Every #1 Hit Song From 2003 Ranked From Worst to Best

Featuring Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Eminem, 50 Cent and more

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Every #1 Hit Song From 2003 Ranked From Worst to Best

From the start of July through August 2023, we’re ranking every Billboard #1 hit from 1973, 1983, 1993, 2003 and 2013 from worst to best in each respective year. Last week, we looked at what 1993 had to offer—including chart-toppers from Mariah Carey, Meat Loaf, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. It was a light list, with 11 entries during the year’s 52-week span. That number ticks up one this time around. Today, we’re looking at all 12 tracks that found musical immortality in 2003. Beyoncé spent a total of 17 weeks atop the charts across two songs, while two legendary, all-time Y2K tracks bookended the year with ferocity.

As is the case with the era these songs come from, there are quite a few duds. I would argue that much of this list is unlistenable 20 years later. There are four unshakeable entries, while the remaining eight are pretty subpar. There’s a great absence of rock ‘n’ roll on this list, as hip-hop and R&B dominated the mainstream. This is our first true instance of pop becoming the full, titanic guiding force in music. To score a #1 hit is an achievement that makes your career immortal in some capacity—whether the songs are good, great or just plain awful (see many of the songs on this list). But, these artists put in the work and got to the promised land. 2003 offered up a great mix of former stars now in obscurity and legends still churning out great work. From songs by Ludacris to Jennifer Lopez to 50 Cent to Eminem, here is every #1 hit from 2003 ranked. —Matt Mitchell, Assistant Music Editor

12. Clay Aiken: “This Is the Night”
Don’t get me wrong here, Clay Aiken can sing. And in my house growing up, Clay Aiken was worshipped—namely by my mother, who was glued to the second season of American Idol like it was scripture. That year’s finale was infamous because Ruben Studdard won the whole thing over Aiken by a total of just 134,000 votes—a small margin, given that 24 million votes were cast. But Aiken would have the last laugh by scoring a #1 hit (Studdard’s best single, “Flying Without Wings,” would peak at #2 in 2003). As much time as I’ve spent listening to “This Is the Night,” I cannot deny that it is grating to the ears. Yes, Aiken can sing. But, but, but—this song is not good. It was his first-ever single release, and the hype around the American Idol finale—and the controversy of whether or not Studdard should have won or not—is what pushed this song to the top of the charts. It’s cookie-cutter and banal. Then again, much of the mid-2000s was just that anyways. —MM

11. B2K ft. P. Diddy: “Bump, Bump, Bump”
“Bump, Bump, Bump,” the only Top-10 hit that B2K would ever register, sounds pretty much like every other raunchy, sex-driven song that flooded the charts in the 2000s. It was co-written by R.Kelly and Varick Smith, which is very much a stain on its legacy. But, the song is so below-average and forgettable and out-of-touch that it doesn’t really matter. P. Diddy’s guest spot is lackluster, much like the majority of his work in hip-hop—but that’s par for the course for somebody who built a career off the back of other peoples’ talents. “Bump, Bump, Bump” sounds so profoundly outdated that it’s practically a gimmick at this point. I can’t even take this song seriously, if I’m being honest. It only lasted at #1 for a week, as Jennifer Lopez would swing in and take the helm. We can be thankful for that, at least. —MM

10. Sean Paul: “Get Busy”
To Sean Paul’s credit, he is a Jamaican-born musician doing reggae. Points for not appropriating an entire genre. I’ll be honest, I forgot about Paul’s Y2K popularity. It wasn’t until I started doing my research for this list that I was reminded about just how present he was in the mainstream (see #8 on this list). My biggest qualm with Sean Paul, however, is that his entire artistry is pretty grating in retrospect. “Get Busy,” in particular, feels like a novelty act—as if the goal was to take reggae and dancehall music and coat it in as much Top-40 ick as humanly possible. Some songs just aren’t meant to age well, and Paul is 100% a victim of making music for a specific era and never really transcending it. You can’t hold it against a guy for having his finger on the pulse of what was working at a very precise moment. Not every #1 hit can be timeless. —MM

9. Ludacris ft. Shawnna: “Stand Up”
Young Ludacris was a fun dude to root for once upon a time. He still is, to be honest. Those early 2000s turned him into a star when hip-hop’s only real showstopper was Eminem (yikes). While “Stand Up” hasn’t aged gracefully, it was still his first #1 hit. He wound’t get another one until 2006, but Ludacris was all over the charts between 2000 and 2005. I don’t revisit “Stand Up” very often, and neither does the zeitgeist, but I can’t deny that “When I move, you move” is still a fun chorus to get down to. Ludacris had a Cypress Hill-style flow on this one, which is arguably the most interesting part of the whole song. Oh, and “Stand Up” was produced by a young Kanye West, which explains why it sounds so crisp. —MM

8. Beyoncé ft. Sean Paul: “Baby Boy”
The only thing keeping this track from the bottom is Beyoncé. And ain’t that just the way? “Baby Boy” is offensively bad, as Sean Paul’s appearance on this track is so comical I had trouble listening to the song all the way through more than once. Like I said, Beyoncé is the saving grace. Her talent can transform even the most lukewarm tracks. Her attempt at making an R&B song that incorporates dancehall, Caribbean and Asian influence falls flat in retrospect. Some of the instrumental components are heavily outdated, and, yeah, Paul brings this track down. Thankfully, Beyoncé would perform a duet with someone who was much, much better suited for her stardom. Dangerously in Love is such a good album. I hate that “Baby Boy” keeps it from being perfect. —MM

7. Nelly, P. Diddy & Murphy Lee: “Shake Ya Tailfeather”
Yeah, this is a fun one. I love thinking back on that time in musical history when Nelly was, arguably, one of the three biggest musicians on Earth. My guy had six Top-5 hits in a three-year span. That was a pretty impressive feat for Y2K, as the era welcomed numerous voices in an attempt to find some type of concrete pop identity. “Shake Ya Tailfeather” doesn’t have the staying power of something like “Hot in Herre,” “Dilemma” or “Ride wit Me,” but I would be lying if I tried saying this track isn’t a jam and a half. Between Nelly’s gravitational charisma and Murphy Lee’s hypnotic verse, “Shake Ya Tailfeather” just plain rules. Throw this track on at a wedding at the bridal party will surely go buck wild over it. —MM

6. Jennifer Lopez ft. LL Cool J: “All I Have”
I love how the 2000s had a tendency to give us the funniest and most unlikely collaborations. Getting Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J on a track together in 2002? Unreal yet deeply amusing. I’m shocked at how good J-Lo and Cool actually sound on a track with each other. After three months on the Hot 100, “All I Have” finally reached #1 in February and remained there for four consecutive weeks. Lopez is, of course, the shining star here. But LL Cool J does a bang-up job on his verses, too. It was Lopez’s fourth career #1 hit, and it’s also her last. It’s wild to look back on “All I Have” and realize that it was the final gasp of Lopez’s biggest career apex. Few pop stars were bigger than her in 2003, yet she’d quickly lose her grasp by the next year. She’s still Jennifer Lopez, though, and “All I Have” is a catchy hit that has aged well. —MM

5. 50 Cent ft. Nate Dogg: “21 Questions”
What a time it was to be alive when 50 Cent was the biggest rapper on the planet. 2003 was so sick for making that happen. I mean, “In da Club,” “Many Men,” “21 Questions” and “P.I.M.P.”? Unmatched run of star-making rap right there. While “In da Club” overshadows everything else on 50’s debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’, it’s hard to argue against “21 Questions.” The unbeatable Nate Dogg lent his flow to the track, turning it into an absolute powerhouse fusion of R&B and gangsta rap. Dr. Dre once called “21 Questions” a “sappy love song” and questioned its placement on Get Rich, but the track showcases 50’s incredible range. At one moment, he’s making some of the hardest West Coast shit you’ve ever heard; the next moment, he’s leaning into gentleness in ways that no rapper was touching in 2003. That’s the stuff living legends are made from. —MM

4. Eminem: “Lose Yourself”
It’s hard to argue with a song that won two Grammys. That’s what Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” did in 2004, a year after topping the charts and becoming one of the most legendary rap songs of all time. Written for his semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” succeeds because it transcends the confines of being a song made for cinema. It traces Eminem’s real experiences with the type of embellishment that’s essential to the rap genre. But even then, you can feel the grit of Slim Shady’s delivery and the heart and soul he injects into every inch and second of this track. “Lose Yourself” ascended to #1 on the Hot 100 in November 2002 and remained there for 12 consecutive weeks. No hip-hop song had ever succeeded in such an immediate and immense way. It was the final victory lap in a four-year run that saw Eminem become the biggest and best-selling rapper on the planet. “Lose Yourself” goes toe-to-toe with his greatest work, and it remains a benchmark that many young MCs still look up to. —MM

3. 50 Cent: “In da Club”
Look, you knew this was coming. How many hip-hop songs from the 2000s exploded like 50 Cent’s “In da Club” did? Some of the lyrics have absolutely aged like milk, but that was so often the case with 95% of rap back then. However, few songs in the genre back then could so deftly feel timeless and dated at the same time. The instrumental is a bit goofy to listen to in 2023, but 50’s flow on the track is unbeatable—as he spits like he knows he’s about to lay down one of the greatest hip-hop songs of the century. How big was “In da Club,” actually? The song was so huge it cracked the Top-5 in every major market, from America to Germany to New Zealand to Sweden. The whole planet went bonkers for “In da Club,” and few rap songs have ever been registered 9x platinum by the RIAA. To live in a world ruled by 50 Cent was a sight to behold, and I miss it dearly. —MM

2. Beyoncé & Jay-Z: “Crazy in Love”
A #1 hit for eight consecutive weeks in the summer of 2003, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” is still, 20 years later, one of her greatest achievements. Featuring a verse and ad-lib from her future husband Jay-Z, the track takes every successful part of R&B’s energy and hip-hop motivational arrangements and merges them into one triumphant masterpiece. Featuring samples of the Chi-Lites’ “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” and Rich Harrison’s magical 1970s-style funk instrumentation, “Crazy in Love” is monolithic in just how damn incredible it is—and just how effortlessly it holds up after two decades. Beyoncé arrives here with a confidence that is intoxicating and infectious, and Jay-Z’s guest spot never overpowers or steals her spotlight. That’s how you know a track has reached full brilliance, when the chemistry is met with a perfect collaborative architecture. “Crazy in Love” was Beyoncé’s second single ever and first #1 hit. 20 years later, she’s topped the Hot 100 six times. She still rules the world, and this was the first proclamation of that singular truth. —MM

1. OutKast: “Hey Ya!”
“Hey Ya!” and “Crazy in Love” going head-to-head in my brain for the top spot on this list is the first instance in this series where I wasn’t immediately 100% settled on who was getting first place. I decided on OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” because it’s aged beautifully. There is no component of this track that feels outdated in the slightest. Is it even OutKast’s best song ever? Absolutely not. But it is, maybe, one of the greatest #1 hits ever written. The perfect blend of soul, funk, pop and hip-hop, “Hey Ya!” blends genres in ways that haven’t been replicated since. André 3000 wrote and produced the track himself, and he found himself inspired by rock bands like the Smiths and the Hives. He wanted to implement acoustic guitars with synthesizers and overdubs. André namechecks Beyoncé and Lucy Liu in the song’s breakdown, while the layered vocal harmonies of him and Big Boi singing “Hey ya!” over and over is so euphoric. From “shake it like a Polaroid picture” to “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold!,” “Hey Ya!” has some of the most quoted lyrics of the last 25 years. For the last three weeks of 2003 and the first six weeks of 2004, OutKast ruled the land with “Hey Ya!” Check anyone’s streaming playlists in 2023, and you’ll realize that the song hasn’t loosened its grip on the world one bit. How many #1 hits can claim to have such a generational reverence? —MM

Catch up on the 1973 list here, the 1983 list here and the 1993 list here. Check out our playlist of these 12 songs below.

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