Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Best Of 2004 - part 1

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

It's hard to believe it's already been 10 years since 2004 - a year that brought the world Mean Girls, Facebook and an Australian princess. And, it was a year I had Australian Idol to thank for still having a magazine to run. As a result of the reality juggernaut, which had exploded at the tail end of 2003, Smash Hits suddenly had multiple new cover stars to help us shift copies.

Go the 'fro: Guy Sebastian sold and sold in 2004

It was also a year in which I got to visit the offices of the original British version of Smash Hits and see how putting together a magazine was really done. Except, Smash Hits UK had become less a music title and more an all-purpose teen girl mag, with a fashion section and actors rubbing shoulders with singers between the covers. Still, I learnt a lot and came back to Australia with new ideas and a renewed passion for peddling pop. Speaking of pop music, here are some of the tunes that caught my attention in 2004...

Number 100 "Better World" by Infusion
They'd be around for almost a decade, but in 2004, things started to come together for Wollongong electronic band Infusion, with their track "Girls Can Be Cruel" winning the Best Dance Release at that year's ARIA Awards. I preferred this follow-up, and would like another single of theirs in 2005 even more.

Number 99 "Boogie" by Brand New Heavies
A lot can happen in seven years - unless you're Brand New Heavies, in which case 2004's Allabouthefunk was the group's first wide-release studio album since 1997. Even with new vocalist Nicole Russo (whose solo album, Through My Eyes, had sunk without a trace the previous year) on board, Brand New Heavies' sound was unmistakable. That may explain why "Boogie" did nothing on the charts - music had moved on but BNH hadn't.

Number 98 "Laura" by Scissor Sisters
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 97 "Roses" by OutKast
Among their many other achievements, "Hey Ya!" and "The Way You Move" had topped the US chart for a combined total of 10 weeks, so this third single from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below had a lot to live up to. Taken from Andre 3000's side of the double album, but featuring Big Boi, "Roses" felt almost like the two OutKast members wanted to be in a group together - while the West Side Story-themed music video played up the divide. The song was another global smash and although it didn't top any major charts, it was the duo's last substantial hit.

Number 96 "Talk About Our Love" by Brandy featuring Kanye West
Like her "The Boy Is Mine" duet partner, Monica, Brandy Norwood watched her sales and chart positions decrease in 2004, but that was despite still releasing decent pop/R&B records like this lead single from the Afrodisiac album. Co-written and produced by Kanye West, "Talk About Our Love" also featured a performance by the hottest new rapper on the scene (his other big 2004 tracks, "Through The Wire" and "Slow Jamz", just miss my top 100 for the year). With her music career flagging, Brandy parted ways with her record label and turned her attentions back to TV, becoming one of the original judges on America's Got Talent in 2006.

Number 95 "I Won't Change You" by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Sophie's second and final single from Shoot From The Hip would be her last release for four years, during which time she started a family. Actually, she'd already made a start on that, shooting the clip for "I Won't Change You" while she was pregnant.

Number 94 "Little Voice" by Hilary Duff
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 93 "Burn" by Usher
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 92 "All I Need Is You" by Guy Sebastian
I may have had Guy Sebastian and Australian Idol to thank for giving Smash Hits magazine a circulation shot in the arm, but I was yet to be blown away by any of the music the inaugural victor released. "All I Need Is You" was Guy's follow-up to the obligatory big ballad winner's single - and was actually co-written by the singer himself. It's a good song, as were the first two singles from second album Beautiful Life, which Guy had moved on to before the year was out - but I was still waiting for a blockbuster "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"-style moment. Incidentally, his version of the song from The Sound Of Music that'd been such a highlight during Idol was included as a B-side to "All I Need Is You".

Number 91 "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains Of Wayne
A 2003 single in the US, but a song I came to like thanks to its appearance on the UK version of Now! That's What I Call Music 57 in 2004, "Stacy's Mom" is one of those '80s throwbacks we'd be hearing a lot of in the remainder of the '00s - and regular readers will know how I feel about the '80s. In this case, Fountains Of Wayne wore their love for The Cars on their sleeve, with the song sharing stylistic similarities with that band's track "Just What I Needed".

Number 90 "Red Blooded Woman" by Kylie Minogue
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 89 "Free" by Estelle
Mentioned below

Number 88 "Obvious" by Westlife
This by-the-numbers Westlife ballad might not be at all remarkable were it not for the fact that it was the final single the group released with Bryan (soon to be Brian) McFadden still part of the line-up. Both the group and Brian continued to record - but while we'll see more of Westlife's efforts on my year-end countdowns, Brian's yet to release anything that's really excited me.

Number 87 "What You're Made Of" by Lucie Silvas
I've always liked this ballad from Lucie Silvas without ever bothering to find out much about the British singer/songwriter. Turns out she has quite an interesting story. Originally signed by EMI, she was dropped when her debut single flopped and turned her hand to songwriting for the likes of Rachel Stevens, Liberty X and Gareth Gates. Her second artist deal with Mercury Records produced this UK top 10 single, but when the hits dried up, she was dropped once again and returned to writing, this time for The Saturdays, Katharine McPhee and the soundtrack to Broadway-based TV series Smash (in which Katharine starred).

Number 86 "Walk Into The Sun" by Dirty Vegas
They'd had some eventual success with their debut single, "Days Go By", but it wasn't until British dance trio Dirty Vegas released their second album, One, that they hit my radar. "Walk Into The Sun" was the only single released from the album, which was among my favourites for the year.

Number 85 "You Used To" by Richard X featuring Javine
This would have been the fourth single from the producer/remixer/mash-up king's album Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1, but the release ended up being shelved despite the fact that "Freak Like Me", "Being Nobody" and "Finest Dreams" had all been big UK hits. Still, I justify its inclusion here due to the fact that a single edit was released promotionally and the track was included on a various artists compilation around the time the single was meant to come out. Plus, I make the rules around here, so here it is.

Number 84 "Everytime (Hi Bias remix)" by Britney Spears
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 83 "Trick Me" by Kelis
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 82 "Caught In A Moment" by Sugababes
It wasn't quite a predictable pattern, but you pretty much knew that when Sugababes released a new single it would be one of two things: a cool pop/dance track or a stylish ballad. This fourth and final release from the girl group's Three album fell into the latter category - not one of their best ballads, but a pretty song all the same. It followed the Mogwai-sampling "In The Middle" (number 16 on this list), which features on my top 10 Sugababes singles list.

Number 81 "Baby I Love U" by Jennifer Lopez featuring R. Kelly
Just when I thought there'd be nothing on J.Lo's This Is Me... Then to interest me, this fourth single, which added R. Kelly as duet partner to the album version, saved the day. The song also featured an interpolation of John Barry's theme to the film Midnight Cowboy, and while it was a big UK hit, it didn't do much in Australia or the US.

Number 80 "Rock Your Body Rock" by Ferry Corsten
In the late '90s, he'd been behind big trance tracks like "Out Of The Blue" (as System F), "Gouryella" (as half of Gouryella), "Carte Blanche" (as half of Veracocha) and the hit remix of William Orbit's version of "Barber's Adagio For String" (as himself). Four years on and this track by the multi-aliased Dutch DJ/producer added some electroclash into the mix and gave him his biggest UK hit.

Number 79 "1980" by Estelle
Before she crossed the Atlantic, British singer/rapper Estelle Swaray received a lot of attention back home with her debut album, The 18th Day. Songs like this debut single, which scored big points with me for name-checking Mel & Kim, and "Free" (number 89 on this list) weren't particularly huge hits, but did generate a fair bit of buzz.

Number 78 "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 77 "On The Way Down" by Ryan Cabrera
As likely to be remembered for his ridiculously massive hair and string of celebrity girlfriends (including Ashlee Simpson, who features in this song's clip) as his music, Ryan Cabrera had everything going his way in 2004. But, despite landing a couple more US hits from the Take It All Away album (which was produced by Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik), Ryan's career would quickly live up to the name of this, his biggest single.

Number 76 "Just A Little While" by Janet Jackson
Mentioned in Part 3

In Part 2: a post-Britney, pre-Miley Disney star, the return of America's top girl group, another Australian Idol finalist (no, not Shannon) and a hip-hop/nu metal hybrid.

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  1. "Except, Smash Hits UK had become less a music title and more an all-purpose teen girl mag"

    I went off the local Smash Hits in 1992, when it started veering away from music, and suddenly every second cover (followed by nearly every cover in 1993) was a 90210 star or related (Jeremy Jordan)... or Peter Andre.

    I still bought it though, out of loyalty I guess, and not having yet found a substitute.

    1. I stopped buying Smash Hits around 1990, I think, and didn't really pay any attention to it again until I lived in the UK in 1999 and there was so much pop it was basically just a music magazine. Of course, little did I know it would be my job a couple of years later.