Friday, 13 December 2013

The Best Of 1999 - part 1

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

Finally, the end of the '90s had arrived and we were all about to find out what it was like to party like it's 1999. However, the mood of celebration shifted towards the end of the year as hype about the Millennium Bug had people worrying planes were going to fall out of the sky and, if the actions of doomsday preppers was anything to go by, bottled water was going to run out.

Destiny's Child Mk I's LeToya and LaTavia didn't have to wear such awful outfits much longer

As it turned out, nothing happened when the clock turned over to Y2K except for some spectacular fireworks displays. I watched the Sydney ones on TV in London (yep, I was still overseas) on the afternoon of December 31, knowing it would only be a few short months until I was back in Australia.

Number 100 "Sometimes" by Britney Spears
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 99 "King For A Day" by Jamiroquai
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 98 "We Are Love" by DJ Eric
All these years I've assumed DJ Eric was some random guy who only released a couple of records, and it turns out "he" was a "they" - a trio comprised of Andy Ford, Neil Steedman and the mysteriously named C Drysdale. "We Are Love" was a pretty straightforward vocal house track which just scraped into the UK top 40 at number 37. 

Number 97 "Sweet Like Chocolate" by Shanks & Bigfoot
As Doolally, "Straight From The Heart" was a moderate UK hit in both 1998 and 1999 (and appears on my top 100 for 1998) for the duo of Steven Meade and Danny Langsman - but as Shanks & Bigfoot, they went all the way to number 1 in Britain. I knew the song was bound to be massive because, at that point, I was working in the singles department at HMV on Oxford Street in London and, for weeks before it was released, I had people asking me for it. A lot of people. The week it finally came out, I sold hardly anything else. A second single, "Sing-a-long", eventually followed in 2000, but was nowhere near as good.

Number 96 "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny's Child
Mentioned below

Number 95 "New York City Boy" by Pet Shop Boys
1999 saw the release of Nightlife, which used to rank as my sixth favourite PSB album (although in the wake of this year's Electric, it'd be down to seventh) - but, as I noted in my list, none of the singles from it feature among my favourite PSB singles. This was the best of the three, a disco-flavoured track co-produced with David Morales which was by far the most commercial of anything on Nightlife.

Number 94 "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" by Travis
Regular readers will know that '90s indie rock and Britpop don't feature that prominently on my year-end charts, but, since I lived in the UK all of 1999, liking Travis was pretty much unavoidable. And, the Scottish band's songs were really quite good. "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" was their most commercial track, but other singles from The Man Who like "Driftwood" and "Writing To Reach You" were also pleasingly inoffensive. Never bigger than they were in 1999, the band would go on to be eclipsed by the likes of Coldplay and Keane, although they still had a number of good songs to come.

Number 93 "Cassius 1999" by Cassius
In the wake of Daft Punk, Air and Stardust's success in 1998, France had suddenly become a major player on the international music scene - and French disco duo Cassius struck while the iron was hot. This single from the 1999 album would be the biggest hit for Philippe "Philippe Zdar" Cerboneschi and Hubert "Boom Bass" Blanc-Francart.

Number 92 "Bug A Boo" by Destiny's Child
After a couple of years on the scene, Beyoncé, Kelly, LeToya and LaTavia started to break out from the glut of '90s R&B girl groups (Total, 702, Blaque, etc.) with the singles from their second album, The Writing's On The Wall. No longer chart also-rans, the girls became a music force thanks to songs like this and "Bills, Bills, Bills" (number 96 on this list). As these things so often happen, with greater success came greater internal friction and "Bug A Boo" would be the last single to feature LeToya and LaTavia, who were unceremoniously dumped from the line-up. 

Number 91 "To Be In Love" by Masters At Work presents India
This was a remix of a track originally released in 1997 by the production duo of "Little" Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, and featuring vocals by frequent collaborator India, a Puerto Rican singer who also released music for the Latin market. After failing to chart in the UK first time around, this remix gave the duo their only UK top 40 hit (in this guise at any rate).

Number 90 "When We Are Together" by Texas
Mentioned below

Number 89 "Under The Water" by Brother Brown featuring Frank'ee
I've liked this song since it came out in 1999 without ever knowing until now that it was by a Dutch duo, Atle Rønne Thorberg and Henrik Olsen, and featured vocals by Dutch folk singer Marie Frank. I can't say knowing that information makes any difference to my enjoyment of the song, a moody house track that hit the UK top 20.

Number 88 "Say It Again" by Precious
Featuring a pre-Atomic Kitten Jenny Frost, Precious were a five-piece girl group that represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1999 with this track written by former Stock Aitken Waterman singer Paul Varney, who we saw back in my 1991 countdown. Despite only coming 12th at Eurovision, "Say It Again" peaked inside the UK top 10 and was the first of a handful of singles by Precious, who we'll see again in my 2000 countdown.

Number 87 "Lift Me Up" by Geri Halliwell
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 86 "Sun Is Shining (remix)" by Bob Marley vs Funkstar Deluxe
Reggae legend Bob Marley was one artist whose music I never expected to own - not being a fan of that genre or music before 1979 in general. But, thanks to the Dutch remixer born Martin Aulkjær Ottesen, this track changed all that. Granted, the house record really sounds nothing like a Bob Marley song and, were it not for that unmistakable vocal, you'd have no idea this started life as a 1971 album track by Bob's group The Wailers. Funkstar Deluxe tried to repeat the trick with "Rainbow Country" to much less success, before turning his attention to the back catalogue of artists as diverse as Barry White and Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

Number 85 "Bodyrock" by Moby
We saw him on my 1993 and 1995 countdowns with some of his rave classics, but by the end of the decade, Moby had become a household name thanks to his (mostly) chillout album, Play. Upbeat track "Bodyrock" shared more in common with his former work than with songs like "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" and "Porcelain", although, like every song on Play, it was based around an obscure sample - "Love Rap" by Spoonie Gee. The song would also go on to be used as the theme for US sitcom Veronica's Closet in its final season. Two videos exist for the song - one in the link contained in the song title above and one below.

Number 84 "Maria" by Blondie
Their songs had been remixed, remade and remodelled (to use the title of a 1995 compilation) throughout the decade, but 20 years after "Heart Of Glass" turned them into superstars, Blondie were back with a brand new studio album. This sing-along lead single went straight to the top of the UK chart and, although the band hasn't followed it up with any other substantial hit, they have remained on the touring circuit more or less ever since.

Number 83 "La Musica" by Ruff Driverz featuring Arolla
We saw them on my top 100 for 1998, and here Ruff Driverz and Katherine Ellis are again with an on-trend Latin-flavoured house track which would be their last major hit.

Number 82 "Feeling It Too" by 3 Jays
So named because the members of this dance act all had names starting with the letter J - Jamie White (who was also in Tzant and Mirrorball, who we'll see later on this countdown), Jeff Patterson (who was also a member of Huff & Herb) and Jim Lee. That's all I can tell you - enjoy the song.

Number 81 "Summer Son" by Texas
Having enjoyed the most successful album of their career with 1987's White On Blonde, Texas returned in 1999 with the even poppier The Hush. As with White On Blonde's lead single, I wasn't that excited by "In Our Lifetime", the first track lifted from The Hush - but second single "Summer Son" and third "When We Are Together" (number 90 on this list) did the trick.

Number 80 "Rhythm Divine" by Enrique Iglesias
1999 was the year of the Latin explosion, with big hits from Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and this guy, who just happened to be the son of 1970s crooner Julio Iglesias. In the '00s, Enrique would move towards a more mainstream pop sound, but on his debut English-language album, the influence of his Latin heritage was very much in evidence, especially on tracks like this and breakthrough hit "Bailamos" (number 114 on this list).

Number 79 "Summertime Of Our Lives" by a1
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 78 "Electric Barbarella" by Duran Duran 
This song had been kicking around for a while - in fact, it first came out in the US in 1997 not long after previous single "Out Of My Mind" - before finally getting a UK release in early 1999. However, despite a title that referenced the Jane Fonda film from which they got their name and a slightly controversial clip, there was little interest in what the band had to offer at this point in their career. Not even a Tin Tin Out remix of "Girls On Film" could help elevate the single higher than number 23 in the UK. 

Number 77 "Runaway (Tin Tin Out remix)" by The Corrs
Speaking of Tin Tin Out, the production team were brought on board to continue The Corrs remix project with this update of their 1995 debut single - and although it wasn't wildly different to the original, it gave the track a bit more life and finally turned it into a hit in the UK, where it reached number 2 - a 47-place on its original peak.

Number 76 "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None The Richer
Featured in both teen film She's All That and TV drama Dawson's Creek, there was no escaping this sweet ditty in 1999. The "Lovefool" of the year, it launched the US Christian music band into the mainstream and was followed up by a cover of The La's "There She Goes", but it's for this song that they're mostly remembered.

In Part 2: two of the biggest Eurodance hits of the year and the arrival of a brand new global superstar.

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