Popular

24
Jan 20

BEYONCÉ – “Crazy In Love”

Popular3 comments • 225 views

#956, 12th July 2003

History in the making,” says Jay-Z in the intro, and he’s been proven right. As I’ve said before, there’s a temptation with Beyoncé to treat her big moments as inevitable steps in a process of becoming. Her control over her career and image in 2019 – and the directions she’s gone and grown in – exerts a retroactive gravity on the rest of her story. “Crazy In Love” really does feel like a historical landmark, which can make it difficult to recover as a living single.

It’s difficult for Beyoncé too – on her 2019 Homecoming live album she drops it at the start of her set, in a place of honour, and at first treats it with the warmth an old friend deserves. It’s a way to show how she’s grown as a singer – her voice on the first verse is richer, fuller of feeling, than it was on the original. But halfway through the song she turns away from it, first following the line of its beat into a funk jam then switching out from it entirely.

19
Jan 20

EVANESCENCE – “Bring Me To Life”

Popular18 comments • 1,341 views

#955, 14th June 2003

Corporate rock, a vignette: the label wanted Evanescence to add a male co-vocalist all through their debut album. The band said no, and so a compromise was met – Amy Lee would be joined by a growly dude only on this first single.

4
Jan 20

R. KELLY – “Ignition (Remix)”

Popular67 comments • 5,253 views

#954, 17th May 2003

So here we are. In 2014, when I wrote the entry for “I Believe I Can Fly”, acknowledging the monstrousness of R Kelly, I had plans to make this piece some sort of grand follow-up. Here is a song that – when I started Popular – was the most beloved of its year. I’ve heard “Ignition (Remix)” in clubs; I’ve danced to it; I’ve watched threads online spiral into giddy delight over it. I expect it was played at my wedding. I expect I played it.

Will I ever play it again? I doubt it. I remember its creamy confidence, its conspiratorial, tale-telling joy well enough not to bother. To this day, any time I’m in a hotel lobby my brain jumps a track and “after the party, the hotel lobby” wanders into my mind. Not as a welcome or unwelcome guest, either, just a well-used connection whose spark lies somewhere below the conscious. “Ignition (Remix)” is part of the mental furniture.

31
Dec 19

TOMCRAFT – “Loneliness”

FT + Popular15 comments • 1,172 views

#953, 10th May 2003

Artwork for the single Loneliness by TomcraftAndrea Martin’s “Share Your Love” is an attractively crafted 1998 R&B tune about loving a philanderer. She opens with a sad idea, “Happiness seems to be loneliness, and loneliness killed my world / How could you guess, when you’re only thinking of yourself, and how you look to other girls”. In Martin’s song, she develops the feeling, but Tomcraft, a German DJ, saw the potential in the lines as a pure moment.

28
Dec 19

BUSTED – “You Said No”

Popular18 comments • 1,134 views

#952, 3rd May 2003

While Busted enjoy a warm second career on the reformation circuit, time hasn’t always been kind to the hairy-palmed pop-punk they kicked off with. The line between cheekiness and creepiness has shifted in the last fifteen years, and a song like “Britney” (“Tracking you down on the internet / Cos I ain’t seen you naked yet”) was likely on the wrong side to begin with.

»
More

18
Dec 19

ROOM 5 ft OLIVER CHEATHAM – “Make Luv”

Popular17 comments • 1,137 views

#951, 5th April 2003

The sound of a subgenre on its deathbed. We’ve had some good times with filter-disco, or French touch, or whatever you want to call this woozy sound. At its best the filter effect worked like shades in a solar eclipse, a hazy distancing effect protecting you from druggy emotion too bright and stark to confront head-on.

“Make Luv” is the sound long past its best, though. Everything about the record feels half-arsed, as if adequacy was the aim. (It’s achieved, not that it matters.) The name of the act – a disguise for Italian house producer Junior Jack – the title, the earthbound trundle of the sounds, even the origin of its popularity in an ad for tacky lad’s deodorant Lynx… it could all have been designed to feel as devitalised as possible, a set of words and images entirely free of resonance. Poor Oliver Cheatham, sampled to give the record its hooks and spine, ends up just another part of the listless whole. “I like to party,” he sings, and then, in case you thought he might be staking a claim on a life of devil-may-care hedonism, “everybody does.” Well, quite.

17
Dec 19

GARETH GATES ft THE KUMARS – “Spirit In The Sky”

Popular13 comments • 1,189 views

#950, 22nd March 2003

This is Comic Relief getting back to its roots – a familiar song, disrupted by the comic turn. I never watched the Kumars, and the clips I looked at for research don’t make me feel I missed too much – a take on the fake chat show subgenre, cosy enough to be long-running (i.e., it didn’t make idiots of its guests). This single mirrors the set-up – Gareth is the bemused outsider, Sanjeev the earnest wannabe, the rest of the family scuppering his plans and his “big sitar solo” in their bustling eagerness to get involved. And the cast get stuck in to the concept with professional gusto. Fun is being had, though perhaps not by you.

»
More

27
Nov 19

CHRISTINA AGUILERA – “Beautiful”

Popular13 comments • 2,102 views

#949, 8th March 2003

One of the notable things about “Beautiful” is that having written it, Linda Perry wanted to keep it for a proposed solo career – it was one of her “personal” songs. So the question is – would the song make more sense sung by a woman staring down forty, her big hit a decade gone, in a business that’s notoriously unforgiving to women who age? Is its scenario – panic’s sudden grab at the throat – one that transfers?

»
More

22
Oct 19

T.A.T.U. – “All The Things She Said”

Popular23 comments • 2,846 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.

»
More

15
Oct 19

DAVID SNEDDON – “Stop Living The Lie”

Popular22 comments • 1,789 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.

»
More