Popular

22
Oct 19

T.A.T.U. – “All The Things She Said”

Popular23 comments • 2,230 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”

Popular21 comments • 1,405 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 • 906 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”

Popular33 comments • 1,969 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”

Popular10 comments • 1,250 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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24
Sep 19

EMINEM – “Lose Yourself”

Popular17 comments • 1,548 views

#944, 14th December 2002

There’s a convention in DC Comics – started by Frank Miller with Batman in the mid-80s – of “Year One” stories. You take an established character and rewind back to the beginning of their career, digging into their early doubts and missteps. These stories have an aura of seriousness to them – they’re reaching for the definitive, and there’s a sense that everyone involved is taking a little more care than usual. “Lose Yourself” – and maybe the 8 Mile film it comes from – is Eminem: Year One, an origin story for 21st Century America’s newest super-creep.

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20
Sep 19

DANIEL BEDINGFIELD – “If You’re Not The One”

Popular10 comments • 1,106 views

#943, 7th December 2002

There’s a trope – more apocryphal than actually seen, these days – of the serious songwriter who dismisses the crap in the charts as mere formula and hints that, were they so minded, they could churn out a hit to order too. Fortunately they have better things to do than write music they think is awful.

Not all songwriters are so selfless. Daniel Bedingfield, for instance, shut himself away with some Westlife records, figuring the path to success lay in making music he detested. Having found that making music he liked worked just as well, it’s a shame he didn’t drop the idea. Still, he was right – his calculated attempt at a pop ballad really did sell.

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7
Sep 19

CHRISTINA AGUILERA ft REDMAN – “Dirrty”

Popular17 comments • 1,824 views

#942, 23rd November 2002

Christina Aguilera’s album title, Stripped, has an obvious double-meaning, one she’s been keen to point out to interviewers. Stripping off, yes, clearly, but also stripping back, removing the layers of industry wrapping to reveal the individual underneath. Raw or in the raw, she’s saying, this is the real thing. Or at least, realer than the last one.

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31
Aug 19

WESTLIFE – “Unbreakable”

Popular16 comments • 1,257 views

#941, 16th November 2002

They’re perhaps not intended to be, but Greatest Hits albums are often a sign of a band’s waning vitality, a signal to the fans that the group are moving to an autumnal phase, inviting listeners to tread their way through former hits like fallen leaves. The odd new track can’t truly hide the marks of age. “Unbreakable” is not an odd new track, in fact it’s relentlessly plain, an acoustic-led plod through the Westlife formula which does the things you’d expect in the places you’re expecting them. It’s unmistakable, indeed.

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23
Aug 19

DJ SAMMY & YANOU ft DO – “Heaven”

Popular19 comments • 1,747 views

#940, 9th November 2002

Before writing this entry I scoured the Internet to see if DJ Sammy had ever said or done anything interesting. I drew a blank. He’s the model of a jobbing Euro-DJ, lucky enough to get one big break in his 30-year career and canny enough to ride it. In the most recent interview I could find, an Australian journalist asks him if he’s bringing any new material to tour Down Under? Yes, he replies, a new remix of “Heaven”.

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