The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 6)

With more of the hits of two decades ago than you can shake a glittery stick at, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. And here comes another massive hit from the UK charts from this week 20 years ago…

  • Artist: No Doubt
  • Song: Hey Baby
  • Released: 04/02/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Gwen Stefani / Tony Kanal / Tom Dumont / Rodney Price / Sly & Robbie / No Doubt
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 15

The illustrious career of Californian pop rockers No Doubt had begun all the way back in 1986. Although it took six years for their self titled debut album to appear – and even longer for their international breakthrough to come.

When it did finally arrive for Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont, was with the release of their third album, 1995’s Tragic Kingdom. Selling over 16m copies worldwide, its success here in the UK was spearheaded by enormo-break up ballad “Don’t Speak”, a three week chart topper here in the UK in February 1997, and the seventh biggest selling single of that year.

Success however, proved elusive to that album’s immediate follow-up, 1999’s Return of Saturn. It was a tumultuous album on several counts; firstly as inter-band relations were strained following the departure of founding member Eric Stefani (older brother of Gwen), and secondly as its four singles barely made a dent either on the UK charts or the Billboard charts in the States.

What was clear was that the band needed a rebirth of sorts to set them on the path back to commercial glory. The first clever step towards this – and also, one could argue, the first inkling towards their charismatic frontwoman having her sights on a solo career – was Gwen’s appearance as a guest vocalist on “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”, a #2 hit in the US and a top 5 smash here in the UK in August 2001 for rapper Eve, that helped reintroduce No Doubt to the wider British audience that had overlooked them since Tragic Kingdom.

The second was to record and release their fifth album. Rock Steady saw them collaborate with some of the hottest production and writing talents of that moment, including Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, William Orbit, The Neptunes, and in the case of the album’s first single, Jamaican ska duo Sly & Robbie.

With an ultra catchy chorus, lyrics referencing the partying and debauchery that came with their rock’n’roll lifestyles (“I’m just sipping on chamomile / I’m watchin’ boys and girls and the sex appeal”) and a firing toast from reggae star Bounty Killer, “Hey Baby” was exactly the record that No Doubt needed to bring about their career renaissance.

And it worked; the single gave them their first top 5 hit in five years on both sides of the Atlantic, debuting and peaking at #2 in the UK exactly two decades ago this week. Further success followed over 2002, with the next two singles “Hella Good” and “Underneath It All” both landing inside the top 20, as well as securing a slot on the Pyramid stage at that year’s Glastonbury Festival.

The following year in 2003, the song also won the band a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, whilst the Rock Steady album went onto shift an impressive 3 million copies worldwide – 2.8 million of those in the States alone. It was clear that the resurrection of No Doubt in 2002 was a triumph.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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