Released- 14th July 1997
The Spice Girls launch Channel 5 in the UK, which I don’t get in the South East, and have watched maybe twice since (Terminator 2 was on). Both Radiohead and Missy Elliot release albums that redefine their respective genres, while Oasis record an album which puts a reasonable full stop on theirs.
The 1997 election gets me into politics for the first time, and I am optimistic about that Tony Blair chap. We didn’t realise- we didn’t see the sickening bloodlust behind his cold dead eyes and marketeer’s smile. I also save my pocket money for months to buy Radiohead’s OK Computer on cassette (and Paranoid Android on blue vinyl) and then listen to it solidly for the rest of 1997. My brain can still perform the entire album for me without need for an actual copy of the record today. It sometimes does when my train is delayed- it’s a nice way to spend 40 minutes!
If I had to save one track from this album, and the rest were to be accused of having fictitious WMD’s, that track would be… Paranoid Android by Radiohead, Narrowly beating out The Verve and the Backstreet Boys. Sentences I never thought I’d have to say. Great song, brilliantly barmy video.
Track by Track Breakdown
Hanson – “MMMBop”
Impossibly catchy and summery, but also very possibly the work of Satan. Want to feel old? They’re all parents now. Even the teeny tiny one.
Eternal featuring BeBe Winans – “I Wanna Be the Only One”
18 years of perspective leave this as a pretty entertaining 80’s styled soul ballad, rather than the pop pollutant I felt it was at the time.
The Cardigans – “Lovefool”
Inextricably linked with Baz Luhrmann’s stylish but hollow Romeo and Juliet. Thankfully, beyond the dialogue, written by respected screenwriter Billy Shakspere, the soundtrack was the best thing about the film, this slice of Scandinavian indie funk being a good example.
No Doubt – “Just a Girl”
Quite a bit closer to their ska punk roots than Don’t Speak, this is a great, high octane two and a half minutes of misandrist joy.
Sash! featuring Rodriguez – “Ecuador”
Identikit follow up to Encore Un Fois, the only discernible difference being the change in shouty language from French to Spanish!
No Mercy – “Where Do You Go”
Latin styled eurodance hideousness.
Spice Girls – “Who Do You Think You Are”
Spun, shook, moved and made, the Spice Girls go disco, and it’s really rather bloody good. More horns please.
Ultra Naté – “Free”
A lot of this has involved my perspective on these songs changing since I last heard them. I can handle Simply Red now! But there is a joy in saying I hated this at the time, and it’s still a trite, half baked turd of a song today.
Rosie Gaines – “Closer Than Close”
Fantastically soulful and groove laden house. One snare hit away from being the first two step entry, and refreshingly funky as a result.
George Michael – “Star People”
George Michael’s continued reinvention as purveyor of really shitty house continues abound.
En Vogue – “Don’t Let Go (Love)”
I have no idea how they do it, but En Vogue songs always sound ten times more dramatic than their competitors. Predictable in its brilliance.
Shola Ama – “You Might Need Somebody”
Wonderfully old fashioned soul. You could easily imagine Bill Withers singing this. In fact that would be one of the few ways you could improve it.
Coolio featuring 40 Thevz – “C U When U Get There”
Pachabel’s Canon has never sounded so street. The two blend surprisingly well, even if Coolio has all the lyrical dexterity of a deceased parrot.
Warren G featuring Ron Isley – “Smokin’ Me Out”
Some G funk genius here (though how they missed Regulate is a mystery to me) from Warren G, with a soul twist.
R Kelly – “I Believe I Can Fly”
R Kelly writes a great inspirational ballad. Also, Space Jam was a great film. I was obsessed with the Chicago Bulls back then. Channel 4 was showing NBA games, and this was when they had Jordan, Pippen and Rodman.
Damage – “Wonderful Tonight”
The original is dated and slightly sexist these days. This cover version is somehow worse.
911 – “The Journey”
This would be the perfect soundtrack for the best bits of some pointless divot on a reality TV show. It really is that bad.
Boyzone – “Isn’t It a Wonder”
I’ve tried, but this has no redeeming features whatsoever. To quote Stewart Lee, like being spoonfed warm sick.
Backstreet Boys – “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)”
Okay. This one is just brilliant. Backstreet Boys are clearly hitting on some pop magic right now. Stupidly cheery fun.
N-Tyce – “Hey DJ! (Play That Song)”
No actual DJ would ever play this song. Even ironically. It’s a mess. Like full blown front page tragedy type mess.
Foxy Brown featuring Jay-Z – “I’ll Be”
It’s Jigga! It’s not the greatest hip hop ever, but he, at least, has some good ones to come. Sadly like most female rappers, despite a nice flow, Foxy Brown never really breaks through.
Wet Wet Wet – “If I Never See You Again”
I think that were reaching the drug abuse and acrimony years, not that you can tell from the dull faux Joe Cocker soul of this barrel scraper.
U2 – “Staring at the Sun”
After a couple of much improved singles, U2 return to a bland rockism. Not dreadful, but all a bit rote.
The Verve – “Bitter Sweet Symphony”
Iconic. Another one of those times that the high tide hits, carrying all with it. Simple (it’s a loop of a string version of The Last Time by the Rolling Stones, with some defiant lyrics over the top) and incredibly effective.
The Seahorses – “Love Is the Law”
John Squire’s post Stone Roses band here. A lot less edge and a bit too taditional, but this one single is pretty great.
Ocean Colour Scene – “Hundred Mile High City”
As is often the case with Ocean Colour Scene, the riff is way better than the actual song. If they’d had a better singer they would have been unstoppable.
Robbie Williams – “Old Before I Die”
Amusing reversal of The Who in the title. Some nice bits of wit here and there, but the song itself is merely okay.
Cast – “Guiding Star”
Nice, and uplifting, and a little goofy, but not amongst their better than you remember best.
Paul McCartney – “Young Boy”
Welcome back Lord Wacky Macca Thumbs Aloft. This is okay. There are hints of Wings in it, perhaps if the song had had longer to gestational, there would be something good there. It’s no Frog Chorus.
Sheryl Crow – “A Change Would Do You Good”
After two good singles, this is sadly almost repetitive enough to become drone music. Incredibly dull.
Radiohead – “Paranoid Android”
Probably the first time I’ve listened to this for a year or two. I can’t sum up its brilliance adequately. It’s like a Bohemian Rhapsody for the alienated weirdo, full of musical 90 degree turns and angst sloganeering. Probably the most enjoyable 6 minutes of this project so far.
Texas – “Halo”
Relentlessly bland Radio 2 AOR optimism pop. Music for soundtracking bland people pieces that shouldn’t be on the news.
Supergrass – “Sun Hits the Sky”
Another solid single from their sophomore album. Sadly, missing the frantic fun of their fantastic first, but it is more coherent as a result.
James – “Waltzing Along”
Even their weaker songs are enjoyable enough. Less energy than usual, but still a worthwhile listen.
Blur – “On Your Own”
Not their best single, but some crazy guitar noises from Graham Coxon paper over a lot of issues. It sounds like a dropped guitar through a delay pedal!
Fun Lovin’ Criminals – “Scooby Snacks”
Tarantino sampling, relentlessly schmoove faux gangster rap rock. Huey Morgan has since become an adopted Brit and pleasing raconteur, something which was always clear from their live shows.
Orbital – “The Saint”
60’s TV themes are so boss that you can’t mess them up. And also, Roger frickin Moore!
Brainbug – “Nightmare”
House meets John Carpenter horror film soundtracks. Halloween is my Citizen Kane, so I bloody love it.
The Course – “Ain’t Nobody”
Not even the best shit cover of this song. That’s a few years from now.
Todd Terry featuring Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown – “Something Goin’ On”
Passable, but there’s no real build or drop. It just stays in the same place for 4 minutes.
Diddy – “Give Me Love”
I’m assuming this isn’t the same Diddy that was Puff Daddy and/or Sean Combs. This is a deep hard house cut, it you like that sort of thing.
22 out of 41. 54%. When the pop is good it’s very good, when it’s bad it’s dreadful.
This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.