Monday, 18 November 2013

The Best Of 1998 - part 4

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

Pop was back in a big way in 1998 - and I couldn't have been happier. My annual countdowns in recent years had been filled with faceless house acts, superstar DJs and one-album-wonder Eurodance artists, which was fine up to a point. But, in the wake of Spice Girls' success, it was nice to have a bit of personality back in the charts and, you know, artists whose names and faces you recognised.

Steps managed to turn a novelty debut into an enduring pop career

In the rest of this countdown, I've been banging on about my time in Europe in 1998. One other upside to being out of Australia was that I was spared from songs like "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls, "Time Of Your Life" by Green Day and The Living End's breakthrough EP, "Second Solution/Prisoner Of Society", which were all among the year's best sellers here. Other massive hits that did follow me around Europe include songs by Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Pras Michel and The Offspring. Thank goodness there was enough pop to drown all that out.

Number 25 "If You Could Read My Mind" by Stars on 54: Amber, Ultra Naté, Jocelyn Enriquez
Two decades after Studio 54 was the hottest night spot in New York, the film 54 told the story of the club through the eyes of a young bartender played by Razzie Award nominee Ryan Phillippe. Unlike the previous year's Boogie Nights, which had also delved into the excess of the era, 54 wasn't that great - but it did offer up this all-star collaboration from its soundtrack.
Well, "all-star" might be a bit of a stretch since none of the three dance singers were that famous outside the club scene. Sure, Amber and Ultra had managed a couple of hits - including "One More Night" (number 46 on this list) and "Found A Cure" (number 35) respectively - but this collaboration was very much about the strength of the song.
Originally released in 1970 by Gordon Lightfoot, "If You Could Read My Mind" started life as a folk ballad but in 1980 it was transformed into a disco hit by Viola Wills - and it's from that version that this cover takes its cues.

Number 24 "Pray" by Tina Cousins
We saw her back in Part 3 guesting on the Sash! single "Mysterious Times", and that was just the exposure struggling pop/dance singer Tina needed to spur her career into life. Her first two singles, "Angel" and "Killin' Time", had been flops but "Pray" finally gave her a top 20 solo hit in the UK - and would also go on to be even bigger in Australia the following year.

Number 23 "I Wanna Love You" by Solid HarmoniE
Mentioned below

Number 22 "Life Is A Flower" by Ace Of Base
Only a music act with English as a second language could come up with a title like this - but while most of the English-speaking world was fine with Ace Of Base's quaint choice of title and lyrics, not so the States, where "Life Is A Flower" became "Whenever You're Near Me". Interestingly, the original version of the track was another big hit for them in Europe but the meddled-with version didn't even break into the US top 70 - so make of that what you will.

Number 21 "I Want You To Want Me" by Solid HarmoniE
The second of four fantastic singles from the overlooked British girl group was, like the other three tracks, written and produced by increasingly in-demand Swedish pop maestro Max Martin. My favourite of the bunch was breakthrough hit "I'll Be There For You" (number 3 on this list), but this follow-up, as well as "I Wanna Love You" (number 23) and "To Love Once Again" (number 42), were all deserving of much more success.

Number 20 "Until The Time Is Through" by Five
Yep, despite better-known tracks like "When The Lights Go Out" (number 40 on this list), "Everybody Get Up" (number 114) and "Got The Feelin'" (number 149) all being released in 1998, it was this Christmas-time ballad that ended up as my favourite Five track for the year - no doubt because of the involvement, once again, of a certain Max Martin. The Swedish hit-maker was also one of the co-writers of "It's The Things You Do" (number 45), a single released from Five's debut album in America, although not back home in the UK. As I mentioned at the start, personality was starting to find its way back into pop music - and no boy band had more personality than Five. In the end, their rambunctious ways would end up being their undoing, but, for now, being the most unpredictable boy band on the block was working for them.

Number 19 "This Is How We Party" by S.O.A.P.
The duo of Malaysian-born, Danish-based sisters Heidi and Saseline Sørensen had a big hit on mainland Europe (which is where I heard it) with this, their debut single. And, despite not having similar success with it in the UK, the song did go top 10 in Australia. I'm sure the letters in the band name stand for something, but, despite owning a copy of their album (which, from memory, I bought in Switzerland), I'm none the wiser to what that could be.

Number 18 "Jackie" by B.Z. featuring Joanne
When I visited Australia for two weeks in 1999, this song - which had been a massive hit after being released at the end of 1998 - was played everywhere. The chart champion of two rival versions, this featured the vocals of Joanne Accom and sampled a previous version by Blue Zone (a British group featuring Lisa Stansfield) - thus the credit to B.Z.
The alternate version was by Australian dance group Redzone, but while Joanne's take on the track reached number 3, Redzone could only manage a number 37 peak. The two covers aren't wildly different, but I think the B.Z. version was the deserving winner of the chart battle.
The song dates back even further than 1988, which was when Blue Zone released it. It was originally recorded by Elisa Fiorillo (of "On The Way Up" fame) in 1987 for the soundtrack to the Mark Harmon film Summer School. Final fact: "Jackie" was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, the songwriters of mega-hits "Eternal Flame", "Like A Virgin", "Alone" and "True Colors".

Number 17 "When You're Gone" by Bryan Adams / Melanie C
She wasn't the first Spice Girl to release something away from the group - that achievement went to Melanie B, whose collaboration with Missy Elliott, "I Want You Back", hit number 1 in the UK and remains the only good solo record she's released. Despite Geri Halliwell's departure from the group earlier in 1998, it was Mel C who struck out on her own next. Well, not quite on her own, since Mel duetted with Canadian rocker Bryan Adams on this song, which was unavoidable on music TV that Christmas. So ubiquitous was "When You're Gone" that holiday season that it became "our song" for my boyfriend and me - I even bought him the CD single as a Christmas present. It kind of started as a joke but, 15 years later, it's stuck and those opening chords still bring a smile to our faces.

Number 16 "Crush" by Jennifer Paige
One-hit wonder time! A massive hit during the (European) summer of 1998, "Crush" was the debut single by the American singer, whose real surname is Scoggins (Paige is her middle name). A chart-topper in Australia, "Crush" was unlucky enough to spend several weeks stuck at number 3 in the US, while Jennifer, like so many other singers with huge debut releases, was unfortunate enough to never again enter the US, UK or Australian top 40.

Number 15 "Tearin' Up My Heart" by *NSYNC
Every boy band needs a chart rival and *NSYNC were kind of like the Boyzone to Backstreet Boys' Take That. But, the similarities between the two groups were much stronger. Hailing from the same city as BSB, managed by the same man, working with the same writers and producers, and breaking in the same country (Germany) before anywhere else in the world, *NSYNC (or 'N Sync, as their name was initially styled) were pretty much BSB Mk II.
Still, there was more than enough teenage girl fandom to go around and Justin, JC, Lance, Chris and Joey quickly carved out their own place in the charts with songs like this and debut hit "I Want You Back" (number 12 on this list). Well, I say "quickly" but "I Want You Back" was actually first released in Germany back in October '96 and "Tearin'..." in February '97, but it took until 1998 for the rest of the world to catch on.

Number 14 "Eurodisco" by Bis
One of only two releases by the Scottish trio to breach the UK top 40, "Eurodisco" is indie pop at its best. Darlings of the alternative scene, Bis were the right mix of perky and electro-punky to be massive, but always existed a bit more under the radar, probably to the delight of fans who no doubt would have accused them of selling out if they'd ever gotten any bigger. 

Number 13 "Goodbye" by Spice Girls
Mentioned below

Number 12 "I Want You Back" by *NSYNC
Mentioned above and previously featured here

Number 11 "C'est La Vie" by B*Witched
Mentioned in Part 2 and previously featured here

Number 10 "Stop" by Spice Girls
No one can sustain an unbroken run of number 1 singles forever - and Spice Girls' downfall came with this third release from the Spiceworld album, which, by only reaching number 2 in the UK, was the only single from the group's original era not to reach the top.
Obviously, 2007 comeback single "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)" did even worse by not even reaching the UK top 10, but the less said about that track the better. Personally, I liked "Stop" - with its cheesy dance routine and Motown sound, it appealed more to me than the ballads released either side of it ("Too Much" and "Viva Forever").
One ballad I did like from the group was their first post-Geri single, "Goodbye" (number 13 on this list), which became their third UK Christmas number 1 in a row. It was the first time I was in the UK for the all-important race for the festive chart-topper, and I like to feel that I contributed something by buying the cassette single of "Goodbye" when the store I worked for sent me to Virgin to buy some Christmas music.

Number 9 "Frozen" by Madonna
Previously featured here

Number 8 "The Right Time" by Ultra
The only song on this list that I bought while in Turkey was by one of my favourite new groups from 1998. Not strictly speaking a boy band (since they played instruments), Ultra were clearly marketed at the teenage audience, and had a cute lead singer and catchy tunes to complete the pop package. Never as big as I thought they should have been, the four-piece managed to land hits - especially with "Say It Once" (number 38 on this list) - as far afield as Australia and South-East Asia, but were dropped by their label after one album. "The Right Time" was actually their least successful single, but my second favourite after debut hit "Say You Do" (number 4).

Number 7 "One For Sorrow" by Steps
Mentioned below

Number 6 "Feel It" The Tamperer featuring Maya
It was genius really - taking the instrumental hook from The Jacksons' "Can You Feel It" and lines from club hit "Drop A House" by Urban Discharge about causing real estate to fall on "that bitch", this debut single about a cheating partner was destined for big things. American vocalist Maya Days fronted the track (and even dressed as Dorothy in a memorable Top Of The Pops performance) while The Tamperer were a bunch of Italian producers, including Mario Fargetta, who we last saw on my 1993 countdown with "The Music Is Movin'".

Number 5 "High" by Lighthouse Family
Yes, their music might be pretty safe and, to some ears, boring - but there's no denying Lighthouse Family had some undeniably catchy songs. In fact, whenever my mother hears this song she tells me she remembers me singing along to it in my bedroom at the top of my voice. "High" was easily their biggest hit, reaching number 4 in the UK (their equal highest position) and going all the way to number 1 in Australia. Surprisingly, the follow-up, "Lost In Space" (number 37 on this list), didn't even chart in Australia and they were pretty much never heard from again here.

Number 4 "Say You Do" by Ultra
Mentioned above and previously featured here

Number 3 "I'll Be There For You" by Solid HarmoniE
Mentioned above and previously featured here

Number 2 "Heartbeat / Tragedy" by Steps
Mentioned below

Number 1 "Last Thing On My Mind" by Steps
I would never have guessed at the start of 1998 that the act that'd end up dominating my list of favourite songs for the year would be the five-piece group behind "5,6,7,8". I was not a fan of the line-dancing song at all, but little did I know Steps would not be a one-off novelty act.
My first clue came when I interviewed group member Claire Richards early in the year. At the time, I'd started writing reviews and interviews for street press dance music newspaper 3D World - I handled the commercial dance and pop stuff - and I was writing a story about Steps' success with "5,6,7,8". During my interview, Claire told me the group were working with Pete Waterman and would release a cover of Bananarama's long-forgotten 1992 single "Last Thing On My Mind".
As big a fan of Bananarama as I am, I'd never really liked "Last Thing On My Mind". The ABBA-lite production didn't really suit the group and the song just lacked life. But, when I heard Steps' "ABBA on speed" version, I was hooked. Everything that was wrong with the original had been remedied (the girls had better voices, the song had life) and it was the start of a string of near faultless pop classics by Steps, including the songs at number 2 and number 7 on this list.

My top 200 for 1998 in full:

1        LAST THING ON MY MIND Steps
2        HEARTBEAT / TRAGEDY Steps
3        I'LL BE THERE FOR YOU Solid HarmoniE
4        SAY YOU DO Ultra
5        HIGH Lighthouse Family
6        FEEL IT Tamperer featuring Maya
7        ONE FOR SORROW Steps
8        THE RIGHT TIME Ultra
9        FROZEN / REMIX Madonna
10      STOP Spice Girls
11      C'EST LA VIE B*Witched
12      I WANT YOU BACK 'NSync
13      GOODBYE Spice Girls
14      EURODISCO Bis
15      TEARIN' UP MY HEART 'NSync
16      CRUSH Jennifer Paige
17      WHEN YOU'RE GONE Bryan Adams / Melanie C
18      JACKIE B.Z. featuring Joanne
21      I WANT YOU TO WANT ME Solid HarmoniE
22      LIFE IS A FLOWER Ace Of Base
23      I WANNA LOVE YOU Solid HarmoniE
24      PRAY Tina Cousins
25      IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND Stars on 54: Amber, Ultra Nate, Jocelyn Enriquez
26      RESTLESS Neja
27      BELIEVE Cher
28      MOVE MANIA Sash! featuring Shannon
29      SEXY RHYTHM Mario Piu
30      MYSTERIOUS TIMES Sash! featuring Tina Cousins
31      TAKE CONTROL State Of Mind
32      HORNY 98 Mousse T vs Hot 'n' Juicy
33      HERE'S WHERE THE STORY ENDS Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson
34      SENSUALITY Lovestation
35      FOUND A CURE Ultra Nate
37      LOST IN SPACE Lighthouse Family
38      SAY IT ONCE Ultra
39      END OF THE LINE Honeyz
41      LITTLE BIT OF LOVIN' Kele Le Roc
42      TO LOVE ONCE AGAIN Solid HarmoniE
43      I CAN'T HELP MYSELF Lucid
44      YOU'RE MY HEART, YOU'RE MY SOUL 98 Modern Talking
45      IT'S THE THINGS YOU DO Five                           
46      ONE MORE NIGHT (REMIX) Amber
47      DREAMING Ruff Driverz presents Arrola
48      GOTTA BE...MOVIN' ON UP PM Dawn featuring Ky-Mani
49      MY ALL (DAVID MORALES MIX) Mariah Carey
51      THE STORY OF LOVE OTT                                 
52      STRANDED Lutricia McNeal
53      ALL MY LIFE K-Ci & Jo Jo                                  
54      ROLLERCOASTER B*Witched
55      NO MATTER WHAT Boyzone
56      OUTSIDE George Michael
57      ALL THAT MATTERS Louise                                
58      NAKED IN THE RAIN 98 Blue Pearl                                  
59      ONLY WHEN I LOSE MYSELF Depeche Mode
60      EVERY TIME Janet Jackson
61      THE POWER OF GOODBYE Madonna
62      SOMEDAY I'LL FIND YOU Shola Ama & Craig Armstrong / I’VE BEEN TO A MARVELOUS PARTY Divine Comedy
63      THE SEA Morcheeba
64      MADE IN VAIN Peach
65      SAVE TONIGHT Eagle-Eye Cherry
66      TALKING WITH MYSELF 98 Electribe 101
67      NEEDIN' U David Morales presents The Face                               
69      LA Marc et Claude
70      BE ALONE NO MORE Another Level featuring Jay-Z
71      REWIND Celetia
72      IF YOU WANT ME Hinda Hicks
73      I GET LONELY (TNT MIX featuring Blackstreet)  / JASON NEVINS MIX Janet Jackson
74      BEEN A LONG TIME The Fog
75      THIS IS IT State Of Mind  
76      UH LA LA LA Alexia
77      LOVE IS ALIVE 3rd Party                        
78      TEARDROPS Lovestation
79      ALL I NEED Air
80      MY FAVOURITE GAME The Cardigans
81      A LITTLE BIT Pandora
83      NO TEARS TO CRY Whigfield
84      I PUT A SPELL ON YOU Sonique
85      SUPERSTAR Novy vs Eniac
87      NOBODY BETTER Tina Moore
88      LOOKING FOR LOVE Karen Ramirez
89      I THINK I'M PARANOID Garbage
91      RIDIN' HIGH Tracy Shaw
92      REAL GOOD TIME Alda
93      YOU'RE THE ONE FOR ME Preluxe featuring Clive Griffin
94      THE WORD IS LOVE (SAY THE WORD) Voices Of Life
95      SHE WANTS YOU Billie
96      ONE, TWO, THREE / LIVIN' FOR THE WEEKEND 98 Dina Carroll
97      DREAMS (TODD TERRY MIX) The Corrs
98      RAY OF LIGHT Madonna
99      LOVER Rachel McFarlane
100    FOR AN ANGEL Paul van Dyk
102    THE SILENCE Mike Koglin
103    CAFE DEL MAR 98 Energy 52
105    PASH / REMIX Kate Ceberano
106    BREATHE / SASH! REMIX Kylie Minogue
107    BLINDFOLD Morcheeba
108    WHEN YOU BELIEVE Whitney Houston / Mariah Carey
109    TEARDROP Massive Attack
110    DRIVE ME CRAZY Smash 'n' Grab                                  
112    PUSH IT Garbage
114    LOVE IS ALIVE Kate Ceberano
115    NEW KIND OF MEDICINE Ultra Nate
116    LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU Robbie Williams
118    ADDICTED TO BASS Josh Abrahams & Amiel Daemion
119    DEEPER LOVE Ruff Driverz
120    SO YOUNG (K-KLASS REMIX) The Corrs
121    ANGEL STREET M-People
122    THE MUSIC I LIKE Alexia
123    DISREMEMBRANCE Dannii Minogue
124    ALL THE MAN THAT I NEED Shernette May
126    SOMETIMES Tin Tin Out featuring Shelley Nelson
127    JOY Deni Hines
128    ALL THAT I NEED Boyzone
129    MORE THAN A WOMAN 911
131    GIVIN' ALL MY LOVE Whigfield
132    LIFE AIN'T EASY Cleopatra
133    BAMBOOGIE Bamboo
134    CRUEL SUMMER / REMIX Ace Of Base / with Alliage
135    SPECIAL Garbage
136    LOVESHY / TUFF JAM MIX Kristine Blond
137    GO DEEP Janet Jackson
138    THE FUTURE OF THE FUTURE (STAY GOLD) Deep Dish with Everything But The Girl
139    BRIMFUL OF ASHA (REMIX) Cornershop
141    MILLENIUM Robbie Williams
142    EACH TIME E-17
143    TESTIFY M-People
145    READ MY MIND Conner Reeves
146    THE BAD PHOTOGRAPHER Saint Etienne
147    ALL I HAVE TO GIVE Backstreet Boys
148    I HAD NO RIGHT PM Dawn
149    SEXY BOY Air
150    GOD IS A DJ Faithless
151    SUNDANCE 98 Sundance
152    ROCK WITH YOU D’Influence
153    RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT Powerhouse
154    HUMAN BEINGS Seal
155    PART OF THE PROCESS Morcheeba
156    GOT THE FEELIN' Five
157    FINALLY FOUND Honeyz
158    POSTCARD FROM HEAVEN Lighthouse Family
159    WHAT CAN I DO (REMIX) The Corrs
160    SO INTO YOU Tamia
161    I WANT YOU BACK Cleopatra
162    JE SERAI LA Worlds Apart
163    TO YOU I BELONG B*Witched
164    LET ME SEE Morcheeba
165    WAR OF NERVES (REMIX) All Saints
166    YOU MAKE ME FEEL (MIGHTY REAL) Byron Stingily
167    GIMME LOVE Alexia
168    CLEOPATRA'S THEME Cleopatra
169    QUESTION OF FAITH Lighthouse Family
170    I.O.U. Dr Jane
171    DEEPER UNDERGROUND Jamiroquai
172    SO GOOD Juliet Roberts
173    READY FOR A NEW DAY Todd Terry
174    WOULD YOU... Touch & Go
175    DELICIOUS Deni Hines / Don-E
177    BIG MISTAKE Natalie Imbruglia
178    LOVE LIKE THIS Faith Evans
180    TOUCH IT Monifah
181    I BELONG TO YOU Lenny Kravitz
182    SHOUT TO THE TOP Fire Island featuring Loleatta Holloway
183    VIVA FOREVER Spice Girls
184    TOO CLOSE Next
185    THE BOY IS MINE Brandy & Monica
186    THE HEART’S LONE DESIRE Matthew Marsden
187    BURNING Baby Bumps
188    MUSIC MAKES YOU LOSE CONTROL Les Rythmes Digitales
190    COWBOY STYLE Kylie Minogue
191    HONEY Moby
193    WISHING I WAS THERE Natalie Imbruglia
194    NO FOOL NO MORE En Vogue
195    SHORTY (YOU KEEP PLAYIN’ WITH MY MIND) Imajin featuring Keith Murray
196    THE FIRST NIGHT Monica
197    UP AND DOWN Vengaboys
198    SWING MY WAY KP & Envyi
199    CRUEL Human Nature
200    YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY Family Stand

So, that just leaves 1999 for the decade and I'll get to that before the year is out. As usual, I'll recap the ARIA chart from 25 years ago this Wednesday. Until then...

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