Billboard Artists of the Decade

For its third album, the White Stripes took a slightly more refined approach to the duo's raw garage-rock sound without compromising its intensity or simplicity. Among the record's best songs are the rambling folk-rocker "Hotel Yorba," the frenzied "Fell in Love with a Girl" and the bluesy "I'm Finding It Hard To Be A Gentleman."

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Sufjan Stevens' second "state" album (following 2003's "Michigan") is an ambitious song cycle, brimming with lush vocal arrangements and breathtaking orchestrations. Stevens' airy tenor croon, raw emotion and lyrical genius permeate every inch of each song, including the heart-wrenching, stripped-down folk of "Casimir Pulaski Day" and the elegant fanfare of "Come On! Feel The Illinoise!"

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Modest Mouse's major-label debut was the band's most cohesive album yet, with a newfound sonic density tied together with songs that pondered space, death and the afterlife. "Moon" had atmospheric electronic effects mixed with the organic sounds of banjo, guitars and low-key bass lines under frontman Isaac Brock's anti-melodic shouts.

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PJ Harvey's "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea" was a well-received departure from the experimental leanings of her previous work. Harvey wanted "Stories" to be beautiful, and the result was just that: a record about cities and romance that was vulnerable and smooth around the edges, but still adventurous.

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Arctic Monkeys' debut served as a raucous introduction to a new generation of young Brits, with instantly classic songs about underage drinking, hookups and clubbing. The witty lyrics are matched by driving, scratchy guitars and precision drums, mixing in the best bits of the Strokes, the Jam and the Streets.

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On "American Idiot," Green Day abandoned its three-chord punk formula to make a politically charged rock opera about the band's dissatisfaction with post-9/11 suburban America. "Idiot" enlisted a large arsenal of instruments and song structures and, while it flows seamlessly as a whole, most tracks stand just as tall on their own.

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Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast's fourth LP "Stankonia" introduced the game-changing singles "Ms. Jackson," "So Fresh, So Clean" and "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)." Characterized by its funky beats and urgent lyrics, the album paid homage to everyone from George Clinton to Dr. Dre, while Big Boi and Andre 3000s quirky, quick-tongued rhymes set the standard for new millennium hip-hop.

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On the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "By the Way," the group traded its punchy rap-rock for a more subdued sound, with guitar and bass parts predominately written by guitarist John Frusciante. The new-found focus on melody showed the band's maturity without completely forgoing its funky, spastic roots.

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Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft" proved that his 1997 comeback, "Time Out Of Mind," was no fluke. Less personal than "Time," "Love and Theft" felt naturalistic in its overall old-world warmth, and it was flowed with consistently high energy, witty one-liners and stomping blues.

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"Figure 8," last record singer-songwriter Elliot Smith completed before his suicide in 2003, echoed the polished, orchestral tendencies that first appeared on 1998's "XO," his major-label debut. Smith's lyrics remained pensive, dark and lonely, but were complemented by rich arrangements with tuneful pop hooks scattered throughout.

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Text by Laura Leebove

These Billboard editors and writers voted: Mike Ayers, Lars Brandle, Diane Coetzer, Jonathan Cohen, M. Tye Comer, Mariel Concepcion, Ann Donahue, Thom Duffy, Gary Graff, Cortney Harding, Ron Hart, Louis Hau, Monica Herrera, Laura Leebove, Jessica Letkemann, Jason Lipshutz, Michael Menachem, Jill Menze, Gail Mitchell, Evie Nagy, Andre Paine, Mitchell Peters, Paul Sexton, Richard Smirke, Wolfgang Spahr, Mark Sutherland, Christa Titus, Gary Trust, Kristina Tunzi, Alex Vitoulis, Jeff Vrabel, Ray Waddell, Chris M. Walsh, Chris Williams, Jennifer Wilson, Lavinia Wright.