Popular

24
Mar 21

WILL YOUNG – “Leave Right Now”

Popular12 comments • 1,653 views

#966, 6th December 2003

Eg White, the songwriter on “Leave Right Now”, had an intriguing half-career out in the far suburbs of British pop. His album as part of Eg And Alice, 24 Years Of Hunger, has quietly acquired cult status; it’s sophisticated but erratic. Like Daniel Bedingfield, White was a young songwriter trying on his inspirations for size (at one point there’s an unexpected but exciting stab at Remain In Light era David Byrne). Released into a world too earthy and raucous for it, it made no impression – I remember the cassette of it in Our Price sale after sale, forever ignored.

1
Dec 20

WESTLIFE – “Mandy”

Popular9 comments • 2,378 views

#965, 26th November 2003

The tears are on their mind and nothing is rhyming. Sometime between previous single “Hey Whatever!” – a very non-Imperial number 4 – and this cover version, Brian McFadden decided it was time for the dream to end and handed in his notice. Sometimes when boys quit a band it’s a shock – a profitable enterprise cut cruelly short. But Westlife shedding a member felt like part of an ongoing process, a group winding gently down.

1
Nov 20

BUSTED – “Crashed The Wedding”

Popular10 comments • 2,032 views

#964, 22nd November 2003

“You Said No” was an uneven mix of Busted’s charms and their weaknesses; “Crashed The Wedding” is all upside. All of Busted’s singles so far have played like episodes in the band’s imaginary TV show – a vaguely naughty comedy story; a goofy sci-fi pastiche; a high school melodrama. “Crashed The Wedding” is more like the climax of the group’s first movie, the riotous denouement of a pop-punk rom-com. Though the ‘punk’ side is getting even more vestigial – this is scruffbag power-pop, and all the better for it.

28
Apr 20

KYLIE MINOGUE – “Slow”

Popular22 comments • 5,074 views

#963, 15th November 2003

I’m raising money for domestic violence charity Refuge by running a People’s Pop Poll on Twitter, which starts in May. If you can spare any money, please consider donating (and nominating a favourite pop track!)

The extraordinary success of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” did more than revive Kylie – it confirmed her, all over again, as an adopted national treasure, a woman who’d be guaranteed at least a respectful hearing, whatever she did next. And it liberated her to let that “next” be whatever she liked, from electrotrash, to weird country-pop, to full-orchestration belters. She went from being an act who a site like Pitchfork would review for an April Fool’s Joke to someone they’d cover instinctively, a journey to respectability the rest of pop took alongside her. For good and ill.

9
Mar 20

FATMAN SCOOP ft CROOKLYN CLAN – “Be Faithful”

Popular28 comments • 3,636 views

#962, 1st November 2003

The NME once put Public Enemy on the cover with the strapline “The Hardest Working Man In Yo! Business” – you feel Fatman Scoop might fancy a shot at that title. It’s not so much the intensity of his hustle, but the breadth of it – he branched out from hype man to radio DJ to featured artist to DVD producer to Celebrity Big Brother star, barreling through a career on confidence, connections, and that parade-ground bellow of a voice.

5
Mar 20

SUGABABES – “Hole In The Head”

Popular19 comments • 2,401 views

#961, 25th October 2003

“Hole In The Head” has three tough acts to follow. “Overload”, the one which perfectly introduced the Sugababes and their core idea – talk-to-the-hand teenage moodiness as a girl group operating system. “Freak Like Me”, the one (and the one-off) which brought them back from the edge of dissolution. And “Round Round”, the one which established, with an easy confidence, who the Sugababes were as a newly stable concern. 

23
Feb 20

THE BLACK EYED PEAS ft JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – “Where Is The Love?”

Popular19 comments • 3,333 views

#960, 13th September 2003

The album the Black Eyed Peas put out before Elephunk featured DJ Premier beats and Mos Def and De La Soul guest spots. The album after it featured “My Humps”. Perhaps there are more dramatic transformations in music, more shameless grabs at pop’s brass ring, than this shift from mid-ranking respectability to world-straddling infamy – but not many.

We’ll get our chance to weigh up the Peas’ platinum-coated Imperial Phase eventually. First, though, the song which broke them – the only record you could credibly claim as a pivot between the head-nodding backpacker Peas and their incarnation as cyborg hit delivery systems.

It’s also – and with hindsight this seems even odder – the only No.1 single explicity about the Iraq War and the wider War On Terror.  There are bands who would have given their granny’s liver to get lines like “Overseas we’re tryin’ to stop terrorism / But right here we got terrorists living / In the USA, the big CIA” to the top of the charts. And “A war’s going on but the reason’s undercover / The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug” is more forthright and plain-spoken than anything the Manics got to the top. Where are the protest songs? Right here. And nobody gave a shit. more »

11
Feb 20

ELTON JOHN – “Are You Ready For Love?”

Popular11 comments • 2,615 views

#959, 6th September 2003

Elton John’s best moment at number one comes with a forgotten track from a barely-noticed late-70s EP, lucked onto years later by someone in Sky Sports’ ad agency, remixed (delicately and discreetly) by Ashley Beedle, used to promote the new football season, and received with delight as a lost gem from a national treasure.

10
Feb 20

BLU CANTRELL ft SEAN PAUL – “Breathe”

FT + Popular11 comments • 1,960 views

#958, 9th August 2003

Dancehall stars have found many routes into the UK mainstream – cover versions and ads; tie-ups with hot producers; hardcore or controversial lyrics; or just basic novelty. Sean Paul found yet another way to make it. His thing was to strip down modern Jamaican music to its hookiest elements and present himself as a readymade star, his bearish baritone presence dominating this and most other tracks he turned up on.


Sean Paul’s sudden stardom came as dancehall itself was having a critical and pop-cultural moment. One of many – UK and US interest in Jamaican music has always gone in waves. In this case, R&B’s promotion of superstar producers – some of whom, like the Neptunes, were open about their debt to Jamaica – meant a new focus on riddims, the island’s own contribution to producer culture, and the way different acts would jostle to land the best voicings of the latest popular beat. “Get Busy”, Paul’s breakthrough hit, rode the perpetual-motion shudder of the ubiquitous Diwali Riddim.

There’s talk of Bob Marley whenever a Jamaican star breaks really big – but Sean Paul’s music fit the comparison better than most. Not, of course, because of any political or spiritual side – Paul, like most 00s pop stars, presented himself as someone for whom entertainment was mission enough. But like Marley he specialised in taking his homeland’s innovations and projecting them into music that was big and powerful and clear in its appeal. Sean Paul was a very easy star to ‘get’. more »

5
Feb 20

DANIEL BEDINGFIELD – “Never Gonna Leave Your Side”

Popular13 comments • 1,631 views

#957, 2nd August 2003

To make one Westlife-esque ballad may be regarded as a misfortune. To make two looks like… a bad mistake, as it turned out. Songwriting cameos aside, this is the last we see of Daniel Bedingfield, and it’s hard to argue he wasn’t the partial author of his own misfortune. The absurdly extended promotional cycle for his debut album didn’t help – 18 months after “Gotta Get Thru This”, and this isn’t even the final single lifted from it. But more damaging was the shift in image from a jack-of-all-genres bedroom pop savant to just another balladeer.

When Bedingfield did come back with new material – “Nothing Hurts Like Love” in 2004 – it was more soulful and more imaginative than this. But by then, as we’ll see, the market for broad-based ballads was shifting, becoming more industrialised as a reality TV production line settled into place.

“Never Gonna Leave Your Side”, like “If You’re Not The One”, falls between stools, squeezing its author’s idiosyncrasies into the ballad mode like a man putting on a badly-fitting tuxedo, while leaving just enough of his individuality intact for the song to feel a touch off. Bedingfield, as ever, is awkwardly earnest, his song a rubbing together of romance and neediness, the verses’ pile-up of bereft metaphors aligning oddly with the chorus’ pledges of devotion. On “Gotta Get Through This”, Bedingfield’s neurosis played as refreshing, unusual frankness; on “If You’re Not The One” his self-abasement was at least uncomfortably sincere. But here the novelty’s worn off – my main response to this is rolled eyes and a muttered “for God’s sake man, move on!”. He couldn’t, so the public did.