Monday, 16 December 2013

The Best Of 1999 - part 2

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

We're 25 songs into my top 100 for 1999 - and apart from the obvious end-of-the-century excitement (even though, technically, 1999 wasn't the end of the 20th Century), I'd forgotten what an eventful year it was. In the world of film, the first new Star Wars movie since 1983 was released to generally lacklustre reviews, while Shakespeare In Love controversially won the Best Picture Oscar over Elizabeth and Saving Private Ryan (among others).

Jennifer Lopez became a triple threat in 1999

On TV, The Sopranos was launched by HBO - and would go on to change the face of the TV industry. Another industry would be forever altered with another of 1999's new arrivals: file-sharing site Napster. Downloading (illegal or otherwise) was still some way off, and so these next batch of songs were all ones I bought on CD (single or otherwise)...

Number 75 "Buddy X 99" Dreem Ream vs Neneh Cherry
Originally a track on her under-rated second album, Homebrew, "Buddy X" (which appeared in my top 100 for 1993) was transformed into a speed garage anthem by the British production trio. In the process, it improved upon its original UK chart position of number 35 by 20 places. This was the last time Neneh made an appearance on the UK top 40, although I still hold out hope she'll eventually return with another killer single.

Number 74 "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" by Eiffel 65
After Cher's 1998 mega-hit pioneered the use of Auto-Tune in pop records, it was everywhere in 1999 - including this debut single by the Italian Eurodance act. One of the year's biggest global hits, "Blue..." would be for Eiffel 65 what "Barbie Girl" was for Aqua - the type of hit that has probably kept them comfortably rich, but one which also prevented much further success. And, despite the Grammy nomination for "Blue..." in the Best Dance Recording category, it's a track which is now viewed more as a novelty record than the groundbreaking song it kind of was.

Number 73 "9PM (Till I Come)" by ATB
From one Eurodance classic to another - the debut record by the trance artist otherwise known as Andre Tanneberger. Released in his homeland of Germany in late 1998, it took until July 1999 (after the song received a hammering in mainland holiday destinations) for the song to cross over to the UK. So impatient were British fans to get their hands on the track that two different import singles (from Germany and Australia) found their way onto the UK chart ahead of the official re-release there (it had originally come out and flopped in March). Another link to Eiffel 65: strong sales for an import release is something that also occurred with "Blue (Da Be Dee)" in the UK.

Number 72 "Tonite" by Supercar
Back to Italy for another dance smash - and one that sounded more than a little influenced by French disco, what with all the vocoder going on. The dance duo only landed the one hit, with follow-up "Computer Love" failing to make the same impact.

Number 71 "Feel Good" by Phats & Small
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 70 "Don't Say You Love Me" by M2M
Keeping things on a European tip, this was the debut single (and one of only two big hits) for Norwegian duo M2M, who got their name from members Marion Raven and Marit Larsen. "Don't Say You Love Me" was also the "Almost Unreal" of its day, taken as it was from the soundtrack to kids' flick Pokémon: The First Movie without really having anything to do with the film.

Number 69 "If Ya Gettin' Down" by Five
Five were back with their second album in 1999 - and this lead single reached number 2 in both the UK and Australia. I don't think I realised at the time just how big Five were in my home country, since I spent the year in their home country - but Five were easily the biggest boy band from the UK and Ireland during the '90s and early '00s in Australia, notching up a string of top 10 hits here.
"If Ya Gettin' Down", which sampled the Indeep classic, "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life", and also featured the classic line "wiggy wiggy, I'm gettin' jiggy", became their equal highest-charting song in Australia, while in the UK, their next single, "Keep On Movin'" (number 27 on this list), became their first of three chart-toppers.

Number 68 "Sun Is Shining" by Technique
Like Dubstar and Peach, who have featured in several of my '90s countdowns, Technique was a female-fronted synthpop group I discovered due to the involvement of producers I'd liked from other projects. In this case, it was Youth and Stephen Hague whose names I recognised, although the fact Technique was named after a New Order album was another indication I'd like the music they produced. "Sun Is Shining" lived up to my expectations, but unfortunately didn't become a hit - and the subsequent album was shelved for years.

Number 67 "Back Here" by BBMak
It was a story we'd see several times over the next few years - a British act would become successful in the US before making it big back home. It would take until February 2001 for "Back Here" to reach the top 5 hit in Britain, after being a long-running top 20 hit in the US throughout the second half of 2000. It all started in late 1999, when the song reached number 37 in the UK and was included on a Hits compilation (the rival to the Now! series) that I bought at the time. A cheery pop/rock song, "Back Here" would be the biggest hit for BBMak (who got their name from the surnames of members Mark Barry, Christian Burns and Stephen McNally).

Number 66 "All Or Nothing" by Cher
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 65 "Saltwater" by Chicane featuring Maire Brennan of Clannad
Having started off releasing instrumental tracks, Chicane really struck gold combining their commercial trance sound with vocals - like on this UK top 10 hit, which sampled "Theme From Harry's Game", a 1982 soundtrack song by Irish folk band Clannad. It wasn't the first time the Celtic track had been worked into a pop song - in 1998, Kaleef hit the UK top 30 with "Sands Of Time", which also sampled it extensively.

Number 64 "Can't Get Enough" by Soulsearcher
Like Supercar's "Tonite", Soulsearcher (aka Marc Pomeroy) had disco influences - but ones that dated right back to the actual 1970s. The song sampled 1979 track "Let's Lovedance Tonight" by Gary's Gang and featured vocals by Donna Allen, who had featured in my end-of-year charts for 1987 ("Serious") and 1997 ("Saturday"), and Thea Austin.

Number 63 "Skin" by Charlotte
In its original form (there's a link in the song title above), it was a slice of smooth British R&B, not too dissimilar to tracks by Shola Ama, Kele Le Roc and Celetia, who we all saw back in 1998. But, after a Junior Vasquez remix (below), it was transformed into a dance floor-friendly anthem. As a result of that and various other remixes, "Skin" was a Billboard dance chart number 1 for blind singer Charlotte Kelly - and the biggest song of her career.

Number 62 "Sing It Back" by Moloko
Also finding a level of success they hadn't encountered before thanks to a remix were quirky British duo Moloko. Taken from their second album, I Am Not A Doctor, "Sing It Back" was transformed into a slinky club record by German DJ/producer Boris Dlugosch and went on to become a UK top 5 hit. Like Everything But The Girl before them, the remix opened up a whole new audience for the duo of Róisín Murphy and Mark Brydon.

Number 61 "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim
From remixes we move on to samples... Here's an artist who, like Moby, struck gold (and multi-platinum) in the late '90s thanks to some clever sampling of obscure old records. He'd had two big hits in 1998 with "The Rockafeller Skank" and "Gangster Trippin'", but it was "Praise You" that really pushed things over the edge (and was my favourite of his singles). Based around a sample from gospel record "Take Yo' Praise" by Camille Yarbrough, the song and the accompanying music video (directed by Spike Jonze) even crossed over to become an American top 40 hit.

Number 60 "Action And Drama" by Bis
If ever there was a song with lyrics tailor-made for me it was this track by indie pop trio Bis, which name-checked Bananarama and Madonna, and referenced songs by Wham! and Mel & Kim. A whole lot of fun, even if it didn't follow "Eurodisco" into the UK top 40.

Number 59 "Everytime / Ready Or Not" by a1
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 58 "I Learned From The Best" by Whitney Houston
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 57 "As" by George Michael / Mary J Blige
The original by Stevie Wonder was taken from his legendary 1976 album, Songs In The Key Of Life, which also featured classics like "I Wish", "Pastime Paradise", "Knocks Me Off My Feet" and "Isn't She Lovely". This remake was the second single lifted from George Michael's Ladies & Gentlemen career retrospective - and was his first duet with a female vocalist since 1987's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)".

Number 56 "If Everybody Looked The Same" by Groove Armada
Subsequent singles "I See You Baby" and "At The River" received more exposure, but it was this first release from Andy Cato and Tom Findlay's second album, Vertigo, that I liked best. Never as big as the likes of Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada continued to release great - but mostly under-performing - dance tracks throughout the next decade and a bit.

Number 55 "Waiting For Tonight" by Jennifer Lopez
Before she was J.Lo or Jenny From The Block, she was "that actress who played Selena" or "the girl from Out Of Sight", thanks to her breakthrough acting roles in 1997 and 1998 respectively. But, in 1999, it was all about the music as Jennifer turned herself into a pop star. Debut single "If You Had My Love" was an instant smash, but it was this follow-up that grabbed my attention.
A cover of an album track by 3rd Party (who we saw back in my 1998 countdown), "Waiting For Tonight" was the type of club-influenced pop track that usually only worked on the Billboard dance charts, but also became a mainstream success there (and everywhere else) for one of the year's biggest new stars - and I'm not referring to the junk in her trunk. Released towards the very end of the year, "Waiting For Tonight" was also the perfect tune for Y2K parties, a fact that was referenced in the laser-tastic music video.

Number 54 "Stand By You" by S.O.A.P.
We saw the Danish sister act in my 1998 countdown with "This Is How We Party" - and while follow-up "Ladidi Ladida", which gave them a second top 20 hit in Australia, did nothing for me, this third single, which did nothing anywhere in the world, was a return to form. "Stand By You" would go on to be covered by S Club 7 (who will be making an appearance or three during this countdown) while S.O.A.P. would release a second album in 2000 that I wasn't interested in at all.

Number 53 "Crazy" by Lucid
Here's another act following up a big 1998 track: dance hit "I Can't Help Myself". This sound-alike second single was almost as good, but not quite as big a hit in the UK, only reaching number 14. Still, "Crazy" did much better than Lucid's third release, a cover of Judie Tzuke's 1979 ballad, "Stay With Me Till Dawn", which just scrapes into my top 200. And that was the last anyone heard from Lucid.

Number 52 "U Know What's Up" by Donell Jones featuring Lisa 'Left-eye' Lopes
Before her untimely death in 2002, TLC's Lisa 'Left-eye' Lopes had become one of the go-to rappers for guest spots, including her appearance on this breakthrough (and biggest) hit for US R&B singer Donell Jones. We'd see Lisa again on records by Melanie C and *NSYNC, but this would be as good as things got for Donell.

Number 51 "Without You" by Dina Carroll
1999 was when the wheels really fell off the Dina Carroll project. Planned singles were cancelled, her third album was delayed, and her musical direction was revised and revised again. Amidst all that, the former BRIT Award winner and million-selling artist managed to release this pop/dance gem, but it was only a moderate hit and the ubiquitous best of was just around the corner.

In Part 3: hits from the first studio album in almost a decade from one of the world's biggest artists, two UK soap stars turn their hand to pop and UK garage gets it first big star. Before then, this week's ARIA chart recap from 1988.

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