Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 27.

This is yet another British female group who only grabbed the spotlight for a brief time in the mid-2000s. The 411 were an R & B group who came from London, consisting of Carolyn, Suzie, Tanya, and Tisha, and they took their name from the Mary J Blige album “What’s The 411?”. There had recently been the demise of Mis-Teeq – could they take the opportunity to fill the gap in the market?

In May 2004, their debut single “On My Knees” was released, which sampled “Ain’t My Style” by Main Ingredient, and soon earned them some favourable comparisons with similar groups including En Vogue. This also featured a contribution from rapper Ghostface Killah, a member of The Wu-Tang Clan. He hadn’t had a hit for a while at this point, so I suppose you could say that this was the return of the Ghostface Killah! Er, sorry.

“On My Knees” reached no. 4, and it looked like there were more hits to come. Next stop… Top Of The Pops (and CD:UK too if they’re lucky). In September 2004, the second single “Dumb” was released, and this did even better, reaching no. 3, and becoming their biggest hit. It really was looking like they could soon be rivalling the likes of Girls Aloud for the position of top UK female group. But then, in November 2004, “Teardrops” was released.

It seems that this samples “Sour Times” by Portishead, which is a rather unlikely move, because Portishead aren’t exactly the first group who you think would be the influence for a song in this genre. But this reached no. 23, which was seen as a disappointment. And then in December 2004, their rather hyped debut album “Between The Sheets” was released, but this reached only no. 46.

And that was it, barely six months on from their acclaimed debut single, The 411 never made the UK chart again, although this was during a time when the music industry was rather brutal with labels getting rid of acts the moment that they didn’t make the Top Ten. There hasn’t been much heard about any of them since, although it seems that recently there have been a few whispers that they might finally reform.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 22.

Here’s another British group who went on to have some success after a quiet start. Kaiser Chiefs formed in Leeds in the late-90s, and their frontman is Ricky Wilson, whose stage performances are rather energetic, and involve a lot of running around and jumping. In 2004, they had two minor hit singles with “Oh My God” and “I Predict A Riot”. I did like these, but they didn’t do that well, and I presumed that this would be that was heard from them.

And then they made a breakthrough, when in March 2005 “Oh My God” was rereleased to become their first Top Ten hit, and in 2007 this became a Top Ten hit again after being covered by Mark Ronson and Lily Allen. Then in May 2005 “Every Day I Love You Less And Less” became another Top Ten hit. Pleasingly, their career was now quickly on the increase. vlcsnap-00443

This was followed in August 2005 by a rerelease of “I Predict A Riot” which also made the Top Ten, meaning that their two earlier singles finally got the success they deserved, and a shinier second video was made for both rereleases. They finished off their great year in November 2005 when “Modern Way” was another hit, and their debut album “Employment” spent a rather long time at the higher end of the chart. In 2006 they won three Brit Awards, which was proof that they were now a big deal. vlcsnap-00444

They returned in February 2007 with “Ruby”. Now most groups in a genre like Kaiser Chiefs don’t have chart-toppers, and there have been some examples of similar groups whose most famous single reached no. 2, often only behind what people consider to be a much inferior song, agonisingly missing out by the narrowest of margins. But they managed to go one better, with “Ruby” being a chart-topper for one week. vlcsnap-00445

They then had further hits in 2007 with “Everything Is Average Nowadays” and “The Angry Mob”. They returned to the scene in 2008 with “Never Miss A Beat”, which turned out to be their final Top Ten hit, as this was just before all of the rock and indie groups dropped off the singles chart. Kaiser Chiefs are still together though, and they have now released seven albums, including two chart-toppers. In more recent years Ricky has been a judge on The Voice, and I didn’t even recognise him at first. Being sat in that big chair gives him little opportunity to jump up and down all the time though.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 13.

As I have said before, I am not a huge fan of bands in the indie genre, but when this one came on to the scene, they caught my attention because they did something creative and interesting. Franz Ferdinand were a band whose first single in 2003 “Darts Of Pleasure” missed the Top 40. They did attract some media attention though and were tipped to eventually have further success.

At the start of 2004, when NME told us who the biggest bands of the year would be, they excitedly informed us “this band will change your life!”. Something of an exaggeration maybe even by their standards, but they were still worth checking out. In January 2004 they released “Take Me Out”, which reached no. 3, to become their first Top Ten hit single, and very well deserved it was too.

One thing that helped was the video, which was very creative, I remember watching this as much as I could at the time, and it’s one of my favourite videos of any year really. Around the same time, their self-titled debut album was released, and this reached no. 3 too. Their next singles “Matinee” (which namechecked Terry Wogan) and “Michael” were also very enjoyable, and all of this lead to them winning a Brit Award in 2005.

They returned later in 2005 with “Do You Want To”, which turned out to be their final Top Ten hit single, and once again they proved that they were a rather arty and witty band. We’re so lucky! In October 2005 their second album “You Could Have It So Much Better” was released, and this was a chart-topper! Once again there were some more good singles, and in 2009 their third album “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand” became another one to make the Top Ten.

In March 2009 “No You Girls” turned out to be their final hit single, this was just before the great indie/rock crash when these genres all but vanished from the singles chart as downloads started to take over. Their only chance of any more chart action in more recent years is with their albums that now only spend about two weeks in the Top 100. But at their commercial peak there were few other bands like them on the scene.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 12.

I know I said that I didn’t plan to feature many non-UK acts in these pop music series, but I wanted to tell the story of this singer because the song brings back memories. Just like Scent, whose single I looked back at recently, this is another one that falls into a genre I invented called “videos turning up on TMF in the afternoon”. I’m surprised they had time for any, considering how many adverts for ringtones they showed (never mind your Crazy Frog, whatever happened to Sweety The Chick?).

And well, having often done that, hoping to find something good, this one took me by surprise and stood out as a great piece of electropop. Annie is a singer from Norway, and in September 2004 “Chewing Gum” was released, which turned out to be her only Top 40 hit single in the UK. Now this was still in the pre-YouTube days, so when I wanted to discover some new songs I might like I had to take a chance on what would turn up on music channels at various times.

I just liked this one, along with the rather unusual video, for which it seems she was cloned especially. “Chewing Gum” reached no. 25, and at this time TMF seemed to have a policy of only showing videos that entered the chart in the Top Ten and stayed there for weeks on end, meaning that anything that charted any lower promptly vanished from the playlist, leaving the rather unusual situation of me never having seen the video on TV since.

Annie also namechecks herself in this one, just like in “The Look Of Love” by ABC (well any excuse to go on about that one again). And she also performed this on Popworld. I know that Top Of The Pops was still considered the main music show on TV at the time (just about), but who could miss the chance of also appearing on Channel 4 on a Sunday at about 9am whilst being mildly mocked by the hosts?

“Chewing Gum” was taken from the debut album “Annie-Mal”, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a terrific pun. She did go on to have some more hit singles in 2005 and 2008, these were great too but they didn’t make the Top 40, and she did collaborate with a few other acts, but I suppose that means that Annie can be added to the list of singers who did well but should’ve been much bigger.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 11.

This is a story of someone who suddenly hit the big time which was very satisfying. Let’s go back to 2001 again. Around this time, it seemed that all of the here today-gone tomorrow bands had names that were “The ….s”. So when The Streets came on to the scene, I thought they were yet another one, but actually this was something rather interesting.

Most rappers around at the time were Americans who gloated about their glamorous lifestyles in their songs, unobtainable to many listeners. But Birmingham-born Mike Skinner, known as The Streets, had a different idea. He also spoke about his life, but it mostly consisted of the PlayStation at home, going out and having a drink and a kebab with friends, it seemed to be more English and relatable. vlcsnap-00296

In October 2001 his debut single “Has It Come To This” was released, and this reached no. 18. I remember really liking this one, and I decided to keep track of his career. In April 2002 debut album “Original Pirate Material” was released, which made the Top Ten. 2002 also brought further decent singles with “Let’s Push Things Forward”, “Weak Become Heroes”, and “Don’t Mug Yourself”. Now he was making magazine covers. He also had a hit in 2003 with side project Grafiti. vlcsnap-00297

Skinner returned in 2004 with “Fit But You Know It”, his first Top Ten single. And then, in July 2004, the big moment. “Dry Your Eyes” was released, and this was a chart-topper, how terrific. I bet he never imagined that would happen when he started out. This was much more sombre and thoughtful than his previous singles, it seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. vlcsnap-00300

This led to his second album “A Grand Don’t Come For Free” becoming a chart-topper in 2004 too. Again, there were more hits off the album, and in 2005 he won a Brit Award. This meant that by 2006, five years on from his debut, Skinner found himself in a rather curious position. His final Top Ten single “When You Wasn’t Famous” was released in April 2006, followed by the third album “The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living”. If his first album was the “I’m just an ordinary guy” one, this was the “oh my god, I’m famous” one. vlcsnap-00298

It seemed that Skinner wasn’t hugely fond of the spotlight, however many high-profile pop stars now insisted that they were his mate and wanted to collaborate (yes, I mean you, Pete Doherty). Skinner did have a little more success after this, with more albums making the Top Ten, and he is considered a pioneer in his genre, but “Dry Your Eyes” is the one that people will remember the most.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 2.

In this series, I have been defining a one-hit wonder as an act that only had one single make the Top 75 or Top 100, regardless of what position it was. But The Official Charts Company defines a one-hit wonder in its strictest sense as an act that had a chart-topping single and nothing else ever. There haven’t been too many occurrences over the years, especially when you consider most are intentionally one-off charity collaborations, but this one is an example of this.

3 Of A Kind (nothing to do with Lenny Henry or Tracey Ullman) were a trio consisting of Liana, Nicholas, and Marc. They were part of the UK Garage scene that was still just about going, and their debut single was given a lot of support by Rinse FM. I suppose you could say they rinsed it, ha-ha. I remember seeing the video to this at the time, and rather enjoying the song, but I didn’t expect that it would become so successful. Maybe they didn’t either. vlcsnap-00071

“Babycakes”, which took its name from a 1989 film, was released in August 2004, and went on to top the chart for one week. Of course this was an impressive achievement, but this was during the time when this could be considered to be a little hollow. This is because this was the rather weird transitional phase where singles sales were low and downloads had not yet been added to the chart, Top Of The Pops was faltering, and social media, YouTube, and the like hadn’t yet been developed. vlcsnap-00119

And I know that “I just wanted you to know, oh, oh/That I think our love’ll grow yeah, yeah” isn’t exactly the most profound lyric ever, but as far as commercial Garage went it was fine. When I was trying to find out more about what happened to 3 Of A Kind, I saw a piece online that said because of their look and sound, they could be considered to be something of a forerunner to N-Dubz, which is a horrible thing to say about anyone really. I know which group I prefer.vlcsnap-00120

It seems that for a short while there was a follow-up single planned, but this was never released, and there was no album either, presumably they went their separate ways shortly after this. So their pop career was almost over just after it started, maybe sometimes it is better to leave people wanting more, but it’ll be something to tell the grandchildren I suppose. I wonder what supermarket they’re working in now.

The One-Hit Wonders – The 2000s Part 1.

Let’s continue this series into 2000s decade, and discover even more pop acts who only had a single moment of chart success. I’ll start this piece with a memory that I have. When Freeview launched in 2002, there were two music channels among the line-up, The Hits and TMF (The Music Factory). They were no MTV or UK Play, but it was still good to have them.

The Hits was a channel where you could phone in and request what video you wanted to be played from a fairly small list by entering its code on your keypad. The list was usually updated about once a week, so some videos got shown rather frequently. TMF would have various strands with different names such as Hits At Home and Lateshift, where various genres would be shown at various times, such as pop in the afternoon, and maybe rock in the evening. vlcsnap-00066

This seemed to be a good idea, but the story goes that TMF was being beaten in the ratings by The Hits, so barely a week after the launch, they changed their policy, and decided to similarly rotate a small amount of pop hits, but they kept the names of the strands for a while, even though they would now all be featuring the same songs. But I did always try to keep an eye out for if anything new would ever be shown. vlcsnap-00068

This was still in the pre-YouTube days when this was the best way to see videos. Then after some more time, TMF showed fewer videos and more regular shows, before there was a name change to Viva and videos practically stopped being shown all together, and then vanishing off Freeview not long after, while The Hits evolved into 4Music (and seemingly gave up on the actual music too). vlcsnap-00069

When watching TMF one afternoon, one song really jumped out at me. Scent were a group that featured various members, and one of them had contributed to Black Box, who were a big chart success in 1989. They also featured an Irish singer called Miss Motif (whose real name is Mandy Darcy), who in the video looked very stern and stylish, coming across as a sort-of cross between Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Roisin Murphy, which is fine by me. vlcsnap-00070

“Up And Down” was released on the Positiva label (which released a lot of great dance singles around this time) in August 2004 and reached no. 23. I remember being really disappointed that this didn’t get any higher, and this deserves to be better remembered. I do have the maxisingle, that features extended versions and remixes, and I’d go as far as to say that this is one of my favourite hit singles of 2004. Scent would have no further hits, and it seems that Miss Motif has gone on to have some success as a club DJ.