The top news stories of 2003 were the start of the Iraq War in March and the capture of Saddam Hussein at the end of the year. The U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated and crashed in February, killing all seven astronauts on board. In March, the Department of Homeland Security began operation. April saw the completion of the Human Genome Project. California governor Gray Davis was recalled in October, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected in his place.
In the entertainment world, the most popular TV shows of 2003 were CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and American Idol. The highest-grossing flicks were Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and The Matrix Reloaded. Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the first musical to take home the top Oscar since 1968. Apple launched its third-generation iPod featuring the Touch Wheel, and the iTunes Store opened, selling a million songs in the first week.
Hip hop and R&B largely ruled the pop charts in 2003. 50 Cent’s “In da Club,” R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” were the top three Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles. Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake had recently departed from their respective groups and both notched multiple solo hits. Post-grunge and nu metal were the most popular forms of rock music. Bands like 3 Doors Down, Puddle of Mudd and Audioslave all charted on the Hot 100.
I graduated high school in 2003 and this past weekend attended my 20-year reunion. The reunion was a blast, and as I had hoped, it was soundtracked by hits from the early aughts. Shout-out to class president Jenny Blount Tucker for assembling an excellent playlist.
Here are the six greatest one-hit wonders from 2003. Remember, to qualify as a 360°Sound one-hitter, an artist must have had just one entry on the Billboard Hot 100.
Lasgo – “Something”
Songwriters: Peter Luts and David Vervoort
Billboard Hot 100: #35 on February 1
Belgian electronic trio Lasgo (MC Peter Luts, DJ Dave McCullen and singer Evi Goffin) first released their debut single “Something” in 2001. It peaked at #5 in their native Belgium and #4 in the UK. The name Lasgo came from McCullen’s love of Scotland (they removed the first and last letters from Glasgow).
“Something” came together in just four hours, according to Luts. He said in an interview with Muzikxpress that the lyrics were written by McCullen during a bathroom break. “We worked together, he goes to the toilet, and 10 minutes later, he comes back with the lyrics.”
After a re-release in 2002, “Something” would spend 19 straight weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at #35 in early 2003. The groovy trance track holds up well two decades later, the single cover art, not so much as it features a floppy disk.
t.A.T.u. – “All The Things She Said”
Songwriters: Sergio Galoyan, Trevor Horn, Martin Kierszenbaum, Valery Polienko and Elena Kiper
Hot 100: #20 on March 15
The story behind t.A.T.u. and their subsequent legacy is complicated. Formed in 1999 by Russian producer Ivan Shapovalov, a Svengali who wanted a teenage girl group, the duo consisted of Lena Katina and Julia Volkova. They were presented as lesbians who fell in love at age 15 [t.A.T.u. was a shortened version of the Russian phrase “Та любит ту,” meaning “this girl loves that girl”]. However, they were not actually gay. Their queerness was simply a marketing strategy devised by Shapovalov.
In the video for their smash hit “All The Things She Said,” which was banned in the UK, Katina and Volkova are seen kissing. In 2003, this was both groundbreaking and controversial. Controversy and exploitation aside, the electro-rock song taken at face value is super catchy and features production from Trevor Horn (The Buggles, ABC, Seal). “All The Things She Said” topped the charts in 13 countries. Hear it just once and it will be running through your head, running through your head.
Panjabi MC – “Beware of the Boys (Mundian to Bach Ke)”
Songwriters: Panjabi MC, Labh Janjua, Glen Larson and Stu Philips
Hot 100: #33 on May 17
British-Indian producer Panjabi MC has made a career of fusing hip hop and bhangra, the energetic folk-dance music associated with the Punjabi diaspora in Britain. Panjabi MC perfected the formula on “Beware of the Boys (Mundian to Bach Ke)” with its sample of the synth-heavy Knight Rider theme and well-timed bass drops. The lyrics of “Beware of the Boys” carry themes of cultural pride and resilience. Originally released in 1998, its popularity soared in 2003 when a remix dropped featuring verses from rapper Jay-Z.
Panjabi MC told XXL Mag in a 2013 interview that he was contacted by Jay-Z, who told him he wanted to vibe on the beat.
“It was an amazing situation for not only myself but for bhangra music and Indian music generally,” Panjabi MC said. “For bhangra music – which is the street music from England – for Jay-Z and also for people like Spike Lee to directly phone me and say, ‘Look, we’ve been listening to bhangra for a long time, we’re big fans.’ For me, it’s an amazing time, because I didn’t even realize that outside of our community, that people were aware of the music.”
Bone Crusher – “Never Scared”
Songwriters: Wayne Hardnett, Avery Johnson, Michael Render and Clifford Harris
Genre: Hip hop
Hot 100: #26 on June 21
Wayne Hardnett, Jr., the rapper better known as Bone Crusher, reached the pinnacle of his career in 2003 when his album AttenCHUN! topped the Billboard charts. The single “Never Scared” topped the rap charts and peaked at #26 on the Hot 100. “Never Scared,” which features fellow Atlanta rappers Killer Mike and T.I., became the theme song of the Atlanta Braves and landed a highly coveted spot on the soundtrack of the popular Madden game.
“Never Scared,” which had originally been recorded by Mississippi rap duo Reese & Bigalow, falls under the crunk subgenre – up-tempo Southern hip hop marked by deep bass and shouting vocals.
Lumidee – “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)”
Songwriters: Lumidee Cedeño, Teddy Mendez, Edwin Perez and Steven Marsden
Hot 100: #3 on August 16
Harlem-born Lumidee began singing and rapping at age 12. At 19, her single “Never Leave You” won “Hottest Song” on Hot 97, the New York City urban contemporary station. This led to a record deal with Universal. “Never Leave You” samples the hypnotic dancehall tune “Diwali Riddim” by Jamaican producer Steven “Lenky” Marsden.
Fountains of Wayne – “Stacy’s Mom”
Songwriters: Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood
Genre: Power pop
Hot 100: #21 on November 15
The Fast Times at Ridgemont High-inspired music video for “Stacy’s Mom” starring model Rachel Hunter got plenty of airplay on MTV in 2003. The Grammy-nominated ode to MILFs was the only song by power pop band Fountains of Wayne to crack the Top 40 even as they released over a dozen radio-friendly singles across six albums.
The hooky track was written by lead singer Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger.
“It’s sort of about that period when you’re first hitting puberty and suddenly everybody of the opposite sex is strangely attractive,” Schlesinger, who died from COVID-19 complications in 2020, once told MTV. “It’s a combination of sexual awakening and limited contact with a large number of people; it’s the kids at school and whoever else happens to be in your life.”
Enjoy this list? If so, check out more from our Greatest One-Hit Wonders series.