The first ten years of the new millennium were some of the most tumultuous in our history. This was thanks, in no small part, to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, a day that set in motion a series of events that led us to two different wars, a number of economic downturns, and some of the most heated political competitions of our lifetime.

Throughout the decade, through all the year’s hardships and triumphs, people were able to find solace in the beautiful things that life still had to offer, one of which was music.

Beyond all of the commercialism and money-grubbing music, at its purest, is an honest expression of human emotion. It can lift us up, it can make us cry, and most importantly, it can give us hope. No matter what type of music you listen to, there are some artists that transcend the boundaries of genre or style with their importance and influence and it is with that, that we proudly present, in no particular order, our list of the 10 most influential musicians of the decade.

1. Lady GaGa
While she has only just begun to entertain on a national level, Lady GaGa has set the standard for other solo female musicians. Her music is infectious and thoughtful, her style unique and original, and her talent unquestionable. Perhaps most unique (yes even more than the outfits and the hair), is that she writes all of her own music, and is a respected writer in the industry, something not many other pop/dance artists can claim. Her live shows have become something of a modern art display, and she is sure to be a major influence in the decade to come. Any female performer who hopes to make it in the next few years better step up her game if she wants to challenge the fame monster.

2. Britney Spears
Despite a meltdown that made her the front page tabloid news story for over a year, Britney Spears has come back to exceed the hardest expectations she ever had to face… her own. Her greatest success lies in being one of the only acts to survive the Mickey Mouse Club era of pop in the late nineties, staying relevant, fun, and entertaining without missing a beat throughout the decade while peers like Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore fell off the map. Even on the brink of personal collapse, Britney managed to pull out one of the top grossing tours of the year, and has been one of the most celebrated live performers of the decade… even with the lip synching in question. Artists from Miley Cyrus to Adam Lambert and even GaGa should write her a “Thank You” letter some day for proving that great pop music can have real longevity.

3. Jay-Z
When Miley Cyrus shouts you out in a song, you might think you have made some mistakes. But, for Jay-Z, his commercial success is only a small chapter in a decade long book called How to be a Great Rapper. Jay-Z has shown every rapper the proper way to get old. You start a bunch of business ventures, get married, only take on smart collaborations (see Beyonce’s Crazy in Love and the Collision Course album he made with Linkin Park), bring to life other influential artists (i.e. Kanye West and Rihanna), keep making good music, pretend to retire, and continue to revolutionize the booming industry that you helped create. AND you do it all with the style, grace and “business” attitude worthy of Howard Hughes. If you’re going to go around calling yourself the best rapper alive, you better step up to the plate, and he has.

4. Eminem
In 2000 Eminem changed the way people thought about rap by doing something no one thought was possible… making it MORE vulgar and “dangerous” while also elevating the genre to a new level of art. Taking pop culture head on before he could really claim to be a part of it, Eminem shocked us into attention and kept it. Merciless in his opinions, he has disgusted everyone from the gay community to his own mother, all for our ears to hear. Still, past the disses is an undeniable lyrical talent that let the public into his sorted life, just as vulnerable as he is unafraid. The protégé of Dr. Dre even molded a protégé of his own in 50 Cent, who has been influential to the rap game in his own right.

5. Carrie Underwood
Since Kelly Clarkson was crowned the first American Idol in 2002, the show has been the American culture’s go-to source for up and coming solo stars in all genres, from Daughtry in Rock to Jordin Sparks in pop. If any genre had its greatest rebirth in the first part of the 21st century, it would be country music. In her American Idol win, Underwood has joined artists like Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift in bringing country some much needed life and relevance, even for those who live outside of the Bible belt. Impressively, of all the American Idols, Carrie Underwood, a country artist, is the best selling of all time, earning her a much deserved spot on our list.

6. Radiohead
Ask any artist who their favorite bands are, and odds are anyone from Jay-Z to Justin Timberlake will have Radiohead on their list. Despite a tumultuous relationship with the media and fame in general, the band has influenced everyone from rock acts like Muse to hip hop artists willing to pay upwards of one million dollars to sample their tracks. Besides consistently offering something fresh and awesome every time they release an album, Radiohead was one of the first groups to offer their album for free online. Not just a preview, not just a few songs, but the entire album. Pretty radical stuff considering the rest of the music industry was off suing 10-year-olds for downloading illegally.

7. Greenday
No band caught the wave of political fervor in the US the way Greenday did with their release of American Idiot. While their new sound may have alienated some of their old fan-base it brought on a host of new disciples to the alter of dookie. Not even the Dixie Chicks got to bash George Bush as much Greenday, who established themselves in this decade as more than just some punk kids from the nineties. Just listen to their collaboration with U2 to see how much the band grew since 2000. If Bono believes, so do we.

8. Kanye West
I hate to put him here, since he’s already his own biggest fan, but there’s no denying that Kanye West is part of what’s making rap interesting again. Described by many other hip hoppers as something of a genius, Jay-Z’s production protégé made both the pop and rap world stop and listen as each unique single dropped. Not to mention, his inability to keep his mouth shut has provided some of the greatest unintentional comedic moments television has seen in a long time.

9. Fallout Boy
For a hot second it seemed like white kids living in the suburbs that didn’t listen to rap music had only one other option: emo pop-rock. Fallout Boy, the genre’s most commercial success of the decade, achieved what popular and seemingly underground acts like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New could not. How did they do it? Two ways: never taking themselves too seriously and not being afraid to “sell out” for teenaged girls. While it looks like the band may be slowly falling into obscurity, as they announced they were parting ways late this year, for a while there Fall Out Boy were selling out stadiums and holding respectable spots on the Billboard 100. And if that’s how they go out, it’s not too shabby.

10. Justin Timberlake
Out of all the hoopla that was the boy band scene of the late 90’s and 2000’s only one man has been left standing. Clearly citing artists like Al Green and Michael Jackson as influences may seem like a kiss of death for other white boys from boy bands, but Justin Timberlake has elevated his talent and charm to a level where it all seems to work, silencing critics and pleasing fans old and new. He has also been a refreshingly classy guy through it all. Timberlake was named the most charitable celebrity this year, beating out even Angelina Jolie. While his success may never reach that of the gloved one, JT is still turning out good music and giving other guys in the male solo category a run for their money.

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