It was a record year for turnover at the top of the UK single charts, but I haven’t had much to say about many of 2000’s number ones. Here are some more of the honourable exceptions.

Madonna, “American Pie”, 11 March 2000

2000 was a highpoint of idealized Americana, and not just for Americans. It was the year I tried to get work in San Francisco, wrapped up in the cultural moment of Peak Web 1.0. I remember when I was there being quite taken by a pair of Old Navy pajama bottoms made out of a giant US flag, but thought buying them might be an act of devotion too far. By the time I’d decided I wanted them, their Market Street store was all out, and I never did get any.

Within a couple of years I was thanking my lucky stars and stripes I’d ended up in Blighty rather than the States. Not that I have any time for cheap anti-Americanism—it’s a big country, and there’s a vast amount to like—but the Bush years would have been tough to live through. (Since then, of course, it’s been Blighty’s turn for political blight.)

Don McLean’s original “American Pie” was a number one in Australia, and part of the backdrop of my childhood: as ubiquitous as The Eagles’ Greatest Hits, and for similar reasons. Storytelling countrified rock went down a treat in the Australian countryside of the ’70s and early ’80s.

Madonna is ten years older than me, so she would have been in her early teens when the song came out; I imagine her covering it in the same way that many successful artists reach a point where they indulge in covers of their childhood/teen favourites.

I never paid close attention to the words; I never owned it myself, so only ever heard them on a tinny AM radio, or through a friend’s car stereo on a drive to a campsite, or up to town for a pub-crawl. But the melody cut through those limitations, and it’s a perfectly pleasant one.

Madonna’s cover keeps the best aspect of the song, and showers it with tasty multicoloured sprinkles of Orbitized decoration, and I still don’t care about the words. Good, to the extent of 6.

Britney Spears, “Oops!...I Did It Again”, 13 May 2000

I first saw “Oops” on a hotel TV sometime in mid-2000, probably in Johannesburg, making it one of the late-’90s/2000 pop songs I associate with round-the-world adventuring. It’s my ur-Britney, so I have no problem with marking it higher than “Baby One More Time”. Not my 10-Britney, though: that’s still to come.

What a confident peak it is. The spoken-word interlude is a sign of that; who else would have the bravado to attempt it but a pop star at the top of her game? The song itself is irresistibly catchy; it may be very much of a piece with “Baby One More Time”, but it’s the melody and lyric I always bring to mind first out of the two.

In 2000 I was far too devoted to Millionaires, XTRMNTR, Kid A and the like to give Britney the attention I now recognize she deserved, but better late than never. 9.

This gives me the chance to link to the Max Raabe version, complete with spoken outro. Wunderbar!

During Popular’s discussion of “Oops” I also watched Richard Thompson’s enjoyable cover of it on YouTube, and experienced full-on YouTube Comments Rage at the Thompson fans saying how rubbish the original is, dismissing Britney Spears as “manufactured”, slating her as a singer of other people’s songs (the irony of this in a discussion of a cover version escaping them). The “singer, not songwriter” charge is particularly annoying when it’s presented as proof of how worthless an artist is, and so often directed at young women who happen to sing pop. The response, surely, has to be:

  1. Frank Sinatra
  2. Luciano Pavarotti
  3. Roger Daltrey
  4. Piss off.

(I’ve surprised myself with how far I’ve drifted into “Leave Britney Alone!” territory over recent months, given how indifferent I was towards her in 1999-2001. Perhaps it’s knowing what lies ahead, in both her music and her personal life.)

Kylie Minogue, “Spinning Around”, 1 July 2000

Popular’s earlier spin through Kylie’s 1980s number ones prompted me to round up her post-Stock-Aitken-Waterman albums, even though I (still) couldn’t abide the SAW stuff. “Confide in Me” was, even at the time, the first Kylie single I positively liked, and it still sounded great; of her Deconstruction albums, Impossible Princess was the most interesting to my 2010s ears, with her Manic Street Preachers collaboration “Some Kind of Bliss” a highlight. Her SAW successes had bought her the luxury to explore, and in her 20s that would have been a natural inclination; she was her own woman now.

But it isn’t as if she stopped having hits. Kylie was still very much in the limelight through the 1990s from an Australian point of view, where “Confide in Me” was number one for five weeks. If anything, the early ’90s were her fallow period there, with no top-ten hits since 1991; the 1992 Let’s Get To It singles did far better in the UK than in Australia. (See also—perhaps not coincidentally—INXS’s Welcome to Wherever You Are singles that year.) Kylie also had a number two single in Oz with Nick Cave with “Where the Wild Roses Grow” in 1995. Impossible Princess peaked at number 4 there in ’98, which wasn’t bad considering the musical landscape of the time; she wasn’t being seen as yesterday’s news, even if the album didn’t contain any hit singles. The two-year gap between that and Light Years was nothing, really. “Spinning Around” was some kind of return, but hardly a case of coming in from the wilderness.

I liked it well enough at the time; it reminds me of a specific party in Melbourne at the end of 2000 where Light Years and ABBA Gold featured heavily. It seemed very much tied in with the ABBA revival, even though Gold had been out for several years; that album had just been remastered and re-released, which may be why it was in people’s minds again.

Listening to it today, “Spinning Around” is more than run-of-the-mill to my ears; it’s got a hooky chorus, and goes straight into it, and it gets the vibe just right. It isn’t the album’s highlight—that would be “On a Night Like This” or “Your Disco Needs You”—but I’d go a 6, and on the right night a 7. A good one or two points higher than my highest SAW Kylie score, then, which feels right.

Robbie Williams, “Rock DJ”, 12 August 2000

This is one of the few UK number ones of the time that feel part of my own 2000, because I was in London the week when it hit the top (in fact you can’t get much more millennial than what I was doing on 12th August 2000). I saw the video on TV that week, and it’s not one you forget in a hurry. Those memories carried the tune easily across 15 years, even though I’m fairly sure it’s the only time I’d heard it.

Watching the video a second time, it struck me not just as a meditation on celebrity (you want a piece of me? Here, have a bloody buttock), but also on maleness in UK popular culture circa late-90s/2000. It starts out looking as if it will be another routine performance for the male gaze, a parade of models looking like yet another Robert Palmer rip-off, but soon becomes a male performance for them, a ’90s lad’s idea of what women want. Robbie’s expressions around the 0:45-1:15 mark are priceless, and speak not just of the neediness of performers for an audience, but of the neediness of many young men for female attention. In that light, the moments where he goes too far, the stripping off at 2:30 and then the auto-da-flay at 2:55, are a great critique of lad culture, a reductio ad absurdum of all that showing off.

This is one of a handful of songs where I feel compelled to mark the whole package, because trying to judge the song in isolation from its video is like trying not to think about elephants. The song itself might be an affable 6, but for the whole, 7.

(Nothing new under the sun: Gaspar Becerra, A flayed man holding his own skin, 1556.)

Spiller, “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”, 26 August 2000

Australia was a little behind with this, taking it to number one for three weeks in late October/early November, but that seems only appropriate: it’s a perfect fit for warm spring nights. I remember it being everywhere when I got back after months of travel; along with “Teenage Dirtbag” and “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, it was one of the biggest hits of late 2000 there. Glorious, and an 8 or 9 for me.

I never made the connection between “Groovejet” and that Sophie Ellis-Bextor person who seemed to get mentioned a fair bit in early 2000s Britain; I only really knew her as an album cover, thanks to Read My Lips and ye olden-days pastime of frequenting actual record stores. Might have to keep an eye out for it in charity shops, and check out the album within.

5 May 2015 · Music