Songs That Are Turning 20 In 2022

According to Soundscan (via The New York Times), music listeners in 2002 were tuned into two genres specifically after a heavy decade of boy bands and Britney Spears: rap and country. Of course hip hop/rap was huge, and it had been on an upward trajectory since its creation, notes The Conversation. But country was, perhaps, the surprising element, with The New York Times arguing that the genre better fit the "national mood" of America, extending its reach into urban and suburban areas. Of the top albums of 2002, only eight spots were pop and rhythm and blues, genres that had long reigned in the industry. 

The American Enterprise Institute did a study on the various formats of music from 1973 to 2015 and they found that in 2002, CDs peaked in 2002 with 95.5% of recorded music sales, but sales fell 22% a little over a decade later for the first time since their inception in 1986. This peak and drop was largely do to the creation of the Apple iPod followed by iTunes in 2003. With the development of iTunes, Apple brought downloaded music to the mainstream and made music more convenient (via NBC News). 

Hot in Herre by Nelly

"It's getting hot in herre, so take off all your clothes" is perhaps the simplest, most saucy lyric in the catchiest of packages. The rapper Nelly is a St. Louis native by way of Texas and his music, at least in the late '90s and early 2000s, accentuated landmarks, sports teams, and the streets of the city. Rap is a music of regional identification, yet The New York Times notes that St. Louis breaks the mold by its very otherness. It's abstract and doesn't take any kind of actual shape in the mind. Yet this didn't stop Nelly from repping it no matter how nebulous the allusions might have landed on the average listener. However, it was "Hot in Herre," a song that barely makes any allusions, that made Nelly's name memorable. 

It only makes it more humorous to find out that the song wasn't on the first track listing of "Nellyville" — that is until elder hip hop statesman Busta Rhymes came to the rescue. Busta Rhymes was down the hall from Nelly's recording, heard the beat, and came down to confirm just how "infectious" the beat was. Nelly reports that the words that came out of Busta's mouth were: "Oh Nelly ... you laid something to this already? ... You're gonna have every b**** in the world taking clothes off" (via Fader). Not the most friendly sentiment in this day and age, but hip hop has a trenchant history of misogyny.

A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton was only 20 when she flew to Los Angeles in order to beg Jimmy Iovine for a chance to play her music (via VICE). He put her in touch with Ron Fair, and the two of them created the international hit that would be "A Thousand Miles." In a recent VICE documentary titled "The Story of 'A Thousand Miles,'" Carlton notes that she despised the song for years after it became a hit. It essentially made her a one-hit wonder to be consumed and spit out of the music industry, even though she released several other albums in her career, according to the BBC.

Whether she liked the song or not, those avid radio listeners at the time pined for it. As the Billboard charts showed, the song reached number one on the Adult Contemporary charts for seven weeks and number one on the Mainstream Top 40 for five weeks. 

Complicated by Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne dropped out of school at the age of 16, relocated to New York City, and began working with music veterans who were trying to fit her in the country music mold. Yet it was only a matter of time before her unhappiness with her inability to find a unique sound led her to Los Angeles and the writing group known as the "Matrix." One of the members, Lauren Christy, described Lavigne when they first met her: "This kid had melted toothbrushes up her arm, her hair was in braids and she wore black skater boots" (via Exclaim). Under their tutelage, Lavigne wrote "Complicated," which was immediately recognized as a hit by her label. Thus was the creation of the punk, skater-girl mystique of Lavigne. 

The look and the song "Complicated" worked in her favor considering she found herself in the limelight for a time, and the song found its way onto multiple Billboard charts — most specifically reaching number one on the Adult Top 40 for 16 weeks and the Mainstream Top 40 for eight weeks.

Gangsta Lovin' by Eve w. Alicia Keys

Eve was at the top of her game in the early 2000s. In 2002, Rolling Stone called her "the Hottest Woman in Hip-Hop." According to Biography, by that time she had won a Grammy and had two hit albums, with her being often compared to the feminism of Queen Latifah and the more sexual Lil' Kim. Not to mention that she was only the third female rapper to have an album debut at No. 1 in 1999. IGN exclaimed that "Gangsta Lovin'" was a soulful ballad in the midst of an album of braggadocio and more lethal tracks. They give most of the soul credit to Alicia Keys, who features on the song. 

Funny enough, the song never reached number one in the United States, but it did reach number one on the United Kingdom's rhythm and blues charts, according to Official Charts. The highest it reached in the U.S. was number two on Billboard's Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, Hot Rap Songs, Mainstream Top 40, and Rhythmic charts.

Lose Yourself by Eminem

In 2002 Eminem went from rap phenom to mainstream success with the release of "The Eminem Show" and the "8 Mile" soundtrack. "Lose Yourself," which was featured on the latter, became the defiant track for the year featuring a strong rap performance by Eminem and incredible beats backing him. According to long-time co-writer, Jeff Bass, the song took about a year to finish. The music came first, but the lyrics took longer to get just right. "It wasn't until [Eminem] got the script for the movie where he came up with the lyrics and everything. It just came together. But something about the mode of the music really touched us. We kept pulling it out of the computer every so often to revisit it, to see if it could spark anything in us. We loved the track," he told Billboard (via American Songwriter).

The song is so intermingled in with the film "8 Mile" that its hard to decipher the real from the semi-real. As Rich Knight writes at Cinemablend, the song and the film tell a semi-fictional, memoir-esque retelling of Eminem's life. For instance in one line, Eminem's character, Jimmy Smith Jr. raps about a "Rabbit, which is tied specifically to the character that Eminem plays in the film, B-Rabbit. Yet when the rap mentions Mekhi Phifer, the song enters into the "real world" of the film and the true Eminem. Phifer plays Eminem's bst friend in the movie but obviously wasn't in real life.

Hero by Chad Kroeger

Riding high off of the success of "Silver Side Up" the year before, Chad Kroeger of Nickelback got the opportunity to write a major track for the first of the modern superhero films, Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" in 2002. "Hero" was nominated in three categories that year at the Grammys: Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media (via 

AllMusic writes in its review of the movie soundtrack that most of the songs end up representing more of the mainstream rock sound rather than attempting to replicate the eccentricities of the film or of the character of Peter Parker. They call "Hero" a "dour rock anthem." It does seem as though the soundtrack was designed for top 40 radio consumption instead of really creating a collection of songs that translate the film to music. In fact, "Hero" spent 19 weeks at No. 3 on the Active Rock chart, as per Billboard. So "Hero" — dour though it may be — still remains a banger to this day. 

Soak Up the Sun by Sheryl Crow

"Soak Up the Sun" became one of Sheryl Crow's biggest hits since "All I Wanna Do" in 1993. It was the first single off her fourth album, "C'mon, C'mon" and hit No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, as per American Songwriter. It was a cheerful pop tune that was able to cut through the shadows of a very dark period in American history with 9/11 and the economic slides that accompanied it. It became clear that after a hard winter after the terrorist attacks that people needed a song that was a little happier, warmer. The perfect summer song. 

Crow, herself, had gone through some form of depression in the midst of recording the album. She told Billboard, "I was stricken with melancholy on a day-to-day basis. I thought I could work my way through it. I thought it would heal the bruises, but it didn't — it just made a big scab. I thought music would be my medicine, and that's just not realistic." So she walked away from the record for a while, and once she came back to the studio, she found the recording to be "effortless," just like the lead single. It's easy on the ears and not abrasive in content or sound. 

Work It by Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott's fourth album, "Under Construction," found her at the height her powers as an MC. Even Pitchfork couldn't help but give Elliott high marks. They maintain that while the album would not take down "Critical Beatdown" as her best album, it was a contender and that any hip hop aficionados needed to start taking her more seriously. In the song "Work It," Timbaland's old school beats complement the milieu of Elliott's strange personas and science fiction penchants. The reviewer continues to tell readers that if they haven't seen the video yet then they needed to stop reading, turn on MTV, and it would undoubtedly be on. It was that ubiquitous at the time. 

The funniest part of all is that the hook of "Work It" was an audio engineer mistake. They were in the studio, and the engineer accidentally hit something that caused the flow to play backwards over the beat, to which Elliott responded, "Yo, keep that in there and I'm going to write around it" (via the Associated Press). Thus came Elliott rapping, "Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup" — or "Put my thing down, flip it and reverse it" backwards — on the track, as per American Songwriter. An insane moment for an insane music video for an insane song to be sure.

Days Go By by Dirty Vegas

While Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By" was a novelty in America during 2002, the English house band was following a long legacy of house and rave music culture in the U.K. from way back in the '80s. Alan Garth of The Wicked Crew, a house band out of San Francisco, spoke about spending time in the U.K.'s rave culture. "The UK had experienced a proliferation of sound system culture through acid house parties, then the raves which were being organized in unlicensed venues, warehouses or even fields" (via Magnetic Magazine). It would be this legacy that Dirty Vegas would unearth and take to America in the year 2002. 

"Days Go By" got the group to number seven on the Billboard charts and brought them home a Grammy as well. Steve Smith, the vocalist of Dirty Vegas, noted how the song originally began. "Yes, the song was first written as an acoustic song back in 1999. ... Ben and Paul (Hydrogen Rockers) asked me if I had any songs they could work on ... They worked on the track, which needed a faster vocal recorded and the version you hear now was born." The music video for the song featured an older break dancer with his cardboard platform dancing outside of what appears to be a bar or diner. Smith recalls a memory of cars just stopping to watch the choreography happen while shooting the music video."[W]e knew it was going to be something very special" (via Data Transmission).

Dirrty by Christina Aguilera

By the time 2002 rolled around, most people only knew Christina Aguilera from her hit 1999 song, "Genie in a Bottle." Yet no one expected what would hit the airwaves just three years later when she released "Dirrty" and, perhaps, more specifically the music video for her next big hit. The song itself was on the charts in 2002 for 15 weeks, reaching its peak at number 14 of the top 40, according to Billboard. In the words of Shilpa Ganatra at the Irish Times, it was "the tune that showed us in no uncertain terms that her vanilla days were over." 

Aguilera, herself, called it her "f*** it" moment when she decided to eschew the "innocence" politics of contemporary pop music like Britney Spears and N'Sync. "And I wasn't about to play that game, I wasn't that girl. I really wanted to be honest and truthful. ... That was me stepping up and saying I was a woman that's proud of my sexuality. I was proud of my vulnerability. I was proud of the fact that I've fought my way through this industry" (via The Irish Times).

Clocks by Coldplay

While Coldplay had made some press with the song "Yellow" off their debut album, it wasn't until "Clocks" off of their second album, "A Rush of Blood to the Head," that put them on a trajectory toward becoming one of the biggest bands to this day. According to The Independent, the song was inspired by the riff-heavy sound of Muse and its pulsing, cyclical hook suggested the uneasy passage of time. The band loved frontman Chris Martin's idea for a tune. And good thing they did, as the song took them straight to the top, reaching No. 1 on the Adult Alternative chart (via Billboard).

The song was, in fact, the last addition to the album, one that they had originally grouped in with their projected third album, "Songs for #3." Yet, by the time they were ready to turn in their second record, they were not satisfied, so their label let them delay the release. They worked on what became "Clocks" and it was the "the grit in the oyster" (via The Independent). In a write-up for MTV, Jon Wiederhorn states, "In the lyrics to 'Clocks,' Martin seems to address the helplessness of being in a dysfunctional relationship he doesn't necessarily want to escape." The cyclical melodies, under this reading, feel more suffocating than perhaps moving or beautiful, adding a hint of heaviness to the song.

No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age over the years involved a revolving roster of members from bands like Soundgarden, Dinosaur Jr. and, eventually on their third album, "Songs for the Deaf," which featured "No One Knows," Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame. The tour following the release of the album included Mark Lanegan of The Screaming Trees and Troy van Leeuwen of A Perfect Circle (via AllMusic). 

The song "No One Knows" reached No. 1 on Alternative Airplay, according to Billboard. As Louder notes, while the song may be catchy, no one really knows what it is actually about. Lyrics seem to run the gamut of talking about drugs, love, and traveling. And lead singer Jose Homme even admitted he didn't have a clue. The indecipherable elements of "No One Knows" and the rest of the album is one of the key elements to the song's (and album's) enduring appeal. But, on top of all of that, it's fully catchy, technically incredible rock songs.