Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 16.

This is an American singer who was a regular on the UK chart for about a decade, and once again, she could be considered to be someone who was doing some rather quirky things when Lady Gaga was still in short trousers. Gwen Stefani had already had some success as the frontwoman of No Doubt. In 1996-1997, their Ska-tinged hits included “Just A Girl” and the chart-topping “Don’t Speak”.

They then had a second wave of fame around 2002-2003, with more big hits including “Hey Baby”, “Hella Good”, “Underneath It All”, and a cover of “It’s My Life”. By this point, Gwen was beginning to consider a solo career. In August 2001, her duet with rapper Eve “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” reached no. 4. But it was in November 2004 when she finally went out on her own.

This was when “What You Waiting For” was released, which also reached no. 4. Gwen then worked with Eve again in March 2005 on “Rich Girl”, and this reached no. 4 too! Next in June 2005 was “Hollaback Girl”, which reached no. 8 in the UK, and was a chart-topper for four weeks in America. Then in September 2005, “Cool” reached no. 11, and had a rather memorable video too.

In November 2005 was “Can I Have It Like That”, a duet with Pharrell Williams, which returned her to the Top Ten, and reached no. 3. In December 2005 however, “Luxurious” reached only no. 44. This sampled The Isley Brothers, and although this is one of my favourites, the low placing was mostly down to the successful album having been milked for hits by this point. Gwen also won a Brit Award in 2005.

And Gwen returned in December 2006 with “Wind It Up” which reached no. 3. This was followed in February 2007 by “The Sweet Escape”, a duet with rapper Akon, which reached no. 2, to become her biggest hit single since the days of “Don’t Speak” which were a decade ago by this point. This seemed to be played everywhere you went for a while.

But this turned out to be her final Top Ten hit single in the UK. In June 2007, “4 In The Morning” reached no. 22. And finally, in October 2007 “Now That You Got It” reached only no. 59. Since then, Gwen has only had two minor Christmas-themed hits in the 2010s, but she has released four solo albums, and she was definitely one of the livelier and more creative singers on the scene at this time.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 33.

This is another British group, although it is rather hard to determine what genre they fit into, are they indie, are they dance? Well whatever they were, it was a rather good sound, but once again, their moment of fame turned out to be rather brief. There had already been a group called Klaxons, they were from Belgium, and they had a minor hit single in 1983.

But this Klaxons formed in London in the mid-2000s, and they were one of the last indie-type acts to succeed on the chart and get there through the cycle of people buying their CDs, their music videos being shown on the TV, and appearing on the cover of music magazines when there were still plenty of new bands to champion (and it’s remarkable how quickly that all changed).

It seems that the line-up boasted some people including Captain Strobe and The Colourful Swan, so how could they fail. In November 2006, they had their first hit single with “Magick”, although it was 2007 that was really going to be their year. In January 2007 “Golden Skans” was released, and this reached no. 7, to become their first and only Top Ten hit single in the UK (or indeed anywhere else).

It was rather exciting to see them going up the chart, and their fanbase was increasing. In February 2007 their album “Myths Of The Near Future” was released, which reached no. 2. And this would also win them the Mercury Music Prize. Now this has got to be considered to be their most high-profile award, and this seemed to be a rather popular choice of winner.

Their next single in April 2007 was “Gravity’s Rainbow”, which reached no. 35, but it’s what they did next that I felt was a rather special moment. In June 2007, “It’s Not Over Yet” was released. In the mid-90s, there were a lot of great dance singles around, and one of my favourites was “Not Over Yet” by Grace, which was a production group that featured some rather talented knob-twiddlers.

When I realised that this was a slightly-retitled cover of that one, I was unsure of how anyone could possibly match the original, especially as this was going to be in a different genre. But I was rather pleased with how all of this turned out, you can’t really go wrong with this song, this was indeed an exciting take on this classic, and this reached no. 13.

But after this, Klaxons never made the Top 40 again, and once again it was rather disappointing that their success dropped off so quickly. They did release some more singles and albums, but they were nowhere near as successful, after hoping that they would continue to do well, they didn’t really, and they eventually split in 2015. I can only wonder where The Colourful Swan is now.

Great Moments In Pop – The 2000s Part 19.

Here’s another group who briefly enhanced the singles chart for me in the late-2000s, even if they didn’t get the critics too excited, and I imagine there may not be too many people who’ll remember them now. The Hoosiers are a British trio who formed in the early-2000s. In June 2007 their debut single “Worried About Ray” was released, and became their first Top Ten hit.

This one was a celebration of the career of Ray Harryhausen, who was known for making pioneering special effects for various successful films, and they imagined him as he sat there working on his figurines all day long and his eyes were starting to go all blurry. Although this did mean that every interview they did around this time began with them being asked “how’s Ray?”.

I did like the quirky style of this one, and looked forward to what they would do next. In October 2007 the follow-up “Goodbye Mr A” was released, which was their biggest hit, although it would also be their second and final Top Ten single. This one contained another entertaining story where the band imagined themselves as superheroes. This was followed not long after by the release of their debut album “The Trick To Life”, which was a chart-topper for one week, so they clearly had managed to build something of a decent-sized fanbase.

“Worst Case Scenario” didn’t make the Top 75, but In April 2008 “Cops And Robbers” just missed the Top 20. And also around this time, there was a rather amusing TV advert promoting the album, featuring the band who seemed to insist that despite their success, the average pop music fan might know much about who they are. “Apparently no-one’s heard of us. We’ve had two hit singles!” protested their frontman… er, what was his name again?

The Hoosiers returned to the chart in August 2010 with “Choices”, which just missed the Top Ten, and turned out to be their final hit single all together, and in the same month the second album “The Illusion Of Safety” did make the Top Ten. Although they haven’t featured on the chart for over a decade now, it does seem that they are still together, although there have been some line-up changes, and they have made four albums.

Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 11.

This is someone who I was disappointed to discover qualifies for this series, although she did have hits for over a decade, which is much longer than the average pop career. Also, as far as urban/soul singers go, I really like her voice. So if I was ever a judge on one of those “you’ve got a really nice voice”-type shows and she was a contestant, there’s little doubt that I would say to her “you’ve got a really nice voice”.

Beverley Knight was born in Wolverhampton, and as far as I know, this was on exactly the same day as my brother, so that’s rather good. Her earliest hits were in the mid-90s, but although I don’t really remember them from the time, when I did finally hear “Flavour Of The Old School” (her first Top 40 hit on its rerelease in October 1995) and “Moving On Up (On The Right Side)”, they were definitely up to standard, that voice already established. vlcsnap-00391

The first hit I do remember though was 1998’s “Made It Back” (one of several hit singles to have sampled Chic’s “Good Times”), which also featured Redman, who was a rapper on the scene at the time. Also in 1998, second album “Prodigal Sista” was released, and was the first to make the chart. 1999 featured a rerelease of “Made It Back”, along with “Greatest Day” and “Sista Sista”, two more great songs. vlcsnap-00392

It wouldn’t be until March 2002 that Beverley had her first Top Ten hit single at last with “Shoulda Woulda Coulda”. It was about time. Also in 2002 was the album “Who I Am”, her first to make the Top Ten. In July 2004, Beverley had her biggest hit single when “Come As You Are” reached no. 9. But there would be no further Top Ten singles, meaning that others including “Keep This Fire Burning” missed out. vlcsnap-00394

In April 2006 a best-of album was released, which did make the Top Ten. However, in May 2007, “No Man’s Land” reached only no. 43 (there was a performance on GMTV and everything), and Beverley has not featured on the singles chart since. Despite this, she has continued to feature regularly on the album chart, and she has also had some success on stage in various musicals. Over 25 years on from her debut, she does deserve some appraisal.

Down The Dumper – The 2000s Part 6.

Here’s yet another group that did well for a short time. Shapeshifters were a group with a varying line-up that made dance records. What would they be able to offer compared to what was currently on the scene. In July 2004, their debut single “Lola’s Theme” was released (Lola being the wife of one of the group members), and this became a chart-topper for one week.

But why did this one do so well? Firstly, this was seen to be a feelgood dance song, along with its female vocal, which gave out plenty of positive summer vibes that just made you feel better about things, and many people have said that this is one of the best chart-toppers of this era (and this was also nominated for a Brit Award, but didn’t win). Also helping was that the video was shown rather frequently on various music channels, maybe TMF did come in useful sometimes.

I also noticed that people who weren’t usually that interested in pop music were aware of the song and quoting the lyrics, which was proof that this had crossed over to become a talking point and have some more mainstream appeal. And one of the writers of this used to be in Alisha’s Attic, so how could this have possibly failed, it was great that she finally knew what it was like to contribute to a song that made the Top Ten!

Shapeshifters had now assured their place as one of the hottest dance acts on the scene. Even if they hadn’t released a follow-up, they would still be fondly remembered. But we did go on to hear more. In March 2005 “Back To Basics” was released, and this became their second and final Top Ten hit, meaning that they were no one-hit wonder. While not as acclaimed as “Lola’s Theme”, it was still a very enjoyable record.

They were to discover though that every following single would chart lower than the previous one. In March 2006 their album “Sound Advice” was released, but this just missed the Top 75. Their chart career came to an end in October 2007 when sixth single “New Day” made only no. 72. After this, Shapeshifters have released several more singles, along with lots of remixes for other acts, but they’ll only really be remembered for one song.