The year 2002 was great for music, with some new genres in their infancy and older ones still going strong. For the purposes of our lists of the best songs from any given year, we’ll take a look at the Billboard year-end charts and rank the top tracks from each year based on their year-end placement. In this article, we tackle the 31 best songs from 2002.
1. How You Remind Me – Nickelback
Yes, Nickelback haters, they did have the most successful song of 2002 with How You Remind Me finished the year at the top of the year-end charts. It served as the lead single from the band’s album Silver Side Up and would eventually become one of the tracks they are best known for.
It was not only a Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, but it was also the most-played song of the 2000s according to Nielsen Soundscan. While they would earn several awards and accolades for the track, perhaps the most notable success for them was it being named the number-one rock song of the 2000s by Billboard.
2. Foolish – Ashanti
Foolish was the debut single from Ashanti and was the lead single for her debut album in 2002. One of the things that helped the song grow so quickly was the featured verse from The Notorious B.I.G.’s F*cking You Tonight, which appeared on promotional singles of the track.
After being released in February, it would spend 10 weeks at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, but that wasn’t all. The track was an international hit, pushing into the Top 10 in other countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia. By the end of the decade, this one would rank as one of the top 20 songs of the 2000s according to Billboard.
3. Hot in Herre – Nelly
There are very few songs that capture the country’s attention and get stuck in your head the way Nelly’s Hot In Herre does. It was also the first track he saw rise to the top of the Hot 100 and would become the inaugural winner of the Best Male Rap Solo Award at the 45th Grammy Awards in 2003.
Most people will look back at this song fondly, and it was one of the catchiest tracks of 2002. There’s no question it was a huge song, going double platinum in the US and still showing up in people’s playlists two decades after its initial release.
4. Dilemma – Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland
The year 2002 was massive for hip hop as a whole, but it was also an incredible year for Nelly. The second single from his 2002 album Nellyville, Dilemma would also appear on Kelly Rowland’s Simply Deep as the lead single.
It would spend a total of 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100—non-consecutively—and would be the song to dethrone our previous entry from that spot. This one earned him another Grammy Award, winning Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 45th Grammy Awards and a nomination for Record of the Year.
5. Wherever You Will Go – The Calling
The Calling would score their biggest hit as a band with their debut single Wherever You Will Go in 2002, and it just happened to be one of the best songs of the year. While it peaked at number five on the Hot 100, it spent a total of 23 weeks on the top of the Adult Top 40, a run that ranked it as the second-longest in that chart’s history.
It would have a solid international run as well, making it into the Top 10 in several countries like the UK and Poland. To this day, it remains their best-known and was the big splash they needed at the start of their mainstream career.
6. A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton
Vanessa Carlton had a short run in the limelight, fueled by her first album and debut single A Thousand Miles. This sweeping piano-pop song was one of the few top tracks of the year to include orchestral instrumentation. It served as the lead single for her 2002 album Be Not Nobody, and it would become her only song to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, rising to the number five position.
Critical reviews were almost exclusively positive, leading it to be named one of the best love tracks of 2002. And even if you’re unfamiliar with the song as a whole, you probably heard it sampled in the 2001 film Legally Blonde.
7. In the End – Linkin Park
Linkin Park is one of the biggest nu-metal and rap-rock bands we have today, but the early 2000s were the years they earned that acclaim. In The End remains one of the staple songs in the entire genre to this day and was the final single released from the band’s 2000 album Hybrid Theory.
Despite being rooted in alternative genres, this track would make it to the number-two position on the Hot 100 and would own alternative and rock charts for weeks. Unsurprisingly, this legendary hit would become the first nu-metal song to break one billion streams on Spotify, which is more evidence as to why it’s become their signature track.
8. What’s Luv? – Fat Joe feat. Ashanti
Fat Joe found a lot of success, both as an artist and as a record label owner. What’s Luv? became one of the biggest hit singles of 2002 after he released it alongside Ashanti as the second single from his album Jealous Ones Still Envy.
Remix versions of the song had verses from Ja Rule as well, and the track played heavily on Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do With It? It would eventually peak at number two on the Hot 100, staying on the chart for a total of 20 weeks and giving Ashanti her second Top 10 single of the year.
9. U Got It Bad – Usher
Usher’s U Got It Bad was an experimental R&B ballad that played on a lot of earlier soul ballads. It was the song that would be replaced at the top of the Hot 100 by How You Remind Me, but after four weeks it would return to the top spot.
Interestingly, both this track and Usher’s U Remind Me made him the only solo male act to reach the top spot in 2001, and it was so successful for so long that it made the year-end charts for the following year—the one this list is about. So, it might be cheating a bit to put this as one of the best songs in 2002, but we didn’t say they had to release that year.
10. Blurry – Puddle of Mudd
Puddle Of Mudd was another one of the bigger alternative rock bands of the early 2000s, and their track Blurry was the biggest rock song of 2002. It stood alone atop the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock Tracks charts and was the number-one song on the year-end charts for both. It was an early sign of things to come for them, as its massive success was almost a surprise. It was the second single from the band’s debut album, and it remains the most successful single they have ever released.
11. Complicated – Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne is as important to pop-punk as any other artist in the genre. Even two decades later, her style and sound are emulated by other groups and her work helped the genre take on life. In 2002, perhaps her best-known single would be released.
Complicated was released as her debut single, setting the stage for pop rock as a whole and rocketing up the charts. It spent 16 weeks at number one on the Adult Top 40 and rose to number two on the Hot 100. It would become so infectious it garnered Grammy Nominations for both Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
12. Always on Time – Ja Rule feat. Ashanti
Just about everything Ashanti touched in 2002 turned to gold. And while Ja Rule’s career wouldn’t see a lot more success in the following years, he still had it in 2002. Always On Time would come from his 2001 album Pain Is Love and would come out at the end of that year. It spent two weeks at the top of the Hot 100 in 2002 and would be quickly followed up by our next entry. Most publications rank it fairly high in the best songs of the 2000s, coming in at number 82 on Billboard’s ranking of the decade.
13. Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix) – Jennifer Lopez
The 2002 Ja Rule duets were fantastic. Following his work with Ashanti, he teamed up with Jennifer Lopez for her 2002 remix album to produce the Murder Remix of Ain’t It Funny. While this one was marketed as a remix, it was an entirely different song. Released in December 2001, it would take the top spot of the Hot 100 in March 2003, unseating our last entry for that position.
14. The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
The Middle is another time capsule of a 2000s song, providing the big breakthrough for Jimmy Eat World and eventually becoming their signature track. It was one of the first songs they wrote after being dropped by Capitol Records, the event that inspired a lot of the lyrics in the track about not giving up or writing yourself off. It would eventually take a top-five spot on the Mainstream Rock, Adult Top 40, Hot 100, and Mainstream Top 40 while it took the top spot on the Alternative Airplay chart.
15. I Need a Girl (Pt. 1) – P. Diddy feat. Usher and Loon
P. Diddy is one of the extremely rare artists to have two parts of a song both become chart successes. I Need A Girl (Pt. 1) would reach number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Hot Rap Tracks chart en route to becoming a top-five hit in the UK.
Alongside Usher and Loon, he released part one in 2002 on the album We Invented The Remix. For the most part, this one was all about his ex relationships, with the third verse directly being about his past relationship with Jennifer Lopez.
16. U Don’t Have to Call – Usher
U Don’t Have To Call was definitely an interesting release from Usher. In the US, it served as the third single from his 2001 album 8701, but it was packaged as the double A-side of our previous entry I Need A Girl (Pt. 1). By 2003, the song won him his second-consecutive Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance as well. In the end, the track peaked at number three on the Hot 100 but remained there long enough to hold down the 16th place on the year-end charts.
17. Family Affair – Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige is a big name today, but her success on the overall charts hasn’t always told the full story of her achievements. Family Affair remains her only number-one single on the Hot 100, holding that position for six weeks and becoming one of the biggest songs of the 2000s.
18. I Need a Girl (Pt. 2) – P. Diddy feat. Ginuwine, Loon, Mario Winans, And Tammy Ruggieri
And now we reach the second section of P. Diddy’s I Need A Girl; this time, part two. As we said, this was one of the few times a two-part song saw both sections chart well in the US. This would reach number four on the Hot 100 and number two on the rap charts, cementing the full two-parter as an incredibly successful track only months after the first part was released.
19. Gangsta Lovin’ – Eve feat. Alicia Keys
Eve teamed up with Alicia Keys for Gangsta Lovin’ on her 2002 album Eve-Olution, notching her a second-consecutive number-two single on the Hot 100 and a third consecutive Top 10 hit in the UK. At the time, it was one of the biggest female team-ups in music and was a massive success in 2002.
20. My Sacrifice – Creed
Creed was already a great band by their third album Weathered, but the lead single of the album wound up being one of the best songs of 2002. My Sacrifice would eventually peak at number four on the Hot 100 and spent nine consecutive weeks at the top of the Mainstream Rock chart.
21. Without Me – Eminem
As much success as Eminem has found over the years, Without Me remains one of his most successful songs of all time. Serving as the lead single for his 2002 album The Eminem Show, it would find places on several of his greatest hits albums. A sequel to The Real Slim Shady, this track would reach number two on the US Hot 100 and number one in 15 other countries in 2002.
22. Hero – Enrique Iglesias
Enrique Iglesias’ move into English-language albums helped make him a household name in the US, and by his second album in the language, he became a star. Hero was released just days before the 9/11 attacks and would be remixed with soundbites of first responders on New York radio stations for months after the event.
Today, it ranks as one of the best-selling singles of all time with over eight million sales. Interestingly, it’s his most-played song on any US chart, though it didn’t hit number one on the Hot 100 as a couple of other tracks did.
23. All You Wanted – Michelle Branch
All You Wanted was the second single to come from Michelle Branch and was the biggest song from her 2001 debut album The Spirit Room. In the US, the track would soar to number six on the Hot 100, but it would also find top-40 success in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
24. Get The Party Started – P!nk
P!nk is another artist who had a massive solo career, but in 2002, Get The Party Started was her best-selling song so far. It served as the lead single from her Missundaztood album and was an international Top 10 hit.
25. Hero – Chad Kroeger feat. Josey Scott
This song is a little unique, as it was written and recorded specifically for a movie rather than any album. Chad Kroeger—lead vocalist of Nickelback—and Josey Scott—the lead vocalist for Saliva—teamed up to record Hero for the Spider-Man film that came out in 2002.
It was the lead single of the film soundtrack and would be released in two versions, one with orchestral backing and one without. Alongside the popularity of the movie, the track would top the US Mainstream and Modern Rock airplay charts and would win numerous awards.
26. Wasting My Time – Default
Wasting My Time served as the debut single for the Canadian rock band Default’s 2001 album The Fallout. Even today, it remains the group’s most commercially-successful song, reaching number 13 on the Hot 100 and peaking within the top three of the Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock airplay charts.
27. One Last Breath – Creed
One Last Breath was another amazing entry from Creed’s Weathered album. It would rise to number six on the Hot 100, becoming the band’s fourth and final Top 10 hit in the US, and charted well internationally. It was a bit ahead of its time, reflecting on past mistakes and serving as a bit of a cry for help.
28. Whenever, Wherever – Shakira
It’s the early 2000s, so you know Shakira has to end up on this list somewhere. Whenever, Wherever was the lead single off her English-language debut album Laundry Service at the end of 2001, but by 2002, the song made it to number six on the Hot 100. While others may be more famous now, this one was her breakthrough hit in the US and has become not only her signature track but one of the best-selling singles of all time.
29. I’m Gonna Be Alright – Jennifer Lopez
I’m Gonna Be Alright was the second single to drop from Jennifer Lopez’s second album in 2001. Several remixes of the song were released, featuring artists like 50 Cent and Nas. Their involvement—and Nas replacing 50 on the radio edit—would cause some beef between the two, but the track was a success nonetheless.
30. Oh Boy – Cam’Ron feat. Juelz Santana
Oh Boy not only topped the Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop charts, but it also got a Grammy nod in 2002. Cam’Ron wound up producing one of the best hip hop tracks in history in the process, earning its place on the 2002 year-end charts.
31. Heaven – DJ Sammy feat. Yanou and Do
Dj Sammy’s Heaven was a dance remix of another song that would serve as the lead single and title track for his second album. It was a number-one hit on the Hot 100 and would reenter the chart five years later as well.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.