Monday, 5 May 2014

The Best Of 2003 - part 2

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

Inheriting the reins of Smash Hits in 2003 was a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, teen mags were in dire straits, with the internet and mobile phones providing our target audience with other things to spend their money on and alternate ways to find much of the same information before we could give it to them.

OutKast: divided they recorded, united they conquered the world

On the upside, 2003 saw the debut of Australian Idol, and, just as it had in the UK, it changed the music landscape in a way that Popstars had never managed. We were gifted instant cover stars with a massive built-in fanbase - and more than one, since runners-up and other finalists were often as popular as the winners.

The show gave the magazine the shot in the arm it needed - and although you won't seen any Idol artists in this countdown (Guy Sebastian's winner's single, "Angels Brought Me Here", ranks at a lowly number 152 on my list), it would only be a matter of time before some filtered through. Here are more of the tracks I did rate in 2003...

Number 75 "Obsession (I Love You)" by Amiel
She was the voice of "Addicted To Bass" (by Josh Abrahams or Puretone, depending on whether you live in Australia or the UK), which was released locally back in 1998 but didn't take off internationally for a couple of years - meaning it took until 2003 for Amiel Daemion to get around to releasing a solo record. Her debut single, "Lovesong", received all the attention thanks to its liberal use of the F word (although there was a radio-friendly version substituting "stupid" for the offending word as well), however I preferred this follow-up.

Number 74 "Sunshine" by Gareth Gates
How quickly things can change. On my 2002 chart, Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates easily out-performed victor Will Young, but after a horrendous (but UK chart-topping) cover of "Spirit In The Sky" with British TV family The Kumars at the start of 2003, Gareth's fortunes took a tumble - and not just in my eyes. Tabloid rumours of his affair with "glamour" model Jordan punctured his boy-next-door image and the media began to turn.
This next single, with its more grown-up George Michael circa "Fastlove" sound, missed the UK number 1 spot despite being his first single proper from his second album - and that album, Go Your Own Way, didn't even crack the UK top 10.
At some point during that short burst of initial fame, Gareth came to Australia and I interviewed him for Smash Hits. He was still suffering from his stutter at the time, and his speech therapist sat in on the interview, before which I was asked not to finish Gareth's sentences for him. As it turned out, the interview went fairly smoothly, but Gareth was in for a rocky few years ahead, whereas Will Young... well, we'll get to him.

Number 73 "Sleeping Satellite" by Aurora featuring Naimee Coleman
Since neither Aurora or Naimee Coleman's individual recordings since their 2000 hit remake of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" enjoyed much success, the British dance duo and the Irish singer reteamed for another cover version from the early '90s. This time, it was Tasmin Archer's "Sleeping Satellite" which got the pop/trance treatment - but lightning didn't strike twice, with the track not even receiving an official release in the UK and missing the top 50 in Australia, where it was actually released.

Number 72 "Are You Happy Now?" by Michelle Branch
Mentioned below

Number 71 "Sentimental" by Kym Marsh
Less than 12 months after "Pure And Simple" (which we saw in my top 100 for 2001) debuted, one-fifth of Hear'say quit the group formed by the British version of Popstars. That member was Kym Marsh, who launched her solo career with a UK number 2 hit, "Cry" - but things went downhill from there very quickly. Her second single, "Come On Over" (number 88 on this list), barely grazed the UK top 10, while third single "Sentimental" only just managed a place in the top 40. I actually thought Kym's singles improved as she went on, but her record company had no patience for further artist development and she was dropped by her label, going on to act in soap Coronation Street.

Number 70 "Hold On Me" by Phixx
Part Duran Duran, part gay porn, the debut single and flesh-flashing music video by Phixx was like nothing else on the boy band scene. Like Liberty X, which was formed from the next five contestants that didn't make it into Hear'say, Phixx was comprised of the five guys who missed out on being in One True Voice in Popstars: The Rivals. Turns out, not getting into OTV was kind of a blessing - "Hold On Me" was a top 10 hit and Phixx ended up releasing double the number of singles that OTV managed.

Number 69 "My Time" by Dutch featuring Crystal Waters
I wasn't a fan of Crystal Waters' two massive '90s hits, "Gypsy Woman (La Da Dee La Da Da)" and "100% Pure Love" - something about her voice put me off. But, I did like this collaboration with Dutch DJ/producer/remixer Jesse Houk, who also goes by the name of The Scumfrog.

Number 68 "How Did You Know" by Kurtis Mantronik presents Chamonix
Here's another dance artist (real name: Kurtis el Khaleel) with a lot of feathers in his cap - not least of which was his role in Mantronix, the group behind seminal club classic "Got To Have Your Love" (which we saw in my top 100 for 1990). After the demise of Mantronix, Kurtis didn't release too many solo tracks - and this one, featuring the vocalist otherwise known as Miriam Grey, was the last to see any chart action, reaching the UK top 20.

Number 67 "Real Things" by Javine
Yet another cast-off from Popstars: The Rivals, this time it's the singer who just missed out on a place in Girls Aloud, but came away with a record deal nevertheless - even if her music career was as short-lived as everyone associated with the show except Girls Aloud. Javine Hylton released two singles in 2003, this debut UK top 5 hit and follow-up "Surrender (Your Love)" (number 87 on this list). She went on to represent the UK in Eurovision in 2005 and earn herself somewhat of a bad reputation with the UK press for her involvement in the breakdown of Mis-teeq member Alesha Dixon's marriage to So Solid Crew's MC Harvey.

Number 66 "Style" by Mis-teeq
All good things must come to an end, and although that conclusion didn't actually happen for a couple of years, "Style" would be the final single by Mis-teeq. Sampling "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys, "Style" was a new track on the re-release of the girls' Eye Candy album, which also contained "Scandalous" (number 10 on this list), my favourite track by the girl group. "Scandalous" also became Mis-teeq's first and only single in the US, reaching the top 40 there, and was their biggest hit in Australia as well.

Number 65 "Complete" by Jaimeson
Next up, two acts that were generating a fair bit of buzz in 2003, but who both ended up only making a fairly short-term impact. First, it's UK drum & bass producer Jamie Williams, who hit the UK top 5 with "True" and this follow-up, released a couple more singles and an album in 2004, and then vanished more or less without a trace.

Number 64 "Big Sur" by The Thrills
Also gaining a lot of attention in 2003 was Irish pop/rock band The Thrills - who I always assumed were from the States, so sun-drenched was this track. In fact, the song gets its name from part of the California coastline and I always associate it with The OC, which began in 2003, and featured "Big Sur" and many similarly pop/indie tracks on its soundtrack. Despite releasing two more albums and a bunch of singles, "Big Sur" was pretty much as good as it got for The Thrills, who went on indefinite hiatus five years later.

Number 63 "Ooh Wee" by Mark Ronson featuring Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg & Trife
Now, it's an artist who didn't make his mark in 2003, despite releasing one of his best ever singles in the form of "Ooh Wee", but went on to much bigger things in subsequent years. Taken from the album Here Comes The Fuzz and sampling "Sunny" by Boney M and "Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey, the track was only a minor chart hit - and, in Australia, two subsequent singles from the album (2004's "City Rules" and "She's Got Me") were actually credited to featured vocalist Daniel Merriweather instead.

Number 62 "Familiar Feeling" by Moloko
The third and final single by Moloko that I like (following "Sing It Back" and "The Time Is Now") was the lead single from the Statues album - the duo's final album together. Although, by this point, Róisín Murphy and Mark Brydon had ended their romantic relationship, and Mark left Róisín to almost single-handedly promote the album. An inevitable greatest hits collection would follow in 2006, after which, Róisín embarked on a proper solo career - and we may just see her pop up in my countdowns from later in the decade.

Number 61 "Sundown" by S Club 8
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 60 "Automatic" by Sarah Whatmore
As I mentioned in my 2002 countdown, former Pop Idol contestant Sarah Whatmore was dropped after this, her second single, failed to make the UK top 10 - and so began the ruthless and rapid turnaround of contestants from Pop Idol and The X Factor (which would debut on British TV in 2004). With so many potential solo stars thrust onto the public each year, only a certain amount would stick, and Sarah was among the first of many to experience glossy music videos and expensive photo shoots one day, and the pop dumper the next.

Number 59 "Hey Ya!" by OutKast
They'd been around since 1994, but despite racking up a respectable amount of minor hits in the US, the duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi have only landed one major international hit before 2003 - and that was 2000's "Ms Jackson". That all changed following the release of their Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album (or albums, since the release was essentially two solo albums fused together), which yielded three massive hits.
"Hey Ya! was the first, biggest and best single from the set, and came from Andre's portion of the album. Featuring multiple versions of the rapper/singer in the music video and the quotable line "shake it like a Polaroid picture", it was one of those songs that was impossible to escape and only just avoided becoming annoying (for me, anyway) as a result of the saturation airplay it received.

Number 58 "Stop Sign" by Abs
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 57 "Make Luv" by Room 5 featuring Oliver Cheatham
Things I knew about this UK chart-topper: 1) it was a remix of American R&B singer Oliver Cheatham's relatively obscure 1983 track "Get Down Saturday Night", 2) it was used in a deodorant ad in the UK (clearly Lynx was the new Levi's). Things I didn't know: Room 5 was another alias for Italian DJ/producer Vito Lucente, who also released dance tracks as Junior Jack, including two songs we'll see in my 2004 countdown.

Number 56 "Numb" by Linkin Park
Proving their appearance on my top 100 for 2001 with "In The End" was no one-off anomaly, here Linkin Park are again with the third single from the Meteora album. In fact, I also liked that album's lead single "Somewhere I Belong" (number 132 on this list), with Linkin Park my one concession to the all the nu-metal and punk/pop bands I had to listen to working for Smash Hits.

Number 55 "OK" by Big Brovaz
My enduring memory of Big Brovaz is how, during their Australian promo visit, I interviewed some of the group down at Sydney Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the Bridge and Opera House looked amazing, but the thing the guys in the R&B collective were most excited about was going to the Kangol shop. "OK", which was their second single and came with a great "rock remix", was followed by a string of hits here and in the UK, like "Baby Boy" and "Favourite Things", but things started to unravel in 2004, with the group never able to capitalise on their early success.

Number 54 "Hollywood" by Madonna
Previously featured here - although I will make mention of Madonna's MTV performance of this song, together with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, and that legendary lip-lock. It was without a doubt 2003's biggest pop culture moment, but wasn't enough to help the song's US chart performance. Indeed, "Hollywood" became her first track to miss the Billboard Hot 100 since "Holiday".

Number 53 "On The Horizon" by Melanie C
After enjoying the most successful solo album of all five Spice Girls, Melanie C struggled with her second effort, Reason. In fact, I remember when she visited Australia to promote her third album, Beautiful Intentions, in 2005, I mentioned that I'd interviewed her for Reason and she said something along the lines of "the less said about that the better". That could be because Reason and its accompanying singles under-performed dramatically, even though I thought songs like sunny second single "On The Horizon" and double A-side "Melt / Yeh, Yeh, Yeh" (number 77 on this list) were pretty decent. The record-buying public did not agree with me.

Number 52 "Breathe" by Michelle Branch
Another artist not doing quite as well with the follow-up to her breakthrough album was this American teen singer/songwriter (she turned 20 in 2003). Although Hotel Paper did improve on the chart peak of The Spirit Room both here and in the US, sales weren't as high, and singles like "Are You Happy Now?" (number 72 on this list) and "Breathe" didn't perform as well as the likes of "All You Wanted" and "Everywhere". Again, I was one of the exceptions to that rule.

Number 51 "Can't Hold Us Down" by Christina Aguilera featuring Lil' Kim
Mentioned in Part 3

In Part 3, we'll see one of the decade's biggest groups settle on a new line-up and the theme song to one of my favourite mid-'90s TV shows. Before that, we go back to 1989 on Wednesday for my regular look back at the ARIA chart from 25 years ago.

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