Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Best Of 2004 - part 3

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

We didn't know it at the time, but 2004 would mark a bit of a turning point for music, with dance music starting to infiltrate pop and R&B in a big way.

The Simpson sisters were two of 2004's most discussed
singers... but not necessarily for the right reasons

The shift in sound was especially noticeable in the US, which had traditionally been very resistant to electronic music - but within a couple of years, everyone would be jumping on the EDM bandwagon. As we count down from number 50 to number 26 of my top 100 for that year, we'll see some of the key releases that helped push music forward.

Number 50 "With You" by Jessica Simpson
It's amazing the impact reality TV had in its early years. At the start of the decade, Jessica Simpson was just another in the long line of pretty blonde singers who came in the wake of Britney Spears, but thanks to Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, her series with husband Nick Lachey, she emerged from the crowd. Unfortunately she became known more for her dim-witted quotes than her music, with even this pretty pop ditty, which was her biggest Australian and UK hit up until that point, overshadowed by her tuna vs chicken confusion.

Number 49 "If There's Any Justice" by Lemar
It didn't take long for the Popstars and Pop Idol cynicism to begin, and in the UK, some bright spark came up with the idea of creating a reality show for artists with "real talent". That show was Fame Academy, which ran for two seasons in 2002-03, and while seven finalists from across both seasons placed singles in the UK top 40, it was Lemar Obika (season one's third place finalist) who ended up as the series' biggest success story. "If There's Any Justice" was my favourite of the seven UK top 10 singles he accumulated between 2003 and 2010.

Number 48 "All Nite (Don't Stop) / I Want You" by Janet Jackson
Gone were the days when a Janet Jackson album would be so packed with great songs that even though singles would be issued for years after, there'd still be albums tracks left over that could've been hits. By 2004 and Janet's Damita Jo album (named after the singer's middle names), only three singles ended up being released - two if you lived in one of the countries where "All Nite (Don't Stop)" / "I Want You" was a double A-side release. The other single was "Just A Little While" (number 76 on this list), and while both it and "All Nite (Don't Stop)" were good additions to Janet's catalogue of hits, I couldn't help but feel that her best days were behind her.

Number 47 "Push Up" by Freestylers
Their earlier single "Told You So" ended up missing my top 100 for 2002 by some margin (landing at number 143), but British breakbeat group Freestylers came through with the goods in 2004 with this massive Australian hit (it reached number 2 here). From memory, the "Push Up" single was quickly deleted, causing follow-up "Get A Life", which featured "Push Up" as a bonus track, to peak at number 15 in Australia. I own the "Get A Life" CD single, but since I can't even recall how that song goes, I clearly bought it for "Push Up" - like so many other people must have done.

Number 46 "Obviously" by McFly
For nearly a decade, Australia remaining oblivious to the charms of Brit four-piece McFly, who were launched in the wake of Busted's success (another band that never made much impression locally) and soon eclipsed their forerunners in both chart success and longevity. At the time, I wished McFly would take off in Australia - it probably would've helped if Universal Music bothered to release their singles here - since every issue of Smash Hits UK came packed with articles and posters on the band, and I would've had access to a mountain of material for the Australian edition of the magazine. That wasn't to be and I was left to enjoy tracks like "Obviously" and debut single "Five Colours In Her Hair" (number 70 on this list) seemingly on my own.

Number 45 "See It In A Boy's Eyes" by Jamelia
Years before Rihanna worked with Coldplay and Katy Perry filmed a video in which she played a soldier, Jamelia did both for this fourth single from her Thank You album. I remember it being quite a big deal at the time that the song was co-written by Chris Martin, with his rock credentials forcing more "serious" music press to give Jamelia a second look.

Number 44 "I'll Be There" by Emma Bunton
Another British female singer who was on a bit of a singles hit streak - albeit with a very different style of music - was this Spice Girl, with "I'll Be There" becoming the third straight UK top 10 single from Free Me. At the time, she was the sole member of the girl group still landing hits on a regular basis, with only Geri Halliwell also managing to score one UK top 10 hit in 2004 with "Ride It".

Number 43 "Pieces Of Me" by Ashlee Simpson
While big sister Jessica became the poster girl for blonde bimbos the world over, younger sibling Ashlee, who'd made her name as one of the stars of Aaron Spelling's family drama Seventh Heaven, became infamous for her disastrous Saturday Night Live performance of this single. Although Ashlee did her best to make light of the blunder, it's something she never really lived down, despite releasing much better singles that Jessica over the coming years.

Number 42 "Enjoy The Silence 04" by Depeche Mode
Mike Koglin had turned it into a trance anthem in the late '90s and, six years later, another Mike - Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda - transformed arguably the best known Depeche Mode track into a synthpop/nu metal hybrid. The result was a fantastic update of the 1990 single that in one stroke gave the song a modern feel while preserving the integrity of the original record. The same couldn't be said for all the songs on the band's triple-CD remix album, Remixes 81-04.

Number 41 "Some Girls" by Rachel Stevens
Bizarrely chosen as the official single for 2004's Sports Relief (a spin-off of Comic Relief), this became the ex-S Club 7 singer's third single and, after the disappointing performance of the David Bowie-sampling "Funky Dory", returned her to the upper reaches of the UK chart. Co-written and produced by Richard X, "Some Girls" was also included in a repackage of her debut solo album, also called Funky Dory, along with her fourth single, a cover of Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More", which followed "Some Girls" into the UK top 3. For the time being, Rachel's music career was back on track.

Number 40 "Somebody To Love" by Boogie Pimps
Before there was Starship, there was Jefferson Starship and, even earlier, Jefferson Airplane. And before Jefferson Airplane, singer Grace Slick had performed alongside her husband, Jerry, and his brother, Darby, in The Great Society. Darby had written this song for The Great Society, who released it in 1966, but it was the version by Jefferson Airplane, which Grace joined shortly after, that became a hit. Almost four decades later, German dance duo Boogie Pimps turned the song into a success all over again - with their version of "Somebody To Love" reaching the Australian and UK top 10, thanks in no small part to the memorable music video featuring skydiving babies.

Number 39 "All Things (Just Keep Getting Better)" by Widelife featuring Simone Denny
Alongside Jessica Simpson's reality show, one of the other non-scripted hits of 2004 was makeover series Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. A brief phenomenon, which gave the show's Fab 5 their due 15 minutes of fame, the program also had quite a good theme song. Written and produced by Canadian dance act Widelife, the song featured vocals by former Love Inc. singer Simone Denny.

Number 38 "GIve It Away" by Deepest Blue
We saw them in my top 100 for 2003 with their eponymous debut single, and the duo of Joel Edwards and Mark Schwartz scored again with this follow-up, which became another UK top 10 hit for them. "Give It Away" was followed by two less-successful singles, "Is It A Sin" and "Shooting Star", which are both outside my top 100 for 2004.

Number 37 "I Believe In You" by Kylie Minogue
It might seem like all that Kylie's various record labels have done over the years is release best of compilations and remix albums, but she's really only had two greatest hits collections worth getting excited about. The first came in 1992 at the conclusion of her time with PWL, so by 2004, she'd released more than enough singles to warrant another, Ultimate Kylie. This track, written and produced by Scissor Sisters members Jake Shears and Babydaddy was one of two new songs on the double-CD collection, and easily surpassed anything on the Body Language album, including "Red Blooded Woman" (number 90 on this list) and "Chocolate", which is my least favourite Kylie single ever.

Number 36 "Can't Say Goodbye" by Pop!
Mike Stock and Matt Aitken hadn't really succeeded in emulating Steps with the four-piece Scooch in the late '90s/early '00s, so quite why Pete Waterman, who'd been behind Steps in the first place, thought another sound-alike quartet would work is unclear. In the end, Pop! fell massively short of anything even Scooch managed to achieve, although this second single (the lowest charting of the three that Pop! released) was a pretty good pop song. Obviously, Pop! had nothing to do with the Australian act of the same name (including the exclamation mark), who we saw on my top 100 for 1995 with "Tingly".

Number 35 "Yeah!" by Usher featuring Ludacris & Lil Jon
Years before the likes of The Black Eyed Peas or Chris Brown discovered electronic music, Usher infused his smooth brand of R&B with dance floor elements on this lead single from the Confessions album. He also utilised another trend that would become de rigeur for the R&B/hip-hop genre by featuring two guest rappers on the track - and Ludacris and Lil Jon would be names we'd see again and again over the coming years, as they seemingly contributed to songs by any artist willing to pay their guest appearance fee.

Number 34 "Maybe" by N*E*R*D
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 33 "Amazing" by George Michael
He hadn't released a decent song in years (and, in fact, 2002's double whammy of "Freeek!" and "Shoot The Dog" had been truly awful), but George Michael finally came up with the goods one last time with this single from his aptly titled Patience album. Although further tracks were lifted from the album, and other releases have followed in the years since, none have recaptured this or his previous moments of brilliance.

Number 32 "Put 'Em High" by Stonebridge featuring Therese
Swedish DJ Sten Hallström had been around for years as a remixer and producer, but in 2004, he finally emerged as an artist in his own right with this lead single from his excellent Can't Get Enough album, which featured Swedish singer Therese Grankvist on vocals.

Number 31 "Kinda Love" by Darius
As the time passed since Darius Danesh (who now goes by the surname Campbell) had appeared on Popstars and Pop Idol, he became more and more convincing as a recording artist, with this lead single from his Live Twice album giving him his fourth UK top 10 hit. It wouldn't last, however, with poor album sales resulting in him moving on to a career in the West End and then, in 2010, making a return to reality TV in the first season of Popstar To Operastar. Third time was the charm for Darius, who finally won his first reality show, beating out another Popstars alumnus, ex-Hear'say member Kym Marsh, among other celebrities.

Number 30 "Your Game" by Will Young
Now, here's the singer who beat Darius on Pop Idol - and Will Young had also developed substantially as a recording artist in the years since appearing on the reality series, winning the BRIT Award for Best Single in 2005 for this track. Co-written by the as-yet-unknown Taio Cruz, "Your Game" was the second release from Will's Friday's Child album and came with a music video that was actually filmed in Sydney, despite the fact that Will has never managed any kind of profile in this country.

Number 29 "Rocking Music" by Martin Solveig
It'd take until the start of the next decade for the French DJ/producer born Martin Picandet to become widely known thanks to his work with Dragonette and Madonna, but he got off to a good start as a performer with this single from his debut studio album, Sur La Terre. In fact, "Rocking Music" even managed to sneak into the ARIA top 40.

Number 28 "Call On Me" by Eric Prydz
Meanwhile, here's a Swedish DJ and producer who made a much bigger immediate impact with this track, which not only sampled the Steve Winwood classic "Valerie" but featured re-recorded vocals by Steve himself. As well as prompting a host of imitators to rifle through their '80s record collections and find a hook to sample, "Call On Me" came with a raunchy aerobics class video which led to a spate of copycat clips.

Number 27 "Waiting For You" by Seal
When Seal was announced as one of the coaches on the Australian version of The Voice a couple of years ago, I was asked in a radio interview why we should be excited about Seal when he'd only ever had two hits. As a long-time fan of the British singer, I immediately baulked at the claim, but it's true - in Australia, he's only ever really had two big singles: "Crazy" and "Kiss From A Rose". This single from Seal IV (he went back to eponymous album titles after a brief divergence in the '90s) was another song that was not the hit it should have been, and the lack of success of the album probably led to those soul covers collections.

Number 26 "Stupidisco" by Junior Jack
Here's a dance track which, like "Call On Me", was built around a hook from an '80s song (in this case, "Dare Me" by The Pointer Sisters) and had an overtly sexual music video. However, "Stupidisco" hit the UK chart several months before the Eric Prydz track so it can't be accused of imitation.

In Part 4, the return of the classic line-up of one of my favourite groups of all time, the best Idol winner's single of all time, and two of the most exciting and heavily '80s-influenced bands of the '00s arrive on the scene.

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