2002 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast
The ’00s take shape after 9/11 as Emo and Bling Rap conquer the charts, Avril and Nelly emerge, Eminem goes mainstream and the ’00s biggest Rock bands debut.
Welcome! I’m Christopher Verdesi, and this is The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Every week, we take a look back at a different year in pop music history and count down the top ten hits according to our recap of the weekly pop charts published at the time by the music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’ll be counting down 2002, the first year of the ’00s decade. And I mean that in a cultural sense, of course.
With some decades it’s hard to pinpoint when things changed. Not so the ’00s. Everything changed on 9/11/2001: the Al Qaeda terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers in New York, left the Pentagon broken and smoldering in Washington, and United flight 93 vaporized on impact in Pennsylvania. 9/11 was the deadliest act of terror in world history, and the trigger for America’s War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Before 9/11, from the start of the decade on the calendar, not much had changed. Which was weird! 50 years of science fiction had made dates starting with twos instead of ones seem like, well, science fiction! And then Prince in 1982 in his breakthrough hit, “1999:” “2000 zero zero, party over, oops, out of time.” But then people woke up after partying like it was 1999, and lights still on, stuff on TV, money still in the bank. No Y2K computer bug apocalypse. But no Moon colony, jetpacks or robot maids either. Just another day. And then on a sunny Fall Tuesday in September, 9/11.
Some of the distinguishing features of the ’00s emerged right away: a new skyline in New York, crazy security at airports, the Office of Homeland Security, the color coded terror alert level and, of course, war. And other features were already emerging: school security tightening after the Columbine shooting, cell phones doubling to nearly 40 million in the U.S. from ’99 to 2000. And then texting took off 2000 to 2001. Digital cameras were flying off the shelves. Survivor sparked a cascade of reality shows when it was a hit for CBS in 2000. Sony’s Playstation 2, which could also play DVDs, so before long VHS tapes and VCRs started showing up in thrift shops. Friendster and Myspace didn’t launch until ’03, but platforms like Geocities, SixDegrees and of course America Online with its chat rooms were already scratching that itch on the internet.
As for music, never bigger after a decade of explosive growth in the ’90s, but between ’99 and 2015 when music streaming took hold finally, revenue only saw a single growth year and by the end of that 15-plus year slide, the music biz had shrunk to just a third of its size at the end of the ’90s thanks to online filesharing. Courts shut down the original mp3 platform, Napster, in ’01, but the proverbial genie was out of the bottle and the industry spent the rest of the decade playing legal whack-a-mole vs. peer-to-peer services, and then users of those platforms. Once broadband internet became affordable, download times for songs went from minutes to seconds and by mid-decade literally billions of digital song files were changing hands every year, and labels weren’t getting a dime.
None of that frenzied, legally dubious music collecting showed up on the charts either: a huge blind spot. And all because labels had spent the ’90s pushing people to buy $16 albums on CD. Derailing that gravy train by offering individual song downloads? Yeah, no. We don’t think so! So the unthinkable happened: they lost control. But the industry’s revenue free-fall had only just begun.
#10 Avril Lavigne – Complicated
At #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, an 18 year-old Canadian newcomer who was pitched to the world as the anti-Britney. The anti-Christina too, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera having dominated the female side of Millennial Teen Pop since ’99.
Now one of the factors that’d made Millennial Pop so successful was that after a decade of jarring Gen-X Nu Metal, Grunge and Gangsta Rap, Millennials’ Baby Boomer parents liked a lot of the stuff their kids were into. It was accessible: “inside the box” of what Boomers thought of as Pop and Rock music. And now that Britney and Christina were 20-somethings and the kiddos had a new teen sensation, parents liked her even better, especially this song: a #2 hit on the Hot100 in the top ten for 16 weeks, but #1 for 16 consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart, it’s Avril Lavigne, “Complicated.”
In a 2002 Entertainment Weekly piece, writer Chris Willman noted that the girls of America were no longer lowering their necklines in homage to Britney and Christina but, instead, learning how to knot a necktie like Lavigne. “Butt cheeks, dance beats, and gleeful artifice are suddenly out, while tank tops, rock, and ‘real’ are unexpectedly back in.”
Two big new things in Pop in ’02, Emo and Sk8ter Punk, both represented by the #10 song in our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002 by 18 year-old Avril Lavigne. “Complicated,” her first and biggest hit until ’07’s “Girlfriend.” Emo: Rock, usually with a Punk edge, that features personal and emotional lyrics. The very first top ten Emo hit? Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” which preceded “Complicated” on the charts by seven weeks.
#9 Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule & Cadillac Tah – Ain’t It Funny (Murder remix)
So in 2001, our next act at #9 pulled a fast one on the charts, releasing a completely new song, but with the same title as a cut on her album, labeling it a “remix,” and thereby combining airplay and sales points for both songs into a single chart position according to Billboard’s policy for remixes. The title “I’m Real” sat atop the Hot100 for five weeks and was our Chartcrush #4 song of 2001. But was it the Hip-Hop song, or the completely different Dance Pop song on the album? Well, that depended on what radio station you were listening to!
Either way, “I’m Real” was a hit. So in ’02, they did it again! Why not? Same crew, same scam: Jennifer Lopez and Epic Records, helmed by Mariah Carey’s ex, Tommy Mottola, bringing in New York’s “it” rapper of ’01 and ’02, Ja Rule, to write a whole new song, but with the same title as the one they’d chosen as the next single off Lopez’s J. Lo album, Lopez adding her vocals and Epic releasing it as the “Murder remix” after Ja Rule’s label, Murder, Inc. And it worked again! Another #1 hit, this time for six weeks, and our #9 song of 2002: “Ain’t It Funny.”
Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule and Cadillac Tah, the so-called “Murder remix” of “Ain’t It Funny.” Completely different song from the Latin Dance Pop cut with the same title that Adult Top 40 stations played once Epic Records released the single, but the two songs combined into one chart position, and “Ain’t It Funny” is #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002.
When the supposed “remix” dropped, Billboard’s reviewer groused in print that J. Lo’s label “Sony has got to be kidding,” called the ploy “a disturbing trend,” and soon Billboard, not wanting to find out what could happen if an artist released three, or five, or ten different songs with the same title, changed its rule to only allow remixes with the same melody to combine for chart positions.
#8 Vanessa Carlton – A Thousand Miles
Next at #8, a one-hit wonder. And the singer-songwriter herself told Elle in 2017 that she loves that expression because she wonders all the time how she ever had a hit. First heard on the big screen blaring out of a sorority house in the Reese Witherspoon flick Legally Blonde, once out as a single, it peaked at #5 and its 41 week run on the Hot100 was the third longest of ’02. Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.”
Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Two years after it was a hit, the Wayans brothers comedy White Chicks came out, in which Shawn and Marlon play FBI agents disguised as White Chicks to foil a kidnapping plot. In one scene they nearly blow their cover after “A Thousand Miles” comes on and sparks a singalong with a carful of White chicks, and, being African-American men, Shawn and Marlon don’t know the words. Awkward! You see, White chicks in the mid-’00s were supposed to know every syllable of that song, don’t you know.
#7 Calling – Wherever You Will Go
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, several hit songs were directly inspired by the attack and the war: Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye’s patriotic march “Remember Pearl Harbor,” musical comedian Spike Jones’s Hitler-mocking “Der Fuhrer’s Face,” and, most successful of all, Kay Kyser’s “Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition.”
9/11’s ripple on the charts, though: much more subtle, and it mainly took the form of existing records finding new resonance. Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” immediately re-entered the Hot100 for 16 weeks and got all the way to #6. But our song at #7, which had only scraped the Mainstream Rock chart after its release in May of 2001, began a slow, four-month crawl up the Hot100 after 9/11. It peaked at #5 and stayed on the chart until September ’02. Its 45 week run included 11 weeks in the top ten, making it our #7 song. It’s The Calling, “Wherever You Will Go.”
Inspired, according to songwriter Aaron Kamin, by a relative widowed after 50 years of marriage, but it took on a whole new meaning after 9/11. The Calling, #7 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002. Like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” it also topped the Adult Top 40 chart for an insanely long time—23 weeks—and was Billboard’s #1 year-end song of ’02 on that chart. Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” another pre-9/11 song that assumed a new identity after the attacks.
#6 Nelly – Hot In Herre
Next up, the first cut by the only act with two songs in our ’02 top ten countdown. It’s a rapper, which underscores how pivotal a year ’02 was for Hip-Hop. After pushing at the ramparts of Mainstream Pop for over 15 years, influencing a generation of R&B and Pop acts and occasionally breaking through with a hit on its own terms, Hip-Hop now was Mainstream Pop. So it’s fitting that our act at #6, who spent an amazing 17 combined weeks at #1, was also the first to perform in a Superbowl halftime show—Superbowl 35 in ’01 along with Britney Spears, Aerosmith, NSYNC and Mary J. Blige.
His first album Country Grammar came out in 2000 and was on the album chart for 104 weeks: an album of Pop-accessible Hip-Hop party anthems, two of which were top ten hits. If one album marked the start of Hip-Hop’s so-called “Bling Era” in the ’00s, that was it. And then his second album dropped at the end of June ’02 and this song was everywhere in the Summer: #1 from the end of June all the way to the middle of August, seven weeks. It’s Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.”
The Band-Aid rapper, Nelly at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “Hot in Herre,” from—of all places—St. Louis, which didn’t even have a Hip-Hop scene. Nelly says his style had universal appeal because he took aspects from every region, but his Midwestern twang was something new and unique, and he leaned into it. Heck, it’s right in the title: the word “here” spelled H-E double R E, pronounced “herre”).
Incidentally, Nelly’s trademark facial Band-Aid? A tribute to his former collaborator Lavell Webb, a.k.a. City Spud, serving ten years in a Missouri jail for armed robbery and assault.
#5 Usher – U Got It Bad
At #5 we’re gonna hear from the ’90s teen star mentored by moguls L.A. Reid and P. Diddy, who, after a couple of false starts, came to occupy a sweet spot on the male pop R&B sexiness spectrum midway between Michael Jackson’s too-goodness, and Bobby Brown’s too-badness, as songwriter Manuel Seal put it.
As he was just turning 20 he hooked up with Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri and scored a trio of top tens in ’97 and ’98 that updated the male R&B sound with Dupri’s Southern Hip-Hop production and beats. But not only that, his Hip-Hop-derived singing style—clustering syllables together like a rapper—set him up to be one of the biggest chart acts and heartthrobs of the ’00s after a second trio of top ten hits in ’01 and ’02 whose titles all begin with the word “you” abbreviated with the letter “U:” “U Remind Me,” “U Don’t Have to Call,” and the biggest, our #5 song, “U Got It Bad.” It’s Usher.
“U Got It Bad,” Usher: #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2002. Producer Jermaine Dupri wrote the song after Usher couldn’t stop obsessing over a girl he’d brought with him to the studio. He says he knew right away that he was updating Usher’s first smoldering slow-jam hit, “Nice & Slow,” from 1998. The girl may or may not’ve been TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.
#4 Nickelback – How You Remind Me
At #4, the song that gets the prize for chart longevity in ’02: 45 weeks, including four at #1, which made it Billboard’s #1 song of the year. But on chart points, the top four are a tight cluster, and the three songs that edge it out in our Chartcrush ranking all had many more weeks in the #1 spot.
It’s more apparent looking at the top ten on Billboard’s year-end chart than ours, but ’02 was a really big year for Rock on the Pop charts: the strongest since the late ’80s. Billboard had four Rock cuts among its top ten for the year, and two of them make the cut in our Chartcrush ranking. We already heard The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” at #7; here’s Nickelback’s chart debut, “How You Remind Me.”
Canadian Rockers Nickelback, the #4 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2002, “How You Remind Me.” #1 for four weeks in January, and it stayed in the top ten for 23 weeks. The most played song on radio in the entire ’00s decade.
In the years since 2002, and especially after their Diamond-certified fifth album All the Right Reasons in 2005, Nickelback became Rock’s scapegoats and whipping boys: “the one band that virtually everyone is happy to mock relentlessly,” as Stereogum’s Tom Breihan put it. Why? Well, their success, of course. Also, there was a sameyness to the style and sound of the Post-Grunge bands that dominated Rock radio in the early ’00s, and that contributed. But even beyond that, nowhere was the fracturing of Pop into a gazillion genres and micro-genres more pronounced than in Rock, so the idea of a band getting as big as Nickelback got was kind of an anachronism.
#3 Ashanti – Foolish
Now as I touched upon when we heard Ja Rule’s “Murder remix” of J. Lo’s “Ain’t It Funny” at #9, Irv and Chris Gotti’s Murder Inc. Records was the hottest Hip-Hop label in New York in ’02, and our act at #3 had gotten in on the ground floor, writing and singing hooks and background vocals, including on the J. Lo tracks, and featuring on Hip-Hop releases by the label’s roster of rappers. Those included Ja Rule’s biggest hit “Always on Time,” which catapulted her to instant stardom when it was in the top ten for 16 weeks starting in December ’01. Then, in February, her feature on Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” and her first solo single debuted simultaneously. With Billboard’s April 20 Hot100 chart, she became the first female ever to occupy the top two spots the same week. “What’s Luv?” was #2 for seven weeks and at #1 for five of those weeks? Our #3 song: it’s Ashanti’s “Foolish.”
That repeating piano figure in our #3 song, Ashanti’s “Foolish:” sampled from an album cut by 80’s R&B group DeBarge, but it had also been in rapper The Notorious B.I.G.’s biggest hit while he was alive. Biggie, gone just five years in ’02, so Ashanti protested when Murder, Inc. boss Irv Gotti gave it to her to write a song around. But Gotti said he knew what he was doing, and the sample, instantly familiar to Ashanti’s intended audience, helped “Foolish” shoot to the top of the charts, where it stayed ten weeks.
#2 Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland – Dilemma
We’re counting down the top hits of 2002 on this week’s edition of Chartcrush, and at #2 we have another rapper-singer duet, but unlike J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny,” on this one the rapper is singing too. Not too many singing rappers before Drake emerged late in the decade.
And it’s also the first #1 hit for a member of early ’00s R&B uber-trio Destiny’s Child. Nope, not that member! Beyonce’s first #1 hit was “Crazy in Love” (with Jay-Z) in 2003; our #2 song features Kelly Rowland, and as for the rapper, we heard his “Hot in Herre” at #6, so this is the second of his two hits in our countdown: the only act with two. It’s Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma.”
#1 for seven weeks, August and September, knocked down to #2 for two weeks, and then it returned to the top spot for another three weeks, October into November, Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma,” the #2 song of the year according to our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking.
In the video, Kelly is shown doing something that was pretty cutting-edge in ’02: texting. Except she’s doing it on an Excel spreadsheet, not a texting app. Maybe she needed more than 160 characters? By the way, the song that bumped “Dilemma” to #2 in October? American Idol Season One winner Kelly Clarkson’s coronation single, “A Moment like This.”
#1 Eminem – Lose Yourself
And that gets us down to the #1 song in our countdown. In a year of very long runs at the top of the Hot100, this was the longest: 12 weeks. But don’t look for it in the top ten or even the top 20 of any Billboard year-end chart, because Billboard only counted activity up to its November 30 cutoff issue for ’02. Everything after that? Kicked into ’03. This song was #1 from November 9 to January 25 ’03, so in Billboard, it’s #63 for ’02 and #28 for ’03.
Well that’s not right! In fact, there’s a long list of year-straddling hits throughout chart history that’ve fallen through the cracks like that. So here at Chartcrush, what we do is count every song’s entire chart run, and then rank it in the year it earned the majority of its points. Which makes this the #1 song of 2002. Are you ready? It’s a monster! Vanilla Ice was a distant memory and The Beastie Boys had thrown in with alt-rock; was the world ready for another White rapper? Capping off the year that Hip-Hop found its mojo at the top of the Pop charts, squarely in the mainstream of American Pop, from 8 Mile, the semiautobiographical film that made him a superstar, it’s Eminem “Lose Yourself.”
Eminem, out of Detroit, Michigan, “Lose Yourself.” #1 for 12 weeks on the Hot100 and #1 in our exclusive Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show ranking of the biggest hits of 2002. Eminem came into ’02 already a big star since The Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs, in ’99 and 2000, respectively, and his top ten hit, “The Real Slim Shady” in 2000. But 8 Mile and “Lose Yourself” expanded his appeal way beyond Hip-Hop. His album The Eminem Show topped Billboard’s year-end album chart in ’02, and “Lose Yourself” won Best Original Song at the 75th Oscars.
So our #1 song, “Lose Yourself,” one of the three cuts in our Chartcrush Top Ten for 2002 that were absent from the top ten on Billboard’s year-end Hot100. J. Lo and Ja Rule’s “Ain’t It Funny” and Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” the others at numbers 13 and 11 respectively on Billboard’s ranking.
So what songs from Billboard year-end top ten got bumped out of ours? Well as I said earlier, ’02 was a big year for Rock, which is better reflected on Billboard’s year-end top ten than ours.
Puddle of Mudd’s nihilistic Emo-Grunge song “Blurry” was #10.
“Blurry” was #15 on our Chartcrush ranking.
Unlike Kansas City’s Puddle of Mudd, Agora Hills, California’s Linkin Park continued charting top ten hits through the decade.
“In the End,” Linkin Park’s breakthrough, Billboard’s #7 song of ’02 and the second most played Rock song of the Aughts, behind Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me.” It just misses our Chartcrush top ten at #11.
And finally, Billboard’s #8 song was the other song in Ashanti’s two-fer at the top of the charts in April and May.
“What’s Luv?,” Fat Joe featuring Ashanti, missing our top ten at #13.
Well that’s the show! Thanks for listening to our 2002 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. On our website, chartcrush.com, you can get a written transcript and a link to stream this and other Chartcrush countdown shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other tight extras. Every week, we count down a different year from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune again—same station, same time—for another edition of Chartcrush.