Will Young, Sugababes, Enrique Iglesias, but Oasis - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

24 January 2018
Popular in early 2002

Not Quite as Popular covers the top five singles on the CIN chart. This episode covers the first half of 2002. We move at the same speed as Tom Ewing's Popular project, which explains the eighteen-month gap between installments.

The new year began with a quiet week; the de facto two week Christmas break was now established. Sales were so weak that Hermes House Band hit number 1 in Scotland with Country roads. We can't blame that on drunken Scotsmen streaming all sorts of shite at Hogmanay parties; streaming had been invented, but not over dialup.

Backstreet Boys hit 4 with Drowning, a sloppy ballad they'd left out of the Christmas spree. DJ Alligator Project made number 5 with The whistle song (blow my whistle bitch), a deep house tune and Scottish number 1. Dr Dre put Bad intentions to number 4, featuring additional vocals by Knock Turn'Al. Neither tune made any lasting impact.

Puretone did, Addicted to bass reached number 2 and spent a month in the top five. Josh Abrahams had had an Australian hit back in 1998, and the song took its time to make an impact in the UK. When it arrived in mid-autumn, it was an instant hit in the clubs, with demand held until maximum impact just after Christmas. Jungle beats, a video reminiscent of Mad Max, the only thing it lacked was (er) some bass in the mix.

Wasn't quite number one, though. Aaliyah had made her debut in 1994, a smooth soul singer at the precocious age of 14. She concentrated on schoolwork, made two more albums, a number of soundtrack songs. Heading for a tremendous career as the funkiest of funky divas, the new Whitney Houston, classic soprano vocals coupled with contemporary beats. It all ended on 25 August 2001, when her overloaded plane crashed while taking off.

The first single off her eponymous album was delayed until the new year. More than a woman hit number one, albeit on very low sales of 32,000. It's electro-pop with hip-hop flourishes, absolutely typical of Aaliyah's work. Even her B-list material was a long way clear of the contemporaries.

The obituaries continued with a re-issue of My sweet lord, George Harrison's 1971 song. It had originally made number 1 for three weeks. The song sold as a tribute to George, following his death at the end of November. Being harsh chartmasters, we deem this a continuation of the prior run, so don't count this as a separate number 1 single.

Pink had been a marginal figure in 2000, but turned into a superstar in 2002. Get the party started was a loud, in-your-face, vicious call to action. It hit a chord with a country that wanted to move on from last year's maudlin excesses and have a bit of fun. Two weeks at number 2 (and one week as Ireland's best-seller), almost two months in the top ten, and we'll see more from her soon.

Christina Milian made number 3 with Am to pm, pushed heavily by the MTV channels. A club record, with little crossover outside of clubbers and people who like seeing scantily-clad Cubans on their telly. It's not her highest-placed hit (we meet that in 2004), nor the work we remember her for (Milian co-wrote the Kim Possible theme).

Britney Spears continued to have decent hits, the saccharine Overprotected made number 4. A1 hoped that Caught in the middle would do better than number 2, it's one of their best and most accessible tunes.

But Enrique Iglesias toppled them, putting Hero to the top for four weeks. The son of Julio had had a couple of hits in 1999, but wasn't that well-known. Now? Everywhere. Massive hit for Valentine's day, a video showing Iggles trying to evade hitmen. Radio airplay had begun straight after Christmas, and continued well into the summer.

It's turned out to be an albatross around Enrique's neck in the UK: he's known for this song and approximately nothing else, even though most of his work is uptempo Latin-tinged pop. And, let's be honest, it annoys the heck out of us. Enrique is better than this maudlin drivel.

No Doubt hit number 2 with Hey baby, the group's comeback was similar to anything from their 1996 Tragic Kingdom album, but had enough points of difference to show they'd advanced. Specifically: a rap. Gwen Stefani was playing up her sex symbol status, something she'd made a point to avoid five years earlier. We like No Doubt, and reckon this is one of their weaker tracks, but it ranks amongst their most popular.

Alien Ant Farm had a number 5 hit with Movies, which (sadly for us) wasn't a cover of the Hothouse Flowers single from twelve years earlier. Brandy put What about us to number 4, the lead single from her Full Moon set. The album was a concept production, telling of a romantic meeting and eventual breakup: this single is track 9, when it's all going wrong. Rodney Jerkins was too heavy on the production, the vocals give a hint of a great album.

Production made Point of view by DB Boulevard, a number 3 hit. Italian producers plus a pure vocal from Moony, all based on a sample from French group Phoenix. S Club 7 landed at 2 with You, a throwback pop track, full of brass and major-key harmonies, wouldn't have been out of place forty years earlier. Their last release as a 7-piece, Jon left the band once promo for this single had finished.

Kylie Minogue made number 3 with In your eyes, more vapid disco noodlings. R Kelly hit number 4 with The world's greatest, perhaps trying a little too hard to deflect attention from allegations of kiddyfiddling, and too similar to his own 2000 single The storm is over now. Mis-teeq hit number 5 with B with me, and we could not hum that to you at all.

The annual upbeat Westlife song was World of our own, the title track to their third album. Another Steve Mac and Wayne Hector song, it's pleasant fluff and might just class as an earworm. The single included their take on Sarah Maclachlan's song Angel, pulled as a single the previous Christmas. Number one, obviously; then down to 6, because the fans had something else to buy.

Lasgo reached number 4 with Something, the Belgian dance group had had a hit across Europe the previous year, and a belated UK release gave them a further credit.

Nickelback only have two singles in this project, but they combined for 16 weeks in the top five. How you remind me contributes six weeks: two at number 4, and four at number 5. (It was number 1 for a month in Ireland.) Written about one of Chad Kroger's many failed relationships, it's the tale of a man who has been dumped by his girlfriend and can't believe she's left him for a skater boy. The biggest hit of the year in their native Canada, the song sold well in the UK, and sold consistently. Six weeks in the top five, and it would turn out to be the biggest-selling rock hit of the decade in the UK (according to the OCCCC, but they're talking their usual load of bollocks by discounting bigger-selling songs by Kings of Leon, Rage Against the Machine, Wheatus, The Killers, and (er) Nickelback).

Shakira spent two weeks at number 2 (but a week at the top in Ireland) with Whenever wherever. This flamenco-pop track was absolutely ubiquitous. Had something for everyone: sing along, groove, enjoy the instrumentation, or watch the video with Shakira's notoriously small and humble breasts. Spanish artists rarely progress beyond one massive hit, so we thought this would define her career, or be one of very few high points. Shakira had the misfortune to run up against something even more small and humble.

Casting shows had begun with Hear'say a year before, and the Irish version Six covered There's a whole lotta lovin' to the top spot - over here, nothing. We were more interested in Pop Idol, a more competitive twist on the tale. Simon Cowell moved from backstage to the front of camera, with music industry legend Pete Waterman billed as "the nasty one". Nicki Chapman reprised her role, and Doctor "Neil" Fox became the fourth wheel on the critical tripod. The entertaining duo Ant and Dec hosted the programme - their own pop career in the mid-90s had produced lots of singles, but nothing had yet bothered this project.

Pop Idol courted press attention from the start - Darius Danesh from Popstars was back, Rik Waller appeared to be voted in because of his size, and Gareth Gates was so obviously The Anointed One it wasn't fair. Will Young had quietly crept into the final fifty, and argued back to Cowell, disagreeing that his performance was average. It later emerged that Gareth had only led the voting once, and the inaugral Pop Idol was Will Young. Sixteen days after his coronation, the CD single was released.

Anything is possible / Evergreen sold in unprecedented numbers. 403,027 copies, to be precise, and that was just on the first Monday. Then 172,749 on Tuesday, 125,354 on Wednesday, a cheeky 109,377 on Thursday, 105,632 on Friday and 191,951 to the shoppers on Saturday. With 179 embargo-busting copies sold on Sunday, his first-week total was 1,108,269. Not quite the highest one-week sale - Elton's Something about the way you look tonight pushed 1.547m in its first full week - but the highest debut sale. By the time it left the top spot, three weeks later, it had shifted 1.685m units.

The single sold a million, but was it any good? Anything is possible was unspectacular ballad-mongery from Cathy Dennis and Chris Braide, a fragile and delicate number. Its choice must be because the song was co-owned by Simon Fuller, who had devised the television format. Yes, the second million-seller and third number one for Cathy Dennis in less than six months; no, none of them are much good.

The notional flipside, Evergreen, was preferred by radio. Written by Jörgen Elofsson, Per Magnusson and David Kreuger, the song popped up on Westlife's album. Cowell plucked it out for the television show, a simple tune that allowed even the weakest vocalists to sound good. Was he hoping to tilt the field towards Gates? Young's performance won the night, and won the vote.

Stuck behind Will was the last in a short line of buddy records, two men relaxing together. Here, it was long-haired toaster Shaggy with the comedy creation Ali G, on Me Julie. Shaggy sung about this bird he was dating, and Sacha Baron-Cohen gave a pretentious rap in his "comedy" character. Taken from the film Ali G Indahouse, this made two non-consecutive weeks at number 2.

We preferred Jennifer Lopez; Ain't it funny had gone top five the previous summer in a flamenco version. A radical re-working dropped the pace, added a lazy beat and plenty of raps, and was almost completely different from the original. A week at number 4, there were suggestions that Lopez was going to be the next R&B star, but (as we'll see) this turned out to be beat tourism.

Will Young was toppled from number one. His conquerer? Gareth Gates, the runner-up from Pop Idol. Gates was young - at 17 years and 8 months, he was the 11th youngest solo performer at number 1, and the youngest British bloke. 850,535 people bought a copy of Unchained melody in its first week, extending to 1.2 million by the time it dropped off the top four weeks later.

Part of Gareth's appeal was that he was a plasticine pop star - he could be moulded into whatever dreams people had. To young girls, a safe crush. To mothers, the son or son-in-law they'd like to have. To Simon Cowell, an excuse to record some of his favourite tunes. And where better to start than with his favourite song of all, the melody from long-forgotten movie Unchained.

Never mind the fact that we'd heard it all before - it was 11 years since the Righteous Brothers had resurrected the tune, and 7 years since Robson and Jerome had sold 1.8 million copies. Gareth's version followed the R&J template to the letter, a karaoke backing track over which he performs a dutiful rendition. He's too young and naive to sell the song with conviction.

The additional tracks on the CD single were his takes on Evergreen and Anything is possible, the last is a song that he could make believable. Gareth had a singing talent, but would he be allowed to show it?

Never any question that Marilyn Manson had talent, or that he would show it. Manson's talent was in imagery, rather than singing, and it worked best on his cover of Tainted love, a number 5 hit. To be precise, it worked on the video because it was taken from a slapstick teen comedy film. Manson's career has never been far from slapstick teen comedy, always with the slight twinkle of "do I really mean this?".

Missy "Misdemeanour" Elliott put the shouty rap 4 my people to number 5. Britney Spears made number 2 with I'm not a girl not yet a woman, a Latin-tinged track about growing up and growing out. Three years into her career, Britney's maturing; this is her biggest hit in a couple of years, and helped the Britney album recover from a sluggish start.

Next at number 2 was X-Press 2 with Lazy. The best bit is at the beginning, a distinctive chord sequence, leading into a yawn from the distinctive David Byrne. The beat is a disco tune, going at full gallop; Byrne's chorus is sung in slow motion - he does speed up for the verses, slightly diminishing the effect. Entertaining for the first while, but radio played this just a bit too much.

N'Sync and Nelly put Girlfriend in at number 2. The Yankee boyband had been going for almost seven years, and were rapidly running out of ideas. They tried to be "urban", but it looked ludicrous, more "er, ban". Their last single release proved to be their career peak in the UK, ending a chart career more spotty than their fans.

Oh look, Oasis are back. The Hindu times spent a week at number one. Never mind the fact that it's Rock n roll star recycled, there's a pretend sitar on it! How exotic! How trippy! How tedious that they're plagarising the Beatles to the point of stealing their fifth-album influences. When does Noel meet his Yoko? For all that, The Hindu times is bland, we've literally heard it all before and cannot bother to hear it all again.

Over at Popular, Tom of the E Wing reckons the art school was dying as a pop force. Not agreed: it just stopped being a pop force on this side of the pond. While critics here were wanking over the Arctic Monkeys, and snubbing La Roux, the Yankees were developing My Chemical Romance and Lady Gaga. (Is there a little of the art school about Ed Sheeran? By the time this project winds its way to meet him, we'll know the answer.)

Still with the art school, Doves returned to the top 3 with There goes the fear; they'd visited us in 1993 when known as Sub Sub. By now, a harder, rockier sound, taken to extremes on this single - it's almost prog-rock at times. The group released and deleted the single on the Monday, put it out as a one-track CD and sold it for 99p. A good song, made by the memorable video - Julian House and Julian Gibbs cut up existing footage, digitally spliced it, and won bags of awards.

The Doves' video has a small footnote to history. The broadcaster OnDigital collapsed around this time, following mismanagement by majority owners ITV. Music channel MTV fell off the platform; their last video was this epic, taken from album The Last Broadcast.

From the sublime to the sublime. The Sugababes arrive for a week at number one in their second incarnation. Siobhan Donaghty has left, and Heidi Range joins the crew. The video for Freak like me is the apotheosis of girl power: a little initiation rite for the new girl, and a darned sight more attractive than dating a pig.

The song is a simple mash-up, one song to the tune of another, the sort pioneered by Colin Sell. The band have taken the words of Freak like me, and paired it to the tune of Are 'friends' electric?. Adina Howard's words had been a very modest success in 1995, Gary Numan's chord progression had haunted dancefloors since 1979. In 2002, the combination proved a massive success.

And it nearly didn't happen. Adina's words over Gary's tune had been spotted by producer Richard X, and We don't give a damn about our friends tore up the dancefloors late in 2001. Denied permission to sample the original vocals, X approached the Sugababes to make the song their own. It fizzles and crackles from start to finish, nervous energy pervades it. Touch this song, it may explode in your face, and you'll love it more.

(We try to keep this blog respectable, and toned down the analogy there. Move along, the girl group to eclipse the Sugababes starts... here!)

With S Club 7 reaching their third birthday, the way was clear for a successor group. Why not re-use the brand? Enter, stage left, S Club Juniors. There are eight of them, they'd opened concerts for the grown-up band in 2001, had their own television series, and pushed out a twee bubblegum tune. One step closer didn't have much going for it, the highlight of the single was a Juniors versus Seniors version of Reach. Two weeks at number 2.

Holly Valance spent a week at the top with Kiss kiss, the latest star from Neighbours to try and have a hit. Hers was a third-generation record: originally recorded back in 1999 by Tarkan as Simarik, it went top five in much of Europe. The market for Turkish-language tunes in the UK is minimal, so no promotion here. Stella Soleil pushed an English-language version in north America, it enjoyed very limited success.

Valance was gifted the tune, the first time it had been pushed in the UK, and it turned into an entirely expected hit. Boosted by Valance's television exposure, and by her exposure in the video: she spends much of the chorus with lights covering her personal bits. Number 1 with a bullet, a radio fave for the summer, but pretty much off the radar now. So is Neighbours - it fell off BBC1 in 2007, by which time hits were not made by soaps, but by television factories.

Tweet reached number 5 with Oops (oh my), an R&B-by-numbers tale of being seduced. Nigel and Marvin's Follow da leader followed at number 5, the Jamaican toasters had sampled Chocolate Puma's I want to be u for their own ends. Two-fifths of Steps proved to have two-fifths as much success. H and Claire put DJ to number 3.

Ronan Keating covered If tomorrow never comes and put it to number 1. Keating had already had success by raiding the back catalogues of country performers, and did it again with a 1989 Garth Brooks track. The lyric is in Keating's comfort zone, maudlin and soppy. The problem is that Garth owned the song, and Ronan's version was only ever going to be a pale imitation. Where Garth means what he's singing, Ronan just says the words. Why have country performed by a bad Irish karaoke star when we can have the original?

Fat Joe and Ashanti put What's luv to number 4, man rapping and woman singing the chorus. Enrique Iglesias followed his number one hit with Escape. Far more typical of his work, flamenco with a modern club influence, it made number 3.

Liberty X put Just a little to number 1 for a week. The losers from Popstars had to change their name, and changed their style - this was a sleek, swanky number. It radiated cool in a way that Hear'say's career would never have permitted. It turned thinking from "telly failures" to "popstars in their own right". As we'll see, it's their only turn at number 1, and their later career suggested that "cool" applied less to the group and more to the song. Michelle Escoffery wrote it, she specialised in North American-style R&B with British sensibilities. These days, still singing, and a vocal coach.

Atomic Kitten hit number 3 with It's OK, a clubby little number that was, indeed, OK. Better than the number 1 from Eminem, Without me was more artless rapping. Bop bop baby was Westlife's new single, their first properly upbeat song in three years - but it only made number 5! Are the 'Side on the way out? (Spoiler: no.)

Will Young's second number 1 single was Light my fire, the Doors track but done in the lounge style of Jose Feliciano. It was his standout performance from Pop Idol, got released in half term week, and cemented his position. At the very least, Will Young is a decent lounge singer, there's a box marked "BBC entry for Eurovision Song Contest" if his career ever needs it.

The hosts of Pop Idol had had a pop career of their own. PJ and Duncan turned into Ant and Dec, consistent second division performers from 1994 to 1997 - just two top ten hits, almost a dozen singles peaking between 11 and 20. Their first entry for this project was the official Equipe Sven-Goran Ericcson song for the 2002 men's football world cup, We're on the ball. It had one of the deepest and most complex lyrics of the decade, to wit:

We're on the ball
We're on the ball
We're on the ball
We're on the ball

We're on the ball
We're on the ball
We're on the ball
We're on the ball

Such poetry! Such scansion! Such metre! No wonder that other world cup songs - a re-release from DJ Ötzi, a re-pressing of Three lions, the Irish squad's Here come the good times, and a dozen more - fell short. A peak at number 3.

Chad Kroger and Josey Scott worked on Hero, taken from a superhero movie. Made number 4, in spite of being seriously irritating.

Elvis Presley had his 18th credit on a number one single when A little less conversation hit number 1, and stayed there for three weeks. The song was originally from Presley's unremarkable 1968 movie Live a little, love a little, and languished in deserved obscurity thereafter. Then the Dutch remixer Tom Holkenberg got his hands on it, and the obscurity suddenly became famous. It's big and dumb, and we kinda like it. It was used in a commercial for sports shoes, and rode the football to the very top.

Does this count as Elvis's 18th number one? We don't reckon so: most of the brilliance came from Junkie XL's remixing and the commercials.

In early autumn 2001, Kylie Minogue and Sophie Ellis-Bextor avoided a head-to-head release clash. Nine months later, the disco divas did meet on the release schedules. Given that these were late singles from the albums, the top spot was never a possibility. Kylie pushed the vapid Love at first sight to number 2, Sophie had Get over you at number 3. Neither single made much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.

Second single from Oasis's album was Stop crying your heart out, fortuitously timed for the week when Sven's men fell out of the world cup. A number 2 hit for the album's power ballad. Christina Milian's When you look at me made number 3, though we'd be surprised if you could hum it now. The Calling climbed to number 3 with Wherever you will go, slightly creepy soft rock.

Nelly's Hot in herre (sic) only made number 4, but it's the most famous song from June. The track drips sex and sensuality from every fibre of its being. "The sauciest record ever," said the NME. Perhaps let down by relying on one musical hook, it's the breakthrough hit for rapper Nelly, and for his producers The Neptunes. More - much more! - from both as the century unfolds.

Scooter spent three disjoint weeks at number 2 with Ramp! (the logical song). Based on the chorus from Supertramp's The logical song, the German hard house duo hit paydirt here. Hans and Michael had been stars in their native Germany since 1994, and gathered something of an audience in the UK - Glasgow was a particular centre, it took a week as Ireland's best-seller, northern England only slightly less. This crossover success was a surprise, it did owe as much to weak sales as to the quality of the music. It's easy to be number 2 when no-one else makes music.

Scooter wanted to be seen as the successors to the KLF. Are they of equal artistic merit? No. Are they following The Manual to success? Quite possibly, especially the bit that goes, "Listen to Steve Wright in the afternoon. Work out why he's the biggest DJ on the planet." Words that were as sensible when written in 1988 as they were in 2002, and as they are in 2015 2016 2017 2018.

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