The early 2000s, being a major transitional period in both production and consumption methods, was a fascinating time for music. The industry took a nosedive to mass piracy, dance culture turned into pop culture, and the hangover from the 1990s persisted while the mallrats ditched the food courts and went outside.
Now, more than halfway through the 2010s, those who grew up during that time look (and listen) back with a mix of nostalgia, pride and profound embarrassment. Pop songs dominated the airwaves, TRL, middle school dance parties, and more, but some acts didn’t survive past those hits. Here are the 10 biggest and best one-hit wonders from the aughts.
If you don’t remember this song, you might remember BBMak’s appearance on the Nickelodeon show Even Stevens in which the U.K. pop trio tried to record a song that had a “Sacramento sound.” While there’s almost definitely no such thing as a Sacramento sound, BBMak’s “Back Here” took every single pop cliché from the ‘90s and adapted it for Y2K. While they were never heard from again, they made their mark with an earworm that won’t let go even 16 years later.
This track, which seemed to have been mostly forgotten since its initial boom, is going through a bit of a renaissance as meme-bait in popular Vines. Lyttle’s falsetto through the song is both hilarious and agreeable, while its reggae-infused beats opened up the path for early Rhianna hits like “Pon De Replay.”
Maybe it was the lip-syncing controversy on Saturday Night Live or maybe it was the series of bad reality shows she and older sister Jessica had on MTV, but the world seemed to get over Ashlee Simpson very quickly. Her only major radio hit, however, was big enough to seemingly have been played on constant loop in 2004. For a song that initially oversaturated the airwaves when it debuted, Simpson’s track has held up as a solid archive of the times.
These days, it’s no surprise when pop songs sample other beats, Sean Kingston’s one big hit was a bit adventurous for sampling a track as sacred as “Stand By Me.” Even more scandalous, Kingston borrowed those beats while repeatedly referencing taboo topics like suicide in the hook. Then-teenage Kingston hasn’t seen very much success since this 2007 hit, but it was enough to make him remembered in the years that followed.
Leona Lewis didn’t have any other huge hits besides “Bleeding Love,” but at least she went all out on big one. “Bleeding Love” was a No. 1 single for seven weeks straight, a modern record that only recently was outdone by Drake’s “One Dance.”
Ask anybody who actively listened to pop/rock radio during the 2000s who wrote this song and they’ll probably guess that it was Lifehouse. “Wherever You Will Go” has all the characteristics of a Lifehouse song—fake grunge vocals, an almost obnoxiously catchy hook—but The Calling’s only hit is still memorable enough for late-night, drunken sing-alongs.
This track has, without a doubt, the most mindlessly catchy chorus in recent decades. Throw this one on at any party and watch every person above the age of 20 have a sudden burst of nostalgia, even if they can’t remember any other lyrics besides the first few lines from the hook.
Originally written (and lip-synced by Matt Damon doing his best Henry Rollins impersonation) for the 2004 film EuroTrip, “Scotty Doesn’t Know” became an early internet hit, reaching the upper-tiers of the Billboard charts—reportedly one of the first times this happened solely as a result of digital downloads. If you ever went to a slumber party where you stole your friend’s older brother’s Blockbuster rentals, you probably saw this movie and remember this song as its only saving grace.
Looking back, it’s a bit odd how badly the aughts aspired to be little more than a hodgepodge of quirky teen comedies. Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” had all of the weird sexual desperation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as well as the borderline Oedipal implications of The Graduate, complete with a music video that ends in a 13-year-old being caught masturbating in a bathroom (shot to reflect the scene in Fast Times wherein the same thing happens to Judge Reinhold).
While Baha Men tried their hand at being the premier sports-arena jingle writers of the early 2000s, only the first of their multiple attempts stuck, and stuck perhaps a little too hard. “Who Let the Dogs Out,” a song that’s credited with mainstream success due to its use on the Rugrats in Paris soundtrack, kickstarted a decade of proto-dance chart toppers with absurdly catchy hooks. Revisit the lyrics by the way—the song that was played ceaselessly on Nickelodeon set to a clip of a beloved cartoon dog is about the gender politics of catcalling.