest of the Iraq war, System of a Down cleverly created B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Bomb).

    With a quick tempo and various stop-and-start sections, B.Y.O.B incredibly unique. The blend of screaming and clean vocals along with guitar rhythms keeps your attention every second.


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    14. Beast and the Harlot - 2005

    Artist: Avenged Sevenfold

    Album: City of Evil

    Guitarist: Synyster Gates

    The opening melody of Beast and Harlot is arguably the most recognizable of any Avenged Sevenfold song. After the wailing, sinister intro the song drives into a lower, metal approach paired perfectly with M. Shadows high screech.

    Along with the impressive riff, Avenged Sevenfold also adds a shredding solo between the first chorus and second verse. With songs like Beast and Harlot, it's no surprise City of Evil and Avenged Sevenfold became one of the most popular heavy metal bands of the decade.


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    15. The Dark Eternal Night - 2007

    Artist: Dream Theater

    Album: Systematic Chaos

    Guitarist: John Petrucci

    Formed under the name Majesty in 1985, the progressive metal band's song The Dark Eternal Night slays the fretboard in a very rhythmic riff. In October 2010, Total Guitar Magazine's readers voted The Dark Eternal Night the 4th best guitar riff of the decade.

    A fun fact: The Dark Eternal Night is based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story, Nyarlathotep. 

    Dream Theater performing the Dark Eternal Night

    How does this list compare to your own? What songs did we forget about?

    Let us know in the comments below, and if you are an ambitious and intermediate musician, consider elevating your existing talent at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media.

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