Popular

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Jan 16

ATOMIC KITTEN – “Eternal Flame”

Popular24 comments • 2,178 views

#904, 4th August 2001

kittenflame I feel I was harsh on “Eternal Flame” last time we met it. That may be because the Bangles’ original sounds like a masterclass in dynamics, production and passion next to the Kittens’ effort, which has the romance and mystery of a freshly starched Tesco uniform. In Atomic Kitten’s first appearance here, their glum ex-svengali Andy McCluskey lamented the way his pop experiment was derailed by success: here’s the proof, as the square peg of “Eternal Flame” is forced into a round “Whole Again”.

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Jan 16

ROBBIE WILLIAMS – “Eternity” / “The Road To Mandalay”

Popular17 comments • 1,702 views

#903, 22nd July 2001

Robbie Eternity The album cycle that began with “Rock DJ” a year before staggers to its end four singles later with “The Road To Mandalay”, a bitter squib of a song, pulled from the end of Sing When You’re Winning and paired with new track “Eternity”. “Rock DJ” was a party song with an undercurrent of spite – by this double A-Side, the party’s been over for quite some time. The spite remains.

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Jan 16

ROGER SANCHEZ – “Another Chance”

Popular22 comments • 1,720 views

#902, 14th July 2001

Sanchez “Another Chance” is Roger Sanchez hearing something in the winsome intro of an old Toto hit, cutting it loose, and then letting this tiny scrap of song spin through seven minutes of house music. Or three in the single edit, not as effective: more of less is more. To the songwriters who had toiled to craft these soft rock hits, the use the shiny future put them to may have seemed dystopian –royalties aside, of course.

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Jan 16

HEAR’SAY – “The Way To Your Love”

Popular22 comments • 1,514 views

#901, 7th July 2001

HearsayWay After the story, the appendix. Back in March, 550,000 people put a full stop on Popstars by making “Pure And Simple” number one. Around 1 in 7 of them showed up for the inevitable, pointless follow-up: “The Way To Your Love” makes it here by simple momentum. It exposes the problem with reality TV acts – the way the end of their story isn’t naturally a beginning of anything else.

Still, you might imagine that was enough interest for Hear’Say to eke out a career. But they were never more than the sum of their parts – recall how the viewing figures for Popstars plunged once the band was actually formed. And those parts – Kym and Myleene especially – were canny enough to realise they’d won themselves a future that would vanish again if they spend too much time flogging this nag.

Behind all that, a song. One which helps prove why the group had no future. The disjoint of five voices had been a potential selling point of “Pure And Simple”, at least – seeing how they might work together was a hook, of sorts. Here’s where it became obvious that the answer was “they don’t”. “The Way To Your Love” is built by producers Stargate along Backstreet Boys lines – individual voices rising together into a unity of yearning. As such, it’s serviceable, but it doesn’t fit a mixed-gender group and Hear’Say can’t give it the lift it needs. “We’ll be stronger together / Than we would be apart”, this record pleads. It’s a lie, and they know it.

14
Jan 16

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, LIL KIM, MYA AND PINK – “Lady Marmalade”

Popular23 comments • 1,715 views

#900, 30th June 2001

marmalade Patti Labelle was scandalised, so she said, to learn “Lady Marmalade” is about a hooker. But it’s also about a john – on paper, the payoff of the lyric is that last verse, where the guy goes back to his “grey flannel life” and can’t get Marmalade out of his head. Kenny Nolan and Bob Crewe were tapping into one of the world’s oldest folktales, likely without intention but that’s why folktales work: the man who spends a night of bliss in the otherworld with a magical temptress, returns to his world, and can never be the same.

That tale is rarely told from the temptress’ perspective. In the lyric, Marmalade of old New Orleans is there to be the Other – in race, in language, in location, in profession. But the song “Lady Marmalade” and its singer Patti Labelle fought against its lyric, took it back with a riff, a cry, a vocal hook that centres the song firmly on Marmalade, stops you caring what happens to the guy but still makes you feel what he was drawn to.

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Dec 15

SHAGGY ft RAYVON – “Angel”

Popular23 comments • 1,650 views

#899, 9th June 2001

shaggy angel “Angel” looks like a momentum hit – a song carried along in its predecessor’s slipstream. It’s the weakest Shaggy song we meet, with none of the chutzpah or fun you’d expect from him. But three weeks at the top here and a Billboard #1 suggest this more reflective, romantic Shaggy won an audience in its own right. “Angel”, after all, is kit-built for wide appeal. It has the bassline from Steve Miller’s “The Joker”, the melody line from a much-recorded country standard, and Shaggy’s gruff toasting deployed – as on “It Wasn’t Me” – in brief, newcomer-friendly, patois-free bursts.

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Dec 15

DJ PIED PIPER AND THE MASTER OF CEREMONY – “Do You Really Like It?”

Popular31 comments • 1,713 views

#898, 2nd June 2001

djpied “Jump, don’t ever stop”. One fascinating and melancholy thing lately has been watching dance music grow old. Not just as a genre, coming to terms with itself as something that has a history outside the annihilating 3AM now of the club. That work has proceeded as you might expect (lots of homages). But also as a public, a group of people who invested their youth in its sound and momentum, and now have boxes of records, decks in the shed and over-30s raves on a Saturday. Pride, and bittersweet fondness, no more or less than most of us take away from music.

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Dec 15

GERI HALLIWELL – “It’s Raining Men”

Popular41 comments • 3,164 views

#897, 12th May 2001

gerirain Living with my parents over summer ‘95 I read the Independent, cover to cover, largely as a way to delay writing job applications. I become a small-scale fan of Bridget Jones Diary: Helen Fielding’s columns, comically exaggerated snippets of semi-posh London life, were a minor weekly highlight. On first encounter the pieces felt like a sitcom, and in classic sitcom style they seemed to match a mildly awful (but sympathetic) lead character with several still more awful supports. Fielding had refused to write an autobiographical single-girl-about-town column, preferring to take a more satirical route, but Bridget grew into an icon, and her sitcom grew a storyline.

The gloss of satire, and the repetitive structure a serial column demands, turned out to be a winning combination: Bridget constantly declares that she wants to change, but never can. But because this is a comedy, and she’s its heroine, this flips into something positive. As Kelly Marsh points out in her essay ‘Contextualising Bridget Jones’, Bridget’s surface neurosis masks secret unrepentance: she lays out her consumption of booze, cigs and food, then tells the stories of how she missed her targets with relish. She deals with society’s expectations (and her own) by ironising them. Fielding knows perfectly well that “guilty pleasures” is an idea that polices pleasure, not celebrates it, and every week Bridget would start with that policing, and go on to comically defy it.

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Oct 15

S CLUB 7 – “Don’t Stop Movin'”

Popular76 comments • 4,735 views

#896, 5th May 2001

S Club DSM The unspoken advantage of kit-built pop groups, especially ones made for kids: they’re liberated from attempts to be cool. Often they don’t make full use of this potential. Some decide they want to be cool anyway. Some don’t, but never try for anything more than slush or formula. So why is it an advantage? Because it gives groups access to a toybox of sounds and poses they can use, combine and discard, severed from fashion. Vocoders, for instance, were actually in minor vogue at this point – Daft Punk had found a way to use them sentimentally – but S Club 7’s deployment of synthesised voices is a guileless joy. “Don’t stop movin’ to the S Club beat!”

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Oct 15

DESTINYS CHILD – “Survivor”

Popular61 comments • 3,380 views

#895, 28th April 2001

dc_survivor For a song that seems simple and repetitive, “Survivor” is rammed with hooks. Perhaps the least-remembered but most telling one comes a couple of minutes in, moments before Michelle Williams attempts to wrap a positive homily around the song’s unfettered will to power. “Whoa-oh” sings Beyoncé, and the other girls replicate it, and then pass little melismatic drills back and forth, repeating one another precisely. It’s a segment of abstract but perfect vocal choreography that works as a ritual of unity, a demonstration of the unbreakable closeness of Destiny’s Child. Which needs demonstrating, of course, since the song is generally taken to be a massive fuck-you to the band’s former members.