Tom Ewing

4
Mar 15

BRITNEY SPEARS – “Oops!… I Did It Again”

Popular8 comments • 312 views

#858, 13th May 2000

britney oopsHow do you follow “…Baby One More Time”? Perhaps you can’t. Britney Spears’ second album splits the job, starting with two songs that plainly exist in “Baby”’s shadow. One is an overt sequel, “Stronger” – eager, catchy dance-pop that’s more upbeat than the first instalment: “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, Spears sings. Glad to hear it. The other is “Oops… I Did It Again”, which hit listeners initially as a straight-up clone of “…Baby One More Time”: the mid-paced, dancer-ready stomp, the melodrama, the end-of-song pile-on. And as that half-mocking title signalled, the song knew it.

The similarities weren’t enough to dismiss “Oops”, because if you copy a classic you might easily end up somewhere very good. Clone or not, “Oops” became one of Britney Spears’ signature tracks – a highlight of her tours and now her Vegas residency. But the resemblance meant that what “Oops” does differently – its startling gamble with its breakdown, its development of the singer’s persona, and the uses it starts to find for her voice – was overlooked.

2
Mar 15

OXIDE AND NEUTRINO – “Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)”

Popular80 comments • 2,357 views

#857, 6th May 2000

bound reload “Certain guys can’t face the fact of what we’ve done
Sold over a quarter of a million
Casualty went straight to number one
And still they wanna cuss come on
Oh yeah about the Casualty theme?
Well no one controls the scene
So you do what you want and you do what you like and you do what you please”
– Oxide and Neutrino, ‘Up Middle Finger’

There’s more than one way to make an 18 year old into a pop star. Craig David was a record industry dream – UK garage as a cradle for a new generation of international stars. Oxide and Neutrino represented a different future, one the biz had far less idea how to cope with in the long term. Though for now, and for the duo’s record label East West, the success of “Bound 4 Da Reload” was actually business as usual: find a hot sound in the clubs or on the pirates, license it, push it onto the charts. The main opposition to Oxide and Neutrino’s overnight success came from within garage – the pirates and the clubs in open disagreement. “Reload”, belligerent, snotty and unsophisticated, was a flashpoint record for the scene’s internal politics and anxieties.

1
Mar 15

My Own Private Record Club*

FT96 comments • 2,459 views

Kanye dropout This is a post listing the records I’m listening to for my YEAR OF ROCKISM**, as outlined here (cut and pasted from Tumblr):

I’m going to listen to one album on a once-a-day basis for a week, a different one each week. Not in order to write about them or anything, unless I decide I want to. Just a minor attention-span workout, the listening equivalent of that “20 minutes of brisk exercise daily” or “5 a day” advice. I realised now I don’t review albums any more I’ve got out of that habit of intensive listening, except for Popular, which is done very much with writing as the aim. It would be healthy to get it back, I reckon.

The albums will mostly be a) stuff I already own that b) I know I like but c) have never really given the time they deserve. The listening cycle is Friday to Thursday, until such time as I miss a day, at which point it will shift. Albums below:

27
Feb 15

FRAGMA – “Toca’s Miracle”

Popular49 comments • 1,654 views

#856, 22nd April 2000

fragma I don’t know that turning a meat and potatoes trance tune into a dance-pop banger passes theological muster, but as pop miracles go it’s a welcome intervention. Unless, that is, you’re Coco Star, the singer whose vocals grace “Toca’s Miracle”, an unasked and – she later claimed – unpaid borrowing from her 1996 “I Need A Miracle”. “The Millennium Prayer” was cheekily fingered as the first mash-up number one: “Toca’s Miracle” has a much stronger claim. And like the bootlegs of 2002, the Internet was at the heart of it – Star says that the DJ who’d laid “Miracle” over the rather drab “Toca Me” had grabbed her vocals off a file-sharing site. Meanwhile jobbing German producers Fragma found themselves – quite by accident, since the bootleg was none of their doing – with albums and follow-ups to arrange sharpish. How much had changed since Loleatta Holloway got ripped off for “Ride On Time”? At least Star got to appear in the inevitable sleazy video.

25
Feb 15

CRAIG DAVID – “Fill Me In”

Popular79 comments • 2,403 views

#855, 15th April 2000

craig david fill As UK Garage hit its end of the century peak, three things became clear. It could ring up the hits, like no underground dance scene since hardcore rave. It was exceptionally flexible – the strains in the charts became more melodic and soulful, while elsewhere the music was getting darker, dubbier and more bass-led or more minimal and MC-driven. That was a bit like rave, too. But the third aspect of garage was not like rave at all: vocalists and rappers were central to this music, and the fans knew who they were.

An eager record industry put these three things together and saw stars. New, marketable stars, addressing the business’ long-running (and aesthetically myopic) beef with dance music – its notorious “facelessness”. The question of what to do with UK Garage and its inheritors is a subplot that plays out across this whole decade. The outcomes are mostly frustrating – potential missed or misused, bright careers fizzling out, and an overall sense of an industry that liked the idea of young, black British stars more than it supported the reality.

23
Feb 15

WESTLIFE – “Fool Again”

Popular48 comments • 1,642 views

#854, 8th April 2000

westlife fool The fifth and final number one from Westlife’s debut, “Fool Again” is an unhappy ending on every level. For once, the lads don’t realise their mistake in time to turn things round and win back their beloved. In fact – gasp – she’s found someone else, leading to a coda in which the band drop the creamy close harmonies and indulge in unrepentant yowling and breast-beating. It’s an undignified sound, but it’s the only musical distinction in “Fool Again”: otherwise we’re in well-ironed, not actively unpleasant Cheiron ballad territory. The guys are good enough anaesthetists by now that nothing grates, and perhaps if you shifted enough of the blanketing away you’d find a pea of interest in the song. But probably not.

20
Feb 15

MELANIE C ft LISA “LEFT-EYE” LOPES – “Never Be The Same Again”

Popular37 comments • 1,752 views

#853, 1st April 2000

neverbe Left-Eye first: again, a major figure in 90s American pop shows up here as a cameo on a solo Spice single. This time, at least, you’re left with some idea of what she can do. Left-Eye’s elegant doodle of a verse is dropped into “Never Be The Same Again” before the final chorus, and makes for a pleasant but slightly flummoxing cameo. It’s the most skilful rapping on a Number One for five years, it’s delightful hearing that quizzical voice hopping around her rhymes like a kid over stepping-stones, and it maintains a polite distance from the entire rest of the song.

18
Feb 15

GERI HALLIWELL – “Bag It Up”

Popular46 comments • 1,860 views

#852, 25th March 2000

halliwellbag Go back to 1998, ask people to predict what a Geri Halliwell solo record would be like, and I’d say they’d have landed somewhere close to “Bag It Up”. It’s brash, plasticky disco, noisy and cheeky: if the role-switching promo clip didn’t get people talking, her BRIT Awards emergence from between a giant pair of inflatable legs would. It’s also the closest her solo hits come to a ‘girl power’ statement (something the video directly references). But where “Wannabe” offered its tween and teen fans a vision of girls-together cameraderie, making romance an explicit second to friendship, “Bag It Up” is a bit more forthright in its demands for autonomy. “Bag it up…boot him out…wind him up… do your thing”. Throw in the reference to smash-hit 90s relationship guru John Gray (the former Maharishi disciple who cranked out fifteen Men Are From Mars… books, as psychologists despaired) and the message is clear. Relationships, in this song, really are a battle of the sexes, and Geri is determined her side are going to win.

16
Feb 15

CHICANE ft BRYAN ADAMS – “Don’t Give Up”

Popular33 comments • 1,337 views

#851, 18th March 2000

chicane I like the brusqueness – and the ambiguity – of Bryan Adams’ feelgood advice here: “Don’t worry if the sun don’t shine / You’ve seen it before.” The problem is, we’ve heard this before too – “Don’t Give Up” is an unglamorous song about the unglamorous struggle of getting things done, set to a laborious trance backing. Perhaps there’s a virtue in effort, but this isn’t the record to sell the idea: to my ears, it’s one of the most doggedly boring number ones. If “Pure Shores” was running hand-in-hand over white sands under an azure sky, this is a pebbly trudge along Frinton seafront in overcast early March. As it trots through its subdued melody and dutiful builds, I’m left thinking Chicane wouldn’t have had a sniff at the top without the gimmick of “Don’t Give Up”’s unlikely frontman.

13
Feb 15

MADONNA – “American Pie”

Popular77 comments • 3,126 views

#850, 11th March 2000

madonnapie I can’t remember, did I cry when I heard about Madonna’s “Pie”? To claim I did would be a lie, in fact I likely smiled. A dance-pop version of one of the great rock totems, by an artist on a creative roll, teamed with one of the most sympathetic producers of her career? How could it possibly fail to enrage my foes and gladden my friends? In my head existed a version of “American Pie” that had a shot at being a great single, and would at least end up a marvellous joke. Yet neither outcome came true.