Yes, it has been a few days but I’ve been busy. Before the final leg of our nostalgia trip through the sounds of July 30th 2000, it is worth noting the constant references on the Top 40 show to “the official UK singles chart sponsored by worldpop.com”. The decision of the Official Charts Company (or CIN as they were still known back then) appeared to ruffle a few feathers, given that the BBC would have to acknowledge the commercial attachment when using the chart. To make it doubly complicated chart show presenter Mark Goodier was an investor (alongside founder Peter Powell) in the website in question, shares which he was forced to sell to avoid any other conflicts of interest. If memory serves worldpop.com was before too long a victim of the dotcom bubble and went out of business less than a year later. Mind you these were crazy times, with even the site I wrote for, dotmusic, running TV commercials encouraging people to get on board and visit.
Remember this? Despite two previous hit albums in the US, the first sight of Fred Durst et al on these shores came thanks to their theme to the second in the series of impenetrable Mission Impossible films starring Tom Cruise. Although on the surface not the most instantly commercial of offerings, the single cleverly based itself around a guitar riff inspired by the original Mission Impossible theme and took off from there. The first hit of any kind for Limp Bizkit, it flew to Number 3. This was no one-off either, as the Chocolate Starfish… album became a crossover hit and spawned a string of hit singles, including 2001 chart-topper Rollin’.
After a stuttering start, the Corrs’ second album Forgiven, Not Forgotten developed into a huge hit in 1998 and 1999, all thanks to their cover of Dreams and some inspired remixes of hits such as What Can I Do and So Young. Anticipation for the follow-up In Blue was intense. Yet the album itself was a huge miscalculation. Either their label had misinterpreted the source of their appeal, or they decided that turning them into transatlantic stars was the way forward, but the Irish siblings were dispatched to work with producer Mutt Lange who proceeded to turn them into Fleetwood Mac. Gone was the simple charm of their earlier work, and in its place was a polished mid-Atlantic rock production. Now on the surface, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the music Lead single Breathless was a lavish, epic pop-rock track that dutifully stormed to Number One upon release in July 2000. The album swiftly duplicated that feat when released a week or so later. Yet somehow it all felt a bit soulless and manufactured. The album that was supposed to turn the Corrs into global megastars very nearly instead brought their career to a shuddering halt.
With the passage of time, it is I guess possible to take a more level view. Breathless may not be the prettiest or most charming Corrs single ever, but it is far and away one of the most exciting. The best I ever heard it sound was a couple of years ago in an Irish pub in the West End in the middle of a St Patrick’s Day drinking afternoon. Right at that moment, it sounded like the greatest record ever made, which was quite possibly Mutt Lange’s intention all along. If only Shania Twain had recorded it instead.
I’m sure there is a whole essay to be written one day on the concept of wallpaper pop, music that the statistics recorded was popular and sold well at the time, but was culturally speaking nothing more than part of the background. When the artist in question went away quietly, their body of work simply faded away, almost never to be considered or played again. This, you could argue, is the fate of Louise Nurding (as she was then), who began her chart career as one-quarter of Eternal before stepping out of the bonds of what she herself suggested was her role as “the token white girl” and embarking on a solo career. The facts of said career are as follows – nine Top 10 hits between 1995 and 2003 (many of which are actually some immaculately made pop tracks) plus three hit albums and a Greatest Hits collection, something which I noted at the time made her pretty unique as a pop act who delivered her full contractual quota of albums without ever once being at risk of being dropped. Yet for all of that, are there actually any of her hits that you can remember offhand, or hear played on the radio these days? You would recognise most from the time if you heard them again, but for the most part, they have just faded away into the background of pop history, as if they were just wallpaper that got changed when it began to get old. 2 Faced was the first single released from her third album Elbow Beach, and you may be surprised to note that it was her biggest ever, charting at Number 3 upon release. This was its second week on the chart, which point it was making its way back down. Louise’s last chart appearance was the Top 5 hit Pandora’s Kiss back in 2003, the first release as part of a new deal she had struck to release records on her manager's label. Theoretically, she could have carried on, but for the fact she decided motherhood was a greater career priority.
Beyonce! Kelly! The other one! And who the hell are these other strangers? This single was effectively something of a watershed moment in the career of Destiny’s Child, the dividing line between their early history and genuine globe-straddling superstardom. Jumpin’ Jumpin’ (complete with co-writer credit for Beyonce Knowles) was the fourth single from their aptly titled second album The Writings On The Wall, an album which not only saw them make a huge chart breakthrough but whose promotion was marked by the changes in their lineup which saw LeToya and LaTavia replaced by Michelle and Farrah. All four singles from the album went Top 10 here (this single had made Number 5 a week prior to this chart) but it was to be their next single Independent Women from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack which would top the charts all over the world (including here) and take them to the next level. Even if few people noticed at the time why there were suddenly only three of them.
The 1999 release of Santana’s Supernatural album goes down as one of the greatest musical comebacks of all time. Without a hit of any kind for some years, the teaming of the legendary guitarist with some of the hottest stars of the time turned out to be commercial gold with smash hits and huge sales all over the world. The exception at first was, oddly enough, Britain. I always thought at the time that it was all about a poor sense of timing. The sun-soaked beats and blues of the album was the soundtrack of long sunny days and warm nights partying on a beach somewhere. Lead single Smooth was only released here in October 1999 whereupon it charted at Number 75 and vanished without a trace.
His UK label realised they had dropped a bollock and so set about rectifying the mistake, arranging for the star to perform a showcase for the music industry and assorted journalists at the start of 2000 with a view to creating a buzz about the album ahead of a springtime re-release. The tactic worked, and a re-released Smooth duly did the business and shot to Number 3 in April 2000 to do what it had done for the man all over the world – present him with his biggest hit single ever. This meant that the release of the second single was never going to fail, and it is scary to think that in another life we might never have been treated to its presence on the radio. Maria Maria was produced by Wyclef Jean and features his own proteges The Product G&B singing the praises of the titular girl, and noting that she fell in love to the sound of a guitar played by Santana – at which point he does exactly that on the song. It is a glorious moment in songwriting, turning the performer into the emotion being expressed rather than casting him as the protagonist. It appears on the chart here as a new entry at its chart peak, giving Santana back to back Top 10 hits, to date despite the best efforts of people like Shakira, his last appearance this high up the rankings.
The most successful rapper of his generation was by no means an unknown on these shores as 2000 rolled around. His 1999 debut The Slim Shady LP had sold well and its two singles My Name Is and Guilty Conscience had both been Top 10 hits (the former hitting Number 2 first week out). For all that however he was by no means the household name he had become in the States where his gimmick of dressing up hip-hop’s usual line in outrageous rhymes and uninhibited profanity in a devastatingly appealing commercial package had caused more than its fair share of horror.
The first clue that he was about to go over the edge in a similar manner in this country came in the week of the release of The Real Slim Shady, the first single from his second album The Marshall Mathers LP. A Page 6 article in The Sun on July 4th 2000 by Martin Philips spelled out the full horror of what was about to be unleashed:
“Eminem is a drugged-up, bleach-haired, tattooed white gangsta rapper who preaches hatred and ultra-violence. His thumping and obscene rants promote drugs, gun-running, torture, incest, murder, rape and armed robbery. Parents will despair. For Eminem's foul-mouthed "songs" glorify everything vicious and evil.”
Essentially he could not have wished for a better spot of free promotion. Best of all though was the fact that Number One smash hit The Real Slim Shady was a towering giant of a track. As an extended rant against his detractors and those who object to what he is saying, the single managed to be funny, eloquent, poetic and outrageous all at once. As an anti-censorship rant it isn’t quite up there with 2 Live Crew’s Banned In The USA but hearing it again nine years on you still cannot help but agree with much of what he is saying. As I wrote in the original dotmusic writeup of the single at the time: “you have to marvel at how the most maligned acts are always the ones to defend their position with the greatest inspiration”. In the wake of the single both of his albums took up residency in the Top 10 of the album chart and The Real Slim Shady might have gone down as his finest musical moment ever, but for the fact that by the end of the year he had followed it with Stan which naturally stands as the greatest hip-hop single ever, bar none. These days appreciation of his records is more about the production and the creative way he makes them sound rather than the actual lyrics themselves, but any appreciation of 2000 has to include a moment to take in the time when Eminem had a Number One single in which he told Will Smith to go fuck himself.
Ah, remember when Ronan Keating solo singles were fresh and interesting, and not tedious retreads of nu-country songs from Louis Walsh’s personal collection? Life Is A Rollercoaster was his second post-Boyzone single and the second in a row to fly straight to the top of the charts. The track was written and produced by Gregg Alexander and is a prime example of the writer syndrome which bears his name – sounding in terms of structure and atmosphere almost identical to everything else he put his name to at the time.
Life Is A Rollercoaster would have had more than a solitary week on top, but for a label screw-up which saw them release one of the CD formats with a video interview with the star, thus violating chart rules at the time which stated that any multimedia content had to duplicate one of the existing audio tracks on the disc. The result was sales of this CD were disqualified from the charts, damaging its sales enough to ensure it ranked below the Five single in its second week.
So this then was the single which, perhaps regrettably, benefitted from the label screw up, sneaking a week at Number One which in all honesty it did not deserve. This collaboration saw Brian May and Roger Taylor providing the necessary superstar rub for boy band Five’s rap remake of the famous rock classic. For most Queen fans I’m sure it was the latest regrettable chapter in their post-Freddie history during which time they put their name to an ever-increasing number of lame remakes and remixes of their older hits – many of which they had the nerve to compile into the inessential Greatest Hits Volume III collection in 1999, although that thankfully predated this single. Few people remember Five with quite the affection they deserve, although their run of 11 straight Top 10 hits between 1998 and 2001 speaks for itself. Ritchie Neville can at least look at Billie Piper and think to himself “I was there first..”
As I wrote at the time, you wait years for a hit from Finland and then two come along at once. Hard on the heels of the Darude single came this almost irresistible party track which Wikipedia claims wound up as Europe’s biggest selling single in 2000. The track with its tumbling melody managed the unusual feat of conjuring up memories of old school hip-hop tracks of the past whilst at the same time actually sounding like nothing that had ever come before. A second single Up Rocking Beats made Number 11 at the end of the year, but by then people had cottoned on to the fact that they were by and large one-trick ponies and the pair vanished from view as quickly as they came.
Outselling everything else this week in 2000 to debut at the top was this track, confirming Craig David as the hottest act of the moment. It was his second solo Number One in a row, following on from Fill Me In and impressively sounding just as good as its predecessor. The tender tale of “met a girl on Monday, took her for a drink on Tuesday, we were making love by Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday – we chilled on Sunday” has now passed into the realm of popular cliche. Mind you, the most clinical deconstruction of the track came from a quote from Spinal Tap who had resurfaced at the time, David St Hubbins noting that if Craig David met the girl on Monday but took until Wednesday to get her into bed, he probably needed to work on his technique a little. Bo Selecta.
So that was the summer of 2000, glad we finally made it to the end. The full Spotify playlist is below and all I have left to do is once again prove that the tapes do exist. Cue the pack shot: