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Top music artists of the 2000s

For much of the 2000s, Usher Raymond IV was the unstoppable force in popular music. He scored a whopping eight No. 1s on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (more than any other artist this decade), plus his 2004 album "Confessions" sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. And the man with the golden pipes and fancy footwork shows no signs of slowing down. "There are tons of artists I want to work with, " Usher told Billboard last year. "I'm interested in working with artists who are out of the range I'm accustomed to. I want to try new things."

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No sophomore jinx befell Nelly. His 2002 album "Nellyville" became his second consecutive Billboard 200 topper, and scored two monster hits, "Hot in Herre" and "Dilemma." "I can't do (debut release) 'Country Grammar' again, " the rapper said at the 2001 Billboard Music Awards. "You have a lifetime to do your first album, and 18 months for your second. It's just a matter of drawing on the talent I have inside." His talents proved to be extensive, as he placed three more albums into the Billboard top five before the end of the decade.

Billboard's Top Female Artist of the 2000s has cultivated a catalog of hits that transcend chart achievements. "Crazy in Love, " "Irreplaceable, " and "Single Ladies" all topped the Hot 100, but they also helped Beyonce become the queen of this decade's pop-culture pantheon. "I've always tried to pick songs and singles that were … a part of things that people are passionate about and want to talk about and debate, " Beyonce said in October. "'Single Ladies' is an uptempo song that's fun. But it's also something women go through every day."

"I really know that I'm going to be here for a long time, " Alicia Keys told us in 2003, "so I thought I owed it to myself to live my life and take the time I needed to develop my songs, my music and whatever vision I had to do it right." The thought process has worked well for Ms. Keys. Not only did she score one of the biggest songs of the 2000s ("No One" ranks No. 6 on our Hot 100 songs of the decade chart), her "Empire State of Mind" collaboration with Jay-Z has spent an entire month atop the charts this year.

50 Cent spent a staggering 45 weeks on top of the Rap Songs chart this decade, more than any other rapper can boast. Not only did the hits make the Queens, NY native a nationwide phenomenon, it took his rhymes across the globe. "At first, my love was just to be in the studio and make the music, " he said in 2003, "but now the biggest thing is the response of the people. I've been in Tokyo where people sang word for word and when the music stopped, they couldn't speak to me. I've seen the music break the language barrier."

Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" is the top song on Billboard's decade-end Rock Songs chart. The achievement may not win the Canadian band any favor with the rock press, but they're not sweating it. "We've just accepted that we're never going to be the critics' darlings, lead singer Chad Kroeger told Billboard in 2007, "and we're OK with that."

When Britney Spears wasn't shaving her head or dropping babies this decade, she was churning out a succession of hit singles that continue to resonate with fans the world over. She scored four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 and two Hot 100 chart-toppers, including "3, " which debuted atop the chart in October 2009. "I want to do things that people have never seen before, " she said in 2001. "I don't want to be considered a role model."

"The best thing (about being in Destiny's Child) is that I've gained two sisters who have my back, " Michelle Williams told us in 2006. "I learned about love and loyalty through good and bad, thick and thin." We're sure the string of multi-platinum albums and five No.1 singles this decade didn't hurt either.

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