Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 43.

This is another group who were bubbling under on the UK singles chart about two decades ago now. I must admit that I don’t really remember them from the time, but looking back now, they did do some good songs, even if it turns out that none of them made the Top 100. Venus Hum are an American group from Nashville, who formed in the late-90s and have something of an electropop sound.

Their singer Annette Strean wore glasses, and apparently there should be more bespectacled people in pop music, so she was clearly doing her bit for the cause. Their debut album was released in 2001, but they first made an impact on the UK chart in November 2002 when “Hummingbirds” was released, although this only reached an unofficial no. 165.

Next in May 2003 was “Montana”, which reached an unofficial no. 109, their highest-peaking single in the UK. These weren’t too bad, but my favourite of theirs has to be “Soul Sloshing”, which was released in August 2003, and reached an unofficial no. 123. This was definitely one of those songs that once it entered your head, was making no plans on leaving ever again.

The video also featured the lyrics appearing on the screen as they were sung, which reminds me of that thing in all dramas now where people send text messages like “where r u?” and they appear next to them, they were clearly about 15 years ahead of their time in that respect. As far as I know, they didn’t make any TV appearances in this country though.

I’m also not aware of them having any hit singles in America, which is disappointing because it would’ve been great seeing the likes of “Soul Sloshing” going quickly up the Hot 100, making them say “this is crazy y’all!” which is apparently the standard response to people becoming stars on the chart nowadays. As nice as all this was, I wondered if they had ever done something a little more unusual.

But there is something of a twist in their story, because I discovered that around 2004 Annette collaborated with Blue Man Group on a cover of Donna Summer’s chart-topper “I Feel Love”. I don’t know how all of this exactly happened, but it was good that it did. It seems that Venus Hum are still going, and their sixth album was released a couple of years ago.

Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 17.

This is a group who had a few ups and downs on the chart in the early-2000s, which included some good songs, before there was a surprise comeback (sort of). Kosheen are a trio from Bristol who formed in the late-90s, and their frontwoman is Sian Evans. Their first single was released in 1999, but they first made the chart in June 2000 with the double-A side (remember them?) of “Empty Skies” and “Hide U”, but this reached only no. 73.

Next in November 2000 was another double-A side, featuring “Catch” and “Demonstrate”, but this didn’t make the Top 75. In April 2001 “(Slip And Slide) Suicide” reached the Top 50, but the big success still hadn’t come. And then in September 2001, a remix of “Hide U” was released, which definitely caught the attention of a lot of dance music fans, and made them report to the dancefloor.

This reached no. 6 to become their first (and biggest) Top Ten hit single in the UK. So in December 2001 it seemed like a good idea to give “Catch” another go as well, and this worked, as this made the Top 20. Also around this time, their album “Resist” made the Top Ten. Next in May 2002 was “Hungry”, which made the Top 20, but in August 2002 “Harder” failed to make the Top 50.

There was clearly some anticipation for something new from them though, and in August 2003 “All In My Head” reached no. 7, their second and final Top Ten hit single. And then “Kokopelli” became another Top Ten album. Just when it looked like they were going to be chart regulars for a while to come, it is a surprise to realise that they have never made the Top 40 again.

In November 2003 “Wasting My Time” reached a disappointing no. 49, and this was their final chart appearance. Sian also appeared as a panellist on Never Mind The Buzzcocks around this time. As far as I know, Kosheen have never split, but all of their subsequent singles and albums (their most recent was released about a decade ago) have attracted little interest, which means it’s dumper timeā€¦

But wait! Because many years later, they suddenly returned out of nowhere and had a chart-topping single?! Well sort of. In July 2011, Sian was the guest vocalist on “Louder” by DJ Fresh, the only time that she has been credited by herself on the chart. This was Number One for one week, helped along by being used in a Lucozade advert. But almost a decade on from “Hide U” and the like, it was satisfying to see her back.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 26.

Recently, I was going through some various radio stations, when I came across a song that I hadn’t heard for a rather long time, but it made the memories come flooding back, as this is an example of a song that briefly seemed to be everywhere, and this was little like anything else that was around on the chart at the time. Electric Six were an American group that formed in the late-90s, and their aim was to make some rather quirky songs, they definitely did achieve that.

In January 2003 their debut single “Danger High Voltage” was released. Most of the stir around this was caused by the video, which featured frontman Dick Valentine, accompanied by some woman, who were both very keen to tell us how fond they were of each other, whilst some lights were, er, flashing. It was a sight that you couldn’t forget really.

It seemed that even people who weren’t up with the current chart scene were discussing this, although they were probably totally baffled by what they had seen. Your brother was talking about it, your neighbour was talking about it, all of them. “Danger High Voltage” reached no. 2, meaning that they came out of just about nowhere, and almost had a chart-topper. And they also got to do their thing on Top Of The Pops.

Well how do you follow that? While there was still demand to discover what they would do next, in June 2003 “Gay Bar” was released, and I don’t know how they did it, but this had a video that was even more outrageous than the previous one. This reached no. 5, and became their second and final Top Ten hit single in the UK. In July 2003, the album “Fire” made the Top Ten too.

But then it all seemed to fizzle out a little from here. In October 2003 “Dance Commander” was released, and this reached a disappointing by comparison no. 40. They had caused a sensation at the start of the year, but by the end of it, their moment of fame was just about over. I know that it happens all the time in pop music, but it didn’t seem that likely that it would happen here.

But Electric Six would have one last hit, when in December 2004 “Radio Ga Ga” was released, and this was a cover of the Queen song, giving Dick a chance to show off his best Freddie impression. This reached no. 21, to become their fourth and final UK hit single. They have barely been heard of since (although they have now made over 15 albums!), but for that brief moment, they brightened up the chart like few other acts have.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 23.

This is yet another American singer and musician, but I felt that I had to include her in this series, because once again I was interested in her what turned out to be rather brief pop career in this country. Michelle Branch was I’m fairly sure born in the same month as me, which is one of the reasons that I was attracted to her.

Michelle learned to play the guitar at a young age, and she was still in her teens when in April 2002 her debut UK hit single “Everywhere” was released, and this made the Top 20. In the same month her second album “The Spirit Room” missed the Top 50 though, not being a huge success. In August 2002 “All You Wanted” was another Top 40 hit, and was her first of two Top Ten hits in America.

And then in November 2002 Michelle had her biggest hit single in the UK with “The Game Of Love”, which was a duet with guitarist Santana. This also won a Grammy, although this was around the time that Santana was winning about seven Grammys a year, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a surprise. She also appeared in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

By this point, because I had got into her music, I even went as far as to set the video to record her appearance on Planet Rock Profiles, a late-night ITV1 show where various pop stars were interviewed about their career, and some of their videos were also shown, and this was a good opportunity to get to know a little more about her life and her music.

Michelle returned in July 2003 with “Are You Happy Now”. I remember coming across this one day while doing some channel hopping and going to TMF (when that really was the best way for me to discover new music videos). This was my favourite single by her so far, although this did just miss the Top 30, and I kept trying not to get her mixed up with Stacie Orrico, another enjoyable young American singer who had recently come on to the pop scene.

In the same month, third album “Hotel Paper” was released and did make the Top 40, doing slightly better than her previous one, and narrowly missed being a chart-topper in America. By now, I was eager to discover what her next move would be, and guess what happened, she never had another hit single or album in the UK. This meant that her pop career lasted for barely over a year, and although she briefly went on to be in a duo called The Wreckers, and is still on the scene, she could’ve done so much more.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 21.

Here’s another American pop star who was only successful in this country for a brief time, but I did enjoy what she had to offer. Once again, this is someone who I discovered after I put music channel TMF on one day and hoped that something interesting might turn up. And then there was a video from a teenage singer called Stacie Orrico. I didn’t really know anything about her, but I did like her single “Stuck”.

And I mean I really did like it, and I always looked forward to when this would come on the TV (this was in the pre-YouTube days, and we had to make the best of what we had). “Stuck” was released in August 2003, just after my 20th birthday. I did think to myself, now I was no longer a teenager, would I still be interested in pop music? Well this was proof that I was. I hoped that this would do well, but I had no idea if this would make the chart. vlcsnap-00444

“Stuck” entered the chart at no. 11, and I was disappointed that this just missed the Top Ten, but it still wasn’t too bad. And then, one week later, this went up two places to no. 9, to unexpectedly become her first and only UK Top Ten hit single (something that she never achieved in America). I couldn’t believe it, this was still in the era when songs almost always descended the chart from their entry position, and I was very pleased for her. vlcsnap-00445

So of course, I was eager to discover her next move. In October 2003, her second album was released (the first being as long ago as 2000, but this wasn’t a hit in the UK), which just made the Top 40. In November 2003 “There’s Gotta Be More To Life” was released, and I was pleased to see her return to the music channels with something new. And looking back, Stacie played various characters in the video, including one with blue hair, which will always get my approval. vlcsnap-00446

“There’s Gotta Be More To Life” just missed the Top Ten, and I’d put it among “Stuck” as my favourites. Going into 2004, Stacie had two more Top 40 hits with “I Promise” and “I Could Be The One”, which were rather nice too. After a break of two years, Stacie returned with “I’m Not Missing You”, her fifth and final UK Top 40 hit. The third album “Beautiful Awakening” didn’t do that well though by comparison. I don’t know that much about what Stacie has done in the 15 years since, but I’ll remember her songs making the days a little more exciting.

Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 10.

Here’s another group that didn’t have a huge amount of success on the singles chart, but they did make two really good songs, although one did better than the other. Planet Funk were an Italian production group, and they definitely didn’t make funk music. They did make dance records though, and apparently they had seven members, I wonder if they were all able to fit in the studio.

In February 2001 they had their first hit single in the UK, which was also their biggest. “Chase The Sun” reached no. 5, and this has also been adopted as an anthem by several sports, being played at darts tournaments and everything inbetween. But it was their third and final hit single that really interested me. I know that sometimes songs don’t do as well as you’d hope, but this one really does fall into the “how on earth did this not make the Top 40?” category. vlcsnap-00364

In August 2003, “The Switch” (not to be confused with a short-lived ITV daytime game show of course) was released, and reached only no. 52. I don’t remember this from the first time round though. But I did hear this a while later when I had the radio on one day, and it really caught my attention, I just thought to myself that I really had to find out what this one was. vlcsnap-00365

In March 2005, a remixed version of “The Switch” was released, and this was also used on an advert for Mitsubishi cars. It seems that there was more of a push to promote this second time round. I even bought the single on CD, and this was something that I wasn’t motivated to do that often (and I was running out of chances as this was around the time that physical sales began to slump and were surpassed by downloads). vlcsnap-00366

Also featuring is the video, and I did think that it was a clever idea to be able to play a CD and hear the song, and then put this into a computer and watch the video. Although looking back now this is barely better than smudgy postage stamp-sized quality, it was a good piece of technology at the time and we’ve now long left this behind. I would definitely say this was one of the singles of 2005 for me. vlcsnap-00367

So I was really surprised when “The Switch” actually reached 14 places lower on the chart than the original version. That was a disappointment. After this Planet Funk would have no more hit singles in the UK, but they have gone on to do what many other production groups have done, concentrating on remixing songs for other groups, and they have released six albums too.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 8.

There weren’t that many European groups that had a lot of success on the UK singles chart throughout the 2000s decade, of course there is a language barrier in the way with most of the songs. This group did briefly find some success though. The Caesars were a rock group from Sweden (they formed in the mid-90s and were originally called Caesars Palace, but then changed this because there was already something else called that).

I remember that another group from Sweden that did have some success in this country around this time were The Hives, who did have some good songs, but this piece isn’t about them. The biggest (and indeed only) hit for The Caesars in the UK was “Jerk It Out”, which was originally released in April 2003, but got nowhere near the Top 40. But then, two years later in April 2005, this was rereleased and this time reached no. 8, and even made the Top 100 in America. vlcsnap-00331

I suppose that it’s very clear why there was more success for this the second time around, what helped included much more radio airplay, and the video being frequently shown on all those music channels. The fact that this one featured in a lot of adverts, computer games, and TV shows definitely helped too. It was proof once again of how much songs are (over) promoted sometimes, but it definitely caught my attention. vlcsnap-00334

Among the highlights of “Jerk It Out” for me were the organ, that was rather similar to the sound that featured on a lot of singles by Inspiral Carpets (maybe they borrowed it?), and according to the video, they also had a band member who could play the drums backwards, which was a rather impressive talent. Well it’s easy, once you know how it’s done, he would probably say. vlcsnap-00332

In May 2005 their fourth of five albums “Paper Tigers” was released in the UK, and this made the Top 40, but only just. I expected that they would go on to have some more hit singles, but The Caesars never appeared again on the UK singles chart, I presume that they were rather popular in their native Sweden and across the rest of Europe too, but it was never really the case here.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 4.

Here’s another group that made a great song in the 2000s. Junior Senior were a Danish male duo, so called because one of them was rather big and tall, and the other was more thin and small. They combined to make something that was rather memorable. I remember when I watched the early days of TMF, because I was always looking for songs that I might enjoy, and when this feelgood dance anthem came on, put it this way, this was one that I didn’t mind them showing 12 times a day. The radio was also rather fond of this one.

“Move Your Feet” was released in March 2003, and reached no. 3, becoming a very well-deserved Top Ten hit. The video was also memorable because it was done in a style that was similar to Teletext, although I don’t know if this was an influence or not (but probably not, because the style of animation was actually low-resolution pixel art). Either way it definitely stood out and was very enjoyable. vlcsnap-00187

One of the most memorable moments in the video was when an animated squirrel had several drinks, and it said on the screen “non-alcoholic nut juice”, which certainly put my mind at rest about whether they were featuring any fictional alcoholic squirrels. Around the same time of the success of “Move Your Feet”, the first of their two albums “D-D-Don’t Stop The Beat” was released, which reached no. 29. vlcsnap-00185

I also remember that one of them (Junior, or maybe Senior) took part in a rather amusing interview in NME when there was much discussion about what role cucumbers have played in their music. There were also plenty of great remixes, and I’d go as far as to say that “Move Your Feet”, is one of my favourite, if not my favourite pop song of 2003. It’s a real classic that is still enjoyable to listen to now. What would be next for them? vlcsnap-00186

In August 2003, the follow-up “Rhythm Bandits” was released, which reached no. 22, becoming their second and final Top 40 hit single, although this one is much less remembered by comparison, I’m pleased that they did have a little more success. Not much was heard about Junior Senior after this though, and after about a decade together, they eventually split to go and work on separate projects. They’re definitely my favourite crazy Danish dance duo.

Great Moments In Pop – The 90s Part 1.

This new series (the title stolen from a Mark And Lard feature) will tidy up all the other pop songs I want to write about because I like them or I think they have interesting stories, that don’t qualify for either “The One-Hit Wonders” (because they had more than one hit) or “Down The Dumper” (because their last hit in a decade made the Top 40) from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and there’ll be a dozen or thereabouts for each decade.

Faith Evans is an American singer who had some minor hits in the UK in 1995 and 1996. In June 1997, she was suddenly put into the spotlight for her contribution along with Puff Daddy to “I’ll Be Missing You”, a tribute to the late rapper Notorious BIG (Evans being his widow). This one spent six weeks at Number One in the UK, and 11 weeks at Number One in America. This was a surprise because Notorious BIG wasn’t really that well-known a figure in the UK, it was more a case of the lyrics about grief and loss connecting with many people. vlcsnap-00156

How could Evans follow a huge hit like this? Next was “Love Like This” which was released in November 1998, and reached no. 24 in the UK, and no. 7 in America. This one sampled “Chic Cheer” by Chic from 1978. Now I wasn’t really familiar with Chic at the time, and I didn’t realise that they’d made so many disco classics. I was always pleased when this came on the radio. This was one of my favourite singles of 1998, and I was disappointed that it didn’t do better, I presumed that after leaving the chart its moment had passed. vlcsnap-00158

So imagine my surprise when five years later in November 2003 an American rapper called Fatman Scoop (real name Isaac Freeman), and not forgetting Crooklyn Clan either, came along and released “Be Faithful”, which was essentially him shouting (that really is the word) over “Love Like This” (“DJ KNUCKLES!!!“), accompanied by a rather weird computer-generated video. And then imagine my further surprise when this became a chart-topper for two weeks. vlcsnap-00155

So somehow, long after I had expected it, “Love Like This” was finally a big success, and in some rather unlikely circumstances. After this, the Fatman did have one more Top Ten hit in 2004, but the last time I heard anything about him was when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago. I can only imagine that he had plenty of great anecdotes about DJ Knuckles to share with his housemates.