NOW 47: U2 – Beautiful Day

It is amazing to note that U2 turn 40 (forty) in the next few years. They graduated from the punk scene of Dublin, then moved to London, then played Live Aid, then became U2, with Bono a sort of Pop Music Ambassador to the UN. In 2000, they returned to the top of the UK charts with Beautiful Day, a song which created a mood rather than said anything meaningful. Coldplay were busy taking notes. ‘You’re on the road but you got no destination’? ‘You been all over and it’s been all over you’? ‘What you don’t know you can feel somehow’? As empty as a motivational quote plastered on a Facebook wall.

Bono’s voice is one of rock’s finest instruments. The Edge’s guitars remain underrated even though comedian Bill Bailey revealed what he was really playing underneath all those effects. The rhythm section also play their part, Larry Mullen Jr banging drums and Adam Clayton thumbing bass. The live shows keep drawing people to stadiums from South America to South Africa. In the era when music is ‘the scented candle in the corner of the room’, to quote Jarvis Cocker, mood and feel is what many millions of people crave: a consumable feeling to put on repeat throughout life.

In 2000, Sylvia Patterson spent time with the band and documents it in her memoir. Bono was rabbiting on about anything other than the album he ought to be promoting. That year, hip hop became ‘the new rock ’n’ roll’ and Eminem put out his second LP The Marshal Mathers LP, with its enormous hit Stan. Stan is now a term for a fanatic of a popstar like Taylor Swift, as in: ‘The Taylor Swift stans are tweeting furiously…’

You would absolutely not know about the new rock’n’roll from the contents of NOW 47, which included Stomp by Steps, which is 99% Everybody Dance by CHIC without crediting the mighty CHIC, and Lady (Hear Me Tonight) by Modjo, which is 99% Soup For One written by Nile and Bernard from CHIC. Both were big number ones in 2000, as was I Turn to You by Melanie C, co-written by the great Billy Steinberg, a song influenced by the dance music of the clubs (and by Madonna’s album Ray of Light. LeAnn Rimes took the Diane Warren song Can’t Fight the Moonlight, used in the movie Coyote Ugly, to the very pinnacle of the UK charts. Fun fact: this song kept One More Time by Daft Punk off the top of the UK charts, and was deposed by Independent Woman by Destiny’s Child, the first song to get to number one with Beyonce Knowles on lead vocals.

In other ‘top songwriter’ news, the team of Rogers & Sturken provide Martine McCutcheon with a ‘terrific two’ called I’m Over You, while in Walk of Life Billie Piper adds strings to the mix. newcomer Sacha Skarbek samples Ashes to Ashes for Samantha Mumba’s superb Body II Body (‘funky to funky, we know how to rock your party’) and Dallas Austin helped Texas write their hit In Demand, in which Sharleen sang that ‘love and loving are two different things’. Cathy Dennis co-wrote Natural for S Club 7, which had a lead vocal by Rachel Stevens and was a smashing pop song with the word ‘chemistry’ in the chorus.

In Max Martin news, he had another pair of hits: Britney Spears is Lucky, while *NSYNC’s It’s Gonna Be Me was misquoted in Internet culture as ‘It’s gonna be May’ and pops up at the end of every April to remind people of the movements of the Julian calendar. It’s a cracking song with great vocals from both JC and Justin; the latter was dating the pop princess Britney at the time.

As discussed in the NOW 46 essay, Victoria Beckham missed the top with Out of Your Mind (released the same week as Lucky), which sits on Disc 2 of NOW 47. At the same time, her band the Spice Girls release their first album as a quartet, which is heavily influenced by the r’n’b sound pioneed by Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins. The girls all sing Holler on Disc 1, while elsewhere Melanie B sings a fine song called Tell Me. They sound like Toni Braxton songs (Darkchild produced He Wasn’t Man Enough, a massive radio hit never on a NOW) foisted onto the girls, and nobody bought their third album Forever. Instead people went wild for Pure Shores, a number one hit for All Saints produced by William Orbit, who had relaunched Madonna’s career with Ray of Light. By 2000, Madonna was working with French producer Mirwais on tracks like Music, which was not on NOW 47. Nor was All Saints’ next number one Black Coffee.

Robbie Williams is a two-timer once again on Disc 1: in the video to his number one Rock DJ, which is track 1, he stripped down to his famous ‘tiger briefs’ while roller-blading women bladed around him; in Kids, he and Kylie seemed to be having a lot of fun and the song is one of his best, despite a dodgy rap at the end on the album version. It finished second to Beautiful Day in October 2000. Kylie herself is a two-timer here with her tune On a Night Like This, which she would later record slowed down with an orchestra in a version I much prefer.

Big radio hits of the latter half of 2000 included songs by more women: Australian lady Vanessa Amorosi with her song Absolutely Everybody, Sonique with Sky, Gabrielle with Should I Say and Anastacia’s karaoke classic I’m Outta Love. It wasn’t aimed at me, a 12-year-old child, but at my mum, who was approaching a significant birthday and would often belt it out.

Then come the quirky tracks. Baha Men didn’t let NOW have Who Let the Dogs Out (we still don’t know who did…) so B Boyz submit what the inlay booklet calls a ‘tribute’; Kernkraft 400 offer a trance classic in Zombie Nation with its ‘ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE NATION!’ vocal and insistent synth hook that drunken lads and ladettes would bellow along to; Craig David scored a second number one with a song that had him making love on four of the 7 Days of one week, having only met the girl on Monday and gone on a date on Tuesday. Suitably, they chilled on Sunday.

In rock and alternative, David Gray’s album White Ladder climbed to number one thanks to the sleeper hit Babylon, which adopted the same mood as Trouble by Coldplay, which closes Disc 1. Bon Jovi had one of their finest hits with a song that might well be titled Still Livin’ on a Prayer, even namechecking Tommy and Gina on It’s My Life; ‘IT’S NOW OR NEVER, I AIN’T GONNA LIVE FOREVER!!’ shouted Jon Bon Jovi, while namechecking ‘Frankie’ Frank Sinatra.

After spending the 1990s under the radar but popping up on TV soundtracks with songs like Angel (covered by Westlife as a hidden album track!!) and Adia, Sarah McLachlan sang Silence to help give Delirium a hit. One of my favourite songs of the year was Body Groove by Architects featuring Nana (pronounced ‘nay-nay’ as the intro went), which is my favourite UK garage tune which would make any DJ set I put together, along with Get Lucky, Billie Jean and Macarena.

Other original dance compositions came from Storm (Time to Burn), Azzido Da Bass (Doom’s Night) and SuReaL (You Take my Breath Away). Madison Avenue followed up their number one with the fab Who The Hell Are You, while Sisqo rode the Thong Song wave with an unfriendly-to-the-radio song called Unleash the Dragon which shouted out to black fellas using what we now call ‘the N word’. Louise bizarrely samples a song with the N word in its title, following the words ‘Shame on a’, by Wu Tang Clan on Beautiful Inside.

Other catalogue includes Tom Jones enlisting Heather Small for the Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield soul staple You Need Love Like I Do and Naimee Coleman singing a version of Ordinary World by Duran Duran which helped give dance act Aurora a hit.

From St Louis, Missouri, Nelly introduced himself to the world with Country Grammar, which was addictive and fun, exactly the sort of rap Eminem wasn’t making. Missing from NOW 47 along with Eminem and a track that used the catchphrase of wrestler The Rock (It Doesn’t Matter, which was number three when Modjo were number one) was a tune called Big Brother, by the DJ team of Andy Gray and Paul Oakenfold recording as Element Four. The theme to the Channel 4 show would be one of the most heard pieces of music that year, as the age of ‘Anyone Can be Famous’ dawned.

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