The year 2003 will go down as a significant one in pop music.
50 Cent entered the scene with his monster debut single In Da Club while Evanescence added some much-needed class to the nu metal scene.
The garage rock revival was well and truly under way with big songs by The White Stripes and Jet, while Sean Paul brought the feverish sounds of dancehall to the masses.
That year also featured a mixed bag of one-hit wonders, while also proving why Outkast were in a league of their own.
Without further ado, here are 23 songs, arranged in alphabetical order, that turn 20 in 2023.
1. ‘Are You Gonna be My Girl’ by Jet
Such was the hype surrounding the Aussie quartet they were lauded by sections of the rock press as being the new Rolling Stones.
Not a chance, and the group flamed out unspectacularly over the next decade
That said, carried by a propulsive bass line and singer Nic Cester’s banshee wailing, Are You Gonna be My Girl is one of the decade’s best rock tracks.
2. ‘Beautiful’ by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson
After spending a few years in the hip-hop wilderness, rapper Snoop Dogg re-emerged with one of his biggest singles.
Moving away from his taut gangster raps, in Beautiful the veteran artist looks at the bright side of life as he celebrates everything from love and family to survival.
Backed by The Neptunes' percolating summery production, and featuring Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson on guest vocals, it went on to be one of the biggest hits of the summer and re-established Snoop Dogg’s credentials as one of the leaders of the pack.
3. 'Bring Me Back to Life' by Evanescence
Looking back at this unexpected hit, the rock world really needed Evanescence.
By the time they released their debut single, the genre was plagued by toxic machismo and nihilistic sounds of the nu metal scene.
While adopting some of the tropes of the genre, such as the inane rapping and choppy guitar riffs, Evanescence still managed to masterfully inject Bring Me Back to Life with some cinematic strings and singer Amy Lee's soprano vocals.
At once fresh and yet familiar, it is a stand-out song from a rock movement best left in the past.
4. ‘Calling All Angels’ by Train
Train never hid from their influences and this hit track is a homage to You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones.
If you didn't pick that up from the swelling strings and choral vocals in the crescendo, you would have heard it live as Train often fuse both songs together in concerts.
Despite the salute to their heroes, Calling All Angels is a great song with a hymn-like quality as it beckons us to bravely shoulder life's burdens while appreciating the present.
5. 'Can't Stop' by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
In 2003, theRed Hot Chili Peppers were going through their successful yet mellow period, with big albums such as 1999's Californication and 2002's By the Way displaying a welcome deftness and melodic ingenuity.
That said, old-school fans were crying out for the kind of slapping bass and funk sounds of their early years and Can't Stop delivers the goods.
Not only was it a welcome blast from the past, it spent three weeks on top of the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
6. ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay
One of Coldplay's career-best singles was geared towards their burgeoning US fan base and was only released in the UK in March 2003, four months after it dropped in North America and became a subsequent hit.
That careful marketing approach was not necessary because Clocks is universally brilliant.
It is a supremely polished anthem, while retaining some of the group’s early indie-rock sensibilities.
Clocks marked the beginning of Coldplay’s unstoppable ascent to the pop music summit.
7. ‘Come Undone’ by Robbie Williams
More than his inescapable charm, the secret to Robbie Williams's success is the unabashed honesty coursing through his work.
Come Undone is not only the kind of epic pop-rock anthem Oasis would have killed for, but the acerbic lyrics are also a diary of an artist disillusioned by fame and whose life is spiralling out of control.
This is best reflected in the song’s bridge in which William’s dryly states: “Do another interview/Sing a bunch of lies/Tell about celebrities that I despise/And sing love songs/We sing love songs/So sincere”.
8. ‘Crazy in Love’ by Beyonce, featuring Jay Z
Talk about a new beginning.
For her debut solo single, Beyonce needed an impactful song to signal her new career step was indeed a fresh start.
Carried by swaggering horns, barrelling percussion and some swift wordplay from rapper and soon-to-be husband Jay Z, Crazy in Love was a monster single and dwarfs the tightly coiled RnB sounds of Beyonce’s former group, Destiny's Child.
Twenty years on and it’s still a stone-cold classic.
9. ‘Fast Food Song’ by the Fast Food Rockers
Why this song ever became a UK hit remains a mystery.
Formed after meeting at a fast-food convention, the band The Fast Food Rockers went on to release one album called It's Never Easy Being Cheesy.
Lead single Fast Food Song is basically a list of popular fast food chains sung over cheap dance production.
It may have been cheeky at the time, but today it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
10. ‘Here without You’ by 3 Doors Down
The kind of power ballad we thought was left behind in the 1980s.
Then again, middle-of-the-road US rockers 3 Doors Down were seemingly never ones to be aware of modern trends.
Here Without You works because the group gives it the full treatment. It has the impassioned vocals, a string section and an epic chorus that’s memorable despite your better judgement.
Fair play, boys.
11. ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast
Two decades on and this track still feels as fresh and vibrant as ever.
It also remains one of the most experimental pop hits of modern times because of its obtuse arrangements, spasmodic vocals and a thrilling dance breakdown featuring the classic refrain "shake it like a Polaroid picture".
Brazen and brilliant, Hey Ya is that rare hit that is both a dance floor filler yet difficult to sing along to.
12. 'I'm With You' by Avril Lavigne
Coming on the back of her pop-punk anthem Sk8er Boy, Lavigne wanted to show she was more than just a snarling teen.
I'm With You is an understated power ballad with Lavigne delivering a poised vocal performance.
A US chart topper and international hit, the song established that Lavigne has as much appeal with the young as with the old.
13. ‘Faint’ by Linkin’ Park
With Faint, Linkin Park all but mastered their formula.
The track features the standard intro of DJ scratches, soft verse and a roaring chorus underscored by crunchy guitars.
This should have sounded tedious by now, but Linkin’ Park delivers it with such conviction that we can’t help but want more.
14. ‘Fighter’ by Christina Aguilera
With fourth album Stripped, the US pop star Christina Aguilera penned some of her most emotionally vulnerable lyrics to date.
The centrepiece were the two big singles, Beautiful and Fighter.
The rock approach of the latter is the yang to the tender balladry of Beautiful.
With Aguilera's vocals sounding as fierce as ever, Fighter joins Destiny's Child Survivor (2001) as being one of the defining female empowerment anthems of the decade.
15. ‘Get Busy’ by Sean Paul
A key track playing a huge part in ushering dance hall to the mainstream.
Built upon one of the genre's most popular rhythm arrangements, known as the the Diwali Riddim, Jamaican star Sean Paul laces Get Busy with swaggering raps and a honey-eyed croon that propelled the track and his career to global fame.
16. ‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent
The buzz surrounding Dr Dre and Eminem's new protege reached fever pitch by the time 50 Cent released his debut single.
Receiving a record deal for a reported $1 million — whopping in those days — the New York rapper fulfilled his promise with a track igniting a new renaissance for gangsta rap.
50 Cent exudes charm and menace in an ode to the kind of partying leaving you worse for wear.
Reflecting on the heady period surrounding the song’s release, the rapper described to The National what an ubiquitous presence he was at the time.
“My core audience were in college in their heyday in 2003, when they used to party at every possible moment,” he said.
“So they couldn't party without me. There was no way you could escape me."
17. ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis
It would be unfair to describe US singer Kelis as a one-hit wonder (she scored a minor hit in 2009 with blazing track Caught Out There), but such was the popularity and pop culture effect of Milkshake that it drowned her other work.
Once again, the Pharrell Williams-led production crew The Neptunes — who were seemingly everywhere at the time — provide adventurous electro-tinged production for Kelis to wax metaphorical lyrical gems on the uses of the popular dairy drink.
18. 'Rock Your Body' by Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake never hid his love of vintage RnB and funk.
Rock Your Body is the clearest channelling of twin musical heroes Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
The rhythmical vocals and crystalline falsetto pay tribute to the former while the Wonder effect is found in the clavichord-sounding synthesisers provided by The Neptunes.
The third straight hit single from debut album Justified, Rock Your Body had Timberlake on his way to becoming crowned as the new prince of pop.
19. ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes
Released during the peak of the garage rock revival, Seven Nation Army propelled the White Stripes to arena status.
It also shows the power of a great guitar riff, such as the one opening the song. Such is its potency that the melody is now a popular crowd chant at sporting events.
20. ‘Slow’ by Kylie Minogue
Elegant, minimal and sensual, this Kylie Minogue tune is a masterclass of studied tension.
Minogue's breathy vocals and atmospheric synths capture the excitement and danger of a night spent clubbing.
21. ‘Stacy's Mom’ by Fountains of Wayne
A bittersweet achievement for the power-pop maestros.
By this time, New York group Fountains of Wayne had been releasing excellent albums for the best part of a decade to a small and dedicated audience.
The success of Stacey's Mom was supposed to inspire a new fan base to hear their great catalogue.
Sadly, they stuck to this fun and zippy track and moved on, thus rendering the group to one-hit wonder status.
Then again, if you are going to be largely known for one song then Stacey's Mom, with its funny video starring Rachel Hunter, is not bad deal at all.
22. 'Times Like These' by Foo Fighters
A much-needed ray of sunshine from the Foo Fighters' dark fourth album One by One.
From the jangly guitars to the towering chorus imploring us to fight another day, Times Like These joins Learn to Fly and My Hero as one of the band's most life-affirming tracks.
23. ‘Where is the Love?’ by Black Eyed Peas
Talk about making an impression.
In what was the first Black Eyed Peas single featuring former member Fergie, you can see the impact of the singer's inclusion into the hip-hop crew.
Her powerful vocals allowed the Black Eyed Peas to expand to take on more pop and dance sounds.
The anthemic Where is the Love was the beginning of a wildly successful chapter for the popular group.