Popular

31
Dec 19

TOMCRAFT – “Loneliness”

FT + Popular16 comments • 1,704 views

#953, 10th May 2003

Artwork for the single Loneliness by TomcraftAndrea Martin’s “Share Your Love” is an attractively crafted 1998 R&B tune about loving a philanderer. She opens with a sad idea, “Happiness seems to be loneliness, and loneliness killed my world / How could you guess, when you’re only thinking of yourself, and how you look to other girls”. In Martin’s song, she develops the feeling, but Tomcraft, a German DJ, saw the potential in the lines as a pure moment.

28
Dec 19

BUSTED – “You Said No”

Popular18 comments • 1,532 views

#952, 3rd May 2003

While Busted enjoy a warm second career on the reformation circuit, time hasn’t always been kind to the hairy-palmed pop-punk they kicked off with. The line between cheekiness and creepiness has shifted in the last fifteen years, and a song like “Britney” (“Tracking you down on the internet / Cos I ain’t seen you naked yet”) was likely on the wrong side to begin with.

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18
Dec 19

ROOM 5 ft OLIVER CHEATHAM – “Make Luv”

Popular17 comments • 1,547 views

#951, 5th April 2003

The sound of a subgenre on its deathbed. We’ve had some good times with filter-disco, or French touch, or whatever you want to call this woozy sound. At its best the filter effect worked like shades in a solar eclipse, a hazy distancing effect protecting you from druggy emotion too bright and stark to confront head-on.

“Make Luv” is the sound long past its best, though. Everything about the record feels half-arsed, as if adequacy was the aim. (It’s achieved, not that it matters.) The name of the act – a disguise for Italian house producer Junior Jack – the title, the earthbound trundle of the sounds, even the origin of its popularity in an ad for tacky lad’s deodorant Lynx… it could all have been designed to feel as devitalised as possible, a set of words and images entirely free of resonance. Poor Oliver Cheatham, sampled to give the record its hooks and spine, ends up just another part of the listless whole. “I like to party,” he sings, and then, in case you thought he might be staking a claim on a life of devil-may-care hedonism, “everybody does.” Well, quite.

17
Dec 19

GARETH GATES ft THE KUMARS – “Spirit In The Sky”

Popular13 comments • 1,595 views

#950, 22nd March 2003

This is Comic Relief getting back to its roots – a familiar song, disrupted by the comic turn. I never watched the Kumars, and the clips I looked at for research don’t make me feel I missed too much – a take on the fake chat show subgenre, cosy enough to be long-running (i.e., it didn’t make idiots of its guests). This single mirrors the set-up – Gareth is the bemused outsider, Sanjeev the earnest wannabe, the rest of the family scuppering his plans and his “big sitar solo” in their bustling eagerness to get involved. And the cast get stuck in to the concept with professional gusto. Fun is being had, though perhaps not by you.

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27
Nov 19

CHRISTINA AGUILERA – “Beautiful”

Popular13 comments • 2,554 views

#949, 8th March 2003

One of the notable things about “Beautiful” is that having written it, Linda Perry wanted to keep it for a proposed solo career – it was one of her “personal” songs. So the question is – would the song make more sense sung by a woman staring down forty, her big hit a decade gone, in a business that’s notoriously unforgiving to women who age? Is its scenario – panic’s sudden grab at the throat – one that transfers?

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22
Oct 19

T.A.T.U. – “All The Things She Said”

Popular23 comments • 3,348 views

#948, 8th February 2003

Nobody could claim that time and changing norms have rendered t.A.T.u. problematic; they were glaringly, undeniably skeevy from the off. Executive producer Ivan Shapovalov – who masterminded the duo’s anime schoolgirl look and teenage lesbians on the run schtick – seems like a more honestly sleazy Malcolm McLaren (Bow Wow Wow edition). All the trolling, none of the philosophy.

To which Shapovalov might say, well, you let me get away with it. His follow-up to t.A.T.u. was niqab-wearing “terrorist pop star” N.A.T.O., a bit of Islamophobic pantomime. It touched on much rawer symbols and taboos and the project was a flop. With t.A.T.u., on the other hand – conceived in the year “….Baby One More Time” smashed charts worldwide – the group were surrounded by a teenpop culture where suggestions of underage sex worked like a black market currency. If time has changed how t.A.T.u feel, it’s by shrinking the measurable difference between them and the pop that surrounded them. Shapovalov was just saying the quiet part loud.

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15
Oct 19

DAVID SNEDDON – “Stop Living The Lie”

Popular22 comments • 2,270 views

#947, 25th January 2003

One possible reason Popstars’ producers risked an unconventional song with Girls Aloud: the show itself had competition. The BBC approached the reality TV era warily, but there was no way the Corporation could stay fully aloof from those kind of viewer numbers. Still, appearances had to be kept up – if the BBC was going to run a talent show, then by jingo it would involve real talent. And, in pop terms, that meant songwriting.

The resulting show, Fame Academy, was originally developed by Endemol as a Pop Idol/Big Brother crossbreed – the novelty was that the contestants all lived together in a house being taught the ways of stardom (Academy, see?). The BBC’s publicity leaned heavily on the teaching aspect, perhaps hoping that an educational aura would somehow settle on a show clearly designed to steal ITV’s Popstars thunder.

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9
Oct 19

Popular ’02

Popular12 comments • 1,200 views

Last time we did one of these Obama was president, so a quick reminder is probably due – I give every Number One a mark out of 10. This is where YOU get the opportunity to vote on which hits you’d have given 6 or more to. My own highest marks were a 10 for Sugababes and 9s for Aaliyah and Girls Aloud, while at the other end Ronan, Gareth’n’Will, Westlife and ver Kitten picked up 2s.

Which Of The Number One Hits Of 2002 Would YOU Have Given 6 Or More To?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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Discuss the year in general in the comments! (If you want)

8
Oct 19

GIRLS ALOUD – “Sound Of The Underground”

Popular34 comments • 2,949 views

#946, 28th December 2002

Looked at one way, this had to happen. Reality TV pop shows weren’t going away. Lightning had struck for Hear’Say, then again for Liberty X, then so often for Pop Idol that you’d think Zeus had the ITV voting lines on speed dial. The maths of it was simple enough: the audience mobilised for reality shows was multiples larger than the crowds pop could normally draw for a new release. Anything a winner released would get to number one. Simon Cowell (and gang) had hacked the charts.

But in doing so they’d also surrendered control. If winning a reality show was the golden ticket, and what you released after didn’t matter, then the winners’ single could get away with far more drama and delight than Cowell’s starchy definition of pop allowed. Critics, me included, who gasped in excited shock when they heard “Sound Of The Underground” – it’s reality TV pop, but good – hadn’t twigged that this outcome was always a possibility. Once you shatter the link between quality – however conservatively measured – and results, you create an opportunity for anything, great or touch-my-bum awful, that’s blocked by the usual filters.

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30
Sep 19

BLUE ft ELTON JOHN – “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”

Popular13 comments • 1,738 views

#945, 21st December 2002

Blue’s last Number One, and any wisps of street credibility which might have still clung to them melt away. Don’t be fooled by the off-the-peg R&B shuffle in the best: just as much as Bedingfield’s effort, this is a cynical push into Westlife territory. More cynical, even – while “If You’re Not The One” had its writer’s formalist curiosity to excuse it, “Sorry” can’t pretend to be anything more than a cross-generational Christmas cash grab.

Perhaps some small degree of respectability accrues to it from Elton’s own involvement? Elton John is a famously enthusiastic and generous collaborator – it’s one of the most endearing things about him, this desire to keep up, join in and just see what happens when musicians meet. But inevitably this approach doesn’t guarantee quality – Elton tackles his lines here with gruff gusto but you imagine the track left his mind pretty soon after the studio door closed behind him. Blue beat their chests and dab ineffectively at the song and don’t leave a mark on it: they scatter a few ad libs around Elton’s vocals to remind us (then and now) that this is 2002.

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