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8
Jul 19

LAS KETCHUP – “Asereje (The Ketchup Song)”

Popular29 comments • 1,175 views

#938, 19th October 2002

A throwback to simpler times – the European novelty hit that spreads across the continent, sparking the dry tinder of holiday nostalgia, reaching Britain in time for bonfire season. Family act Las Ketchup were recruited by Spanish producer Manuel Ruiz for just this effect, and the project was ludicrously successful – an ongoing career for the Munoz sisters and a debut LP which shifted an eye-popping 12 million copies. Four of its eleven tracks are incarnations of “Asereje”: the days of Boney M, and the dance group as steady hitmaker, are long gone. You only get one shot.

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25
Jun 19

GARETH GATES AND WILL YOUNG – “The Long And Winding Road”

Popular31 comments • 1,651 views

#937, 5th October 2002

Let’s imagine a world – apparently this is a good idea – where the Beatles never existed, and where “The Long And Winding Road” exists only in this form, as a slow ballad duet between the winner and runner-up of a singing competition. I think it would make very little sense – this is a song about the long game of romantic destiny, about the workings of fate leading you to the place where, you realise, exhausted, that you were always heading. It has no business being a duet, unless – a-ha! – the dyad in question isn’t the singer and some welcoming other, but the two singers themselves. Maybe that’s the point: the closure the song is offering is an end to the Pop Idol story, two rivals-turned-partners riding into the sunset.

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13
May 19

PINK – “Just Like A Pill”

Popular21 comments • 2,289 views

#936, 28th September 2002

At the time, I didn’t warm to Pink’s overt rebrand. For one thing, the brusque R&B singer of “You Make Me Sick” already seemed fierce, and fierce in a more interesting way than a pop-rock restyle promised. For another, the heel turn from pop star to pop rejector seemed messy and unfinished – “Get The Party Started” was terrific, but tighter and slicker than any of her R&B hits; “Don’t Let Me Get Me” lurched the other way, a take-it-or-leave-it splat of rejection on top of muffled, churning beats.

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29
Dec 18

ATOMIC KITTEN – “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)”

Popular31 comments • 3,277 views

#935, 7th September 2002

Sometimes when this project stalls it’s because there’s a song too tricky or terrible to write about. You might think that’s the case here: it’s not. “The Tide Is High (Got The Feeling)” is indeed terrible, but its wretchedness is banal, readily apparent. There’s nothing here to get your head around: it’s a bad cover version, in an era of bad cover versions, performed mechanically by a band whose character was deliberately bleached out of them when success hit. There’s no long term plan, no devilishly clever marketing scheme – in fact the marketing is as transparent as the rest of the record.

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6
Sep 18

BLAZIN’ SQUAD – “Crossroads”

Popular32 comments • 2,954 views

#934, 31st August 2002

If Blazin’ Squad had never existed, would it have been necessary to invent them? You suspect record labels would have given it a so-solid try: a hydra-headed rapping crew, but full of youthful good looks and free of nasty predelictions? Too good to resist, at least in this weird, early-00s phase where it’s equally clear that the public want to buy rap records (maybe even British ones!) and the labels don’t have much idea what will or won’t cross over.

In fact, before I did my research, I assumed Blazin’ Squad were ‘manufactured’. Now I’d prefer to call it ‘sculpted’ – from the marble of an eager bunch of North London schoolfriends somebody carved this hit cover. Why “Crossroads”, though? A proven earworm; a familiar chorus and a structure with plenty of space for voices to gather and mingle.

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10
May 18

SUGABABES – “Round Round”

Popular19 comments • 3,236 views

#933, 24th August 2002

sugaround Xenomania – the songwriting and production team on “Round Round”, led by Miranda Cooper and Brian Higgins – defined 00s British pop, at least in the eyes of chart-friendly critics. Their magpie approach to genre, their patchwork song structures, their knack for a resonant line, all added up to music that wore its artfulness and populism with equal pride. If you believed that pop was worth celebrating, Xenomania provided gift-wrapped proof.

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11
Feb 18

DARIUS – “Colourblind”

Popular39 comments • 3,762 views

#932, 10th August 2002

9107BD35-B240-405A-9FD3-5D696EB34B86 Such was the grip of Pop Idol on the singles-buying imagination that two winners weren’t enough – bronze medalist Darius Danesh got a career too. But “Colourblind” is not just a participation medal. In Darius we see not one but two of the classic reality pop tropes make their appearance. First of all – in his note-strangling debut on the Popstars series, wrestling “Baby One More Time” to the ground like prehistoric man tackling an aurochs, there’s the Freak: the terrible performer armoured in their own self-confidence who we indulge because we want to see what on earth they’ll do next.

There’s little question that if the public had been given any say in things we’d have seen more from Darius in Popstars. But by the time they got a chance to vote for him and carry him to third place in Pop Idol, he’d reinvented himself to fit the second trope, the Artist: the figure who is Actually Talented but who must yet put themselves through the circus of a singing competition to gain recognition. “Colourblind”, fittingly, was a self-penned composition he’d been ‘working on’ before Pop Idol. (Actually this is entirely believable – its procession-of-colours lyric certainly feels like the kind of solid but banal structure a beginning songwriter might try.)

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1
Feb 18

GARETH GATES – “Anyone Of Us (Stupid Mistake)”

Popular17 comments • 2,921 views

#931, 20th July 2002

gates anyoneIf you’re going to apologise for infidelity, “it could happen to anyone” is not the best starting point, but in its very callowness this is a much more suitable song for Gareth Gates than any of the other stuff he was handed. Gates’ selling point – the reason he’d almost won – was his teen idol innocence, a perception of naivety which gave the tabloids a stereotype-fuelled field day when he had a fling with Katie Price.

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23
Jan 18

ELVIS VS JXL – “A Little Less Conversation”

Popular44 comments • 4,037 views

#930, 22nd June 2002

elvis jxl 2002 was the 50th anniversary of the charts, and Elvis had been dead for half those fifty years. The scale of the public reaction upon his death took media observers by surprise; the Elvis industry kept on rolling, turning a star back into an icon. By 2002 the name was still household, the face still instant, his life and death bywords for some kind of American promise, or tragedy, or comedy. What about the music? There, perhaps, was a problem. Was Elvis “relevant”?

“Who cares?” you might ask. To the people who stood to make money off it, that response was naive. But for some there was also a question of cultural propriety – Elvis was the first dead rock’n’roll icon whose work risked losing its audience, fading into a gentle twilight, respected but hardly heard. His partisans might not have put it so crudely, but the impulse was clear – Elvis mattered, and had to be seen to matter. The corpse must be re-powdered and kept on show.

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12
Nov 17

WILL YOUNG – “Light My Fire”

Popular44 comments • 3,833 views

#929, 8th June 2002

will young fire It’s hardly unusual for a reality TV star to try and cement their precarious fame with a cover version. Will Young’s puckish take on “Light My Fire”, a cover of Jose Feliciano’s cover of Jim Morrison’s signature come-on, is particularly well-taken. His verse delivery is enjoyably arch, keeping a distance between himself and the hoary material, but he gives enough of an impression of losing himself in the chorus for it not to be a total mickey-take. The overall impression is of an unusually honest take on contractual obligation – “I know this is how the game is played, and I’m going to play it, but I’m not going to con you, so let’s make this as fun as we can.”

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