Every UK number one single from 2002, ranked from worst to best
The country was in a Gareth Gates Vs Will Young chokehold
Do you know what’s an absolute jumble sale of quality? The batch of songs that have made it to number one on the UK Singles Chart. It’s truly a chaotic mix, of both artists and standard. The highs are life changing, the lows are life destroying. So what better way to reflect nostalgically on the songs that managed the feat of hitting number one than traipsing year by year through memory lane and ranking them based on how hard they slap. Here’s all 30 UK number ones from the year 2002, ranked from worst to best.
Gotta Get Thru This by Daniel Bedingfield is excluded from this list – it first hit number one in 2001 and is ranked in the article here instead.
32. The Long and Winding Road by Will Young and Gareth Gates
The United Kingdom was in a vice grip chokehold by the two, Pop Idol hands of Will Young and Gareth Gates in 2002. We had no respite. Between them, they had seven number ones in 2002 – and this dogshit, boring Beatles cover is the absolute worst of the bunch. Who the HELL was buying this? The fact they teamed up to double their evil is criminal.
31. Unbreakable by Westlife
I have absolutely no clue how Westlife have 14 UK number one singles. They have the third most in the history of the charts. Westlife. WESTLIFE. Every song by this band is boring as sin! It’s so maudlin that it makes me want to weep into my arms at my desk for having to sit through it and write about it. Woefully generic, tediously sang, abysmal.
30. Anything is Possible by Will Young
The title of this song is a lie because it’s not possible to keep me in a good mood for this song’s three minute 42 seconds runtime.
29. If Tomorrow Never Comes by Ronan Keating
One thing about 2002 is that if there’s an artist releasing a cover, you better bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be one of the UK number ones ranked here. So much of this list is covers. Where was all the fresh material! Get your pens out music industry! Like most covers on this list, this Ronan one is beyond tepid.
28. Light My Fire by Will Young
ANOTHER COVER! QUELLE SURPRISE! And another Will Young entry! GOBSMACKING! Best thing I can say about this is there’s some really well produced guitar in the middle that hits my ear nicely. Just listen to the original, though.
27. Suspicious Minds by Gareth Gates
Beggar’s belief why these two young lads came first and second on Pop Idol and were ready and waiting to be pop stars only to be told they had to release and endless ream of covers like they were a pub singer in a Friday night.
26. Unchained Melody by Gareth Gates
I’m losing the will to live.
25. Evergreen by Will Young
This endless dredge and sludge of Gareth Gates and Will Young number ones is nearly over I promise.
24. Crossroads by Blazin Squad
I think my nostalgic memory of this song had me believing that Blazin’ Squad were hitting the same way as So Solid Crew or something of that ilk. I was mistaken. This is dreadful – and if I was Marcel I’d have spent my time on Love Island hoping no one ever found out I was associated with it.
23. Anyone of Us (Stupid Mistake) by Gareth Gates
The final and best of the Pop Idol onslaught of UK number ones that plagued 2002 and caused me grief through this ranked list. Anyone of Us is like Gareth Gates having a go at an ABBA track – the Swedish penmanship of its three writers practically jumps out and smacks you round the gob. A good chorus, but you’ve heard it all before.
22. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word by Blue and Elton John
The covers pandemic of 2002 continued infecting the charts with a random Blue and Elton duet thats only error is just being a bit unremarkable. A nondescript version of an outstanding song is truly a sad, sad situation indeed.
21. Hero by Enrique Iglesias
A huge pivot into genuinely decent tracks now! Thank the gods! Enrique here with the sickliest song on planet Earth – but one that is unquestionably iconic. If you can get over the song ruining, day ruining, life ruiningly nauseating whisper of “let me be your hero” in the opening you’re in for a suitably melodramatic Latin pop ballad.
20. The Tide is High by Atomic Kitten
I know I’ve been very very ‘arsh on covers when getting the 2002 UK number ones ranked, but it turns out all you need to get slightly ahead is an actually decent pop song and an iconic Natasha Hamilton vocal. Who’d have known! Any version of this is a good time, and whilst a cutesy 00s pop version isn’t the optimum way to enjoy The Tide is High, it’s still pleasant.
19. World of Our Own by Westlife
Sweet relief! Westlife got to number one with something uptempo AND original! And it’s their best ever song! World of Our Own has a Five Keep On Movin-esque likability with a shout-along chorus that is peak boyband sound. Just that early 00s boyband sound done solidly.
18. Kiss Kiss by Holly Valance
Tarkan’s Turkish bop Şımarık done by Aussie Holly Valance would have rocketed into the top 10 of this ranked list of 2002 UK number ones probably, had Holly not married the billionaire Nick Candy and gone for dinner with Trump and Nigel Farage. Good song, but she ruined it. Well done, Holly.
17. A Little Less Conversation [JXL Remix] by Elvis Presley and Junkie XL
Elvis’ original release of A Little Less Conversation only reached 69 in the charts. After the song featured in Ocean’s Eleven, DJ Junkie XL gave the song an electropop remix that took it to the top of the UK Charts and it’s a fucking banger. Elvis’ low vocals contrasting with JXL’s maximalist production – perfect blend of old and new.
16. Heaven by DJ Sammy
An 80s Bryan Adams classic reimagined as the most euphoric Eurodance track you’ve ever heard? I think this is the kind of song that makes you scream “INJECT IT!” when you hear the intro in the shittest holiday bar you’ve ever set foot in. Pass me a pitcher of Woo Woo immediately.
15. Just a Little by Liberty X
When you think of 2002, it’s the sounds all over the production on Liberty X’s Just a Little that you think of. No song sounds more 2002 than this. Does Tony Lundon sing a word on Just a Little? Failing to hear it. Either way – it’s a great song in that perfectly wannabe Britney way! I’m glad that these days the three girls perform together because the fellas are literally dead weight.
14. Colourblind by Darius
The sad circumstances around Darius Danesh’s sudden death this month are still raw – a horribly sad and unexpected loss. Colourblind is honestly just a banging track – Darius penned it himself and is responsible for the excellence of the chorus. It’s bittersweet when someone passes away and you revisit what you knew them for in the first place and remember how great that thing was in the first place. What a track.
13. Dilemma by Nelly and Kelly Rowland
This song is responsible for giving us Kelly Rowland texting Nelly back via Microsoft Excel, and for that we must always respect it. Iconic meme factor video moment aside, Nelly and Kelly have so much chemistry on this Patti sampling classic and I have a nostalgic love for spending many hours of my childhood trying to perfect the high pitched “OH” that litters through the production.
12. Without Me by Eminem
A bombastic and highly entertaining track that sees Eminem cleverly laughing off his critics with lyrics that you can’t help but smirk at because they’re that bloody playful. When I was in school, Eminem felt like naughty boy music that I’d have to sneak off to listen to because my mum would think he was a bad influence.
11. If You’re Not The One by Daniel Bedingfield
Bedingfield brands it as cheesy, and it is, but it’s also the most ridiculously campy and melodramatic love song ever. I love it so much? It has no business being this great. The lyrics are actually ridiculous in the verses, “If you’re not for me then why does this distance maim my life? / If you’re not for me then why do I dream of you as my wife?” being a particularly ludicrous highlight. But that chorus! Those vocals! THE HIGH NOTE!
10. My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
Perhaps a sacrilegious statement, but seeing My Sweet Lord as a number one rang absolutely no bells for me and I was pretty sure I’d never heard the ex-Beatles’ biggest hit before. Listening to My Sweet Lord, I’m filled with familiarity and warmth – it feels so cinematic and warm to me. A rerelease that went posthumously to number one in 2002 following George Harrison’s death at the tail end of 2001 – My Sweet Lord is just gorgeous.
9. Lose Yourself by Eminem
The lead song from Eminem’s film 8 Mile, Lose Yourself made history by becoming the first ever hip hop song to win the Oscar for best original song made for a motion picture. I’d go as far to say it’s Eminem’s best song of all time – a thrilling instrumentation filled with drama that compliments the tension he builds through his bars that increase urgency with every word. It’s exhilarating.
8. The Ketchup Song (Aserejé) by Las Ketchup
The theme tune of every kid’s party I attended age six. The choreo was MY generation’s macarena. Listening again all these years later, I’m thrilled at how fresh it sounds. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about how much I want Rosalía to record a cover. Aserejé, with its meaningless chorus and dance trend vibes, needs a 2022 renaissance 20 years after it hit number one. I’m manifesting.
7. More Than a Woman by Aaliyah
Simply one of the greatest R&B singles to ever be released. Aaliyah was just one of the very best. Everything about More Than a Woman oozes cool and I was so enamoured with the music video showing Aaliyah and her dancers performing inside the motorcycle and amongst the pistons. RIP to an absolute icon – a posthumous and deserved number one.
6. Just Like a Pill by P!nk
Potentially P!nk’s greatest ever song, Just Like a Pill is like a ticking time bomb of catharsis that’s about to explode any second. Her vocals are flawless, the lyrics are personal in a way that never takes away from how anthemic the chorus feels when you’re belting it out as you run round your local park or Pure Gym. I love that the nurse is being a “little bitch”. It’s camp. A theme tune for rebellious 12 year old girls everywhere.
5. The Hindu Times by Oasis
One of Oasis’ most underrated songs ever. End of. I love the story of Noel naming it The Hindu Times because he saw it on a t-shirt in a charity shop and liked it. This psychedelic sound works so well for Liam’s vocals and I think I love it so much because it benefits from not being overplayed and covered by every white fella with a guitar. Yes, Wonderwall: I’m glaring at you.
4. Dirrty by Christina Aguilera
If you want a reinvention, Xtina said you’re going to have one that comes in assless chaps and a video so filthy it has Conservatives crying for it to be banned across the globe. But Dirrty is no headline grabbing gimmick – it’s a ferocious, growling snarler of a single that proved Aguilera was not that twee Disney girl with a great voice you might have written her off as. It is truly pop perfection – with a video that spawned a 1000 fancy dress costumes. You can practically feel the post-shag sweat dripping off your face when you listen to it. CLASSIC.
3. Freak Like Me by Sugababes
Look, I won’t slag off a cover version if it does what Freak Like Me does. Richard X’s genius bootleg mashup of Adina Howard’s Freak Like Me with Gary Numan and Tubeway Army’s Are “Friends” Electric births the Sugababes’ Freak Like Me – a rebirth for the group that introduced Heidi Range as a replacement for departing member Siobhan Donaghy. Freak Like Me is a call to arms for pop music, and the top three songs ranked here of all the 2002 UK number ones showed that girl groups were shoving the happy go lucky nature of Atomic Kitten’s output out the back door and coming in with a slap round the tits. Wow.
I love that Gary Numan said himself that Freak Like Me is better than Are “Friends Electric. I love that The Guardian named it the best single of 2002. Girl group acclaim had arrived!
2. Round Round by Sugababes
I literally can’t make my mind up on which is better out of Round Round and Freak Like Me, so take their second and third placement as just “runners up”. They’re both equally outstanding. Round Round is a product of Xenomania alongside Heidi, Keisha and Mutya who helped write it – it’s one of the most eternally thrilling pop songs I can think of. Just look at that hallowed footage from Glasto this year, where Sugababes literally shut a field down they were that popular, and watch the crowd react in euphoria to the drop of the chorus.
I’m a Heidi hater, but will give her her dues for the batshit bridge she does here that has no business working as well as it does or being as iconic as it clearly is.
1. Sound of the Underground by Girls Aloud
I think what truly, truly makes Sound of the Underground the best ranked of all the UK number one singles of 2002, besides the fact the song is absolute perfection, is the story that surrounds it. Girls Aloud and One True Voice became the two groups formed at the end of Popstars: The Rivals – and the winning group of the show would be decided by who got the Christmas number one. One True Voice played it safe, Girls Aloud threw the rule book out the window.
Sound of the Underground, another Xenomania beast of a track, combined surf rock with electronic production and five band members all bursting with star quality. Couple that with an iconic campaign trail that saw Girls Aloud stomping round the country in t-shirts that read “Buy Girls, Bye Boys” and history was born. It’s a song that birthed the best girl group in the country and it remains their best song to this date. Perfection.
Listen to a playlist of the ranked 2002 UK number ones here.