Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Best Of 1997 - part 2

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

In Part 1, I mentioned that 1997 was the year of the tribute record, but there was one death I omitted to mention: the demise of grunge. By 1997, bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were all on hiatus or broken up and genres like R&B, rap, dance and pop were flourishing.

Abs, Scott, J, Ritchie and Sean stepped in to the boy band vacuum in 1997

One of the biggest pop groups of 1997 was Hanson, who placed three songs in the top 15 highest-selling singles in Australia for the year. In the UK, boy bands and girl groups were sprouting at an unstoppable rate, with many following the lead of Take That and Spice Girls and breaking internationally. Meanwhile, artists like Az Yet, En Vogue, Warren G, Babyface, Keith Sweat and Babyface finally toppled Australia's traditional resistance to rap and R&B music, making the ARIA top 50 the most diverse it had ever been.

Let's carry on with my list of favourite songs, starting at number 75...

Number 75 "Offshore 97" by Chicane featuring Power Circle
Instrumental track "Offshore" had been the debut single for Chicane (real name: Nicholas Bracegirdle) in 1996, but in a move we'd see again and again over the coming years, the song was given a new lease of life when the track was combined with vocals from the Power Circle track "A Little Love A Little Life". What started out as a bootleg mash-up by Australian DJ Anthony Pappa was given the official go-ahead and "Offshore 97" was released for public consumption. That wouldn't always be the case, with many unofficial mash-ups failing to receive the necessary approvals to be given a commercial release.

Number 74 "I Know Where It's At" by All Saints
Here's one of those girl groups I was talking about - and over the coming years All Saints would rival Spice Girls as the UK's favourite all-female combo, with a string of number 1 singles and headline-grabbing antics thanks mostly to Appleton sisters Nicole and Natalie. Interestingly enough, the Appletons weren't originally in All Saints, with the line-up initially consisting of Melanie Blatt, Shaznay Lewis and Simone Rainford, and going by the name of All Saints Simone eventually left the group and the Canadian-born Appletons joined the renamed band. "I Know Where It's At" was the first single by the quartet, and both it and follow-up "Never Ever" (number 98 on this list) quickly establish All Saints as a pop force to be reckoned with.

Number 73 "Young Hearts Run Free" by Kym Mazelle
In 1997, movie soundtracks were still a big thing - and there was no film tie-in bigger than the album for Romeo + Juliet. OK, maybe the Titanic soundtrack was officially more successful, but the Romeo + Juliet album definitely had more cred. Alongside cool rock bands like Garbage, Radiohead and Everclear, were some pure pop tracks, like this cover of the 1976 disco hit by Candi Station (who we'll see later in this countdown). For Kym Mazelle, it was her biggest solo single after years of club hits, guest vocal appearances and collaborations.

Number 72 "Joy (remix)" by Staxx featuring Carol Leeming
This dance track narrowly missed my top 100 for 1993 but was revived four years later for a remix that not only made the song better, but also improved its UK chart fortunes (the original had hit number 25, this remix made number 14). The British group was renamed Staxx Of Joy for the US, while vocalist Carol Leeming (who'd also appeared on Trainspotting track "For What You Dream Of" with Bedrock) received a credit this time around.

Number 71 "Ti Amo" by Gina G
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 70 "You Might Need Somebody" by Shola Ama
Two things I didn't know about British soul singer Shola Ama until now. One, she was a teenager when her cover version of the Randy Crawford hit from 1981 was a success in the UK, and two, her real name is Mathurin Campbell. "You Might Need Somebody" was Shola's second major label release and kicked off a couple of huge years, which included a multi-platinum album and a BRIT Award.

Number 69 "In My Arms" by Erasure
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 68 "Angels" by Robbie Williams
The song that saved Robbie Williams' solo career, "Angels" was the chart hit he desperately needed in the UK after his previous single, "South Of The Border", had missed the top 10 and sales of his album, Life Thru A Lens, had disappointed. Never rising above number 4 in the UK, "Angels" spent 12 weeks inside the fast-moving UK top 10 and remains the highest-selling single of his career. The song wasn't as successful in Australia, where it finally reached number 40 on its third release at the end of 1999, or the US, where it stalled at number 53 around the same time.

Number 67 "Remember Me" by The Blue Boy
A true one-hit wonder now, The Blue Boy (aka Scottish DJ Lex Blackmore) made liberal use of Marlena Shaw's "Woman Of The Ghetto" for this club track - the key samples can be heard at the 1:25 mark and the 8:30 mark. This wasn't the only example of an obscure record being made use of by dance acts in the late '90s, with both Moby and Fatboy Slim finding vocal hooks in long-forgotten soul and gospel tracks.

Number 66 "Did It Again" by Kylie Minogue
So while pop was making a comeback in 1997, one of the biggest pop stars on the late '80s and early '90s went against the flow with the release of her Impossible Princess album. Following her hit collaboration with Nick Cave in 1995, Kylie embraced indie sounds and even drafted in two members of Manic Street Preachers to co-write the album's lead single "Some Kind Of Bliss" (number 33 on this list). I've talked about that song elsewhere, and although I prefer it to this follow-up, "Did It Again" was actually the bigger hit, returning Kylie to the Australian and UK top 20 after "Some Kind Of Bliss" had spectacularly bombed out.

Number 65 "Never Gonna Let You Go" by Tina Moore
1997 was the year UK garage crossed over from the underground to the mainstream with songs like this 2-step classic and Rosie Gaines' "Closer Than Close" (number 145 on this list) proving to be significant and enduring chart hits. Originally released in quite a different version in 1995, "Never Gonna Let You Go" was overhauled by Kelly G and Tuff Jam, their remixes spawning a raft of imitators over the coming years.

Number 64 "Slam Dunk (Da Funk)" by Five
Or 5ive, if you insist. Put together by the same management team that'd formed Spice Girls, Five were the greatest beneficiaries of the absence of Take That and East 17 from the UK charts in 1997. Combining East 17's bad boy approach with Take That's pop sensibilities, Five were signed by Simon Cowell and debuted with this track, co-written and co-produced by Swedish maestros Max Martin and Denniz Pop. "Slam Dunk (Da Funk)" only just made the UK top 10, but it was just the beginning of a huge success story.

Number 63 "Something Goin' On" by Todd Terry featuring Martha Wash & Jocelyn Brown
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 62 "Love Commandments" by Gisele Jackson
Time for another vocal house track that's only on YouTube in extended mixes I don't like. The version that was most prominent in Australia was the Dancin' Divaz mix, which was edited for the local CD single release and appeared on one of the excellent Wild FM compilations.

Number 61 "All This Love That I'm Giving" by United State
A cover of a little-known 1988 soul track by singer Gwen McCrae (whose biggest claim to fame was a top 10 hit in the US in 1975 with "Rockin' Chair"), this house version featured vocals by Mary Pearce, who we saw back in Part 1 on the Up Yer Ronson track.

Number 60 "Outlaw (Space Brothers mix)" by Olive
Mentioned in Part 3
Were it not for Elton John, this tongue-in-cheek Eurodance ditty about the toy doll would have been the year's highest-selling single in both Australia and the UK. The third single by the Danish group (following "Roses Are Red" and "My Oh My"), it was the target of a lawsuit filed by Barbie manufacturer Mattel which would only prove successful in drumming up more publicity for Aqua. In an interesting about-face, Mattel used a lyrically-altered version of "Barbie Girl" in 2009. I guess if you can't beat them...

Number 58 "Star People 97" by George Michael
The singles continued from George's Older album in 1997, with two of them, this song and "The Strangest Thing 97" (number 177 on this list with double A-side "You Have Been Loved") receiving a substantial remix from the album version. As far as "Star People" was concerned, it was a remix of a remix that was most popular - with the Forthright mix (below), gaining most attention. I'm not sure if there was a music video released for this track - I don't recall seeing one and I can't find it online if there was.

Number 57 "Don't Give Up" by Michelle Weeks
And now, a vocal house diva who actually manages more than one appearance on this list. Michelle was the vocalist of Bobby D'Ambrosio's "Moment Of My Life" (number 94 on this list) and appears here in her own right with a track on the Ministry Of Sound record label, which had been launched in 1995 and is one of the few examples of a nightclub spin-off project lasting the distance.

Number 56 "You Said" by Worlds Apart
Mentioned in Part 4
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 53 "Professional Widow (It's Got To Be Big)" by Tori Amos
Who would have predicted back in 1992 when Tori debuted with Little Earthquakes that five years later she'd be involved in one of the biggest dance hits of the year? Granted, in the radical reworking her 1996 single "Professional Widow" received, she'd be all but removed from the song, but she was obviously happy enough with the result to call and thank remixer Armand van Helden. The remix was present on the original release of the song, but six months later, it was elevated to the main mix on a re-release and shot to number 1 in the UK. It would also be her biggest single here in Australia, beating the number 19 peak of "Cornflake Girl" by two spots.

Number 52 "Fresh" by Gina G
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 51 "Black Eyed Boy" by Texas
A band that just about everyone had forgotten about by 1997 staged an impressive comeback with the White On Blonde album, and although I wasn't a fan of lead single "Say What You Want", I did enjoy this third single which sounded nothing like the pop/rock sound for which the Scottish band had been known. Well, when I say "known for", aside from debut hit "I Don't Want A Lover", can anyone name another Texas single from their first three albums?

In Part 3, a UK band makes an unexpected comeback, a global superstar enjoys his final big hit and there might just be the odd dance track or two. Before that, we'll check back in with all the ARIA chart action from 25 years ago.

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Friday, 27 September 2013

The Best Of 1997 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

This week's Emmy Awards were described by Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan as the "saddest of all time" - and it was a bit like that in the music world in 1997, with two tribute songs among the year's biggest hits. The first was Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" (featuring Faith Evans and 112), which was in memory of slain rapper The Notorious B.I.G. The Police-sampling track hit number 1 in Australia, the US and the UK, selling millions of copies in the process.

"Look how young I was!" Usher points out the obvious

The second was the song that would go on to become the highest-selling single of all time: "Candle In The Wind 1997", the reworking of his 1973 classic that Elton John performed at the funeral for Princess Diana. Together with the November passing of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, it gave the year somewhat of a sombre feel. The good news is it's not so depressing on my list of my favourite songs from that year...

Number 100 "Free" by Ultra Naté
Sticking with the vocal house genre, here's a much more familiar song and artist since this track was a huge record in the UK - a long-running top 10 hit that sparked a brief period of mainstream success for the club singer. One of those artists who notches up one number 1 after another on the Billboard dance chart (seven, to date) without most people being any the wiser, Ultra (apparently her real name) released her most recent album, Hero Worship earlier this year. 

Number 99 "You've Got A Friend" by Brand New Heavies
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 98 "Never Ever" by All Saints
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 97 "I'm A Man Not A Boy" by North & South
With Take That broken up and East 17 winding down for the time being, the onslaught of British boy bands really picked up steam in 1997. This group was formed by pop svengali Tom Watkins (Bros, East 17, Pet Shop Boys) for BBC kids' series No Sweat, a fictional show about some school kids getting a band together. I didn't see a single episode of the series, but I did like this song, which hit the top 10 in the UK. Subsequent singles weren't as big (follow-up "Tarantino's New Star" was particularly awful) and so, despite a second season of No Sweat airing, North & South were over and done with by 1998.

Number 96 "Gimme Gimme" by Whigfield
One of my very first phone interviews was with Danish pop star Whigfield (real name: Sannie Carlson). She told me she was topless in a hot tub at the time, which is obviously how all press interviews should be conducted. Anyway, the phenomenon that was her debut single, "Saturday Night", had completely passed Australia by - and it wasn't until "Sexy Eyes", the seventh and final single from her debut self-titled album, that anyone here realised she existed. She followed the top 10 success of that track on the Australian chart with another hit, "Gimme Gimme", which launched her second album, imaginatively titled Whigfield II

Number 95 "All Cried Out" by Allure featuring 112
Back in 1986, freestyle group Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam slowed things down with the original version of this quiet storm classic. Eleven years later, four-piece vocal harmony group Allure, the first act signed to Mariah Carey's Crave record label, gave the track an R&B update with a little help from male quartet 112 and even the big boss herself, who provided backing vocals. And, if you didn't like the ballad version, there was the obligatory Hex Hector remix instead.

Number 94 "Moment Of My Life" Bobby D'Ambrosio featuring Michelle Weeks
Mentioned in Part 2

Number 93 "Barrel Of A Gun" by Depeche Mode
This isn't the highest song on this list from Depeche Mode's Ultra album, but since I've talked elsewhere about "Home" and "It's No Good" (which will appear in Part 4), I thought it worth giving the album's lead single a mention. A darker sounding track than anything they'd released as a single in some time, "Barrel Of A Gun" was also the first release by the new three-piece group (Vince Clarke's replacement, Alan Wilder, left the band in 1995). In the UK, the song surprisingly equalled the peak of DM's highest charting song, "People Are People", by reaching number 4 - but like most of their singles since then, it's time in the British chart was incredibly brief.

Number 92 "Home" by Chakra
Mentioned below

Number 91 "Shine" by The Space Brothers
Two back-to-back appearances here by Rick Simmonds and Stephen Jones - known alternately as Chakra and The Space Brothers, Lustral and various other aliases. Trance music was really starting to make its presence felt in 1997 and although there were plenty of instrumental tracks around towards the end of the decade, it was always the ones with vocals (like these two) that I preferred.

Number 90 "I Was Born To Love You" by Worlds Apart
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 89 "Don't Change" by Worlds Apart
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 88 "Don't Speak" by No Doubt
"Just A Girl" put them on the map, but "Don't Speak" was the song that turned No Doubt into major players on the music scene. The single, initially released in early 1996 in the US, had a long road to the top in Australia and the UK, where it hit number 1 in February 1997. Written by singer Gwen Stefani and her brother, Eric (who'd left the group by the time the song was a smash), it dealt with Gwen's breakup with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal.

Number 87 "Shelter" by Brand New Heavies
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 86 "Arms Around The World" by Louise
The first singer to bail on Eternal moved on to her second album, Woman In Me, in 1997. As well as visiting the UK top 10 on a regular basis, Louise was the epitome of a well-rounded pop star, proving to be a popular cover star for lads' mag FHM and even snagging her own football star boyfriend in the form of future husband Jamie Redknapp. I always thought "Arms Around The World", with its mentions of various global locations and use of sitar was a complete rip-off of Janet Jackson's "Runaway", but it was still a step in the right direction for Louise, whose music had often been on the wrong side of bland.

Number 85 "Do You Wanna Funk" by Siona
Only an extended mix (and not a very good one) of this remake of the Sylvester disco classic appears on YouTube, so you'll have to use your imagination here. The radio version of the track was a laid-back affair in which Siona, to borrow an overused phrase from The X Factor, "really made the song her own". Meanwhile, dance fans were looked after by a storming Hi-Lux mix.

Number 84 "Gotta Love For You" by Serial Diva
Another track that only appears on YouTube in extended mixes that I don't like, this was the follow-up to 1995's "Keep Hope Alive". A British house production/remix team, Serial Diva featured among its members Darren Hill, the brother of Mark Hill, one half of future hit-makers Artful Dodger.

Number 83 "You Make Me Wanna..." by Usher
Yep, it's really been 16 years since the breakthrough hit for possibly the most successful R&B solo artist of the past two decades. In fact, it's actually been two decades since Usher's debut single, 1993's "Call Me A Mack". That track and his debut self-titled album might not have set the world on fire, but "You Make Me Wanna..." changed all that and the abs-bearing teen danced his way into the US, UK and Australian top 10. Two further singles from second album My Way would perform just as well in America, but it would take until 2001 for Usher to score another hit elsewhere.

Number 82 "The Real Thing" by Lisa Stansfield
It's no wonder Lisa took three years before releasing her self-titled fourth studio album in 1997 - she must have been exhausted from the relentless release schedule she'd maintained throughout the early '90s. After a remix of the song that made her a star, Coldcut's "People Hold On", was issued at the start of the year, this first single proper from Lisa Stansfield returned her to the UK top 10 for what would turn out to be the last time. Not even a cover of Barry White's "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up" could progress beyond number 25 in the UK later that year. Lisa has continued to record, and has a new album, Seven, due out in October.

Number 81 "I'm Kissing You" by Des'ree
Before she went and killed her career with the ridiculously worded hit "Life", Des'ree provided one of the standout moments from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. The beautifully romantic "I'm Kissing You" played during the movie's memorable fish tank scene and was a top 20 hit in Australia.

Number 80 "Hold Your Head Up High" by Boris Dlugosch presents BOOOM!
A collaboration with Mousse T and Inaya Day, this vocal house track was the first I'd heard of the German DJ/producer, but he'd be instrumental in giving Moloko an Everything But The Girl-style career shift in the coming years.

Number 79 "Alright" by Jamiroquai
Another single from Travelling Without Moving, and this time, Jamiroquai even managed to break into the Billboard Hot 100. "Alright" reached number 78 and remains the band's only US chart hit.

Number 78 "I Have No Fear" by Le Monde
Here's another vocal house track that's only on YouTube in inferior remixes (although this one is OK) - and the only thing I know about this song is that the vocalist is Annette Taylor. "I Have No Fear" was included on one of those Mardi Gras compilations that came out in the '90s and I've been keeping an eye out for the CD single on eBay for years.

Number 77 "I Will Be Released" by Up Yer Ronson featuring Mary Pearce
The third and best single by the dance act named after a club night at Leeds venue Music Factory followed 1995's "Lost In Love" and 1996's "Are You Gonna Be There?", which also featured Mary Pearce on vocals. The mix below is by Alex Party and Livin' Joy member Alex Visnadi, and although it's not my favourite mix, it's as close as I could find on YouTube.

Number 76 "Stay" by Sash! featuring La Trec
Mentioned in Part 3

In Part 2: five bad boys with the power to rock you, four girls who gave Spice Girls a run for their money, a song that a toy company tried to shut down and the least likely dance star of the year.

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Monday, 2 September 2013

The Best Of 1996 - part 4

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

Without going into too many details, 1996 was a bit of a landmark year for me on a personal level. It was the year I came to grips with being gay (which, if you've read any of my other posts, should come as no surprise) and embarked on my first serious same-sex relationship.

Music doesn't get much camper than Eurovision entrant Gina G

Of course, the signs had been there since, well, probably the very beginning (especially if you look back through my personal countdowns for each year since 1979) - but for me, the music I liked and who I was weren't the same thing. Still, even I'm the first to admit this countdown is packed with camp classics and gay anthems. Speaking of coming out...

Number 25 "Fastlove" by George Michael
He was still in the closet, but George was finally released in a musical sense. It'd been four long years since we’d heard any new music from George Michael but in 1996, his legal wrangling with Sony Music finally behind him, he released the Older album through his new deal with Virgin Records. I wasn’t so fond of lead single “Jesus To A Child”, but “Fastlove”, which sampled Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” long before Will Smith got his hands on it, was a return to form.

Number 24 "Keep The Music Strong" by Bizarre Inc
Bizarre Inc had been part of the rave scene back in the early '90s, with club classics like "Playing With Knives" and "I'm Gonna Get You", but in 1996, their singles had much more of an R&B/soul feel to them. "I'm Gonna Get You" featured vocalist Angie Brown was now part of the group and therefore performed both "Keep The Music Strong" and "Surprise" (number 46 on this list) - and thankfully both songs came with remixes to cater to the clubs. The Boots mix of "Keep The Music Strong" followed the Motiv8 high energy template, while the Dancing Divaz take on "Surprise" tended more towards house.

Number 23 "Love The Life (Peewee Ferris remix)" by Bass Culture featuring Gina G
With the runaway success of Gina G's debut solo single (which we'll get to in due course), this 1992 Bass Culture track was dusted off and given a remix courtesy of Peewee Ferris (who we saw back in Part 1). The new version of "Love The Life" was a vast improvement on the original, which sounded like a Cathy Dennis album track, but it didn't follow Gina's solo records into the chart.

Number 22 "Heaven" by Neuronic
A fact I'd forgotten about until just now is that Neuronic was essentially just Peach (who featured in Part 3) under a different name. One of three songs in my top 20 for 1996 called "Heaven", the tune also had a remix by, wait for it, Motiv8.

Number 21 "Brighter Day (Motiv8 mix)" by Kelly Llorenna
She'd supplied the vocals for the eventual N-Trance smash "Set You Free", and in 1996, Kelly released the first of what would be a steady stream of solo releases over the next decade. I didn't think too much of the radio version of "Brighter Day" - and neither, it would seem, did anyone else, since the track only reached number 43 in the UK - but the obligatory Motiv8 mix (which there's a link to in the song title above) is what earns the song its spot here. Kelly would return to work with N-Trance in 1997 for more in their series of '70s disco updates.

Number 20 "Make It On My Own (Dancing Divaz remix)" by Alison Limerick
Back in Part 1, we saw that Incognito released a remix retrospective in 1996 and Alison Limerick was another artist whose back catalogue was revisited that year. From the aptly named album Club Classics, this new version on "Make It On My Own" made an already great song (which featured in my 1992 countdown) even better. Alison's debut single, "Where Love Lives" also got the Dancing Divaz treatment - and as a result that song became a long overdue UK top 10 hit. Even though I liked that update, I preferred the original in that instance.

Number 19 "Heaven" by Sarah Washington
Mentioned below

Number 18 "Don't Stop Movin'" by Livin' Joy
"Dreamer" had given them a big hit the previous year, and Italian dance act Livin' Joy struck while the iron was hot, landing another smash with this song and making it three from three with "Follow The Rules" (number 91 on this list).

Number 17 "Satellite" by The Beloved
I remember going to see The Beloved play Sydney's Metro Theatre in 1996 when I was incredibly ill, but I was a big fan of their album from that year, X, and, well, I'd paid for tickets so what was I going to do? "Satellite" was the lead single, and was followed by "Deliver Me" (number 55 on this list) and "Ease The Pressure" (number 115) - but none of them made too much chart impact. I just discovered, though, that Sarah Brightman released a cover version of "Deliver Me" in 1998, so that's something, I guess. OK, maybe not.

Number 16 "Everything" by Sarah Washington
She'd started her recording career with a cheesy handbag cover of "I Will Always Love You" in 1993, but by 1996, Sarah had progressed to releasing original vocal house anthems like this and "Heaven" (number 19 on this list). Both were only small chart hits in the UK, and I recall having to wait forever for "Heaven" to be given a local release in Australia, where it sank without a trace as well. The two tunes did, however, get plenty of club play.

Number 15 "Se A Vida E (That's The Way Life Is)" by Pet Shop Boys
Previously featured here

Number 14 "Let's Push It" by The Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid
It wasn't their biggest hit, but this was my favourite track by The Nightcrawlers, with John Reid once again on vocal duty. John did share the spotlight with Alysha Warren, though, on another of the act's 1996 singles, "Keep On Pushing Our Love" (number 82 on this list), but by then, interest in the group had all but dried up. John then shifted his attention to work as a songwriter, co-writing "A Moment Like This", which both Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis recorded as their winner's single from American Idol and The X Factor respectively. In 2011, he resurrected The Nightcrawlers brand and teamed up with Taio Cruz for "Cryin' Over You" - not that anyone noticed.

Number 13 "Beautiful Life" by Ace Of Base
They'd been the biggest thing in pop a couple of years earlier, but Ace Of Base struggled with their second album, The Bridge. Despite landing their first number 1 back at home in Sweden with lead single "Lucky Love", the track and album didn't perform anywhere near as well in the rest of the world. Things improved with "Beautiful Life", which is my favourite single by the group, but it became obvious they weren't going to rival ABBA's hit rate.

Number 12 "This I Swear / Heaven" by Kim Wilde
Meanwhile, Kim Wilde had been struggling with her albums for years - and even I wasn't a massive fan of 1996's Now & Forever. I did, however, enjoy this double A-side single, which teamed ballad "This I Swear" with the more club-friendly "Heaven" - a track which became even more dance floor-ready thanks to a remix by Matt Darey. Not even the release of a cover version - a ploy that'd worked in 1986 and 1993 - helped Kim's chart fortunes, with her remake of Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame" (number 111 on this list) tanking. Shortly after, Kim left her music career behind for motherhood and a new job as a garden designer - and wouldn't return with a new studio album for a decade.

Number 11 "There's Nothing I Won't Do" by JX
Another year, another JX single - and this was my favourite of the four annually occurring releases that Jake Williams released. A big number 4 hit in the UK, it only reached number 26 in Australia.

Number 10 "I Belong To You" by Gina G
Mentioned below

Number 9 "Everybody" by Worlds Apart
Previously featured here

Number 8 "Your Love" by Inner City
Once one of the hottest dance acts in the UK, Inner City hadn't ventured into the top 40 there for three years before this single peaked at number 28. Another track, "Do Me Right" (number 143 on this list), also surfaced in 1996, but when it missed the top 40 as well, the group disappeared until 1999.

Number 7 "Right Here, Right Now" by The Flood
It's amazing the things I've discovered while doing this blog. Turns out one half of pop duo The Flood when on to become trance act The Thrillseekers (biggest hit: "Synaesthesia (Fly Away)" in 1999). Steve Helstrip has even posted this clip by his former group on YouTube and even mentioned in the comments that "Right Here Right Now" stalled at number 41. Actually, it didn't even crack the top 75.

Number 6 "I Give It All To You / I Imagine (Motiv8 mix)" by Mary Kiani
Confession time: I had a singing lesson with Mary Kiani earlier this year. Now living in Sydney, the Scottish singer (and former vocalist for The Time Frequency) teaches out of her inner city home and I was given a session as a birthday present. Back in 1996, she was one of Motiv8's biggest customers, with four of her solo singles all getting the magic makeover, including "I Imagine". For the single release, that song was paired with ballad "I Give It All To You", which, if released on its own, would not make this list. 

Number 5 "Pride" by Johnna
As I mentioned at the start , 1996 was the year I came out to my family, so it was kind of nice timing for former Boy Krazy member Johnna Lee Cummings to release what is possible the most gay friendly track on this list (although my number 1 gives it a good run for its money). Produced by none other than Motiv8, the song wasn't a chart hit, but got a hammering in many of the clubs I found myself that year.

Number 4 "Wannabe" by Spice Girls
Previously featured here and mentioned in Part 3

Number 3 "Just Can't Get Enough" by Transformer 2
Nothing to do with songs by either Depeche Mode or The Black Eyed Peas, this "Just Can't Get Enough" was a piano house anthem brought to the world by the Positiva label after doing the rounds since 1993 in one form or another. The vocalist for the track was Asli Tanriverdi.

Number 2 "Show Me" by Dana Dawson
Possibly no song on this list demonstrated more the difference a Motiv8 mix could make. The third single from Dana's Black Butterfly album was a pretty pop tune with quite a subdued feel (hear it by clicking the link in the title) - until the ubiquitous remixers got their hands on it and turned it into a high energy romp (below). I like both versions, but the remix definitely pushed "Show Me" up these rankings. Dana's fourth and final single from the album was "How I Wanna Be Loved" (number 97 on this list).

Number 1 "Ooh Aah... Just A Little Bit" by Gina G
Not since "Hold Me Now", Ireland's winning song by Johnny Logan in 1987, had a Eurovision entry grabbed my attention - but that all changed with Australian-born Gina G's 1996 contender. A number hit in the UK despite not winning the song contest, "Ooh Aah..." also went on to be a success in the US, where Eurovision entries hardly ever charted.
Given Gina's local connection, Australia also got behind the track and, for me, it was the best song of the year - only fitting, really, since it was co-written and produced by Steve Rodway, the man otherwise known as Motiv8.
Despite what most people probably think, Gina was no one-hit wonder, either. Follow-up "I Belong To You" (number 10 on this list) was another top 10 entry in the UK and one of six singles taken from debut album Fresh!

My top 200 for 1996 in full:

1         OOH AAH...JUST A LITTLE BIT Gina G
2         SHOW ME / MOTIV8 MIX Dana Dawson
3         JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH Transformer 2
4         WANNABE / MOTIV8 MIX Spice Girls
5         PRIDE Johnna
6         I GIVE IT ALL TO YOU / I IMAGINE / MOTIV8 MIX Mary Kiani
7         RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW The Flood
8         YOUR LOVE Inner City
9         EVERYBODY Worlds Apart
10        I BELONG TO YOU Gina G
13        BEAUTIFUL LIFE Ace Of Base
14        LET'S PUSH IT / MOTIV8 MIX The Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid
15        SE A VIDA E (THAT'S THE WAY LIFE IS) Pet Shop Boys
16        EVERYTHING Sarah Washington
17        SATELLITE The Beloved
18        DON'T STOP MOVIN' Livin' Joy
19        HEAVEN Sarah Washington
20        MAKE IT ON MY OWN (DANCING DIVAZ REMIX) Alison Limerick
21        BRIGHTER DAY / MOTIV8 MIX Kelly Llorenna
22        HEAVEN / MOTIV8 MIX Neuronic
23        LOVE THE LIFE (PEE WEE FERRIS REMIX) Bass Culture featuring Gina G
25        FASTLOVE George Michael
26        VIRTUAL INSANITY Jamiroquai
27        READY TO GO Republica
28        FORBIDDEN CITY Electronic
29        STANDING HERE ALL ALONE Michelle
30        THE LOVER THAT YOU ARE Pulse featuring Antoinette Roberson
31        DON'T GO (DANCING DIVAZ REMIX) Awesome 3 featuring Julie McDermott
32        YOU LIFT ME UP / HI LUX MIX Rebekah Ryan
33        ON MY OWN Peach
34        SAY YOU'LL BE THERE Spice Girls
35        WHEN I FALL IN LOVE Ant & Dec
36        GOT MYSELF TOGETHER The Bucketheads
37        SO PURE Baby D
38        NOT SO MANIC NOW Dubstar
39        LOVING YOU MORE (REMIX) BT featuring Vincent Covello 
40        STARS (MOTIV8 / WAY OUT WEST REMIXES) Dubstar 
42        STUPID GIRL Garbage
43        GOOD DAY / MOTIV8 MIX Sean Maguire
44        JELLYHEAD / MOTIV8 MIX Crush
45        DISCO 2000 / MOTIV8 MIX Pulp
46        SURPRISE / DANCING DIVAZ MIX Bizarre Inc
48        WRONG Everything But The Girl
49        ROCK ME GENTLY Erasure
50        LOVE IS EVERYWHERE Caught In The Act
51        GOODBYE HEARTBREAK Lighthouse Family
52        STAY WITH ME TONIGHT Human League
54        LE VOIE; LE SOLEIL Subliminal Cuts
55        DELIVER ME The Beloved
56        DON'T LET GO (LOVE) En Vogue
57        WISHES Human Nature
59        KEEP ON JUMPIN' Lisa Marie Experience
60        HIDE-A-WAY Nu-Soul featuring Kelli Rich
61        IN THE EVENING Sheryl Lee Ralph
62        I WANT YOU Savage Garden
63        COSMIC GIRL Jamiroquai
65        ONE AND ONE Robert Miles featuring Maria Nayler
66        MY LOVE IS FOR REAL Strike
67        2 BECOME 1 Spice Girls
68        ANYTHING 3T
69        LIFTED Lighthouse Family
71        YOU SPIN ME ROUND (LIKE A RECORD) 96 Dead Or Alive
72        THIS IS YOUR NIGHT Amber
73        I DON'T WANNA BE A STAR Corona
74        BREATHE The Prodigy
75        SO IN LOVE WITH YOU Duke
76        DON'T PULL YOUR LOVE Sean Maguire
77        NO SURRENDER Deuce
78        LOVE SENSATION 911
79        CRAZY CHANCE Kavana
80        ANYMORE Sarah Cracknell
81        6 UNDERGROUND Sneaker Pimps
82        KEEP ON PUSHING OUR LOVE The Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid & Alysha Warren
83        DON'T MAKE ME WAIT 911
84        IN TOO DEEP Belinda Carlisle
85        WHERE DO YOU GO No Mercy
86        JUST A GIRL No Doubt
87        DESIRE Nu Colours
88        DO WATCHA DO Hyper Go Go and Adeva
89        WHO DO U LOVE Deborah Cox
90        GIVE ME A LITTLE MORE TIME Gabrielle
91        YOU & ME SONG The Wannadies
92        ALWAYS BREAKING MY HEART Belinda Carlisle
94        I FEEL IT DJ Darren Briais vs DJ Peewee Ferris
95        IS THIS A DREAM (REMIX) Love Decade
96        HOW I WANNA BE LOVED Dana Dawson
97        FOLLOW THE RULES Livin’ Joy
98        JUMP TO MY LOVE / ALWAYS THERE (REMIX) Incognito
99        OCEAN DRIVE Lighthouse Family
100      REACH 96 Judy Cheeks
101      HIGH 96 Hyper Go-Go
102      TELLIN’ EVERYBODY Human Nature
103      THAT'S THE WAY LOVE IS Volcano with Sam Cartright
104      BRING ME LOVE Andrea Mendez
105      CAN'T HELP IT Happy Clappers
106      IF YOU EVER East 17 featuring Gabrielle
107      KILLING ME SOFTLY The Fugees
108      A DIFFERENT BEAT Boyzone
109      HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE Take That
110      SHAME Kim Wilde
111      SOMEDAY Eternal
112      DO WHAT YOU FEEL Johnna
113      UNREAL Dreamworld
114      I WANT TO LOVE Whigfield
115      OVER AND OVER Puff Johnson
116      READY OR NOT Lightning Seeds
117      GOLDFINGER Ash
118      EASE THE PRESSURE The Beloved
119      DISCO'S REVENGE Gusto
120      SUGAR IS SWEETER CJ Bolland
122      JUST A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE / HI LUX MIX Rebekah Ryan
123      DESIGNING HEAVEN / MOTIV8 MIX Heaven 17
124      TURN YOUR LOVE AROUND Tony Di Bart
125      BLURRED Pianoman
126      1,2,3,4 (SUMPIN' NEW) Coolio
127      CHILDREN Robert Miles
129      CHAINS (U.S. REMIXES) Tina Arena
130      NEVER GONNA SAY I’M SORRY Ace Of Base
131      ESCAPING / MIND, BODY & SOUL Dina Carroll
133      NAKED Louise
135      CHANGE Daphne
136      DO ME RIGHT Inner City
137      BROTHERS & SISTERS 2 Funky 2 featuring Kathryn Dion
138      STRANGER IN MOSCOW / REMIX Michael Jackson
139      FIRESTARTER The Prodigy
140      LET THE MUSIC PLAY / MOTIV8 MIX Mary Kiani
141      U FOUND OUT The Handbaggers
142      CLOSER TO FREE Bodeans
143      I LIVE FOR YOU Chynna Phillips
144      I'M ALIVE Stretch 'n' Vern
145      FOR YOU Electronic
146      MINT CAR The Cure
147      NO ONE CAN LOVE YOU MORE THAN ME Hannah Jones
148      A NIGHT TO REMEMBER 911
149      GOOD THING Eternal
151      BRIGHTEST STAR Drizabone
152      SITTIN’ UP IN MY ROOM Brandy
153      SKIN ON SKIN Grace
154      INSOMNIA Faithless
155      DO U STILL? East 17
156      GOOD ENOUGH Dodgy
157      AIN'T NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP Paula Abdul
159      GOT IT GOIN' ON Human Nature
160      THE RIGHT TIME The Corrs
161      SEXY EYES Whigfield
162      ARE YOU GONNA BE THERE Up Yer Ronson
164      OH YEAH Ash
165      LOVE TO LOVE YOU The Corrs
166      GET DOWN (YOU'RE THE ONE FOR ME) Backstreet Boys
167      SUNSHINE ON A RAINY DAY Hard Pressed Productions featuring Aletia Bourne
168      WE'VE GOT IT GOIN' ON Backstreet Boys
169      SENTIMENTAL Deborah Cox
170      THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT US Michael Jackson 
172      GOT TO GIVE IT UP Aaliyah
173      UNDIVIDED LOVE Louise
174      DO IT FOR LOVE 4Mandu
175      WHAM BAM Candy Girls featuring Sweet Pussy Pauline
176      CRY INDIA Umboza
177      C’MON ’N RIDE IT (THE TRAIN) Quad City DJs
178      PEOPLE GET HIGH Boxcar
179      FORGET ABOUT THE WORLD Gabrielle
180      TAPE LOOP Morcheeba
181      SKY HIGH Voices featuring 'Individual'
182      OFFSHORE Chicane
183      COUNT ON ME Whitney Houston featuring CeCe Winans
184      IN WALKED LOVE Louise
185      I NEED YOU 3T
186      FOUND LOVE Double Dee featuring Dany
187      WHO ARE YOU? Eternal
188      LOVING EVERY MINUTE Lighthouse Family
189      ONLY HUMAN / RUN TO YOU Dina Carroll
190      ONE MORE CHANCE Madonna
191      EVEN WHEN I’M SLEEPING Leonardo’s Bride
192      WOMAN Neneh Cherry
193      SHOULD I EVER (FALL IN LOVE) The Nightcrawlers featuring John Reid
194      NO DIGGITY Blackstreet
195      MILK Garbage featuring Tricky
196      SPECIAL KIND OF LOVER Nu Colours
197      THE NIGHTTRAIN Kadoc
198      SPACEMAN Babylon Zoo
199      IT'S WHAT'S UPFRONT THAT COUNTS Yosh presents Lovedeejay Akemi
200      GIV ME LUV Alcatraz

That's it for 1996. As usual, I'll pop back to the hits of 1988 with my ARIA chart recap on Wednesday and stay tuned for my 1997 countdown in coming weeks.

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