|Justin lost his curls and found his cool in 2002|
Even though it wasn't a landmark year featuring big, life-changing events, the day-to-day of working at Smash Hits magazine and going out to launches, concerts and screenings wasn't so bad. Here are some of the tracks that caught my attention during 2002...
Number 100 "(Take Me Away) Into The Night" by 4 Strings
To kick things off, some Dutch trance from a duo who, despite going on to work with Tina Cousins and Samantha Fox, only ever really made any impact with this track. The Netherlands has, however, make a huge impact on the dance music scene over the years, with the '00s marking a transition from the Eurodance acts of the previously decade (2 Unlimited, The Vengaboys) to trance DJs like Armin van Buuren and Ferry Corsten, who we'll see in subsequent countdowns.
Number 99 "Hella Good" by No Doubt
In a musical move that would bear even more fruit later in the decade when singer Gwen Stefani went solo, the ska-influenced No Doubt collaborated with R&B heavyweights The Neptunes on this track, the second single from the Rock Steady album. The genre-swapping worked and is likely the reason the band saw albums sales increase again after previous album Return Of Saturn only managed around a tenth of the sales of breakthrough release Tragic Kingdom.
Number 98 "Symphony Of Life" by Tina Arena
After two consecutive number 1 albums in the '90s, Tina wasn't having much luck with her Just Me album, with the first two singles ("Soul Mate #9" and "Dare You To Be Happy") only achieving minor success and the album quickly plummeting out of the ARIA top 50. This third release from Just Me at least gave the former Young Talent Time performer a hit single from the album - and, for me, was the best thing she'd done since 1990's "I Need Your Body", a song she'd long since turned her back on.
Number 97 "Bop Bop Baby (Almighty mix)" by Westlife
In the UK, "Bop Bop Baby" was a flop for the Irish boy band - relative to the performance of their 11 previous singles (all but one of which had reached number 1), that is. By only managing a peak of number 5, the song brought promotion for Westlife's third album, World Of Our Own, to a halt and a greatest hits collection was released in time for Christmas.
I actually like the song (particularly the more, er, boppy Almighty remix) and the swashbuckling video was a nice change from the brooding clips that had come before - but perhaps it was too much change and "Bop Bop Baby" signalled the end of Westlife's UK chart domination.
Sure, they didn't do too badly in the subsequent years, but their three number 1s after 2002's "Unbreakable" were all cover versions and the guys became a fanbase act who geared their career towards touring and albums released in time for the holidays rather than continuing to enjoy a string of massive singles.
Number 96 "I Can't Wait" by Ladies First
The original of this song (by Nu Shooz) featured in my top 40 for 1986, and this 2-step-influenced remake was by a British girl group that started as a trio but had dropped to just a duo by the time this single came out. It's not the most amazing of covers, but since it was such a good song to start with, it would've been hard to get wrong - even if the memorable hook is all but hidden by the production.
Number 95 "Oh Baby" by Rhianna
No, not Rihanna. Three years before a singer with a name spelt slightly differently hit the scene, this British performer landed a UK top 20 hit with this retro-sounding debut single - and then her career petered out shortly afterwards. Nice song, though.
Number 94 "Music Gets The Best Of Me" by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Here's another "nice" song - a more laidback tune from the singer who'd been making a name for herself with sophisticated pop tracks like "Murder On The Dancefloor" and "Get Over You". The second of two singles jammed onto her debut album for its repackage, "Music Gets The Best Of Me" was co-written and produced by former New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander (who'd also been behind "Murder...").
Number 93 "When You Look At Me" by Christina Milian
Christina was still proving much more successful internationally (like in Australia and the UK, where this single went top 10) than at home in the States. And, before long, her personal life would prove more interesting than her music career - with a romance with the future Mr Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, and a marriage to the former Mr Nivea (The-Dream).
Number 92 "Nu Flow" by Big Brovaz
If you thought S Club 7 was as big as pop acts that didn't play instruments could get, British R&B groups pushed things even more with So Solid Crew and Blazin' Squad, who had 10 or more members in their regular line-ups. With only three men and three women in the group, and two producers behind the scenes, Big Brovaz were positively tiny by comparison - but debut single "Nu Flow" was a big hit. Peaking at number 3 in both the UK and Australia, it was the start of what looked like being a big career.
Number 91 "Sugah" by Ruby Amanfu
There sure were a lot of young female solo artists in the charts in the early '00s - but like Rhianna above, Ruby Amanfu's career never really got off the ground, despite a fair bit of hype for this single in the UK.
Number 90 "Hit The Freeway" by Toni Braxton featuring Loon
After a stellar start to her career in the '90s, Toni was beset by one problem after another as the years went on - bankruptcy, disputes with her record label and, when it came to 2002's More Than A Woman album, commercial disappointment. Despite being written and produced by The Neptunes, who were hotter than ever in 2002, "Hit The Freeway" bombed in the US.
The song that could have potentially given Toni a hit from the album was a revamp of 2Pac's "Me & My Girlfriend" - but Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Bonnie & Clyde 03", which also sampled the track, became a massive success before she had a chance to release it. Despite continuing to record, Toni has never landed a hit single again and had even more strife behind the scenes.
Number 89 "Dance With Me" by 112
Five years after their guest appearances on "I'll Be Missing You" and "All Cried Out", the Bad Boy Records quartet finally landed a hit in Australia - and "Dance With Me" got all the way to number 2 here despite not being one of their better performing singles back in the States. Best bit: the "if you're sexy and you know it, clap your hands" part in the middle.
Number 88 "Like I Love You" by Justin Timberlake
We'll see his group's final single later in the countdown, but six months after "Girlfriend" gave *NSYNC one of their biggest - and most credible - hits, Justin launched his solo career with this track produced by The Neptunes (they really were everywhere in 2002). Justin released "Like I Love You" around the same time as Backstreet Boy Nick Carter also went solo - and at Smash Hits, we backed Nick over JT. What a big mistake that turned out to be. It wasn't entirely my decision, but I admit it took "Like I Love You" a while to grow on me.
Number 87 "The Day It Rained Forever" by Aurora
After placing a couple of singles in my year-end chart for 2000 (including a cover of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World"), British pop/trance Aurora returned in 2002 with original singles "Dreaming" and "The Day It Rained Forever", both of which featured vocals by Lizzy Pattinson, sister of Twilight heartthrob Robert.
Number 86 "Don't Say Goodbye" by Paulina Rubio
Eleven years before she wound up as a judge on the US version of The X Factor, the Latina superstar did a Shakira and crossed over to the English-language market with her Border Girl album. This was the most successful single - and although Paulina would have been considered by many as a new artist, she'd been releasing solo albums since 1992 and, before that, was in Mexican pop band Timbiriche for most of the '80s.
Number 85 "Don't Panic" by Logo featuring Dawn Joseph
The original Coldplay version of the song didn't end up being an official single in the UK, but it was a popular enough album track to warrant a high energy dance cover version courtesy of the duo comprised by Andy Wright (who'd previously produced for Simply Red among others) and Mark Jolley (a former member of Innocence). Vocalist Dawn Joseph, meanwhile, joined The Brand New Heavies as their permanent vocalist in 2013.
Number 84 "Us Against The World" by Play
Even in Sweden, the rules of girl groups still apply - with Play going through numerous line-up changes and having a four-year break in the middle of their career. In 2002, however, the group still consisted of the original four members, and this was their debut single, an A*Teens-ish pop gem.
Number 83 "Envy" by Ash
Fourth album Free All Angels had been Ash's most successful to date, so what better time to capitalise on that popularity than with a best of compilation? "Envy" was one of two new tracks on Intergalactic Sonic 7's and would be the last song by the group I'd like for five years.
Number 82 "Full Moon" by Brandy
She'd been a major star in the late '90s, but Brandy started to struggle in the new century with her Full Moon album only spawning one US top 10 hit (the Darkchild-produced "What About Us?") and selling about a quarter as many copies as the massive Never Say Never. Title track "Full Moon" had a softer sound than most of the album and remains my favourite song she's ever released.
Number 81 "Bimbo (I Need To Know" by Lambretta
Although Swedish pop still dominated the music scene in 2002, there weren't as many Swedish rock acts making waves - but this group fronted by singer Linda Sundblad received a helping hand from Cheiron's head honcho Max Martin, who despite being the biggest name in pop at that point had actually started out playing in a hard rock band in the mid-'80s. Of course, Max's big pop choruses and layered harmonies worked equally in pop and rock, as demonstrated by "Bimbo" and, in later years, when he went on to work with Pink and Kelly Clarkson.
Number 80 "When I Lost You" by Sarah Whatmore
The first of two UK hits for the former Pop Idol contestant (she was eliminated in season one's heats) who Simon Fuller liked enough to snap up for 19 Records. He didn't, however, like her enough to release her debut album, which was shelved after follow-up "Automatic" (which we'll see in my 2003 countdown) missed the UK top 10.
Number 79 "No More Drama" by Mary J Blige
It wasn't her most successful album, but No More Drama did improve sales-wise on 1999's Mary and was the first album by the multi-platinum singer to break through in Australia. The title track, which made significant use of the theme music to daytime soap The Young And The Restless (aka "Nadia's Theme"), followed earlier singles "Family Affair" and "Dance For Me", but was my favourite of the three, especially the dance mix by Twin.
Number 78 "Light My Fire" by Will Young
Mentioned in Part 2
Number 77 "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" by Beverley Knight
We saw Beverley with a couple of entries in my top 100 for 1999, and while I wasn't quite as taken by the singles from her 2002 album, Who I Am, this song - her first ever UK top 10 entry - was a real highlight. I also interviewed her for Smash Hits around the time - from memory, it was one of those great interviews I really enjoyed but never got to use much of since her career didn't take off in Australia.
Number 76 "Heaven" by DJ Sammy & Yanou featuring Do
Cheesy Eurodance covers of '80s power ballads were nothing new - but this remake of the Bryan Adams hit from 1985 really connected in 2002, reaching the Australian top 5 and the UK number 1 spot for the Spanish DJ, German producer and Dutch singer (respectively). Other MOR tracks to receive a new lease of life around the same time were Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" (remade by German act Resource), Supertramp's "The Logical Song" (by German techno act Scooter) and Don Henley's "The Boys Of Summer" (also by DJ Sammy).
In Part 2: a posthumous hit for a rising R&B artist, the track that restored America's love for Christina Aguilera and a former Baywatch star tried his hand at a pop career. No, not The Hoff.
MY YEAR-END CHARTS