Every year seems to be huge in the music industry, but 2003 was something special. Hip hop exploded with the debuts of 50 Cent and Beyoncé. Major duets would form or continue to put out great music, and new artists would come out of nowhere to be huge successes. In this article, we’ll rank the 35 best songs of 2003 using Billboard’s year-end charts.
1. In da Club – 50 Cent
The year 2003 really was 50 Cent’s year. He was the biggest name in music, let alone the biggest name in hip hop that year and his debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was the reason why. The lead single for the album, In Da Club, was his first number-one single in the US, and it didn’t take long to achieve that feat.
It would go on to earn him two Grammy nominations and two MTV Video Music Awards and would find a place as one of the greatest songs of the decade. It was a departure from the darker tones and themes he stuck with on Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, but it turned out to be an excellent decision.
Recommended: Top hip hop songs of the 2000s
2. Ignition (Remix) – R. Kelly
Criminal case issues around the time this track was released aside, Ignition (Remix) by R. Kelly was undeniably one of the year’s best songs. It’s officially titled as a remix, but there is no original version available because he worked an old piece he had stored into this track for his 2003 album Chocolate Factory. It would spend five consecutive weeks at the number-two position of the Hot 100 and rise to the top of the Australian, New Zealand, and UK charts.
3. Get Busy – Sean Paul
Sean Paul’s party anthem Get Busy was a massive hit both in the US and internationally. It spent three weeks on top of the US Billboard Hot 100 and was a Top-10 hit in 13 other countries. Oddly, it was the only track made for the Diwali Riddim album that didn’t make it onto the album officially. By year-end, it solidified a place as the number-three song of the year, but it impressively also ranked at number 50 on the decade-end charts for the 2000s.
4. Crazy in Love – Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z
The year 2003 was a massive deal for the hip hop landscape, not only because of 50 Cent’s debut but because the world would also be blessed with Beyoncé as a solo artist. Her debut album Dangerously In Love would be released in 2003, and the lead single for it was Crazy In Love.
The track would feature additional verses and ad-libs from her future husband Jay-Z and was universally acclaimed by critics and fans alike. It would take the top spot on the charts in the US and the UK. It would also go on to win two Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
5. When I’m Gone – 3 Doors Down
When I’m Gone was one of those rare universal alt-rock songs that everybody ended up loving. The band 3 Doors Down released it as the lead single from their Away From The Sun album in 2002, and it picked up a ton of steam in 2003. It spent 17 weeks on top of the Hot Mainstream Rock charts, topped the Mainstream Top 40, and made it to number four on the US Billboard Hot 100. For anyone who had to spend time away from their loved ones during this time, the track became incredibly special.
6. Unwell – Matchbox Twenty
Matchbox Twenty would release Unwell as the second single from their 2002 More Than You Think You Are album and watch it reign over the Adult Top 40 for 18 weeks. It would go on to become a top-five hit on the Hot 100, giving the band their third and final hit to reach that mark. According to Billboard, it was the second most-played track of the entire year, and it would eventually rank within their top 100 best songs of the decade.
7. Right Thurr – Chingy
Right Thurr served as the debut single for Chingy in 2003. It would spend five nonconsecutive weeks at number two on the Hot 100, but it would take the top spot on the Hot Rap Songs chart. The track also did well internationally, peaking in the top 20 in six other countries. An official remix of the song would be released that featured Jermaine Dupri and Trina, made available only as a bonus track on the album. At the 2004 Source Awards, it won Single of the Year.
8. Miss You – Aaliyah
Aaliyah actually recorded Miss You back in 1999 for her eponymous album in 2001, but it didn’t make the final cut. It wound up being released posthumously on a compilation album titled I Care 4 U as the lead single of the album. It became her second-highest charting track, rising to number three on the Hot 100, and it took the top spot on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
9. Picture – Kid Rock feat. Sheryl Crow
Picture is a weird song for Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow. It was originally recorded for his 2001 album Cocky, but his label wasn’t able to get the rights from her label to release their version as a single. So he rerecorded it with Allison Moorer, leading to radio stations labeling the track randomly with one or the other as the female artist despite playing the Crow version most of the time. It would eventually make it to number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Adult Top 40.
Recommended: Best karaoke songs of all time
10. Bring Me to Life – Evanescence
Bring Me To Life was Evanescence’s debut single and brought the band instant success. The song was written by Amy Lee at 19, and surprisingly, the rap sections of the track were forced in by the label against her wishes. It would go on to be used on the soundtrack for the Daredevil film that year and became a huge success.
It won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and would crack the top five of the US Hot 100. It would also take the top spot in the UK Singles, UK Rock & Metal, US Alternative Airplay, and US Mainstream Top 40 charts.
11. Get Low – Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz feat. Ying Yang Twins
Get Low was the debut single from Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, and it was the song that helped the crunk genre break into the mainstream music world. It would eventually make it to number two on the Hot 100 and would become a Top-10 international hit as well. Even today, it’s remembered as one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all time. If you like mashups, there’s a TikTok series putting the lyrics of this song to the tunes of other popular tracks that is absolutely excellent.
12. Baby Boy – Beyoncé feat. Sean Paul
Baby Boy took a Caribbean influence from Sean Paul and paired it with Beyonce’s mix of R&B and soul. It was the second single to be released from her debut album in 2003, spending nine consecutive weeks on the top of the Hot 100 and reaching the Top 10 of 14 other countries’ charts.
13. Shake Ya Tailfeather – P. Diddy Feat. Nelly And Murphy Lee
Shake Ya Tailfeather by Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee is the perfect example of a song from a movie soundtrack becoming incredibly popular. It was recorded for the Bad Boyz II soundtrack but was also included in Lee’s debut album Murphy’s Law. It rose to the top spot on the US Billboard Hot 100, giving Nelly his third number-one single and making P. Diddy the rapper with the most number-one hits on the charts—until Drake passed him years later. It went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
14. 21 Questions – 50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg
The track 21 Questions was the second single to be released from 50 Cent’s debut album, and like In Da Club before it, the song was unlike most of the rest of the album. It was primarily a love track, revolving around questions between him and an unnamed woman. It would reach the number-one spot on the Hot 100 by May of 2003, spending a total of four weeks in that spot and 23 weeks on the chart in total.
15. All I Have – Jennifer Lopez feat. LL Cool J
All I Have would become another number-one hit for Jennifer Lopez, and it eventually became the title of her Las Vegas residency. It served as the second single from her third studio album, rising to the number-one spot on the Hot 100 and reaching the Top 10 on several international charts. It became such a hit that LL Cool J would include it on the reissue of one of his albums and earned both of them significant praise.
16. Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
Beautiful was the second single released from Christina Aguilera’s 2002 album Stripped. The song was all about finding your inner beauty and learning to love yourself, a track she felt very strongly about when she recorded it. It would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and took the number-two spot on the US Billboard Hot 100.
17. I Know What You Want – Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey feat. Flipmode Squad
I Know What You Want was an awesome duet between Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey that would appear on his sixth studio album at the end of 2002. It would quickly eclipse the mild success that his previous single from the album achieved, rising to the number-three spot on the Hot 100 and spending 21 weeks inside of the Top 40.
18. I’m with You – Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne’s I’m With You was a stunning success. It went on to reach the number four spot on the Hot 100 and was a Top-10 hit in nine other countries. It became her second track to be nominated for the Song of the Year and Best Female Vocal Performance awards at the Grammys, though it didn’t win either of those.
19. Drift Away – Uncle Kracker
Drift Away was already released by John Henry Kurtz in 1972 for his album Reunion. It would later be given to Dobie Gray who turned it into an international hit in 1973. By 2003, Uncle Kracker released his own version of the song, featuring Dobie Gray. That version topped the US Adult Contemporary charts and broke into the Top 10 of the Hot 100.
20. Magic Stick – Lil Kim And 50 Cent
Rapper 50 Cent was everywhere in the early 2000s, and everything he touched was great. Lil Kim released Magic Stick as part of her third studio album La Bella Mafia. It never got a music video thanks to personal issues between the two, but the song would rise to the number two spot on the Hot 100, only being held off of number one by Beyonce’s Crazy In Love.
21. P.I.M.P. (Snoop Dogg Remix) – 50 Cent Feat. Snoop Dogg And G-Unit
P.I.M.P. was a feature on 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ album, but the version that picked up steam was the remix. Alongside Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks, and Young Buck, 50 Cent released the remix of the song as the official fourth single from the album. It would reach number three on the Hot 100 and eventually earned a triple-platinum certification from the RIAA.
22. Bump, Bump, Bump – B2K and P. Diddy
Bump, Bump, Bump was released as the lead single from B2K’s second album Pandemonium! in October 2002. By February, the song reached the number-one spot on the Hot 100. It would also reach the top of the US Rhythmic Charts and number three on the Mainstream Top 40.
23. So Into You – Fabolous feat. Tamia
Two versions of Into You would be released, one featuring Tamia and one featuring Ashanti. The song served as the third single from Fabolous’s album Steel Dreams in 2003. Thanks to internal issues, the Tamia version was the one that got a radio release, but it saw all three artists get credit on the Hot 100. It was based on her 1998 So Into You single and would make it to number four on the Hot 100, remaining on the chart for the entirety of 2003.
24. Can’t Let You Go – Fabolous feat. Lil’ Mo and Mike Shorey
Another amazingly successful track from Steel Dreams, Can’t Let You Go was the second single to be released from Fabolous’ album. It would also rise to number four on the Hot 100, taking the number two position on both the Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
25. Mesmerize – Ja Rule feat. Ashanti
Mesmerize was released in December 2002 as the second single from Ja Rule’s The Last Temptation album. Featuring Ashanti, the song would rise to number two on the Hot 100 by February of 2003, becoming the duo’s fourth Top-10 hit together. The music video for the track is also interesting, playing on the musical Grease and the song You’re The One That I Want.
26. Where Is the Love? – The Black Eyed Peas
Where Is The Love? served as the lead single from The Black Eyed Peas’ album Elephunk in 2003. Though Justin Timberlake would provide vocals for the song, he remains uncredited on the single release, and this was the group’s first track to feature Fergie as an official member. It would go on to reach number eight on the Hot 100 and earn the group two Grammy Nominations.
27. The Game of Love – Santana feat. Michelle Branch
Michelle Branch would be the third woman asked to record vocals for The Game Of Love after Tina Turner refused to do a video and Macy Gray didn’t make the cut. The song would become a staple of Santana’s 2002 album Shaman, winning them a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and reaching number five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
28. Lose Yourself – Eminem
Lose Yourself was recorded for the 2002 film 8 Mile and would serve as the lead single for the soundtrack album. If you’ve heard Eminem before, this is one of the songs you would recognize as it became something of a signature track for the rapper. It became his first number-one single on the Hot 100, holding that position for 12 consecutive weeks, and would go on to win an Academy Award and two Grammy Awards.
29. Rock wit U (Awww Baby) – Ashanti
Rock Wit U (Awww Baby) was released on Ashanti’s second album Chapter II in 2003. Serving as the lead single for the album, it would go on to become the first international hit of the album, reaching the Top 10 in the UK and the Top 20 in Australia. In the US, it peaked at number two on the Hot 100.
30. Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake
Cry Me A River was a heartbreaking pop track that was likely inspired by Justin Timberlake’s former relationship with Britney Spears. It would eventually peak at number three on both the Hot 100 and the Pop Songs charts, winning the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Grammy Award in the process.
31. How You Gonna Act Like That – Tyrese
A lot of people forget about it, but Tyrese actually had a successful music career before he became better known as an actor. How You Gonna Act Like That was the lead single for his I Wanna Go There album. It peaked at number seven on the Hot 100 and number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
32. Rock Your Body – Justin Timberlake
Another one of the successful singles from Justin Timberlake’s debut album, Rock Your Body was originally intended to be part of Michael Jackson’s 10th album, but he rejected it. It became the third single from the album to peak at number two on the UK Singles Chart and rose as high as number five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
33. No Letting Go – Wayne Wonder
No Letting Go was the lead single of Wayne Wonder’s No Holding Back album in 2003. It would eventually peak at number three on the UK Singles chart and number 11 on the Hot 100, remaining to this day the artist’s most commercially successful single.
34. Frontin’ – Pharrell feat. Jay-Z
Pharrell stepped away from The Neptunes to start a solo career, and Frontin’ was the debut single he went with. At the time, he insisted he was releasing it as a one-off track as producing music was his priority, though only three years later, a solo album would come out. This song would appear on The Neptunes’ compilation album, helping it debut atop the Billboard 200. The track itself would reach number five on the Hot 100 and peak at the top spot of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
35. Landslide – The Chicks
Landslide was originally written and recorded by Stevie Nicks when she was part of Fleetwood Mac. The Dixie Chicks—now The Chicks—would go on to release their version of the track on their 2002 album Home, having it serve as the second single of the album. It would eventually peak at number seven on the Hot 100 and number two on the Hot Country Songs chart.
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.