Thursday, 31 March 2011

Afroman 'Because I Got High'

Chart Peak: 1 (3 weeks)

Afroman says his quirky No.1 anthem 'Because I Got High' is about "taking life's heavy blows with a smile"... The video for the laid-back tune stars cult film characters Jay & Silent Bob (played by Jason Mewes & director Kevin Smith, whose new movie Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back features 'Because I Got High' on the soundtrack.

True fact: one of my brother's friends had a set of talking Jay And Silent Bob dolls. You could press a little button on Silent Bob's back and... nothing happened. See what they did there?
If '21 Seconds' was a bit of an unusual track to include on a Now album, this is surely all the more so: I can't think of another track anywhere in the series that's so obviously about drug use. Presumably radio stations were keener to play this because they could class it as a morality tale: the protagonist suffers a whole series of misfortunes and ultimately has to stop singing the song altogether due to his devotion to the substance. Mind you, he seems to be having a good enough time of it. And if '21 Seconds' was a minimalist production, this goes a stage futher, with little instrumentation but for a drum machine and bass, though there are multiple vocal parts - I'm not sure whether these are overdubbed Afromen or other people but either way they're obviously intended to give the atmosphere of a party in the studio with everyone egging each other on. And they do, but the finished work is really too self-centred and insidery to appeal to me.

And on that bum note we finally, finally get to the end of Now 50. It feels like it's been going on for ages. And indeed it has, since the more recent albums really do have more songs on them since they don't have to worry about squeezing onto LPs or cassettes; this weighs in at 44 tracks, almost half as many again as Now 1. But moreover, it seems one of the more uninspired sets of songs I've come across: not necessarily the worst but track after track seemed so inert it was a struggle to say anything at all about it. Thus I've been unable to "bank" posts a few days in advance as I usually do, and almost everything has been written at the last minute on the night of publication which forces me to settle for first thoughts about them and makes the posts even less entertaining. On the upside, I've pleasantly surprised myself a couple of times here.

Possibly the most distinctive feature of this album is the number of acts making their only appearances; there are 12 of them, although that admittedly includes some one-off or one-hit-wonder acts. Some acts who had more hits are poorly represented here though.

Just a quick embed of the songs (well 38 of them and three excerpts) and we're done with 2001. See you in another decade.

Also appearing on: Now 51
Available on: The Good Times

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

So Solid Crew '21 Seconds'

Chart Peak: 1 (1 week)

South London collective So Solid Crew have made tidal waves in the garage scene - the 20-plus nenbers took away 2 MOBO awards this year for "Best Newcomer" and "Best Garage Act"... Leader of the crew, 21 year ol "Battersea Homeboy" MC Megaman, describes the raw So Solid sound as "straight R&B and hip hop sound but with a little bit of ragga flavour and that's what makes the difference."

Bit of a change of pace this one, but then how could it not be? There aren't many other tracks on Now albums that sound like this. Few acts appearing on the albums have been considered a threat to society in the way that So Solid were for a while back there; of course it's an image they were happy to play up to at the time, even if it seems a little bit odd now.

With hindsight, '21 Seconds' is pop brilliance, especially as a debut single: a simple conceit that stretches to allow multiple MCs a moment in the spotlight: there are longer edits (including the official video) but the edited version here only gives us less than three minutes. I seem to recall Mark Goodier playing a different version on the chart show, one that left out the lyric "Raise up the dead and I worship the devil huh, red is my best colour," but I could be wrong on that. The production is smartly minimal, but with whooshing sub-bass parts that reward close listening, and there's even a sound effect of a waiting taxi to hammer home the urgency. It's gimmicky of course, but in the right way, and one of the few tracks here that seem to have improved with age.

Of course, things went quite wrong quite soon and they didn't exactly turn out to be the future of music - did you hear their Number 82 hit last year? - but there's a brief bit of fun here.

Available on: Ministry of Sound ONE

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Jean-Jacques Smoothie '2 People'

Chart Peak: 12


The brains behind the Plastic Raygun record label, Cardiff's Jean-Jacques Smoothie, made a huge club & chart impact with his debut single '2 People'... The Welshman enlisted the talents of acclaimed producer Mirwais for the groove-laden track - his first remix since last year's collaboration with Madonna on her Music album.
Apparently he isn't really Welsh, he's from Gloucester but he lives in Wales. Daft Punk only show up once directly on a Now! album (see my post a few days ago) but their influence is echoed in the vogue for Frenchness around the turn of the century that lead to Steve Robson adopting this stagename (a few years earlier, Stuart Price had begun calling himself Jaques Lu Cont). Mirwais is really French though, and it's his remix of the track that became the hit and features here.

The concept is simple and commonplace - a looped vocal from Minnie Riperton's naughty-but-nice 'Inside My Love' put through nots of flange. Er, no innuendo intended. Had I been listening to this album in full for two hours by this point, I'd be pretty tired of flanging by now, and even on its own this is a bit too repetitive for my liking. But it does have a certain sweetness about it, albeit inherited from the source material, which makes it a nice change from the more cynical-sounding likes of 'Flawless'.

Available on: Ministry of Sound Presents Chilled II 1991-2009

Monday, 28 March 2011

Groove Armada 'Superstylin'

Chart Peak: 12

Groove Armada are known to have a few well-known fans - but none more famous than Madonna (for whom Groove Armada have just remixed a track) and Sir Elton John (who invited them to play at a celeb-studded magazine birtday party he was hosting)... 'Superstylin' is the first single to be released from the band's third album.

If you're taking notes (and there's no reason you should be) that's the second reference in these sleeve notes to Elton John being a fan of somebody. And it's another example of a note where the actual track featured here seems something of an afterthought.

I really really hated this record at the time. I mean I genuinely couldn't bear to hear it, and when that clanking into and the sampled bass turned up, I had a physical impulse to get away from it. I don't know why that happened, maybe some repressed memory from early life or something, but thatever it is I seem to have got over it now.

The track was something of a shift in mood from the chill-out material they were previously best known for (hence the album title Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub) with its abrupt start and reggae toasting by MC M.A.D., who possibly should have got a mention in place of Sir Elton. Probably the most distinctive feature is the deep thumping bass, which is obviously emphasised in the video. It's the reason why, like a lot of the dance tracks on this album, it's served better through proper speakers or headphones, even if it's only an online video. It's not the sort of track I go out of my way to listen to but I don't mind it now and I can see how it would work well in a club setting. I'm sort of glad this isn't the full six-minute version though.

Also appearing on: Now 44, 67, 68
Available on: Greatest Hits

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Daft Punk 'Digital Love'

Chart Peak: 14


Daft Punk's second album, Discovery, not only enjoyed critical acclaim but also introduced their fans to the innovative "Daft Club" - the band's answer to Napster... Steeped in in Seventies chic, 'Digital Love' gave the band their fifth UK hit.

So steeped in Seventies chic, indeed, that the Supertramp-esque piano break midway through the track was played on an instrument previously used by Supertramp themselves, and that punchy hookline is sampled from 'I Love You More' by George Duke, which I think is roughly of that era too. It's blended with the typical early-Noughties flanged production. But like a lot of their material around this time, it seldom seems to raise beyond pastiche and gimmickry.

It's not a bad track, but it's possibly not the ideal selection for their only appearance in the series.

Available on:Musique Vol.1 1993 - 2005

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Ones 'Flawless'

Chart Peak: 7


Another ubiquitous dance track, so much so I'm surprised it "only" got to Number 7 in the charts. It's "inspired" by the 1999 film of the same name, which group member Nashon Wooden appears in (great name for an actor there!) but the track itself could hardly be more 2001, with its heavily flanged production. It's a style that tends to get wearing to listen to after a while, andthe self-conscious smarminess of the vocal does nobody any favours.

It probably sounds better in a club though. I presume that's where George Michael heard it and decided it'd be improved by dubbing his own vocal over the top to create the rendition which appears on Now 58. Spoiler: it wasn't.

Available on: Positiva Presents Essential Club Anthems

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

N-Trance 'Set You Free'

Chart Peak: 4 [83 in 1993, 39 in 1994, 2 in 1995]

Originally released in 1994 (although it was the 1995 release that scored a major hit), 'Set You Free' is widely regarded as one of the definitive dance tunes of the 90's... Proving its enduring popularity, the track (featuring Kelly Llorenna on lead vocals) re-entered the UK Top 5 in September 2001 - The band have achieved 10 hit singles in the UK and boast worldwide record sales in excess of 5 million.

As I think I've intimated before, I wasn't really interested in dance music in the mid-1990s, and to the extent that I gave it any thought at all, I tended to think more of the "credible" dance that got written about in the NME. I was certainly aware of this track though, it was a regular on the TV music channels with that video that reportedly cost £5000. They must have had a big catering budget.

In theory, they released a remixed version to publicise a hits compilation, but Now 50 uses the famous 1995 version. It's possible that this is just a mistake - it wouldn't be the first or last time in the series - but it could have been a conscious choice as even at the time the remix didn't seem all that well-received and it's all but forgotten now, although the 2001 single (which includes both versions) inexplicably recharted in early 2005. It's certainly this version that's aged better now, for all that it sounds rather of its time; mind you that very sense of nostalgia is probably part of the appeal now. It's not a track I'd really seek out, but because it was so ubiquitous at the time it's acquired a certain warm glow.

Also appearing on: Now 30 [this same track], 32, 38
Available on: All Clubbed Up

Monday, 21 March 2011

Allstars 'Things That Go Bump In The Night'

Chart Peak: 12

Sandi, Thalia, Ashley, Rebecca and Sam are the Allstars - and if they look familiar to you, you've probably seen them in their ITV series "Starstreet"... Spooky single 'Things That Go Bump In The Night' is accompanied by a similarly spooky video, filmed in London's Highgate Woods.

I didn't watch much Children's ITV even when I was a child and had a TV set so the chances of my recognising any of the members of Allstars (or allSTARS* as we were supposed to spell it) were pretty slim. Those of you who do still have televisual devices might have seen them in Channel 4 programmes I've barely heard of, or might even have noticed that one of them is married to Dom from Dick And Dom.

I do remember their chart career, though, or at least this song (released as a double A side with a cover of 'Is There Something I Should Know?', strangely enough). Once you get past the cod-'Thriller' intro, it turns into a bouncy bass-driven pop track of the sort Britney had just stopped making, ironically recalling Michael Jackson's 'PYT' in places. You'd never guess it was written by one of D:Ream. Outside the context of the video or the Scooby-Doo movie this apparently featured in, the lyrics actually seem a different kind of creepy. They certainly could be interpreted as somewhat predatory, but really it's only a song and as inane pop music goes, it's a lot better than Geri.

Also appearing on: Now 51
Available on: Allstars [Ltd Version]

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Geri Halliwell 'Scream If You Wanna Go Faster'

Chart Peak: 8


The title track from her second album was also her first single to peak lower than 2. She claims to have written this song under the infunce of Led Zeppelin. Much as I consider them an over-rated group I still think they deserve better than to be blamed for this frankly awful record, which certainly isn't any kind of blues or rock. The lack of machismo isn't unwelcome, but the lack of melody or rhythmic interest is, and so is the poor singing and performance. And the less said about the lyric "Gimme some sweet FA, have a nice day as Americans say" the better, frankly.

This is hardly the only track on this album that isn't any good, but it stands out for the sense that the people involved think it is, somehow.

Also appearing on: Now 43, 44, 45, 49, 51, 60
Available on: Scream If You Wanna Go Faster

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Louise 'Stuck In The Middle With You'

Chart Peak: 4

Originally a Top 10 hit for Stealer's Wheel in 1973, 'Stuck In The Middle With You' was immortalised by Quentin Tarrantino {sic} when he featured it in his smash-hit movie "Reservoir Dogs"... Louise gave the track her own sensational treatment in 2001 - which earner her a huge No 4 hit in September
I suppose you could say this single was sort of emblematic of the way Louise, and many other female pop stars of the era, had to try and appeal to both the teen-girl and lad-mag markets more or less simultaneously. You'd imagine that not many of her younger fans would have seen the infamous scene in the film where the original of this song appears - but they might have heard about it, or at least been subconsciously familiar with the song. It's hard to think what they'd have made of the video, which is a sort of lapdancing pastiche of the torture scene - or is she supposed to be torturing him by lapdancing?

It's tempting to suggest that just making him listen to this record is torture enough, and indeed a YouTube commenter already has. That's arguably unfair, because this isn't terrible, but it's not really any good either. It was the new track on her Greatest Hits and seems to reflect the minimum possible investment of effort from any of the people involved.

Also appearing on: Now 32, 33, 34, 35, 38, 39, 46, 47, 56
Available on: The Best Of Top Of The Pops 2000-2006

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Victoria Beckham 'Not Such An Innocent Girl'

Chart Peak: 6

The video for Victoria's first solo single 'Not Such An Innocent Girl' featured the Spice star in a dual role - "Good Girl" going head-to-head with "Bad Girl" in a "futuristic world of Yin and Yang"... Commenting on the message of the song Victoria says "There's a good and bad side to everybody so don't judge a book by its cover."

The sleeve notes are clearly too polite to mention it, but when this single was originally released in the same week as 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', at least one of the tabloids thought this would be another great chart battle like the one that had ensued when Beckham's collaboration with True Steppers went up against Spiller's Groovejet. They promised to keep their readers updated on which record was doing better throughout the week - and it lasted about two days before they realised there was no contest. In the event this got no higher than six and wasn't even the second-highest new entry, outdone by Alien Ant Farm's cover version and a Shaggy single nobody remembers. This album sequences them way apart anyway, and for good measure doesn't put it right next to another solo Spice either.

I hadn't actually seen that video until I came to write this post and it's a bit bigger-budgeted than I'd expected, considering the generally rather cheap air of this record (and the album cover). Beckham was the last member of the group to release any records outside it, and conspicuously didn't do so on the same major label. Virgin were evidently not too bothered by the risk of a rival outfit getting this, and they were probably right, as the album lost a fortune and Telstar went bust a couple of years later. It doesn't entirely seem like she was that interested either. Far be it from me to accuse anyone of misunderstanding their own song, but the lyrical tone of "if you touch me I won't break, I'm not such an innocent girl" doesn't really suit a 27-year old married mother-of-one. Oh yeah, and the singing's rubbish too.

Also appearing on: Now 47 (with True Steppers and Dane Bowers), 51
Available on: Victoria Beckham

Monday, 14 March 2011

Liberty 'Thinking It Over'

Chart Peak: 5

After finding fame as runners-up on TV's "Popstars" programme, Kevin, Tony, Michelle, Jessica and Kelli decided to form their own band - and their debut single 'Thinking It Over' gave them an impressive No. 5 chart debut... Reflecting on their decision to stay together, Kelli says "we decided to be positive about the whole Popstars experience and just thought 'Let's go for it' because we were so strong together."

Popstars, for those struggling to remember now, was the first in the modern era of pop reality shows, the one which assembled the then-record-breaking quintet Hear'Say. Liberty were the five finalists who fell at the final hurdle, and unsurprisingly at the time were able to get a record deal and a big debut hit produced by one of the Artful Dodger. In fact I'd forgotten how 2-step this single actually sounded, not that I listened to it much at the time, and I've scarcely heard it since.

As they inevitably had the same two boys/three girls set up as the winners you might have expected them to sound the same, but the vocal style they marked out is closer to Steps with little deliniation between the voices and not much for the male singers to do. Indeed they're about as prominent here as on any of the group's hits because the lyrical conceit seems to demand it. Of course they did manage to outlast Hear'Say, but it didn't come without its price - they soon attracted the attention of another act already using the name Liberty and evidently didn't have such good lawyers as Blue, because they were compelled to append an X to the end of their name. I've tagged this entry with the name they used for the bulk of their career.

A decade later several of them seem to have ended up back on reality TV.

Also appearing on: Now 52, 53, 54 [with Richard X], 56, 62, 63
Available on: Thinking It Over

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Samantha Mumba 'Baby Come On Over'

Chart Peak: 5

It's only just over a year since 18 year old Samantha Mumba embarked upon her pop career - but in that short space of time Sam has rocketed to pop super-stardom... Not only has the Irish pop/soul diva scored four UK hits, she also bagged the lead female role in the big-budget remix of HG Wells' classic "The Time Machine"!

Connessieurs of Now! album artwork (and yes, such people do seem to exist) apparently feel it a slight disappointment when acts are represented not by an official publicity photo but by the single cover. That's already happened three times on this album (with Bob The Builder, OPM and of all people Kate Winslet) bu this here is the only instance I've ever encountered of them using the cover of a *different* single ['Lately']. It's symptomatic of the often sloppy packaging of Now! 50.
It's easy to forget until you read those notes how big a star Mumba was at the turn of the century, notching up six Top 10 singles here between July 2000 and October 2002, and even making some inroads to the US market - but by the time she turned twenty in January 2003 her music career was effectively over, and it'd be generous to claim that she was concentrating on her acting. The main problem is that this and her other hits, whilst not entirely forgettable (well, I remember them so they can't be) are completely lacking in any sort of personality, musically or vocally. It's probably a tribute to the management skills of Louis Walsh that she was able to sustain as long a career as she did, rather than drifting into one-hit-wonderhood like contemporaries such as Vanessa Amorosi, Chanté Moore or Debelah Morgan.

Also appearing on: Now 46, 47, 48, 51, 53
Available on: Gotta Tell You

Friday, 11 March 2011

Mary J Blige 'Family Affair'

Chart Peak: 8

'Family Affair' is the first single to be released from Mary's new LP and arrived in the UK Top 10 this Autumn... Mary is well known for her prestigious collaborations (Eric Clapton, George Michael, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin) and Elton John, one of her former cohorts, is such a big fan that upon meeting her at Madison Square Garden he gave her gifts of perfume and a Versace pocketbook!

Another act who seems to arrive in the Now series surprisingly late in her career, although admittedly this was only her second solo Top 10 single in the UK, and the first that wasn't a cover version - this is unrelated to the Sly & The Family Stone song. I was actually more surprised to learnt that it also became her first US chart-topper. It's not actually the title track of her album No More Drama (that was the next-but-one single), but the phrase features prominently in the lyric, as indeed does the title of the single in between, 'Dance For Me'. Apparently all this represents a period in her life when she had conquered her demons and some of the complications of her personal life; good news for her but, as one reviewer said at the time, "no more drama" isn't necessarily an attractive slogan for a soul singer to come brandishing.

I'd never really been a fan of hers anyway, I'd always found her voice too strained and nasal, but I had to admit after repeated plays on the chart rundown (it spent a long-in-those-days 11 weeks in the Top 40) this track did rather appeal to me, or at least the bouncy but lush backing track produced and partly written by Dr Dre. Even if Blige herself is still a bit too whiny fully to convince in her MC role, linguistic innovations like "don't need no hateration" help keep the mood light-hearted, whether that was the intention or not. The only trouble was, every time I heard her sing the word "percolating" in the chorus it made me want a cup of coffee.

Also appearing on: Now 51, 52, 69
Available on: R&B Classics Collection

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Mis-Teeq 'One Night Stand'

Chart Peak: 5

For their third hit, Mis-Teeq have hooked up with respected production team Stargate, who have previously worked alongside the likes of Mariah Carey and Mary J Blige... Co-written by the girls, 'One Night Stand' is about "a good night out with your girlfriends".
It's funny, but a lot of Mis-Teeq's records sound better to me now than they did at the time. Doubtless this is partly because my initial disdain for them was overcome by their one truly outstanding single (and sole US hit) 'Scandalous', which encourages me to look more kindly on the songs that led up to it; in fact this song was the follow-up single in America. It's also possible that the emergence of Alesha Dixon as a likeable media figure has charmed me somewhat, although that certainly hasn't made me like her solo stuff.

Despite the title, the sleevenote's description of the lyric seems accurate. To be sure, it's a tribute to female attractiveness, but this says the exact opposite of the unconvincing come-on of 'I'm A Slave 4 U', "Feel free, keep lookin' cause you can't touch me." It's thematically closer to 'Bootylicious', I suppose, but with a slightly different emphasis and atmosphere; no sense of competition here. Although there's something rather warm-hearted about it, only Dixon's mid-song rapped section is truly memorable, admittedly partly because of the dubious rhymes but also for her rather lusty delivery. I guess this is why, much as her solo career has been commercially patchy, it still dwarfs the one single by Sabrina Washington that peaked at 120 last year.

Also appearing on: Now 49
Available on: Best Of

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Britney Spears 'I'm A Slave 4 U'

Chart Peak: 4

'I'm A Slave 4 U' marks a change in musical direction for pop-superstar Britney Spears - the raw vocals and uptempo pop reflect the star's development from teenager to young woman... There are many guest collaborations on Britney's new album including a contribution from her famous boyfriend - N*Sync's Justin Timberlake.

Reading these sleevenotes reminds you ten years can be a long time. Those last six words are as compact an example of such as you might hope to find here, and of course Britney herself is pushing 30 now.

The trouble with this record is, I just don't believe in it. It's not the fact that she didn't write it herself (it was in fact written and produced by The Neptunes, who seemed at the time to be taking over from Dre and Timbaland as the top producers of the day), it's that the whole effect comes over as so contrived, a marketing department's idea that now she wasn't a teenager she'd have to start making sexier sounding records. Even though I can intellectually believe that she liked this sort of music, and subsequent events strongly suggest that the lyrics of this song weren't inaccurate either, it somehow doesn't allow the suspension of disbelief, maybe because it overplays its hand somewhat, from the naff spoken intro onwards. It's not a career high for the Neptunes musically either. Still rather better than the records she seems to make on autopilot now, but not by much.

Also appearing on: Now 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 57, 58, 68, 69, 70, 72, 73
Available on: The Singles Collection

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Eve feat Gwen Stefani 'Let Me Blow Ya Mind'

Chart Peak: 4


Fascinating study in editing that official video - apparently on this basis, "asses" and "bitch" are acceptable but "shit" and "hits from your stash-box" aren't.
I think this is the one track on this album I already owned, albeit not intentionally: it appears (in a slightly longer edit) on a Hip-Hop Classics compilation I found in a bin once. The fact that I didn't go out of my way to obtain this track shouldn't be seen as a slight on it though.

I have to admit I've always found Gwen Stefani a bit annoying, and she's on especially irritating form in the video here (which I hadn't seen before). For that matter I didn't like Eve's previous single 'Who's That Girl?' all that much either and quickly got tired of it thanks to massive radio exposure. But fair play to them, this is a really good pop record. Much of this is thanks to the production skills of Dr Dre, rightly given props in the sleeve note (oddly, the technical credits at the back of the booklet attribute it to Swizz Beats, but Dre's input is unmistakeable and of course he makes a cameo appearance in the video). He was on a real roll then, unlike nowadays when he doesn't even produce his own records, and his backing track here is superb. Eve rises to the challenge too, with an impressively self-confident performance that sweeps you up in its sheer joie de vivre. And Stefani, well, she could be anyone by the time all the effects have gone on her vocal. But she does a decent job here, I must admit. A career highlight for both of them.

Eve also appears on: Now 49, 51 (with City High), 61 (with Gwen Stefani again), 62 (with Amerie)
Gwen Stefani also appears on: Now 61 (with Eve), 62, 66, 67 (with Akon)
Available on: Scorpion

Monday, 7 March 2011

D12 'Purple Hills'

Chart Peak: 2

In 2001, controversial, award-winning rap-star Eminem introduced the world to his original crew, D12... Eminem and his fellow D12 members (Proof, Denoun, Bizarre, Kuniva & Swifty) met seven years ago at Detroit's Hip Hop Shop - "We made a pact years ago," says Eminem, "which ever one of us gets signed, comes back for the rest." - making good on that promise, Eminem led D12 into the UK Top 5 for the first time in summer 2001 with 'Purple Hills'.

I suppose it's good of Eminem that he did keep to his word. And it's a tribute to his star power that even the crew's debut single, the charmingly-titled 'Shit On You', reached the Top 10 over here. It reappeared as a flipside to their first fully promoted release, which reportedly sold enough in its first week to top the chart had one format not fallen foul of chart rules and been excluded from calculations. Still, it got the consolation of a Now appearance, one of I think only three for Eminem.

The trouble is, it's a blinking awful record. And not only because of the self-consciously controversial content, which is after all what you expect from Eminem - indeed 'Purple Hills' as featured here is a sanitised version of the more explicitly druggy 'Purple Pills', though it retains such shock lyrics as "I can't describe the vibe I get/When I drive-by six people and five I hit." Personally, I dislike the fact that the obscenity in this particular track leans towards the lavatorial, which has less of the thrill of a skillful verbal barb. There's a more fundamental problem with D12 though: the reason why Eminem got signed to a big record company before the rest of them was because they weren't as talented as he is. In what seems like a smart commercial move, Eminem gets the first verse but that only seems to emphasise how the other five struggle to keep up. This is why I think their best single was 'My Band', which actively parodies that dynamic.

Of all the tracks on this album, I think this is the one I was most dreading having to listen to in full, so thoroughly did I detest it at the time. But at least it was shorter than the Lighthouse Family record.

Available on: Hip Hop Anthems Of The Decade [+Digital Booklet]

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Destiny' Child 'Bootylicious'

Chart Peak: 2

Sexy, sassy 'Bootylicious' gave the multi-award winning Destiny's Childa No2 summer smash in July 2001... Beyonce explains that 'Bootylicious' is "a song that congratulates women that don't look like everybody in a magazine... it makes you feel confident about yourself".

Er, how does she know?

I recall that when this came out I thought it sounded like 'Eye Of The Tiger'. And indeed it still does, but I've subsequently learnt that the sample comes from 'Edge Of Seventeen' by Stevie Nicks, and indeed Nicks makes a brief cameo appearance in the video. Like a lot of their material, it has a very slick, show-offy quality that I tend to find rather unengaging, as if they're still determined to convince us they can sing. Yet it works better than some of their tracks, in retrospect, not least because it seems to fit the lyrical tone of the song, which is determinedly confident; more in a spirit of self-respect than self-importance though.

In fact, whilst the protagonists of the song are implied to be addressing a male, I get a strong impression that this record was in reality intended for a largely female audience so in a sense I feel I should abstain a bit from judging it. I can still appreciate the production though, especially the bassline which is greatly beefed up from the Nicks track. In fact I probably like this more now than at the time.

Also appearing on: Now 49
Available on: #1s

Friday, 4 March 2011

Jamiroquai 'Little L'

Chart Peak: 5

Jamiroquai's fifth album, A Funk Odyssey, has been described as the band's "most accomplished and varied set to date"... It's almost ten years since Jay Kay first moonwalked onto the music scene wearing his trademark hats and providing a unique brand of acid-jazz, funk and disco - since then his internationally successful band have gone on to shift over sixteen million albums worldwide - and counting!

It was very tempting to cut and paste my two-year-old post about another Jamiroquai track. A couple of years later, Jay Kay continues to shuffle the same set of cards: a funk bassline here, a disco string section there. 'Little L' is distinguished from previous hits mainly by the fact that he'd made it fairly public that this song was aimed at a well-known ex-partner of his, which managed to make him even less likeable than before. It's not a bad record as such, but even when you know he's singing about his real life it's curiously soulless, and never seems to rise beyond pastiche.

Also appearing on: Now 26, 36, 44
Available on: A Funk Odyssey

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Supermen Lovers 'Starlight'

Chart Peak: 2

Supermen Lovers is a one-man project masterminded by Paris-based Guillaume Atlan - an ex-student of the Conservatiore Of Music & Stage Performance... Vocals on the huge hit 'Starlight' are provided by Mani Hoffman who first met Guillaume in 1999 when he was the vocalist in Guillaume's first band, School

If you like dance records that peaked at 2, this seems to be the album for you. I have to admit that with the proliferation of French dance tracks around at the time, 'Starlight' didn't much attract my attention at the time, but listening back now it's actually rather a pleasant number, driven by that interesting and insistent bassline and Hoffman's unexpectedly appealing vocal. Not that I've ever really grasped what he's singing about, but I'm not really supposed to, and there's a nice rich quality about it ladled all over the track. Some of the backing vocals are a bit irritating but here's one track that pleasantly surprised me.

Available on: 101 Ibiza Anthems

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

iio 'Rapture'

Chart Peak: 2


It's a generously-stuffed album here, so this 23rd track is the start of Disc 2. In theory that's a milestone, but it's not one I'd looked forward to because I hated this song at the time. That's mainly thanks to Nadia Ali's vocal, which has a whining and flat quality I've always found irritating. It also seems to contradict the contents of the lyrics, which "were allegedly inspired by a meeting that occurred between Ali and an unidentified nightclub patron." Thanks to Wikipedia for that.

Anyway, she's telling us how excited she is, but she sounds like she's irritable and over-tired. The music is OK, I suppose, but fairly typical of its time and beyond that I don't have a lot to say, unless you wanted to know that they named their band after a laptop computer. 

Available on: 00 Dance [Explicit]

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Kate Winslet 'What If'

Chart Peak: 6

Star of a host of blockbuster movies, including the mighty Titanic, Brit-actress Kate Winslet showcases her vocal talents with a debut single release 'What If'.. The track is lifted from "Christmas Carol - The Movie" - a forthcoming animated version of Charles Dickens' ever-popular seasonal story.
I have to admit, I've never seen the film and I'd kind of forgotten it ever existed. I don't really know how successful it was but it did spawn this one big hit, written by Mac and Hector again. It transpires that Winslet actually has a fairly good voice (admittedly some studio technology may have been involved, but even so it's much better than many a performance I've heard from other people with access to the same). For the first minute or so it's a genuinely good, if slight, pop record.

The bad news is that Steve Mac is the producer and arranger as well as a writer, and once he's got one verse out of the way he starts to set out his stall as the sound of X-Factor. In come the clumping inappropriate programmed beats to rob the track of any life or space, and the phoney-sounding orchestral backing track. About a minute from the end he finally snatches humiliation from the jaws of defeat: not only is there a largely unnecessary key-change, there's a pause and a drum beat to make sure you notice the key change. In fact, the truncated "film version" released as the B-side of the original single is the better one for my money.

Still, Winslet herself emerges rather well from this. Not only because of her unexpectedly decent singing, nor even because she gave her royalties to charity. Better still, she didn't let knocking Dustin The Turkey off the top of the Irish chart go to her head: she's resisted the temptation to try and launch a further musical career off the back of this, when so many others would have thrown out an album of covers in time for Mother's Day.

Available on: Original Hits - The Girls [Explicit]