In the year 2000, the record industry was making roughly twice as much cash as it makes today. Massive production budgets meant pop was shinier than JT’s teeth and tighter than JT’s curls. Sony used to send execs to high school talent shows back then, scouting for new pop sensations, and any kid with potential was wrapped in a puffer jacket, thrown in a van, drip-fed Pepsi and sent abseiling out of a helicopter directly into the charts. We sat in front of the telly on Saturday mornings licking up the hits and squinting into the new millennium with our trucker caps askew, ready for anything.
You really had to be there.
But if you weren’t, you can always grab that copy of So Fresh – Hits of Spring 2000 that’s been gathering dust in your local op shop for last eighteen years. Fog it up, wipe it down, pop it in, and hit play. The future is now.
Bon Jovi – “It’s My Life”
By Y2K, Jon Bon Jovi had turned the volume way down on his hair but his songs still had enough swagger to stop traffic. To prove it, he set the clip for ‘It’s My Life’ in an actual traffic tunnel. Cars jam up on either side of the highway while Jon dedicates his last ever hit to Tommy and Gina (“who never back down”). Watch for the bullet-time freeze frame three minutes in as a young man (presumably Tommy) launches himself over a bridge into the path of an oncoming truck. In 2000 if it wasn’t happening in bullet-time you couldn’t be sure it was happening at all. Just like Jon Bon Jovi himself, this song has aged surprisingly well.
Anastasia – “I’m Outta Love”
What’s the point of looking back at the year 2000 with rose-coloured glasses? Ask Anastasia. She was (and remains) the world’s biggest advocate for that particular style of lenses. According to her unpublished autobiography she picked up her iconic pair of specs from OPSM soon after realising her relationship was “outta love”. A mysterious optometrist promised the lenses would give all interactions, no matter how painful, an air of nostalgic poignancy and smoke-ravished funk. Sure enough, Anastasia’s new perspective helped her convert her relationship misery into instant chart success. The rest is history.
Bomfunk MCs – “Freestyler”
This song introduced a whole new generation of pop fans to the jittering bombast of UK-style breakbeats (via Finland). Pop critic Simon Frith once said we listen to music partly because it intensifies our feelings of the present. It’s not just that music helps shape popular memory and organise our sense of time. It’s that a great song has a grammar of expectation and release that the music itself controls. In this clip, the Bomfunk MCs took this concept to the logical conclusion by introducing an MP3 player that could disrupt the space-time continuum. We’ve been using handheld devices to augment reality ever since. Considering the temporal fuckery in clip, we shouldn’t be surprised this track has stood the test of time.
Sisqó – “Thong Song”
S Club 7 – “S Club Party”
At the tail end of the boy/girl band craze the same genius who put together the Spice Girls was like, screw it, let’s pile seven personalities on stage and see what happens. The result was S Club 7. The funnest part of S Club 7 was witnessing that many people fight for space in three-minute songs. Everyone trampolines through their verses clearly hoping Jon Lee’s crunchy-as-heck hair won’t scrape across their irises and destroy their vision. I still don’t want to go to their party.
Vanessa Amorosi – “Shine”
“Look around you, everyone you see, everyone you know will die”. Those are the original lyrics for Vanessa Amorosi’s ‘Shine’. Mark Holden, in his infinite wisdom, changed the lyrics to fit the forward-thinking optimism of the times. Vanessa (who was 16 at the time and originally wrote the song about youth suicide) was reportedly unimpressed with Mark’s proposed changes. It’s amazing what enough intravenous Pepsi can do to your sense of compliance. Vanessa is well overdue for a comeback.
Leah Heywood – “We Think It’s Love”
The clip for “We Think It’s Love” will always be remembered for its spot-on depiction of romance via MSN messenger. “We Think It’s Love” is the sonic equivalent of a Slurpee that got left in the sun all day.
Jessica Simpson – “I Think I’m in Love With You”
“I Think I’m in Love With You” is a thread-bare tune held together by a sample from John Mellencamp’s classic ode to young love “Jack & Diane”. Unfortunately neither this song nor Jessica and Nick Lachey’s MTV reality series Newlyweds could match the Mellencamp classic for dramatic tension. In fact, Newlyweds made life as young, loved-up and fabulously rich person appear so futile and gloomy that the western world almost underwent a full communist revolution in 2003. Then the Kardashians injected enough personality into the reality TV format to make fame and wealth seem glamorous again. By the time social media influencers took the mantle, it was clear the proletariat would never wake up and seize power. Oh well. It’s just like Mellencamp says: “Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone”.
Mandy Moore – “So Real”
Mandy Moore set herself apart from Britney, Christina and Jessica by being a nice Catholic-minded triple threat. And, sure, “It’s Real” is just a second-rate “Hit Me Baby One More Time” but in 2000 it didn’t matter. The internet hadn’t splintered pop taste and inspiration into a bazillion different directions yet. In 2000, we were perfectly happy with this homogenised bullshit. When was the last time you were perfectly happy?
Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want”
Punk evolved into grunge, grunge evolved into alt-rock, and – at the turn of the century – alt-rock finally evolved into the apex predator known as Vertical Horizon (just like Charles Darwin said it would).
Lo-Tel – “Teenager of the Year”
This is what Sydney indie pop sounded like back then: mopey, poignant and cavity free. “Teenager of the Year” was a strong enough track to earn Lo-Tel a spot on two of the new millennium’s biggest cultural touchstones: the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony and the Looking for Alibrandi soundtrack. Side fact: Looking for Alibrandi stars Pia Miranda and Matthew Newton. Some younger readers may not know this but Matthew Newton beat up Brooke Satchwell back in 2006. According to court documents she begged him to stop and he just kept hitting her. The judge didn’t even give him a slap on the wrist. Now he’s living in New York, working as a director, trying to get his entertainment career back on track. Makes you think: if Matthew assaulted Brooke in the post #MeToo era maybe he’d be living out his days on the Bert and Patti compound masturbating and playing Call of Duty instead of strutting around New York like a hot shot? Or is that naive? I didn’t really pay attention to this track first time around. Now I can’t get it out my head.
Aqua – “Around the World”
By 2000, Denmark’s finest purveyors of bubblegum house had conquered the world, and quite literally been around it. This song is one of their few attempts at communicating world-weary pathos. Side fact: in 2000, Mattel tried to sue Aqua for damaging the Barbie brand with their first hit single ‘Barbie Girl’. The judge at the time concluded his opinion by writing “both parties are advised to chill”. I’m glad Wikipedia exists these days.
Enrique Iglesias – “Be with You”
In the noughties if a pop star wanted to give their songs a little more emotional heft, all they had to do was add a few licks of flamenco guitar. But no one could pluck out a club-worthy, flamenco-drenched banger quite like Enrique. I love you Enrique. Take me away to a better place.
Real Blondes – “I Won’t Let Go”
When I was thirteen this is what I imagined what going out for coffee would be like. Then the café owners replaced all the focaccias with brioche and all the padded chairs with overturned crates for some reason. I feel bad for hating this, but I JUST listened to it and I can’t remember how it goes.
Christina Aguilera – “I Turn to You”
You can draw a clean line down noughties pop between the pre-Xtina era and the post-Xtina era. The pre-Xtina era was all about innuendo and the occasional boob tube. The post-Xtina era involved way more bumping and grinding in assless chaps. Clips have only gotten raunchier since. And YET, according to The Atlantic teens are having significantly less premarital sex these days. Just goes to show: wowsers don’t know shit.
I’m probably being kinder to this ballad than I should be because I have a lot of love for Christina. But, really, why would you listen to this when Mariah Carey feat Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” already exists?
Anuj – “Can You Stand the Heat"
Anuj could rap, dance, sing and beatbox. He was basically a one-man N’Sync and I hope he’s living his best life.
Eiffel 65 – “Too Much of Heaven”
Eiffel 65 responded to the mega-success of “Blue” with a deliberately unlistenable follow-up about the perils of money and success. It’s basically Kid A.
Seriously though. The music industry is cooked.
Hanson – “This Time Around”
In the “Mmmbop” era it was socially forbidden for primary school boys to like Hanson (even though we all secretly did). The jealousy had dissipated by the time they released “This Time Around”. These days I’m just waiting for the headline about Taylor Hanson being the new Jim Jones. “This Time Around” is a lesser Hanson track but it’s still better than anything Taylor recorded with James Iha.
Blink 182 – “Adam’s Song”
Yes, the pre-911 world was a more optimistic time to be alive. But that doesn’t we were free from feelings of unnameable dread. Lucky we had sk8er-punk to help us articulate all the sad feelings.
Live – "They Stood Up For Love"
It took me the best part of a decade to work out Ed Kowalczyk was trying to convert me to Christianity. Sneaky bald fuck.
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