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1998 Revisited, Part 2: The Corrs, Robbie, Sash…

September 21, 2008
Welcome then to the second part of our look back at 1998 here on Popcomments. Last week we brought you a varitable feast of pop from the year that brought us South Park, Eurovision’s first questionable winner in Dana International and also, as we’re about to see, the year that Irish influenced pop music experienced a resurgence of sorts in the UK charts, following the massive success of Riverdance/Lord of the Dance and the success of new material from U2, Boyzone and a reunited Clannad.

 

 

 

 

One of two new acts at the forefront of this movement were family based group the Corrs. Remaining a strictly underground success until this year with 1995 debut “Forgiven Not Forgotten” and their film debut in the independent 1991 production “The Commitments”, Jim, Sharon, Caroline and Andrea (who had a bit part in the 1996 movie version of “Evita”, fact fans) came to the attention of all present after their St. Patrick’s Day concert at the Royal Albert Hall in March of this year was televised on BBC One, attracting massive ratings. After much publicity generated for their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” on a tribute album, the track was then released as a single, remixed by Todd Terry (see Everything But The Girl’s “Missing” from two years previously) and reached a respectable UK #6 in early May 1998. After which, hits like “What Can I Do” (UK #3, August 1998) and “So Young” (video below, UK #8, November 1998) came off the back of the chart topping success of what would go on to be the year’s biggest selling album – “Talk On Corners”. It even managed to surge back to #1 in the spring of 1999 after their BRIT Award win for Best International Group, and has now sold something in the region of 8 million copies worldwide.

 

Another artist continuing to notch up the multi platinum albums in this year was Sheryl Crow. After the massive success of 1994’s debut “Tuesday Night Music Club” and it’s eponymous 1996 follow up with hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy”, Sheryl’s third album, the Grammy nominated “Globe Sessions” was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin (who would go onto produce for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Shakira and Johnny Cash) and reached #2 in the album chart in September 1998, following the success of UK #9 hit “My Favourite Mistake” (video below). Another top 20 hit followed in “Anything But Down” (UK #19) the following January, and the album was then re-released as a tour edition in Australia, which included, amongst other things, her cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

 

 

Paving the way for Alice Deejay, Ian Van Dahl and erm, Scooter before him in 1998 was German DJ/producer Sash, who, after the success of hits like “Stay”, “Ecuador” and “Encore Une Fois” from his top 10 debut album “It’s My Life – The Album”, continued his success with his second album, “Life Goes On” (UK #5). It gave him three more top 10 hits – the first being “La Primavera” (UK #3, March 1998, video below), then followed by the track which launched the career of one Tina Cousins on “Mysterious Times” (UK #2, August 1998) and finally “Move Mania” (UK #8, November 1998). It was also in this year that he recieved a BRIT nomination for Best International Male, which he was beaten to by Jon Bon Jovi. I know what you’re thinking viewers – did Jon Bon Jovi even release a solo record? If he did, it obviously didn’t do very well, but there you go.

 

 

Though Gary Barlow didn’t release any new material in 1998, the ongoing solo career battle between him and Robbie Williams continued to roll on throughout the year, and the defence case for Gary wasn’t exactly helped by the fact that Robbie was well, doing pretty well for himself to say the least. After the roaring success of “Angels” and “Let Me Entertain You” from his Mercury Prize nominated top 10 debut album “Life Thru A Lens”, Take That’s showman and wild child finally got his first chart toppers in the autumn of 1998 with the release of the single, “Milennium” (UK #1, September 1998) and his second album, “I’ve Been Expecting You” (UK #1, September 1998), which seemed to be a concept album eluding to the sounds of the 60’s and old Bond movie themes. Indeed, it was the album that most proper pop fans agree would remain his best until the vastly underrated “Rudebox” album in 2006. The second single from it, “No Regrets” (UK #5, December 1998, video below) was actually to be the first time he collaborated with Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant – the next would be on the brilliant “She’s Madonna” some 9 years later.

 

Remember me saying last week how north eastern Europe enjoyed a string of successful acts in 1998? Well, one of them was Ace of Base, who returned with a third album “Flowers” in this year. After becoming the first Danish band to top the US Billboard chart with “The Sign” a few years previously, they returned to the UK top 5 in July 1998 with the summery “Life is a Flower” (video below), before then gaining two more top 20 hits with a cover of Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” (UK #8, October 1998) and “Always Have, Always Will” (UK #12, December 1998). Strangely enough, ten years on from the release of this album they’ve now announced a reunion tour, which kicks off at the beginning of next year.

Next week, we enter the third part of our look back, looking at two Antipodeans that enjoyed a wealth of success in 1998. And it wasn’t the Minogues either, sadly.

N.B. If it seems a bit quiet round here of late then it’s because I’m very busy atm. I will get some posts up soon to compensate, so hold your horses, viewers. 🙂 My first retro album review of Matt Willis’ solo album is on it’s way soon.

 

 

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On This Day in…2003

September 15, 2008

Rachel Stevens releases her debut solo single

So, hope you all enjoyed our launch post yesterday viewers. We now have the first of our “On This Day In…” posts. These posts see us hop aboard our imaginary pop time machine to find out what was happening on a given day at a given time in pop history – who was being born, who was being launched, who was releasing a significant single/album etc. And today, on this very day 6 years ago in 2003, one former S Club 7 beauty and general baton of pop goodness, Rachel Stevens, was emerging into the spotlight with her debut solo single “Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex” (video below).

The story of the song starts where S Club came to their untimely end in May earlier that year after a movie, greatest hits and *sniffle/blub* final #2 single with “Say Goodbye/Love Ain’t Gonna Wait For You”. Rachel was almost immediately signed back up to Polydor and Simon Fuller’s 19 Management stable as a solo artist, and sort of rush embarked on recording what would be her first solo album, “Funky Dory”, which also celebrates it’s 6th anniversary as an original release next week (it was repackaged twice to reach final sales of a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone following the cringey #26 chart showing for it’s title track, the second time round it included new cover artwork and the addition of her 2004 Richard X helmed mega hit “Some Girls” and the less interesting but otherwise well executed cover of “More, More, More”).

In a interview for the Sunday Times in February 2005, she admits at the time that, “I wish I’d taken a bit more time with it in some ways. But then, I’m kind of a control freak like that. I have to know what I’m doing and where I’m at so to speak.” A Latin tinged pop number with flashes of electronic synths, “L.A. Ex” actually started life in sessions for Britney Spears’ fourth studio album, “In The Zone”. It’s writer, Cathy Dennis (Can’t Get You Out Of My Head/About You Now and Never Had A Dream Come True for Rachel when she was in S Club) wrote it as a response to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”, which had been percieved to be a response to his much publicized break up with the Spears. The lyrics Dennis had in mind for retaliation included lines such as “What planet are you from?/Accused me of things that I’ve never done/Listen to you carrying on/Cheating in another love song”.

Britney however, deciding to rise above it all in the far inferior “Everytime”, rejected it, and when presented to Rachel, she knew that “it had to be the first single, cos’ it was still pop, but it was, erm, pop with a difference I think.” Rachel went about her launch with a world exclusive first performance of the track on Top of the Pops (see above) and a headline grabbing cover shoot for Arena magazine in a barely there leather kilt and elbow length leather gloves (and it certainly wasn’t to be the last time in her solo career that she frolicked about in gloves either).

After then spawning a short lived dance craze involving some Cat’s cradle-esque ribbons and a few pouty looking girls, “L.A. Ex” then leapt into the UK charts at #2, just behind Black Eyed Peas’ peace anthem “Where is the Love” and went onto become one of the biggest selling and most recognised tracks of the year with 10 weeks on the chart and sales in excess of 200,000 copies, plus nominations for “L.A. Ex” at Record of the Year and the BRITs 2004 for Best British Single, where it lost out to Westlife and Dido respectively. Here’s to hope against hope then, that Rachel will return with new material off the back of her appearance on the brand new series of Strictly Come Dancing that gets going this Saturday.

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1998 Revisited, Part 1: Manics, All Saints, Des’ree etc…

September 14, 2008

So welcome then, to the launch of Popcomments, the brand new pop history blog where the past is always a present matter, and welcome also, to the first ever blog entry on Popcomments. This is a brand new series of posts called “Revisited” where basically we take you, through the medium of YouTube and the like, on a journey through a great year in pop over 4 seperate parts per year. Today we start our look back at the year best remembered for Madonna’s William Orbit aided Earth Mother figure, the year Geri left the Spice Girls just before the American leg of their world tour, and the year that the Britpop bubble untimely burst. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to 1998.

However, whilst the Britpop bubble was bursting on the likes of Sleeper and er, Menswear, it was far from bursting on Wales’ finest, Manic Street Preachers. In September of this year they returned with their fifth album and follow up to their fourth album “Everything Must Go”. Produced with Mike Hedges, the BRIT Award winning “This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours” topped the album charts in this year, and so too, did it’s lead single, “If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next”, a song about the Spanish Civil War with lyrics that were far from typical of anything that was topping the charts before it in that year, such as the line “So if I can shoot rabbits/I can shoot facists”. Interesting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it was actually one of their biggest airplay successes to follow “A Design For Life” from 1996, and quite rightly, when it remains one of their best singles to this day.

It’s funny how everything comes full circle though. Just like today in 2008, when Alphabeat, Annie and a few others are dominating our charts, North Eastern Europe was proving to be a founder of numerous chart acts over the course of 1998 (as we’ll see over the next few days with another group of Swedes and one group of Danes). Aside from a young Swede by the name of Robyn – you may be aware of her viewers – there was another Swede making his way into our charts, and that was brother of Neneh, Eagle Eye Cherry. Appearing from quite literally nowhere, the acoustic led ditty “Save Tonight” was a long stayer in the charts over the summer of 1998, reaching a #3 peak and being followed by the release of his debut album “Desireless” (which hit the top 20) and the follow up single, “Falling in Love Again” which reached #7 in November. Sadly no video to embed here as those eegots at SonyBMG’s YouTube channel have prevented me from doing so.

As already mentioned, the Spiceworld was falling apart at the seams after Geri’s much publicized departure during a break before the American leg of their world tour in late May 1998. Though the Spices were to gain two more chart toppers in this year – “Viva Forever” in late July and the festive pole position with their tribute to Geri, “Goodbye” – it was now the turn of the band largely seen as their rivals, All Saints, to break through. By the time the end of the year rolled round, their self titled debut album was one of the top 10 selling albums in the UK for 1998 – far exceeding further sales of “Spice” and “Spiceworld” in the UK put together. Helping it along was a string of fantastic #1’s – “Never Ever”, “Under The Bridge” and “Bootie Call”, as well as this soulful number, “War of Nerves”, which featured that rare thing in a song from All Saints’ first era together as a band, a co-write from the group’s tabloid tagged “party animals” Nicole and Natalie Appleton. Believed to be the group’s response to the life and death of Princess Diana, the track reached #7 in early November 1998.

It was rather quiet on the soulful Brit girl front in this year – Shola Ama took an unprecedented amount of time off, and Beverley Knight was still struggling to make herself a hit at the time in spite of a Mercury Prize nod for her debut album “Prodigal Sista”. It was better news, however, for Des’ree, who after about a trillion re-releases of her Vauxhall ad soundtracking “You Gotta Be” returned with her second top 20 album “Supernatural”, biggest hit off it being “Life”, which reached #7 in July of this year, followed by “What’s Your Sign” reaching #14 in October. However, listeners of BBC 6Music voted it as the song with the worst lyrics in music history recently, winning lyric being the immortal “I’m afraid of a ghost/It’s the sight that I fear most/I’d rather have a piece of toast/And watch the evening news”.

It was in this year also, that a trend developed for sampling old songs on quite amazing and completely new records. Cases in point extending out to The Groove Generation sampling Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”, Bus Stop sampling Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, and The Tamperer, courtesy of vocals from former Broadway actress and singer Maya, first sampling Jackson 5’s “Can You Feel It” on their chart topping “Feel It” in May this year, and then sampling Madonna’s “Material Girl” on the follow up that, bar the Manics, had one of the best long song titles of the year – “If You Buy This Record, Your Life Will Be Better”, which reached #4 in early November. Their next hit after that, “Hammer to the Heart” beat Madonna by approximately 5 years in April 2000 when it sampled ABBA’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”.

Next Sunday, we continue our look back at 1998, including our first look back at when Irish pop experienced a renaissance of sorts in the charts.

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Popcomments: Coming Soon…

September 9, 2008
Stay tuned for Popcomments. A brand new blog dedicated to commenting on all things past in the world of pop. Why? Well, because it’s necessary. Launches Sunday 14th September 2008 at 12pm 🙂