Popular

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Nov 14

RICKY MARTIN – “Livin’ La Vida Loca”

Popular48 comments • 2,207 views

#830, 17th July 1999

vidaloca It’s a curious rule of the British public and charts that we don’t care much about Latin music – its rhythms and stars remain strange to us when we’ll embrace (and try to absorb) almost anything else. But very occasionally, our aloofness slips. In the USA, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” punched through from Latin charts to pop ones and began a small explosion of interest in Latin music. And even here we felt the shockwave: “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is the first of a handful of Latin – at a stretch – number ones in 1999. But it matched an uptick of interest outside pop – that summer my office ditched the usual team-building paintball for a compulsory salsa dance class. An experiment, like Ricky Martin as the UK’s Number One, that was raucously entertaining but still never repeated.

5
Nov 14

ATB – “9PM (Til I Come)”

Popular91 comments • 2,829 views

#829, 3rd July 1999

atb The story of breathy trance* hit “9PM (Til I Come)” begins with producer ATB bringing his girlfriend to his studio to check out his instruments. And it continues with him ignoring her and working on an awesome guitar sound until he looked at his watch three hours later and named the track. The vocals he ported in afterwards, from a TV show he was watching. The girlfriend’s response is unrecorded. (Why did he even mention her in the first place, you might ask. I’m not sure. A demonstration of the monkish dedication of the true dance auteur, perhaps?)

4
Nov 14

THE VENGABOYS – “Boom Boom Boom Boom”

Popular46 comments • 2,114 views

#828, 26th June 1999

vengaboom The 90s in the British charts are topped and tailed by two mighty surges of Europop. The first was a club music – a polyglot of house, hip-hop and rave heralded by Snap! and epitomised by 2 Unlimited and Culture Beat. The second, led by Aqua, was also designed for dancing, but as much in school discos as tourist nightspots. It was a music built on gleeful gimmickry and seemed to sell mostly to the continent’s kids. And for a few months in the Summer of 1999 the Vengaboys were its hottest ticket.

2
Nov 14

S CLUB 7 – “Bring It All Back”

Popular77 comments • 2,331 views

#827, 19th June 1999

s club biab Simon Fuller claims that the idea for S Club 7 came to him the day after the Spice Girls fired him. It’s a typical bit of entrepreneurial storytelling – the darkest moment is always another opportunity, don’tcha know? But it’s a useful comparison – if you want to know what the Spice Girls brought to their music, contrast them with S Club. Out with distinct personalities, in with colour coding. Down with the modern, up with pastiches. Away with girl power and the pop of everyday life, bring on pop as everyday life: a meta-pop TV show, Miami 7, starring S Club as a pop group trying to make it in the US.

29
Oct 14

BAZ LUHRMANN – “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

Popular95 comments • 3,532 views

#826, 12th June 1999

sunscreen “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” is an artefact from the Pre-Cambrian of social media, a fossil ancestor of today’s viral hits. You could go further: by making the jump into offline culture, it’s a kind of missing link to them. Natively, though, it belongs to the long, grey, clickless epoch of text-only circulation: paragraphs indented by lines of arrows, replicating in the unseen spaces of email accounts, far from the light of analytics.

24
Oct 14

SHANKS AND BIGFOOT – “Sweet Like Chocolate”

Popular30 comments • 1,912 views

#825, 29th May 1999

shanks Seeds sown in London’s clubland bloom in the charts sooner or later – but sometimes there’s a particularly fine flowering, an alignment of pop and underground when the most beguiling and unexpected of the capital’s sounds are also precisely what the country wants to buy. 2-Step – the off-kilter sound of UK garage at the end of the 1990s – was one such moment.

20
Oct 14

BOYZONE – “You Needed Me”

Popular59 comments • 1,962 views

#824, 22nd May 1999

bzneeded There’s no “Goodbye” or “Never Forget” for Boyzone, no bravura statement of a legacy: that legacy, after all, was happily preparing its second single. Ronan and the lads’ final release missed the top, but as a valediction, this will do. It’s a cover of a string-soaked number by Anne Murray, a country-esque hit (Grammy-awarded, no less) from the 70s heyday of Tammy or Dolly. In either incarnation, it’s something of a slog – a pretty, wistful melody laden down by a glutinous arrangement and a lyric that peters out. Under Boyzone’s care it’s basically a Ronan spotlight number – so whether intentionally or not it feels like priming the audience for the imminent solo career.

19
Oct 14

THE BACKSTREET BOYS – “I Want It That Way”

Popular26 comments • 1,817 views

#823, 15th May 1999

backstreets With Westlife, Simon Cowell was finding a way to broaden the appeal of male vocal groups, and create something more stable than the firework appeal of the traditional boyband. But the old model was resilient, and more to the point, it was still astonishingly profitable. Britney Spears – who shared songwriters and producers with the Backstreet Boys – had seen her early solo aspirations dismissed as a needless risk: lone stars were finished, groups were the future. And this was why: the state of the pop art, number one worldwide, a band ascending into an Imperial Phase.

12
Oct 14

WESTLIFE – “Swear It Again”

Popular85 comments • 3,540 views

#822, 1st May 1999

westlife swear Westlife have always been this blog’s nemesis, the doom encoded in its premise: however entertaining the song or era I’m writing about is, at some point I will have to deal with fourteen Westlife number ones. There have been times when I’ve wondered myself what on earth I would say, given that from a standing start I could barely remember two of them. But here we are.

Implicit in the jokes is a feeling that Westlife are different. Look at the list of the most successful Number One acts – Elvis, the Beatles, Westlife. One of these things is not like the others, apparently. The scale of Westlife’s success, more than almost any other factor, was enough to convince even sympathisers that the charts were broken, that pop was broken, a damaged transmitter no longer capable of processing the cultural signals around it.

9
Oct 14

MARTINE McCUTCHEON – “Perfect Moment”

Popular41 comments • 1,847 views

#821, 17th April 1999

MartineM Soap star to pop star had been an effective route to fame in the late 80s: Kylie and Jason turning their next-dooriness into a ready-made pop identity, the line between their characters and their pop personas as fuzzy as SAW could make it. In the stage-school era of pop stardom you might expect that to be a template – but this is a rare sustained attempt, and it flared and faded quickly: Martine McCutcheon was dropped before her third album (songs from the shows) could come out.

She is still famous, though – no recent achievements to match her stint on Eastenders or her Number One, but none of the small humiliations of diminishing celebrity, either: no Celebrity Big Brother stints, no grisly comebacks. And the reason, I think, was also key to her acting and pop success: in her heyday there was something essentially likeable about McCutcheon – to be cynical, there was no money, or audience, in seeing her embarrassed or made to look bad. Which is not at all true of many celebrities. Bad things happening to her were another matter, though. McCutcheon’s Eastenders character, Tiffany Mitchell, became sensationally popular as a sort of modern-day Little Nell – a kindly soul plot-abused even by the fearsome standards of Walford, E20, who died in a hit-and-run at New Years’ 1998.