The year 2002 was a complicated period in country music history. As Americans tried to process the fresh wounds from the Sept. 11 attacks and the newly-launched war on terrorism, many clung to music as a method of healing. Toby Keith found massive success with his song "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," although the blunt attitude of the track's lyrics also drew criticism. That became the partial catalyst of a lasting feud between The Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines and Keith, which would only grow the following year after Maines publicly commented on President George W. Bush's then-anticipated War in Iraq.
The genre lost some pivotal figures in 2002 as well. Waylon Jennings died at the age of 64 due to complications from diabetes. Harlan Howard, the songwriter responsible for country classics like "I Fall To Pieces" and "Heartaches By The Number" died unexpectedly the age of 74 after many years of health issues.
Although politics, death and war cast a huge shadow on the country and the music industry overall that year, there were also plenty of bright spots. Shania Twain's upbeat, country-pop record Up! topped the charts for most of the year, growing her fame as an influential artist in both genres. The Chicks' critically acclaimed record Home helped them sweep the country categories at the Grammy Awards. Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Darryl Worley, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney all took their new albums to the top of the country charts.
Although many of country music's most recognizable artists found success on country radio in 2002, it also was the year that many new faces made their debuts onto the country music scene. Many of the emerging talents who earned their first big hits in 2002 would only find a short stint of success, but the music that they shared during that time still makes a lasting impact on many country fans to this day.
Let's take a look back at 10 country hits from 2002 that you might have forgotten:
The early 2000s provided talented country vocalist Tammy Cochran with a string of successful singles. Second only to her Top 10 single "Angels in Waiting," her 2001 single "I Cry" also found major success on country radio. Written by Tia Sillers and Mark Selby, "I Cry" was the fourth single from Cochran's 2001 self-titled record.
"That's Just Jessie"by Kevin Denney
The debut single from Kevin Denney, which he co-wrote with Kerry Kurt Phillips and Patrick Jason Matthews, made it to No. 16 on the Billboard country charts. Although the Kentucky native found moderate success with his followup singles, "That's Just Jessie" still stands as the most successful track of his career.
"Before I Knew Better"by Brad Martin
Brad Martin made his debut into the mainstream country scene with "Before I Knew Better," which tapped into the neo-traditional sound that was becoming increasingly harder to find on the radio during the early 2000s. Although the song made it all the way to No. 15 on the country charts, Martin's next few singles didn't find the same success, making "Before I Knew Better" his only hit.
"Forgive"by Rebecca Lynn Howard
Rebecca Lynn Howard earned her highest charting single to date in 2002 with the powerful "Forgive," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard country charts. The song, which was also the title track of her second studio album released the same year, was written by Howard and Trey Bruce.
"When You Lie Next to Me"by Kellie Coffey
The title track of Kellie Coffey's debut album became her most successful single to date. The romantic "When You Lie Next to Me" peaked at No. 8 on the country charts and earned her comparisons to other popular female country artists at the time, including Faith Hill. The success of that song, as well as her other singles "Whatever It Takes" and "At The End Of The Day," helped her to earn the title of Top New Female Vocalist at the 2003 Academy of Country Music Awards.
"I Don't Want You to Go"by Carolyn Dawn Johnson
Canadian country artist Carolyn Dawn Johnson continued her streak of success on the U.S. country charts with "I Don't Want You to Go," a track originally recorded by Mindy McCready for an extended version of her 1999 record I'm Not So Tough. Johnson's version of the song, which was third single from her debut record Room with a View, made it to No. 7 on the Billboard country chart and No. 54 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.
"What If She's an Angel"by Tommy Shane Steiner
Penned by Bryan Wayne, "What If She's an Angel" was released as Texas native Tommy Shane Steiner's debut single in 2001. The following year, the track peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and seemed to position him as one of the genre's new artists to watch. In 2002, not long after "What If She's an Angel" found radio success, Steiner's label deal with RCA Nashville ended. Today, Steiner still lives near Nashville and regularly plays shows around the city.
"I Don't Have to Be Me ('til Monday)"by Steve Azar
The first single from Steve Azar's second studio album Waitin' on Joe became the biggest hit of his career. Co-written by Azar, R.C. Bannon and Jason Young, "I Don't Have to Be Me ('til Monday)" made it the No. 2 spot on the Billboard country charts in 2002, thanks to it's relatable theme of wanting to cut loose on the weekend.
"I Breathe In, I Breathe Out"by Chris Cagle
"I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" was originally recorded by 90s country artist David Kersh for his 1998 record If I Never Stop Loving You, but the song was never released as a single. Chris Cagle, who co-wrote the song with Jon Robbin, recorded his own version of the track and added it to the track list of his debut album Play It Loud when it was reissued in 2001, following Cagle's new record deal with Capitol Nashville. "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" hit the top of the charts in early 2002 and is still Cagle's only No. 1 hit to date.
"Good Morning Beautiful"by Steve Holy
Written by Zack Lyle and Todd Cerney, this track became a No. 1 hit for then-burgeoning artist Steve Holy. Originally recorded for the soundtrack of the 2001 film Angel Eyes, "Good Morning Beautiful" was then added to the tracklist of Holy's 2000 debut record Blue Moon. The tune helped launch the Texas native's country music career, but "Good Morning Beautiful" still stands as Holy's biggest hit to date.