Dec 19


Popular19 comments • 2,348 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.



  1. 1
    ThePensmith on 19 Dec 2019 #

    I’ve never really thought of this as filter house/disco until now. But now you mention it Tom, it definitely carries a lot of the sonic motifs of others we’ve met on Popular (Modjo, Spiller), even if it’s not the best example of it. A bit similar to an ’04 bunny in that respect that was also the last gasp of an earlier 00s trend.

    I’ll be honest when I say I quite liked this at the time to begin with but I don’t especially care for it now. I suppose being a mid-teens boy as I was in the spring of 2003 an advert for Lynx would have appealed/been quite funny. It doesn’t now.

    This is also I would argue the last gasp – for now at this point in Popular history – of songs going to number one because of their use in a TV advert. We’ve got to wait until the start of the next decade to discuss one which was radically at odds with this.

    This was also the sixth number one in a row to spend as many as two weeks at the top, and the third of these to last a whole calendar month, a marker if any of how physical single sales were on a downward turn from which they would never recover. My point here being that if you contrast this to exactly four years before this, when Mr Oizo ‘Flat Beat’ was at the top (I use this example purely because it shares similar traits, dance or electronic record that got big off the back of a TV ad), it sold about as much as expected of it and indeed more but was only a two weeker at the top.

    I suspect the same would have been true for ‘Make Luv’ had circumstances been different, but alas like a lot of the number ones from this time and the next four Popular years to come they sold less because of market conditions. Had the download era been embraced a lot quicker in this country I dare say the wider sales dip would have been for a far shorter period of time.

    Another fact for consideration: the second (and last) Room 5 and Oliver Cheatham single ‘Music & You’ tanked out at #38 that Christmas. Only one other bunny to come from 2003 did better (or worse than that rather) with following up their chart topper in such floptastic style but I’ll leave you to guess who. 3 for me overall.

    #2 watch then. Gareth and the Kumars marooned behind them for its first two weeks in the face of not much competition at all. Week 3 was the solo debut of Kym Marsh with her ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Imbruglia’ effort ‘Cry’. Her solo music career would be even more swift and shunted than Hear’Say’s was, a #10 follow up (‘Come On Over’, essentially a shameless redux of Emma Bunton’s ‘What Took You So Long’ in the same way her last Hear’Say single ‘Everybody’ had been a blatant copy of Five’s ‘Keep On Movin’, even down to using the same producers) and a flop #35 third single combined with poor album sales saw to it that she was labelless come the start of 2004. Salvation arrived in 2006 when she joined the cast of Coronation Street as Michelle Connor, a role she’s only just departing from this year, so at least she has found success somewhere else.

    And then Week 4, because despite initially having a midweek lead at the top we are deprived getting to talk about what’s widely regarded as the black sheep of Madonna’s singles canon in the 00s: ‘American Life’. A noisy and somewhat difficult record that was at odds with what she’d done on ‘Music’ or ‘Ray of Light’, and that’s before we’ve even got on to the seriously misfiring rap about lattes and doing yoga in her Mini Cooper. For some critics this marked the point where she no longer appeared to have her finger on the pulse like she usually did. It wasn’t even top 10 still on its second week, a fate that also befell ‘Die Another Day’ and her next #2 watch despite that actually being a better song but I’ll save my thoughts on that for then.

  2. 2
    AMZ1981 on 19 Dec 2019 #

    There’s nothing particularly bad about this one, it’s just that there’s nothing particularly good either. It sounded okay in the context of a club and that’s just about all there is to say about it.

    There is a statistic however. Make Luv was the sixth and last in a string of six chart toppers that all managed multiple weeks at number one (beginning with Sounds Of The Underground). To find an advance I had to trawl all the way back to 1994 when there was a run of nine – Come On You Reds through to Think Twice.

  3. 3
    23 Daves on 19 Dec 2019 #

    So this was a big hit, then?! It’s at this point, clearly, that my familiarity with number one singles, and all that was important and vital in the world of pop, took a nosedive.

    I was very distracted at this point in my life, very early on in a relationship with the woman who went on to become my wife, and while we tended to have The Box video channel on a lot in the background during the day, if what was playing didn’t grip either of us it tended to be ignored completely while we chatted and messed around. There are songs from this period by Junior Senior, Tatu and Girls Aloud we both really liked, so they bring back some good memories for me – anything that wasn’t impactful got zoned out completely.

    And good God, this is dull. The mix I’m listening to right now sounds as if it’s partly bleeding out of a cheap novelty transistor radio, and the rest is just a tired old jam. There are any number of will-this-do disco B-sides from the mid-seventies which have more force and charisma, and I’m monumentally baffled by the fact we’re even needing to discuss this.

  4. 4
    23 Daves on 19 Dec 2019 #

    (obviously, I appreciate the fact that filter-disco wasn’t necessarily usually trying to be forceful and charismatic, so a certain amount of the ‘the point’ is being missed by me here… but still, this does nowt for me).

  5. 5
    Edward Still on 20 Dec 2019 #

    I’m going to buck the trend here. I love (luv?) French Disco, Disco House, French House or any of the other nearly-descrpitve names this genre has, even the worst examples would struggle to score below a 6 from me – it just pushes the right buttons. I had no idea this was a number 1, or indeed from an advert, as I was still a deeply self-absorbed fresher at this point but I loved it then and still like it now – 7.

    ..for what it’s worth Get Down Saturday Night would probably be a 10, and was the basis of at least 1 other “absolute classic banger” while I was at uni.

  6. 6
    Lee Saunders on 20 Dec 2019 #

    The Lynx advert was in a 2005 ITV show called “The 20 Best TV Ads Ever” or something, which they kept repeating every now and then throughout the rest of the decade. They made it out to be a bit of a phenomenon (even interviewing one of the backing dancers from the ad, who they stressed was a Bond girl) and indeed showed footage of the (first?) TOTP performance which the beeb interspersed with clips of people from home imitating the dance from the ad that they’d sent in. By the time I saw this programme by about 2008 it seemed strange to me that this was ever a thing because I imagine the ad was completely forgotten by then.

    I do like the song though. I thought it very pedestrian growing up but it eventually won me over after about the 100th time I heard it a good few years down the line. Its not particularly special but its French touches are very pretty, no matter how uninspired their usage might actually be. I will say I prefer E Samba – Room 5’s next hit, as Junior Jack, which reached #25. His most bizarre turn in the charts was what came after that, a collaboration with Robert Smith (!) called Da Hype (!) which made #19.

  7. 7
    Lee Saunders on 20 Dec 2019 #

    Oh I love American Life – the album that is, although I still find the song compelling despite/because of how awkward and outre it is. As with the rest of the album it strives for the authentic (so to speak) and yet is drenched in squelchy production and extreme vocal processing, making the yearning at its core more convincing (again so to speak), an aural representation of the boulders in the struggle (see also Neil Young’s Trans, Kanye’s 808s – I guess I have a thing for the whole sensing the confusion at the same time as hearing about it thing for major artists where lots of digital manipulation is concerned).

    That was also the week Blur debuted at #5 with what for me is their best single – Out of Time – which too is off an album I seem to love more than anyone else I know.

  8. 8
    Lee Saunders on 20 Dec 2019 #

    (eek, double post :s)

  9. 9
    AMZ1981 on 20 Dec 2019 #

    For me American Life feels like a deliberate takedown from Madonna. She’d released two nearly flawless pop albums and knew that she had to slip sometime. So she made a deliberately awkward, provocative record which (by her standards) pretty much bombed and then moved relatively quickly with the follow up which of course changed tack dramatically.

  10. 10
    James BC on 20 Dec 2019 #

    Spot on with the review here, Tom. When Phats and Small came out I thought “well this is a pretty feeble retread of Stardust”. Room 5: “Hold my beer.” (And twenty years on, Got To Turn Around is a huge banger.)

    I had no idea Room 5 was secretly Junior Jack, and I still don’t understand the weird rule where dance music people had to change their name whenever they varied their sound. It seems like abandoning that Jonathan King silliness must be a part of what’s made today’s big EDM names possible: Calvin Harris makes whatever music he wants and he’s still Calvin Harris, not Jurgen Vries or Camisra or Alex Party or whoever.

    Diplo still does it to an extent – Major Lazer, LSD, Silk City, Jack U are all him with fingers in various pies.

  11. 11
    Steve Mannion on 20 Dec 2019 #

    Agree with 3. ThePenSmith’s factoid about this being the last advert-boosted #1 is the most interesting thing about this to me. The original’s slower groove gives it a superior edge over this (although it seemed average fare for 1983 itself).

    James BC brings up another one re the apparent dearth of many-monikered superstar producers now. At least Diplo had the good sense to not use his boring real name or, as in Calvin’s case, choose a name only slightly less boring than your real one.

  12. 12
    Lee Saunders on 20 Dec 2019 #

    There’s another ad-boosted #1 coming up later this year I believe (although I never knew it at the time)

  13. 13
    Shiny Dave on 21 Dec 2019 #

    This is the devolution of filter disco into abstract banging down a hook and a repetitive vocal sample – you could claim Roger Sanchez was on this with “Another Chance” a few years earlier, but that felt different to me somehow, maybe because it was in a different dance music environment, the edge of the trance imperial phase. Now we’re in 2003, trance is fading to obscurity, and arguably even dance music is. For much of this era, half the dance hits seemed to be cutup repetitive 80s loops like this one. This has enough “French touch” wooziness to be genuinely listenable, and as such the best of that microgenre, but that’s damning with faint praise. My sixth-form disconnection from dance music and embrace of dreary rockism both start here, and my overwhelming association with this song is listening to it in my Mail-reading stepmum’s Ford Escort in a dismal retail park in Eastbourne, which gives me just enough scorn to tip it to a 3 from 4.

  14. 14
    Purple K on 23 Dec 2019 #

    Adding to the comments of how I never thought of this as French House/filter-disco until this article, but now that I think of it, it makes total sense. Speaking as someone with a massive soft spot for the subgenre (but wouldn’t quite call myself a connoisseur who has every Roule release on file), it does feel like a watered-down, last-gasp of that sound.

    Funnily enough, the following year one of the big names of the French House scene (the late great Philippe Zdarr of Cassius) would end up mixing one of my all-time favourite albums: the criminally underrated “Bright Like Neon Love” by Cut Copy.

    #7 – I haven’t heard “Think Tank” in a looong time but I played it a lot in the mid-2000s. There’s some good songs in there, “Out of Time” included.

  15. 15
    CriticSez on 23 Dec 2019 #

    I didn’t hear this until I reviewed every number one ever back in 2015-16.

    This reminds me of Danny Howells and Dick Trevor’s superior From Dusk Till Dawn from the following year, and which I remember from the Ministry of Sound Annual 2005. I also remember Stupidisco by Junior Jack (same DJ).

    It’s repetitive but OK. 6.8 (6, for the purposes of this post) for Room 5, a very high 7 for D&D.

  16. 16
    Best Bonuses on 27 Dec 2019 #

    My sixth-form disconnection from dance music and embrace of dreary rockism both start here, and my overwhelming association with this song is listening to it in my Mail-reading stepmum’s Ford Escort in a dismal retail park in Eastbourne, which gives me just enough scorn to tip it to a 3 from 4.

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 2 Jan 2020 #

    started listening to this and thought this isn’t so bad before drifting off and realising it had finished. It’s not terrible, just a little bland, and would probably sound OK in a club where it might segue between more memorable tracks

  18. 18
    Gareth Parker on 3 Jun 2021 #

    An enjoyable summery sounding single to my ears. 7/10.

  19. 19
    songtitleasusername on 29 Jun 2021 #

    #14 – ‘Battery In Your Leg’ would probably make my Blur Top Ten. Graham’s guitar doesn’t so much gently weep as…er…un-gently wail.

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