In his first State of the Union address in 2002, President George Bush labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil,” and vowed to expand the so-called “war on terror.” In the summer, scandal-plagued telecom firm WorldCom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the largest such filing in U.S. history. In October, two snipers preyed on the Washington, D.C. area, killing 10 and wounding others.
At the cinema, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets were the highest-grossing films of the year. On the tube, CSI, American Idol and Joe Millionaire were the top shows. On disc, Eminem’s The Eminem Show was the top album, and the top singles of the year included Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me,” Ashanti’s “Foolish,” Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” and Nelly’s “Dilemma” [feat. Kelly Rowland].
There were seven standout one-hit wonders in 2002. Remember, to qualify as a 360°Sound one-hit wonder, an artist must have had just one single enter the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. There’s some nu metal and post-grunge, which were all the rage at the time. There’s a crossover country hit, an emo classic, and a Southern hip-hop banger. For perspective, in aught-two, these songs took 12.5 minutes each to download with a 56K dial-up connection off Napster or Limewire. Now, they can be streamed instantly.
P.O.D. – “Youth of the Nation”
Songwriters: Noah Bernardo, Marcos Curiel, Traa Daniels and Sonny Sandoval
Genre: Rap rock
Billboard Hot 100: #26 on April 6
In March 2001, Sonny Sandoval, lead singer of the Christian nu metal band P.O.D., was on his way to grab coffee when he heard sirens and saw police helicopters. A teenage boy had gone on a shooting spree at Santana High School in Santee, California, killing 2 and injuring 13. P.O.D. was in a nearby studio, recording the follow-up to the million-selling LP The Fundamental Elements of the South Town.
“Here we were, stuck in the studio, feeling helpless,” Sandoval told Louder Sound. “This is our city, we’re heartbroken. But then we thought, ‘We’re musicians, we’re a writing a record, we gotta make a song about it.’”
The track they recorded was “Youth of the Nation,” which would go on to be one of the anthems of the nu metal era. The song tells three different stories of teen tragedy.
Steve Azar – “I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘Til Monday)”
Songwriters: R.C. Bannon, Jason Young and Steve Azar
Hot 100: #35 on May 25
It makes sense why this country hit crossed over to the pop charts. It’s not too twangy, has a massive hook, and the lyrics aren’t tied to rural life (He even sings about his new car, instead of a truck). Everyone can relate to escaping the 9-to-5 grind and letting loose on the weekend. Azar, a native of the Mississippi Delta, has served as the official Music and Culture Ambassador of Mississippi since 2017.
Truth Hurts – “Addictive” [feat. Rakim]
Songwriters: Stephen Garrett, William Griffin, David Blake and Billy Nichols
Hot 100: #9 on June 8
In 2000, hip-hop legend Dr. Dre signed St. Louis-based R&B singer Truth Hurts to his Aftermath label. Her debut solo LP, Truthfully Speaking, dropped in 2002, and “Addictive,” the lead single, was a smash hit. The track features a sample of a Hindi song and verses from rapper Rakim. Unfortunately, Truth’s label was sued by an Indian music and film production company for unauthorized use of its copyrighted music. Interscope, the parent company of Aftermath, was forced to pull the album from stores, and Truth’s career never really recovered. Not long ago, a fun video of Truth performing “Addictive” (feat. The Driver) on a bus in Europe went viral, a tribute to the track’s appeal.
Default – “Wasting My Time”
Songwriters: Dallas Smith, Jeremy Hora, Dave Benedict and Danny Craig
Hot 100: #13 on June 8
Truth be told, post-grunge bands like Default were a dime a dozen in the early 2000s. Critics call it “butt rock” — highly melodic, straight-ahead hard rock with angsty lyrics and vocals heavily indebted to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Despite being derivative, Default’s hit “Wasting My Time,” was catchy and unpretentious with crunchy guitar riffs and a sing-a-long chorus. Adding to the butt-rockness, the single was co-produced Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger. The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” was another ‘02 butt-rocker one-hit wonder, but I despise that song, so it got axed from the list.
Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”
Songwriter: Jimmy Eat World
Genre: Alternative rock/emo
Hot 100: #5 on June 22
After Jimmy Eat World were dropped by Capitol when their third album, Clarity, flopped commercially, the Arizona-based emo band responded with the biggest hit of their career. “The Middle” was the uber-catchy second single off their acclaimed, platinum 2001 album, Bleed American (re-released self-titled following the 9/11 terrorist attacks).
“It’s a completely literal song,” singer Jim Adkins told Entertainment Weekly. “There was a girl who wrote to the band’s AOL account, saying how she was getting picked on. She wasn’t being accepted by a clique of friends because she wasn’t punk enough. I thought that was ridiculous. I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter what you think is a big deal now. You don’t need these people’s validation anyway.’”
“The Middle” topped Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart and ended up at #14 on the top year-end Hot 100 singles. Author Dan Ozzi detailed Jimmy Eat World’s rise in his engrossing 2021 book, Sellout. Check out our interview with Ozzi.
Dirty Vegas – “Days Go By”
Songwriters: Victoria Horn and Steve Smith
Hot 100: #14 on June 29
A trip to Ibiza, a Spanish island known for its nightclubs, inspired Steve Smith, singer of the South London this electronic trio, to write “Days Go By.” The song became a huge hit in the U.S. in large part due to its use in a Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial (It was later parodied to hilarious effect on Chappelle’s Show). “Days Go By” took home the Grammy for Best Dance Recording. The memorable music video features a man break-dancing in front of a restaurant all day on the same day every year in hopes of bringing back a lost love.
Big Tymers – “Still Fly”
Songwriters: Bryan “Baby” Williams and Byron O. Thomas
Genre: Hip hop
Hot 100: #11 on July 20
Big Tymers were a New Orleans-based hip-hop duo consisting of Cash Money Records co-founder, Baby (later known as Birdman) and in-house producer Mannie Fresh. In the late ‘90s and early aughts, Cash Money was perhaps the most successful Southern hip hop label. They scored huge hits, but the highest charting single of all was “Still Fly.” The chorus interpolates the theme song from Gilligan’s Island, and the lyrics pay homage to William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got” with the line “old-school Caddy with a diamond in the back.”
I was in high school in 2002. Avril Lavigne dropped her debut LP, Let Go, in June and my friend Cameron killed with a lip-synched performance of “Sk8er Boi” at the talent show. Norah Jones’s multi-platinum Come Away With Me came out, and my art teacher wore that CD out. It is great painting music, even featuring a tune called “Painter Song.”
Stay tuned to 360°Sound for more great one-hitters!