Tom Ewing

30
Mar 15

EMINEM – “The Real Slim Shady”

Popular93 comments • 4,770 views

#864, 8th July 2000

eminem rss Never has the “early, funny stuff” cliche held such weight in pop: we’re at a stage now where the new stars coming through are still heavyweights now, and the sclerotic Marshall Mathers of the mid-10s haunts this swaggering, sparkling kid. But “The Real Slim Shady” is still an Eminem who knows how to tell a joke – though how much he’s joking is open to question – and he’s the most technically audacious and exciting rapper to have hit number one yet. By a considerable distance – take the “Now there’s a million of us…” climax, thirty-seven staccato monosyllables from “just like me” to “not quite me”, a pattern of triple stresses reeled out and back like a man casually doing tricks on a yo-yo. Or the animals – cannibals – canteloupes – antelopes – can’t elope rhyme set, as bravura in its wordplay as anything you’d find on an underground mixtape. Or the entire first verse (”Act like you never seen a white person before…”) and its teetering jenga of internal rhymes. Or the single’s best gag, delivered barely as rap, just as a great one-liner: “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss on his raps to sell records / Well I do / So fuck him and fuck you too”

26
Mar 15

KYLIE MINOGUE – “Spinning Around”

Popular98 comments • 3,676 views

#863, 1st July 2000

kyliespin Most comebacks risk being overshadowed by the past. To find its distinct identity, “Spinning Around” has to battle the future. The second phase of Kylie’s career pivots on one single, and we’re a year out from it, but the gravity of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” makes this nimble disco-pop track sound more a cautious herald than a triumphant return.

13
Mar 15

BLACK LEGEND – “You See The Trouble With Me”

Popular58 comments • 2,517 views

#862, 24th June 2000

black legend No black legends were harmed in the making of this single: Barry White, whose 1976 song forms the dislocated spine of “You See The Trouble With Me” and whose vocal sample was meant as its centre, said no, and the job went to a rough soundalike. The track hit number one anyhow, which suggests it’s the idea and structure that’s driving this one, not Barry specifically. “Trouble” is built around a double peak – the sliced up vocal sample and its hints of disco backing, and the bouncy instrumental break that follows on its heels, a transfer across from the White song’s funk guitar.

11
Mar 15

SONIQUE – “It Feels So Good”

Popular40 comments • 2,065 views

#861, 3rd June 2000

sonique Sonique’s success has a distinct feelgood factor, one of pop’s lottery-winner stories. A singer and DJ who had been on the circuit for over a decade, her closest tilt at fame before this song was lead vocal on a couple of the later S’Express singles. Was it a case of a singer finally getting the right song? Hindsight says yes – except that “It Feels So Good” had been only a modest hit a couple of years before, slipping quickly out of the Top 30. There was nothing in the singer or song’s pedigree to suggest it would hold the top for three weeks in the most volatile year in UK pop history.

10
Mar 15

My Own Private Record Club*

FT109 comments • 3,767 views

boredoms vcn 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 currently Tuesday to Monday. Albums below:

9
Mar 15

BILLIE PIPER – “Day And Night”

Popular24 comments • 1,800 views

#860, 27th May 2000

billie day It had been thirteen months since Billie Piper’s last single. It might as well have been a hundred and thirteen: “Day And Night” was part of a standard pop career cycle, but the world of pop had upended itself, and the hesitant returns of the class of ‘98 underlined that – second albums that suddenly felt like desperate comeback attempts. The chunky sound of post-Spice British bubblegum – good-natured, amateurish, playground-ready – stood no chance against the all-conquering Cheiron sound, which powered not just Britney but the three biggest boybands in the world.

For Billie, B*Witched, Five, and the Spicers themselves, this was an existential crisis. We’ve seen, in sometimes gruesome detail, the solo Spice Girls try to find a viable sound, and their difficulties were mirrored across British pop, which suddenly found itself sidelined and playing catch-up. Anything was worth a try – country, UK garage, vocodered disco-house, R&B, indie rock… in the face of such panic, some decided just to swim with the tide. If Cheiron were unavailable – or unaffordable – perhaps there were other songwriting and production teams lurking in darkest Scandinavia?

6
Mar 15

MADISON AVENUE – “Don’t Call Me Baby”

Popular47 comments • 2,456 views

#859, 20th May 2000

madison avenue For all my hyperbole, and for all that 2000 was the zenith of the Cheiron sound, it didn’t have the charts to itself. The glut of number ones in 2000 is matched by an extravagance of pop styles – Max and his imitators, futurist R&B, UK garage, pop-trance… joined now by one of pop’s periodic disco revivals. Disco had been an undercurrent through the 1990s, used as a sound both party-ready and family-friendly. Take That and Steps covered the Bee Gees as helpful pop forebears, a good time straight out of the box. The rash of disco-inflected number ones in the early 00s are a little different – more invested in the sound and style of disco, not just its songs. From Melbourne to Paris, a question was being asked: what could modern dance music learn from disco?

4
Mar 15

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

Popular107 comments • 4,631 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)”

Popular86 comments • 3,334 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.

27
Feb 15

FRAGMA – “Toca’s Miracle”

Popular54 comments • 2,263 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.