Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Best Of 2000 - part 1

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

OK, as promised in my 2013 countdown, my aim for this year is to complete my journey through my favourite songs of years past, which means revisiting one year from 2000 to 2011 each month between now and Christmas (nothing like a bit of forward planning).

LeAnn Rimes couldn't fight the inevitable pop crossover in 2000

Naturally, that means kicking off with the year 2000 - half of which I spent in the UK finishing out my working holiday visa and half of which I spent back in Australia putting my years of pop devotion to good use as a sub editor and writer on the now defunct TV Hits magazine. In many ways, it was the best time in the world to be working in teen press - pop music had never been bigger with girl groups and boy bands a-plenty, and I was still young enough (25 years old) to get away with listening to them all... just.

Number 100 "Black Coffee" by All Saints
Fittingly, our first act was one of the biggest girl groups around in 2000. Shaznay, Mel and the Appletons were on to their second album, Saints & Sinners, which featured their most successful single to date, The Beach soundtrack hit "Pure Shores" (number 53 on this list). Although "Black Coffee" gave them a second straight UK number 1 from the album, the cracks were already beginning to show and rumours of in-fighting and an imminent break-up were rife. That split would come in 2001 - and we'll get to each of the girls' projects after All Saints in subsequent countdowns.

Number 99 "Feel Good" by Madasun
For every A-list boy band or girl group in 2000, there was a B-list (or lower) group modelled on them hoping to emulate their success. In Madasun's case, the inspiration was clearly All Saints, with the British trio sporting a similarly streetwise image and cool pop sound. Vicky, Abby and Vonda released three singles from debut album The Way It Is (a particular favourite in the TV Hits office) in 2000, but never really broke through in a big way.
"Don't You Worry" was the first and biggest hit, but I preferred this third and final release, which came out around the time of an Australian promo visit that inevitably involved a cruise of Sydney Harbour with the band and media. At the time, I was pretty chuffed to be heading out to sea with a real life pop group, little realising it would become a bit of a cliché in the years to follow.

Number 98 "Fool Again" by Westlife
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 97 "Don't Falter" by Mint Royale featuring Lauren Laverne
She was the lead singer for indie group Kenickie (yep, named after the Grease character); they were the latest remix/production duo on the block most famous for remixing Terrorvision's "Tequila" the previous year. Together, they released this delightful track - the biggest hit any of them had previously put their name to.
Lauren would go on to a successful broadcasting career in the UK, while Mint Royale went from a duo to a solo project for Neil Claxton in 2004 and enjoyed their biggest hit with a remix of "Singin' In The Rain", which eventually topped the UK charts after its use by contestant (and eventual winner) George Sampson on Britain's Got Talent.

Number 96 "Never Had A Dream Come True" by S Club 7
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 95 "Holler / Let Love Lead The Way" by Spice Girls
The good news: the four-piece Spice Girls scored yet another number 1 in the UK - their ninth! - with this double A-side release from third album Forever. The bad news: it would be their last chart-topper and, in fact, their last top 10 hit with 2007's reunion single "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)" only reaching number 11 in Britain.
Although "Let Love Lead The Way" was a typical Spice Girls ballad (with the usual ad-libs from Melanie C at the end), it and the much more American-influenced "Holler" were produced by Darkchild (aka Rodney Jerkins), who was just about the biggest name in R&B at the time.
There would be no further singles released from Forever, despite TV Hits running a competition to design the artwork for mooted follow-up "Tell Me Why" and a limited run made of the winning entry, but the girls were too occupied with their solo projects to mind.

Number 94 "Where Is The Love" by Kamasutra
Time for some dance music - and this vocal house track came from Italian duo Alex Neri and Marco Baroni, who'd actually been releasing music since the early '90s (with a brief interruption when they had to go and serve in the Italian army). As far as I can determine, "Where Is The Love" was their final release, but they'd be back as part of Planet Funk with 2001 hit "Chase The Sun".

Number 93 "Dancing In The Moonlight" by Toploader
We saw their non-hit "Let The People Know" on my 1999 countdown, and Toploader finally broke through with this cover of the 1973 King Harvest track. Toploader's version hit the UK top 20 at the start of 2000, and was remixed by Stargate (one of the biggest pop production teams at the time) and re-released towards the end of the year, propelling it into the top 10. Toploader were suddenly massive - but it wouldn't last, with the British press and public turning on the band soon after. It would prove to be a backlash they'd never recover from.

Number 92 "Glorious" by Andreas Johnson
Time for some Scandipop - or, I suppose, some Scandipop/rock with this breakthrough hit from the Swedish singer. It would be his only international hit, but Andreas has continued to record in Sweden and regularly competes in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish competition to determine their entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. So far, he's been unsuccessful.

Number 91 "Freakytime" by Point Break
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 90 "Music" by Madonna
Previously featured here

Number 89 "(Just) Me & You" by New Vision
More vocal house - and, unusually for me, another track with a male vocal. I chalk it up to the Armand van Helden factor - and tracks hoping to emulate the success of the Duane Harden-sung "You Don't Know Me" (which we also saw in my 1999 countdown). New Vision was comprised of Albert Cabrera and Samuel Morales, who only released this one track together.

Number 88 "Must Be The Music" by Joey Negro featuring Taka Boom
Why have one alias when you can have several - that seems to be the rationale for British DJ and producer Dave Lee, who, as well as being behind this disco-tinged track as Joey Negro, would release club hits in subsequent years as Raven Maize and Jakatta. Dave has also used a bunch of other names, but the Joey Negro alias is one of his best known, and one he'd been using since 1990. Meanwhile, the excellently named vocalist Taka Boom is actually Yvonne Stevens, younger sister of music legend Chaka Khan (real name: Yvette Stevens).

Number 87 "Coffee" by Supersister
Cheesy pop alert! When Britain gets into pop, they really go all out - and the scene was just camp enough for this debut single which featured the classic line: "I like my man like I like my coffee: hot, strong and sweet life toffee". "Coffee" may have had its tongue planted a little too firmly in its cheek - no doubt the reason Supersister was never a pop force to be reckoned with, although it's possibly not the campest song on this countdown.

Number 86 "Bingo Bango" by Basement Jaxx
You've got to give it to Basement Jaxx - they don't do the same thing twice, and this fourth and final single from the Remedy album sounded about as different from predecessors "Red Alert", "Rendez-vu" and "Jump N' Shout" as they all had from each other.

Number 85 "See Ya" by Atomic Kitten
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 84 "It's Gonna Be My Way" by Precious
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 83 "Can't Fight The Moonlight" by LeAnn Rimes
The soundtrack hit was still alive and well in 2000, and there was none bigger that year than this theme to Coyote Ugly. With the dream team of songwriter Diane Warren and producer Trevor Horn behind it, it couldn't fail. Add to that the vocals of 18-year-old LeAnn, who was emerging from the country scene as a fully-fledged pop artist, and "Can't Fight The Moonlight" was a monster - the highest-selling single in Australia in 2001 and a chart-topper around the world.

Number 82 "New Beginning" by Stephen Gately
It had been an eventful couple of years for the other lead singer of Boyzone, who announced he was gay in 1999 before he was outed by the tabloids, who'd got wind of the truth. With band-mate Ronan Keating off to a flying start with his solo career, it only made sense for Stephen to give it a go alone and the lyrically apt "New Beginning" was his debut effort. Backed by a remake of "Bright Eyes" for an animated version of Watership Down (based on the live action film which had featured the original Art Garfunkel version of the song), "New Beginning" was a top 3 hit in the UK - by far Stephen's biggest solo success.

Number 81 "Jump Down" by B*Witched
They'd (mostly) ditched the denim for a sexy new look, but it was too late to save B*Witched from a swift trip down the dumper. Despite being their best song since "Rollercoaster", "Jump Down" was their lowest-charting single to date in the UK and Australia, and, with more girl groups than you could poke a stick at waiting in the wings, B*Witched were dropped by their record company before they could release a third album. The girls reunited last year for The Big Reunion with the threat of new music looking.

Number 80 "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)" by Paul van Dyk featuring Saint Etienne
Like the Mint Royale/Lauren Laverne track, this collaboration between the trance producer and the British indie pop group would provide both acts with their greatest UK singles chart success up until that point. For Paul, it was one of two songs of his I liked that year - "We Are Alive" makes my number 130 for 2000. For Saint Etienne, it was their only release from 2000 that I really liked - the Sound Of Water album didn't really do it for me.

Number 79 "What's A Girl To Do" by sister2sister
Girl groups were even big in Australia in 2000. We'll see the year's biggest local success story later in this countdown, while this sibling duo had a brief run of hits and even supported Britney Spears on tour in an effort to break them internationally. Not quite as big as debut single "Sister", "What's A Girl To Do" was the only song Christine and Sharon Muscat released that appealed to me, while the common shortening of their name to S2S meant the Australian chart played host to both M2M and S2S in 2000.

Number 78 "All Around The World" by Northern Line
We've seen a bunch of girl groups already, so we're long overdue for one of the plethora of boy bands launched in the UK in the hopes of becoming the next Five or Take That (or even the next 911 probably would've been OK). Northern Line had the requisite mix of barely dressed hotties, less attractive (and more covered up) guys with talent, unison dance moves and catchy pop ditties - including this third and final single. Since it charted a full 12 places lower (at number 27) than previous single "Love On The Northern Line" (number 60 on this list) in the UK, the writing was on the wall for Northern Line - and they were never heard from again.

Number 77 "Come And Get Me" by Cleopatra
Back to the girl groups and another sibling act who'd burst onto the scene with a bundle of energy (and even their own TV show) back in 1998 with kid-friendly tunes like "Cleopatra's Theme" and "Life Ain't Easy". Cleopatra was named after lead singer Cleo (full name: Cleopatra Madonna Higgins), who, together with sisters Yonah and Zainam, was all grown up by 2000 - and the trio's music reflected that.
Gone were the bouncy pop tunes and in their place were slick R&B jams from producers like Dallas Austin, Daryl Simmons, Stargate, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, but it seemed the public preferred the original Cleopatra rather than version 2.0, with this lead single from the Steppin' Out album tanking at number 29 in the UK. Dumped by their label shortly after, Cleopatra have had the odd reunion performance, while Cleo reached the semi-finals of The Voice UK last year.   

Number 76 "Lucky Star" by Superfunk featuring Ron Carroll
Pop wasn't the only genre on the rise in 2000 - as a result of Daft Punk and Stardust's success in recent years, French dance music was booming. This track sampled an old Chris Rea track, 1985's "Josephine", and featured the vocals of Ron Carroll, who'd written, produced and performed on the house scene for years.

In Part 2: I mix it up with some 2-step, Eurodance, Latin, trance and even some gospel. But, fear not, there are still plenty of girl groups and boy bands to come.

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