Sep 15

EMMA BUNTON – “What Took You So Long?”

Popular21 comments • 1,779 views

#894, 14th April 2001

bunton It was obvious from “2 Become 1” on how crucial Emma Bunton was to the Spice Girls. She managed to be their steadiest and most seductive singer at once, the anchor of their ballads and the Spice who could turn a line like “Be a little bit wiser…” from a wagged finger to a beckoning one. All their nicknames found different ways to miss the point – for Baby, the pigtails-and-smiles branding masked the group’s most mature vocalist.

Sep 15

HEAR’SAY – “Pure And Simple”

Popular56 comments • 2,707 views

#893, 24th March 2001

hearsaypure “I’m here to be a pop star. I’m sick of being skint.” – Noel Sullivan of Hear’Say, outside his first audition.

Watching the first episode of Popstars – chunks of it are on YouTube – is like looking at footage of early motor cars. You’re watching a newly invented machine that will transform and scar the landscape it moves in, that will become an ordinary part of millions of lives, and that will make some of its engineers appallingly rich. But you’re not looking at a car as you know it now – you’re looking at a funny little device, all prongs and angles, trundling along on its four large wheels, picking up tentative speed. Walking ahead of the vehicle is a rangy, sandy-haired man, waving a flag with a rather pained expression on his face. His name is Nasty Nigel.

Sep 15

WESTLIFE – “Uptown Girl”

Popular24 comments • 1,712 views

#892, 17th March 2000

westlifeuptown Features the best joke on a Comic Relief single – a girl gets bored of her “whitebread world”, and instead she chooses Westlife. But the video for “Uptown Girl” – the most entertaining thing about it – leans into just this conceit, casting the band as five honest lads working service jobs and pitched into a cartoon class-clash fantasy, against posh goons straight out of an IPC comic. This puts the emphasis on a part of the song Billy Joel doesn’t stress as much – “Uptown Girl” in his reading is the fantasy of a boy dreaming that a rich girl will notice what a stand-up guy he is. He wants to beat the high class boys, but they’re a background detail. “Uptown Girl” in Westlife’s world involves a woman waking up to the fact she’s stuck with a pack of howling arseholes.

Sep 15

SHAGGY feat. RIKROK – “It Wasn’t Me”

Popular31 comments • 1,861 views

#891, 10th March 2001

shaggywasnt One of the things dancehall does supremely well is project authority. The genre is born in competition – between soundsystems, between MCs. While rappers jealously guard their beats, dancehall MCs submit themselves to judgement over the same riddims as their peers, and one way to stand out is through sheer stentorian dominance. Not every MC takes this route – some are lovers, some jokers, some storytellers – but I’d guess for casual Western listeners the platonic form of dancehall involves a gruff bark riding atop a beat like Zeus on his thundercloud.

This is the image “It Wasn’t Me” has so much fun with. Shaggy’s character – the “true player” – takes the MC’s self-confidence to a level that rewrites reality itself. His helpless partner, Rikrok, struggles to find a detail that will make Shaggy relent, back down, admit there are things you simply can’t brazen out. But Shaggy is as remorseless as he wants his poor protégé to be. “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.

Aug 15

ATOMIC KITTEN – “Whole Again”

Popular50 comments • 3,138 views

#890, 10th February 2001

atommick kitan For former stars, a swing back to the separation of singer and songwriter made British pop a land of second chances. 90s and 00s number ones are sprinkled with semi-familiar names – Cathy Dennis, Guy Chambers, and now Andy McLuskey, who went further than most. A conceptualist with OMD, and a believer in electronic pop, his involvement with Atomic Kitten merged the two. Under his management, the Kittens would be a tween-friendly girl group but also a pragmatic – cynical, even – application of what he’d learned in two decades in pop.

Aug 15

LIMP BIZKIT – “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)”

Popular113 comments • 4,701 views

#889, 27th January 2001

Bizkit “Take my advice,” says Fred Durst on “My Generation”, “you don’t want to step into a big pile of shit.” Wise words. But shit comes in many forms. The spoor of Durst, the self-styled chocolate starfish, the anus, is compacted nuggets of resentment, pinched out rabbit-style in single form, delivered with a constipated grunt or haemorrhoidal yelp. Wes Borland, in skullpaint and bodystocking a guitar-FX Eno to Durst’s reverse Ferry, takes a contrasting approach, conjuring torrents of colonic sludge, shitrush splatter effects and bowl-cracking divebombs. In the parade of number ones, between a career-building film star and a girl group’s last-chance classicism, “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)” is more than a surprise, it’s a dirty protest. Back up, tell me what you’re gonna do now! Grit my teeth, reach for the imodium.

Aug 15

JENNIFER LOPEZ – “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”

Popular38 comments • 1,993 views

#888, 20th January 2001

jlo love Every era of pop has artists who work as a kind of fossil record – they may never put their name behind a great single, but their career is a useful indicator of pop’s shifting baselines and aesthetic whims. A track by them will tell you more about its year than any of its more idiosyncratic, or better, peers. J-Lo, I’d say, is one of these performers. If that seems unfair, it might be because her skills run a lot wider than music. In fact the main thing that sets Jennifer Lopez apart is how versatile she is – she’s shifted between film star, pop star (in Anglo and Latin markets), and TV personality and done solidly well at all of them. You can imagine a number of already-famous women deciding, at 30, that they’d like to get into music. But wanting is easier than doing. For J-Lo to fit so smoothly into millennial pop’s identity parade when her peers were far younger and with fewer built-up associations suggests unusual dexterity.

Jul 15


Popular34 comments • 2,291 views

#887, 13th January 2001

ruidasilva This Cassandra beats her mythical namesake: people demonstrably listened to her, it’s just hard to remember what she sang. You’d have been forgiven for thinking the allocation of dance number ones at this point was working on something like a quota system: a slot needed to be filled, every twenty or so weeks, and some arcane quango had landed the job of deciding exactly which tracks would qualify. So “Dooms Night”, “Sandstorm”, “Kernkraft 400” all narrowly missed the top, and Rui Da Silva gets the nod. But really there’s no mystery as to how “Touch Me” got here – it was a clubland hit, and doomed attempts to clear a Spandau Ballet sample meant it had plenty of time to build demand such that 70,000-ish people nabbed it when it did finally get a wider release. The rest is simply luck, and a gap in the schedules.

Jul 15

Popular ’00

Popular37 comments • 1,589 views

Well, it took longer than I wanted, but we got there in the end: the 42 number ones of 2000, now reviewed and ready for your polling delectation. I give every number one a mark out of ten – here is where you can say what you’d have handed out. High scores this time from me included a 10 for Britney’s “Oops!” and 9s for Spiller and Black Coffee in a strong year. Which was also, by dint of the sheer number of hits, a weak year, with Mariah/Westlife and Five/Queen the double stinkers by my estimation. Over to you.

Which of the Number Ones of 2000 Would You Give 6 Or More To?

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Jul 15

BOB THE BUILDER – “Can We Fix It?”

Popular24 comments • 2,180 views

#886, 23rd December 2000

bobcanwe Her career catalysed by her inclusion on “Stan”, Dido’s soft-spoken, ruminative pop became a familiar sound in early 00s Britain. On her second album, Life For Rent, she hit on a metaphor that cuts to the country’s quick, and obliquely hints why a stout claymation builder became the best-selling song of this over-stuffed year. “Life For Rent”, the song, takes the difference between renting and owning as its organising metaphor. “If my life is for rent,” Dido sings wistfully, “And I don’t learn to buy, I deserve nothing more than I get, cos nothing I have is truly mine”. Renting is provisionality, fear, the option of people who are just passing through, and whose opinion is too weak to count for much. Buying, on the other hand – now that’s commitment, maturity, the act of an adult.