In 2018 Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover is bringing the city of Atlanta, Georgia to TV. His rap alter ego has had a big hit with This Is America, which captures the moment in a similar way to his TV show Atlanta, which BBC2 picked up in 2018.
Back in 2000, after a few years of impressing local and national audiences, Outkast got a promotion fillip with the catchy Ms Jackson, which had two verses from Big Boi and a sweet sung section from Andre 3000, including that chorus about apologising ‘a trillion times’. Both rappers would have been stars on their own but, having met at the sort of rap battle commemorated in the Eminem movie 8 Mile, they joined forces and have had impressive careers together and apart, which culminated in two separate albums – The Love Below from Andre, Speakerboxxx for Big Boi – released under the Outkast brand. Andre would later play Jimi Hendrix in a biopic which contained no Hendrix songs.
Also in 2018 Anne-Marie has a top three hit called 2002 which takes music popular at the time and strings its titles together in the chorus. One is Ride Wit Me by Nelly. The presence of Ms Jackson, Ride Wit Me, the title track of the Destiny’s Child album Survivor and the Jam & Lewis-assisted Janet Jackson jam All For You, shows the surge in black-led pop music. Sisqo also appears on NOW 48 with Dance For Me, while Eve has listeners asking Who’s That Girl. Aaron Soul’s forgotten UK garage track Ring Ring Ring shows that mobile phones, in particular the NOKIA phone, were ubiquitous among British youth. I was addicted to Snake, which hooked millions in summer 2001.
The big hits that are missing from NOW 49 are catalogue: Shaggy enlisted Rayvon for Angel, which sampled The Joker, and a cover of Lady Marmalade brought together Lil Kim, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot and Mya on what was a precursor of the ‘orgy pop’ trend of the 2010s (I will explain…).
The pair of So What If I by Damage – co-written by Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, who have amassed tens of hits between them – and Lullaby by Melanie B, on the occasion of the birth of her daughter and written by Scary Spice with Biff Stannard, close NOW 49. Robbie kicks it off with the Guy Chambers co-write Eternity which I’ve always liked for not bringing in the drums for the second verse. Gregg Alexander and Rick Nowels give Ronan Keating another hit with Lovin’ Each Day, which has a gorgeous middle eight (‘so don’t go throwing our love away’), and Mutt Lange and Shania Twain gift Britney Spears a song called Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know. Fascinatingly for me as a fan of Squeeze, Chris Difford is listed as a co-writer on Marti Pellow’s ballad Close to You. Sia Furler, who would later become a millionaire several times over, writes and sings on the chillout track Destiny by Zero 7, which has aged very well.
Back with a song with some semblance of a chorus are Radiohead with Pyramid Song, the first single release since 1998, after they had opted not to put out a single from their 2000 album Kid A. Two tracks before them is Dido, who follows up her appearance on NOW 48 (Here With Me) with Thank You, the song sampled by Eminem on Stan. Hear’Say also return with The Way to Your Love, another song which pilfers from Max Martin’s catalogue right down to the presence of a Hook B.
Blue, which comprised Lee from Blue, Simon from Blue, Anthony from Blue and of course Duncan from Blue, were introduced to market with the song All Rise, about something being on trial, though we never find out what. Stargate would rival the Cheiron lot, Timbaland and the Neptunes as the key producers of the pop sound, and All Rise is one of their best, particularly with a harmonica intro.
The most magnificent pop song on Now 49 is Don’t Stop Movin’ by S Club 7, which was so good it climbed back to number one after Geri Halliwell’s pointless cover of It’s Raining Men topped the chart in May 2001. The song that then knocked S Club 7 off was a garage anthem with the chorus ‘We’re loving it, loving it, loving it!!’ by DJ Pied Piper & the Masters of Ceremonies. Do You Really Like It was a summer smash that sounds painfully like 2001, right down to the shoutout for Ayia Napa, the Balaeric island where millions of Europeans partied the summer away.
The hedonists will also have partied to a remix of Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue, Castles in the Sky by Ian van Dahl (the inlay booklet tells me Ian is actually Annemie, a Belgian lady who was nicknamed Ian!), You Are Alive by Fragma and Meet Her at the Love Parade by Da Hool. Basement Jaxx, meanwhile, had another astonishing hit with Romeo, which borrowed its sound from the Bollywood movement and was better than all the songs in that paragraph and still sounds incredible.
I also remain enthralled by Another Chance by one of the best club DJs, Roger Sanchez; the track actually samples I Won’t Hold You Back by Toto, written by the great Steve Lukather, whose memoir emerged in 2018. Even better than Another Chance is 19/2000, remixed by Soulchild and with a vocal by Damon Albarn. It is credited to Murdoc and 2D, two characters in Gorillaz who star in the animated videos. I love the line ‘If time’s elimination then we’ve got nothing to lose’ and I love whatever the post-chorus is saying (‘Get the cool shoeshine’??)
For some reason, Texas rebooted their 1989 hit I Don’t Want a Lover, while Stereophonics took the ennui they had experienced on tour in America and turned it into the dirge Have a Nice Day, which nonetheless did well on radio thanks to its catchy ‘ba-ba-ba’ chorus. Over in Ireland, Bellefire were being piloted as a poppier version of The Corrs (missing from the NOW series despite their massive In Blue album doing very well); the Bellefire song Perfect Bliss is a Virgin release from 2001 and history has forgotten it.
Elsewhere in pop Steps offer Here and Now, young Swedish poppers A*Teens namecheck Peter the Great on Upside Down and a trio called Mis-Teeq brought the sound of garage to the girlband on All I Want. Gabrielle took her terrific song Out of Reach into the charts, which soundtracked the year’s big Richard Curtis flick Bridget Jones’s Diary. The bridge (‘so CON-fused, my HEART’s bruised’) will delight all fans of Gabrielle on her 2018 comeback tour; her new album Under My Skin is out on August 17 2018, and she plays ChilFest in the Chiltern Hills in early July. The 20-year cycle strikes again.
Disc 1 contrasts Outkast and Destiny’s Child with a pair of snot-rock anthems for losers: Teenage Dirtbag meant Brendan Brown of Wheatus didn’t have to work again – although UK comedians The Pin had a sketch in which ‘the guy from Wheatus’ is working in an appliance store – and Blink 182 had another hit with the very fun song The Rock Show. At 13, I was the perfect pop-punk age and enjoyed Travis Barker’s amazing drumming and how the band, according to the inlay booklet, was ‘splicing punk spirit and nu-metal attitude’. Limp Bizkit are thankfully nowhere to be seen.