Popular

16
Aug 15

ATOMIC KITTEN – “Whole Again”

Popular50 comments • 2,788 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.

10
Aug 15

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

Popular108 comments • 4,311 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.

9
Aug 15

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

Popular38 comments • 1,877 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.

27
Jul 15

RUI DA SILVA ft CASSANDRA – “Touch Me”

Popular34 comments • 2,227 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.

26
Jul 15

Popular ’00

Popular37 comments • 1,538 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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Use the comments for other lists, reminiscences, etc etc.

17
Jul 15

BOB THE BUILDER – “Can We Fix It?”

Popular24 comments • 2,104 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.

10
Jul 15

EMINEM – “Stan”

Popular51 comments • 3,977 views

#885, 16th December 2000

emstan “Stan” is a murder ballad. A song – not the first or last such Eminem recorded – about killing a woman. If this seems a strange way to look at it, it’s because the record takes pains to make its murder incidental. Its victim is nameless. We know Stan’s name. We know his brother, Matthew’s. We know Slim, the persona Stan is writing to, and we know Marshall Mathers, the man who replies. We even know a possible name for the child the murdered woman is carrying. We do not know her name. That isn’t where we’re supposed to be looking. The spotlight in the song is on the relationship between two men, star and fan. It’s how Stan would have wanted it.

Still, the murder is not incidental: it’s the climax of the record. All through the song, beautifully layered under the vocals, are background noises. They accompany Eminem’s conversational, half-spoken rapping and the unassuming, mid-tempo beat: literal scribbles in the margin of the track, encroaching thunder and rain. In the third verse, the rain is broken up by the wet swoosh of a car windscreen wiper, and, on cue, a woman screaming. Her death, and Stan’s, are what this track has been leading up to.

6
Jul 15

S CLUB 7 – “Never Had A Dream Come True”

Popular28 comments • 1,693 views

#884, 9th December 2000

sclubnever “Never Had A Dream Come True” is enjoyably drippy, but does nothing to shake my sense that S Club 7 are the blandest proposition of this pop era. Like their other early records, it’s aimed at kids, and it feels aimed at kids: a Fisher-Price heartbreak set, a ballad which is as much a teaching aid for what ballads are like as a track in its own right. It doesn’t do its job at all badly, though. It fills the mulled December ballad gap the Spice Girls left behind, and the decision to drop the band element and give the whole track to Jo O’Meara works, gives the heartache a consistency and intensity the song probably wasn’t strong enough to sustain with a group vocal. There’s an air of innocent sincerity to this despite its functional TV show origins, one that lets it get away with its purely textbook sentiment. It’s an ordinary song done as well as it could have been.

4
Jul 15

DESTINY’S CHILD – “Independent Women, Part 1″

Popular71 comments • 2,846 views

#883, 2nd December 2000

destinyswomen It’s hard not to let what Beyoncé Knowles was become swamped by what she is. A veteran, an icon, a woman enjoying a remarkable critical peak, an earner, second only to headphone mogul Dr Dre on current musical money lists – Beyoncé, as she is happy to tell us, works astonishingly hard, but one of the things she works at is controlling her narrative, shaping her career so that each step seems higher than the last, and her success appears pre-ordained. It was there in the name of her own group. “Child of destiny… independent me…”. But that’s only a story. Nothing is really inevitable, and Beyoncé enters Popular running, working, managing her options, using her group’s remarkable success as a springboard, while trying to win a PR battle over the palace coup that finished a multi-platinum line-up and cut a quartet to a reshuffled trio.

28
Jun 15

New Popular Entries: Where And When?

Popular21 comments • 963 views

Hello – just a quick note to reassure people that we haven’t gone back to the bad old days of no updates. My situation is as follows – I’ve been on a long, complicated work project which finishes tomorrow. Then on Tuesday I’m going into hospital to have my gall bladder taken out – if all goes well I’ll be out on Tuesday night and will be recuperating for a week or two. At some point during that I’ll start updating Popular regularly again!

(The next entry is actually half written – if I manage to finish it I’ll put that up, as it offers a bit more discursive meat than poor LeAnn.)

Meanwhile, this is an excellent opportunity to go check out the masses of new recent posts on Marcello and Lena’s Then Play Long blog, which has surged back into activity with some superb writing on the LPs of 1989.

See you all soon! Tom.