Monday, 24 February 2014

The Best Of 2001 - part 2

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

The next batch of my favourite singles from 2001 include entries by a number of artists I got to interview during my time at Smash Hits. That was in the good old days when you'd get plenty of time to speak to someone instead of a quickie 10-minute slot (or worse, a round table) and you'd actually be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone.

Scandal'us went from Popstars to flop stars in record time

Of course, everyone always assumed Smash Hits didn't do meaningful conversations but instead asked questions like "what's your favourite ice-cream flavour?" or "boxers or briefs?". Sure, I probably asked both on at least one occasion, but most of the time it was nice to just have a chat to pop stars without a ticking clock and a packed schedule full of other interviewers just waiting to ask the same five questions you had time for.

Number 75 "We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight" by Emma Bunton
Here's one singer I got to speak to on the phone and then meet in person at the obligatory cruise of Sydney Harbour during her promotional tour. In 2001, things were initially going great for Baby Spice's solo career. She followed up her 1999 guest spot on Tin Tin Out's "What I Am" with her first solo single proper, "What Took You So Long?" (number 79 on this list), which gave her a UK number 1 and an Australian top 10.
"We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight" was her third single (the forgettable "Take My Breath Away" was in between) and, despite being my favourite song by Emma up until that point, it became the lowest charting solo Spice single to date in the UK. Yep, even Mel B's "Tell Me" and Victoria's "Not Such An Innocent Girl" did better.

Number 74 "Sleeping" by Rick Astley
More songs about sleep - this time from a man who hadn't released new music in eight years. "Sleeping" was the first single from Rick's comeback album, Keep It Turned On - although it was a career revival that only took place in Germany, since the album wasn't released in the UK and most other parts of the world.  

Number 73 "Ain't It Funny" by Jennifer Lopez
Mentioned below

Number 72 "Shining Light" by Ash
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 71 "Hunter" by Dido
With "Thank You" and "Here With Me" finally becoming worldwide hits for Dido in 2000, attention was turned to this song, which hadn't been previously released from No Angel. My favourite song from No Angel, it didn't chart as well as the previous singles but that probably had more to do with the fact that everybody already owned a copy of the album than anything else.

Number 70 "Things I've Seen" by Spooks
Taken from their debut album, S.I.O.S.O.S. (which apparently stands for Spooks Is On Some Other Shit), "Things I've Seen" suggested great things were to come from this hip-hop collective (who boasted members with such interesting names as Hypno and Water Water). However, this turned out to be as good as it got for the group, who'd gone their separate ways within a couple of years.

Number 69 "You Give Me Something" by Jamiroquai
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 68 "If You Come Back" by Blue
With the demise of Five and Another Level, room opened up in the crowded British market for a new boy band - and Blue combined elements from both of their predecessors. On the one hand, they followed in Another Level's R&B footsteps, even releasing a cover of a hit US single in "Too Close" (number 90 on this list). On the other, they had the pop sensibility of Five - with catchy songs like debut single "All Rise" (number 11) and ballad "If You Come Back" making them chart stars and teen mag sensations in the UK and here in Australia, where we put them on the cover of Smash Hits.

Number 67 "Who Do You Love Now (Stringer)" by Riva featuring Dannii Minogue
Following an absence from the music scene during which she mostly dated racing car driver Jacques Villeneuve, Dannii Minogue was back in club diva mode as guest vocalist on this track, which had started life as instrumental "Stringer". Dutch duo Riva had previously landed club and chart hits as The Goodmen ("Give It Up") and Chocolate Puma ("I Wanna Be U"). With a bit of added Minogue pizazz, this song became a UK top 10 and Australian top 15 hit  - and influenced the direction Dannii's music career would take next.

Number 66 "Play" by Jennifer Lopez
J.Lo had about 57 hit singles in 2001 - and that was partly because she released alternate versions of many of her songs to cater to different audiences (and radio stations). This pop/dance track, the natural successor to "Waiting For Tonight", was my favourite - but it wasn't one of her biggest singles in the US. Instead, the Americans favoured the Ja Rule-featuring Murder remixes of "I'm Real" (number 88 on this list) and "Ain't It Funny" (number 73), sending both to number 1 for extended stays - although for me, the original versions of both those songs were just fine.

Number 65 "Twentyfourseven" by Artful Dodger featuring Melanie Blatt
As well as being the first post-All Saints hit for any of the group members, this collaboration was also the reason for my first conference call interview, with Mel and one of the members of the 2-step team connecting from various points on the globe. You can imagine how smoothly that went. It would be the last top 10 single for Artful Dodger in the UK, while for Mel, it would be her highest-charting song - with her solo career in 2003 failing to ignite.

Number 64 "Chillin'" by Modjo
The French disco outfit behind "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" proved they were no one-hit wonders with this almost-as-good follow-up single. They were, however, a one-album wonder, which was a shame since their self-titled album was pretty good, too.

Number 63 "Me, Myself & I" by Scandal'us
The first season of Popstars had been such a success that it was inevitable there'd be a second - and this time a mixed-sex group was the end product. Comprising Jason, Anna, Simon, Daniela and (future bride of Kyle Sandilands) Tamara, Scandal'us stole the apostrophe idea from Hear'Say and pretty much everything else from *NSYNC. This Australian number 1 hit was their only really successful single - follow-up "Make Me Crazy" stalled at number 30.
Unlike with Bardot, who were already stars by the time I started working in magazines, I was there from the very start with Scandal'us, and spent a fair bit of time with them at interviews and photo shoots. With odd exceptions (guess who?), they were always great to work with, and genuinely enthusiastic and excited to be given a chance at pop fame. Unfortunately, that fame was as fleeting as it gets - with the local music industry chewing them up and spitting them out in record time.  

Number 62 "Whole Again" by Atomic Kitten
The song that changed everything (including the line-up) for Atomic Kitten was one last ditch effort by their record company to turn the girl group from chart also-rans into an A-list pop act. It worked - and how. Flying straight to number 1 in the UK and staying there for four weeks, it also narrowly missed the top spot in Australia.
Midway through promotion for the song, original member Kerry Katona left the group to go and have Brian McFadden's baby, and ex-Precious member was drafted in to keep the group, er, whole. With no suitable follow-up single in the bag, the new-look trio quickly recorded a remake of The Bangles' "Eternal Flame" (number 93 on this list), which gave them another smash (at least in the UK).

Number 61 "AM To PM" by Christina Milian
Better known these days for her involvement in US reality series Dancing With The Stars and The Voice, Christina Milian was a fresh-faced 19-year-old when she released this debut single in 2001. The song was produced by Bloodshy & Avant, who would go on to produce some of Britney Spears' biggest mid-'00s hits.

Number 60 "Love Song" by Naimee Coleman
Having collaborated with Aurora on their remake of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" the previous year, Irish singer Naimee Coleman included another cover on her solo album, Bring Down The Moon. This time it was The Cure's 1989 single that received the makeover - with some more trance/pop mixes included on the single release for good measure. The one below isn't my favourite mix - but the Brothers In Rhythm edit isn't on YouTube, and who's got time to listen to the 10-and-a-half minute extended version?

Number 59 "19/2000 (Soulchild mix)" by Gorillaz
Not since The Archies had a cartoon creation made as big an impact on the charts as this virtual band, the brainchild of Blur's Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. I wasn't as big a fan of debut single "Clint Eastwood" or the original version of this follow-up, but this much poppier version of "19/2000" was right up my alley.

Number 58 "Whenever, Wherever" by Shakira
The first time I heard the name Shakira mentioned, it was by Britney Spears (who was a fan) during her visit to Australia in 2001. In a matter of weeks, everyone was talking about the Colombian superstar and her crossover to the English-language market. With its perky pan pipes, crazy lyrics and Shakira's hip-swivelling moves in the video, "Whenever, Wherever" was always going to be massive. In Australia alone, it was a six-week chart-topper and the second highest-selling single for 2002 - just one of more than two dozen countries where it went to number 1.

Number 57 "Takin' Back What's Mine" by Leah Haywood
We saw her back in my top 100 for 2000 with debut single "We Think It's Love", and in 2001, Leah went even further down the pop route with this Britney-sounding track. At the time, Sony Music Australia were trying to turn all their acts into clones of pop superstars like Britney and Christina Aguilera (including making Delta Goodrem sing the poppy "I Don't Care" instead of one of her original tracks) - and while some songs, like this one, were a decent attempt at capturing that sound, I couldn't help but think the artists involved didn't really have their hearts in it.

Number 56 "The Sound Of Breaking Up" by paulmac featuring Peta Morris
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 55 "Why" by Mis-teeq
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 54 "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child
Their line-up troubles behind them, the three-piece Destiny's Child concentrated on becoming the world's premier girl group in 2001 with the release of their Survivor album. The title track gave them another smash hit, but it was this Stevie Nicks-sampling second single that I preferred.

Number 53 "Pure & Simple" by Hear'Say
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 52 "ASAP" by Bardot
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 51 "Where The Party At" by Jagged Edge featuring Nelly
This four-piece male vocal R&B group had been around since the mid-'90s, but Australia only caught on thanks to the Run DMC-sampling remix of "Let's Get Married". "Where The Party At" was the lead single from their subsequent album, Jagged Little Thrill, and was the first of a huge string of singles in the coming years that featured my favourite rapper in a guest role. Nelly might have had a hit-laden future, but Australia lost interest just as quickly in Jagged Edge, who wouldn't be heard of here for another five years - and then only in a guest capacity.

In Part 3, a trio of my favourite '80s bands all released new material and Popstars launched another new, short-lived chart star. Before that, we head back to 1989 for this Wednesday's regular ARIA chart recap.

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