Saturday, February 18, 2006

1999 and 2000 - Two Years in #1 Singles (pt. 2)


Christina Aguilera - "What a Girl Wants"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Shelly Peiken, writer on this song, also wrote mid 90's hit "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks (which peaked at #2).
Review/Comments: The song was originally titled "What a Girl Needs", but the record executive forced them to change the title to "What a Girl Wants", for no real reason. Okay, I'm sure there was a reason, but that reason is not apparent to me. This is one of the few pop ballads to hit number one which I actually like. Christina Aguilera is a good singer, and the pop hook is okay. It's not an amazing pop song or anything, but it's an enjoyable enough listen, and it's certainly better than Christina's most recent #1 "Lady Marmalade" (Rating: 0 or 1 /10).
Rating: 7/10

Savage Garden - "I Knew I Loved You"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: The first #1 song to have writing credit given to the performer only (no other co-writers) since "I'm Your Angel" by R Kelly & Celine Dion (written by R. Kelly)
Review/Comments: Unlike "What a Girl Wants", this is a completely mediocre pop ballad. Not only that, but it's exactly like "Truly, Madly, Deeply" which had hit number one in early 1998. And the world hardly needed the first "Truly, Madly, Deeply", let alone a carbon copy second single. Nevertheless, this song saves Savage Garden from one hit wonder ridicule, but still leaves them open to high-voice ridicule. Man that Darren Hayes does have a freakishly high voice, what is he some kind of woman??? Back to the song, yes this is one of those mediocre, just kind of there, pop ballads that have infested the top of the charts almost since they started up. There is always a place in popular music for this kind of music, but I will never understand why...The day when crappy ballads like this dry up atop the charts will be a happy day for me, indeed.
Rating: 4/10

Mariah Carey ft. Joe & 98 Degrees - "Thank God I Found You"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The only Mariah Carey #1 to be produced by super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who have 16 number one singles working together as producers)
Review/Comments: The only number one hit for 98 Degrees ("Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" was robbed!). This is absolutely the laziest, most forgettable excuse for a number one hit single since I have started following the charts...Whatever I said about "Heartbreaker" was all true, but this song is way worse. You may have forgotten about this song now; I forgot about it while I was listening to it for the first time, as it is entirely unremarkable in every way. Fortunately, the song which coasts atop the charts on reputation appears not to be as common now as it once was, though it does still happen. This song was probably written and recorded in one afternoon.
Rating: 1/10

Lonestar - "Amazed"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: First country song to hit number one since "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
Review/Comments: Actually, this song is even worse that "Thank God I Found You"; however, it is not as bad of a #1 hit, in my opinion. Despite the awfulness of the song, I'm still glad that one of the short rash of country crossover hits around this time did go to number one. Obviously it would be preferable if it was a better country crossover hit, such as "You're Still the One" or "Breathe" (not that either of those is a great song, but both are way better than this turd). Actually, "Breathe" was kept out of the number one slot by this song. However, I still always root for variety at the top of the charts, and for the big pop movements to produce #1 hit singles. The stretch of number one hits from "Unpretty" to this song was an awful stretch of hits, one of the worst in history, in my opinion, as there is only one moderately enjoyable song between all of them ("What a Girl Wants"), and the rest are awful. And I suspect most of my readers will put "What a Girl Wants" into the latter category as well. The country mix of this song (with fiddles and steel guitars, and whatnot), had its own chart run, peaking at #24, then falling off. However, once the pop remix was sent to the radio stations, it really blew up, and soared up to number one fairly quickly.
Rating: 1/10

Destiny's Child - "Say My Name"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: Other than "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name" the their breakout album The Writing's on the Wall produced one additional top 10 hit ("Jumpin' Jumpin'" #3).
Review/Comments: Now this is what I'm talking about. Hell, if all the R&B hits sounded this good, I wouldn't be so upset that they so completely dominate the radio and the charts of today. Unlike many pop songs which save all the good music for the chorus and build some lame verse around them, the verse and the pre-chorus ("Why can't you just tell the truth, if somebody's there then tell me who") are perfect set-up for the chorus, and have some legitimate hooks of their own part. The production is simple, but functional, it does not take anything away from the rest of the song, which is really the best you can hope for from a vocal R&B song like this. LeToya and LeTavia had their last gasp with this song, as both would be gone by the time of the third album next year, replaced by Michelle (as immortalized in the intro to "Bootylicious", which would get at least an 8/10 from me). Great vocals by the girls, great melody, and good production, this was deservingly an absolute smash hit, one of the most popular of the year.
Rating: 9/10

Santana ft. The Product G&B - "Maria Maria"
Duration: 10 weeks
Fun Fact: Written and produced by Wyclef Jean, his only #1 as a writer or as a producer
Review/Comments: When I was reviewing all the number one hits of 2000 as a preparation of this, I was a little surprised to see that this song was number one (I did follow the charts at the time, I had just forgotten this song hit #1); I was shocked to see it was number one for 10 weeks. Weeks at number one can be a funny metric for how popular a song was. "Smooth", I think everybody can agree, was far more ubiquitous than "Maria Maria", yet was only #1 for 2 weeks longer. On the other hand, "Smooth" had a much longer chart life. "Maria Maria" was just one of those weird situations where a song isn't really THAT popular, but there aren't really any other super-popular songs to displant it, so it stays at #1 for a disproportionatly long time. Because, maybe it's just regional or something, but I do not recall this song being that popular at all. As for the song itself, mediocre and forgettable r&b ballad laced with some spanish guitar and the same riff that Santana has been playing for 4o years. Blech, bring on the rest of the hits.
Rating: 4/10

Aaliyah - "Try Again"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first song to go to number one without ever being released as a commercial single, solely on airplay points (Note that this was only possible following a change in chart philosophy in late 1998).
Review/Comments: What great production in this song by Timbaland, and Aaliyah is a more than competent singer as well. Aaliyah's last bit hit single before her career was tragically cut short, this was also her first and only number one. As most of you know, she was killed in a plane crash in late 2001 while filming her next music video. In any event, if this is the legacy left behind in her short career, it's a hell of a legacy, far better than most musicians who have much longer careers. Honestly, all of the Aaliyah singles released were pretty good; this was the best one in my opinion. Sad story, but even without the sob story, this is a more than deserving #1.
Rating: 9/10

Enrique Iglesias - "Be With You"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written during the recording session for "The Rhythm Divine", a far inferior song.
Review/Comments: To me, this calls to mind the question, "Where is the line drawn between nostalgic value, and legitimate enjoyment?" You see, I liked this song when it was originally out, and heard it a lot, and some of my friends and I in college really loved this song. It's just so completely absurdly ridiculous, and so over the top in it's badness, but it's a perfect storm of elements. The weird decision to put a dance beat behind a love/break up ballad...the ridiculously emotional breakdown...the overall PASSION in the vocals...everything about this song just screams totally ridiculous, terrible song. In honesty, this song was a true product of its times; it's hard to imagine it going number one at any other time. And yet, any time I listen to it, it's like I'm with my buddies in college, cracking up over the absurdity of it all, and if there's any line between really liking a song, and only liking it for that, well, I crossed it long ago. As I read in a Stylus Magazine article, "After all, you're only nostalgic about something you really loved in the first place." [even though I put that like it was an exact quote, it's just a paraphrase]. Amen.
Rating: 8/10

Vertical Horizon - "Everything You Want"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact:
Review/Comments: Ah, Vertical Horizon. Even though this is just a totally mediocre pop-rock song, the likes of which has been done thousands of times, and the likes of which has been done BETTER thousands of times, I still kind of miss the days when a song like this could go to number one. Come up with a good pop hook, set it to pop lyrics, put a generic rock guitar over it, and boom #1 hit. I mean, I know that's exactly the kind of lazy hit I've been deriding this whole time, but man there should be a place for this kind of song in the popular pantheon. Then again, maybe I'm just being biased in favor of rock over R&B...but honestly, I always root for more diversity atop the charts, regardless of whether I think the individual songs are good or not, unless the song is really terrible.
Rating: 5/10

matchbox twenty - "Bent"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first time one rock song replaced another rock song atop the billboard charts since "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by George Michael/Elton John and "How Do You Talk to an Angel" by The Heights in 1992
Review/Comments: What happened to rock music atop the charts? It used to be, around '66 to '69, that almost every song to hit #1 was a rock song (some Motown songs too, but about 75% rock atop the charts). This number gradually but steadily decreased until, by the late 90's there were only about 1 or 2 rock #1's a year. Now, there hasn't been a single rock #1 since "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback in late 2001/early 2002. What gives? I honestly don't know...There's almost always the presence of a rock song in the top 10 somewhere ("Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Mr. Brightsides", "Dirty Little Secret", "Sugar We're Going Down", just to name a few recent ones), but none have been able to break into number one yet, at least not for the last 4 years. Here's to hoping. As to "Bent", it's an okay song by an okay band, nothing special, not really as memorable as some of the band's earlier hits ("3 AM", "Real World", "Push") which never really crossed over to mainstream radio, but it certainly got its fair share of airplay, and isn't a bad song to choose to be their only #1, for a band that was popular enough to really deserve to have at least one number one.
Rating: 6/10

'N Sync - "It's Gonna Be Me"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Max Martin's second, and to current date last, number one hit.
Review/Comments: As I mentioned earlier in the Britney comment, this was the only of the songs in the Boy Band craze of the late 90's/early 00's to hit number one. And to be honest, it's my favorite song of that genre, by far. You can criticize these bands all you want, for being a product of their times, and for being a product of stupid young girls who don't care about music. But, this song was not a product of its times; it was not a product of any time...there was never a time in popular music when this kind of song was a dominant form of popular music. Compare it to other Boy Band songs, to "Bye, Bye, Bye" or to "I Want it That Way", listen to the weird hook and totally original production on this song compared to the others, and tell me this is a generic pop song. Tell me that this is a product of little girls who only care about how a singer looks and whether they have a decent voice, not the quality of the music. Whatever you do, don't just kneejerk dismiss this song because it's by 'N Sync.
Rating: 9/10

Sisqo - Incomplete
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Sisqo went to number one in 1999 as a member of Dru Hill, featured on the song "Wild Wild West"
Review/Comments: Of all the songs to hit number one in 1999/2000, none will probably a "WTF?" reaction quite like this song. However, there is a logical explanation to this song hitting number one. In early 2000, "The Thong Song" swept America, with it's catchy hook and absurd lyrics and music video. The song peaked all the way to number 3, despite never having a commerical single released. When the studio decided to release "Incomplete" to radio next, and to actually release a commercial single, they geniusly put on "The Thong Song" as a B-Side. "Incomplete" quickly shot up to number one, based mostly on sales, with little support from radio, although it did get some play on the genre-specific stations. As to the song itself, I affectionately have given it the nickname "GENERIC R&B BALLAD #23321". The song never should have hit number one, and it never would have, label machinations aside.
Rating: 2/10

Janet Jackson - "Doesn't Really Matter"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: Janet Jackson's 9th #1 hit brings her into a tie with Paul McCartney, The Bee Gees, and Stevie Wonder at 8th all time
Review/Comments: This song, from the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is one of my favorite Janet Jackson hits, though I do provide the caveat that I'm not a big Janet Jackson fan overall. It's interesting to note this song almost did not get included on the soundtrack, as Janet was not a fan of the song, and didn't want to record it. It's a good pop song though, not a great one, but not an embarrassment to the Billboard charts like some other hits ("Thank God I Found You"). This is not entirely an example of a song coasting to number one on reputation alone (though that certainly didn't hurt), this was a good song that probably would have been a hit with most artists.
Rating: 7/10

Madonna - "Music"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: Madonna's 12th and to date final number one hit. Also interesting to note that Madonna is currently tied with Elvis for most top 10 hits, and will almost certainly break that by the time she's through.
Review/Comments: This is really one of Madonna's better songs, especially when compared to her later output. Compared to any of her songs on the over-rated Ray of Light album, this one is much better; it really does evoke her earlier hits. I'd take this over any of Madonna's singles from the 90's, save "Secret". The Mirwais production on this song is what really makes it, with inferior production, this could easily have fallen into the same kind of mediocre dance trap that a lot of her mid to late 90s output fell in to. Also, this song has a great opening line "Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on I wanna dance with my baby". The one complaint I have about this song is that the melody on the chorus/hook does fall a little bit flat, but not enough to counteract the excellent verses and production. A return to form for Madonna, this song is better than a lot of her 80's hits as well ("Who's That Girl", "Open You Heart"), and it's also one her few dance songs to hit number one; as I believe I said before (in the comment on Cher's "Believe"), almost all of her number one hits have been ballads.
Rating: 8/10

Christina Aguilera - "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This song jumped straight from #11 to #1 on the charts, to date tied for the 12th largest leap to #1 in history (though, "Say My Name" did jump from #14 to #1)
Review/Comments: Continuing the theme of all Christina Aguilera's hits changing their titles, this song was named "All I Want Is You" by the original songwriters, until the record label changed the title, because they wanted the lyrics and the title to be sexier. This song has 9 songwriters listed for it, a real brain trust. According to the book of #1 hits I have, the reason for that is: 2 people who wrote the original melody and lyrics, a songwriting team of 3 people who wrote the music/beat, 2 people who touched up the melody to make it edgier, and 2 people who touched up the lyrics to make them sexier (including Christina herself) still doesn't really make sense to me why there needed to be 9 songwriters, but there it is. In addition, the end of the bridge to this song is taken from "What a Girl Wants", because they used to segue between the two songs in concert. As to this song itself, it again continues in the Christina tradition of slightly generic, but very good pop song with excellent vocals, and good production. The hook in the chorus is really catchy.
Rating: 8/10

Creed - "With Arms Wide Open"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The sales of the commercial single of this song went to benefit Scott Stapp's With Arms Wide Open Foundation.
Review/Comments: Ye gods, I have never been more disappointed in all my years of chart following as I was when this song hit number one. What a stridently awful song. I refuse to write anything else on this piece of trash.
Rating: 0/10, certainly one of my 10 least favorite songs of all time.

Destiny's Child - "Independent Women Part I"
Duration: 11 weeks
Fun Fact: Destiny's Child's Survivor album, featuring this song, was the last album to spawn 4 top 10 hits, until Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway repeated the feat in 2005.
Review/Comments: Lyrically, virtually the exact same song as "Bills, Bills, Bills", except with more random references to Charlie's Angels thrown in. I don't really care for this song at all, I find that the references to Charlie's Angels are tacky, and the hook falls totally flat in the chorus. The buildup in the pre-chorus is quite nice ("The shoes on my feet (I bought it)"), but the the chorus itself is just kind of annoying, and not catchy or entertaining at all, at least to me. I felt like all the singles from their third album were pretty weak, except for "Bootylicious", which fits firmly in the so ridiculous, it's good camp. Fits into the theme for this piece where there seems to be some sort of an inverse relationship between how long a song was number one and the rating it gets (not a perfect correlations, but all the songs that were #1 for 10 or more weeks got a rating of 4/10).
Rating: 4/10, as alluded to previously

Review/Comments for the year as a whole: This was a very good year for number one hits, in my opinion. There were a lot of terrible songs to hit number one, but there was probably more variety in styles of number one hits in this year than in any other year. We had R&B, Rock, and pop each having a few #1's, plus one country song for good measure, and a very strong presence of dance music. That may not seem like too much variety, but it's excellent compared to most years. (In fact, every song from 2003 forward which has hit number one has been R&B, except the American Idol tunes).

Final ranking of all the pop songs in 2000:
1. Destiny's Child - "Say My Name"
2. 'N Sync - "It's Gonna Be Me"
3. Aaliyah - "Try Again"
4. Enrique Iglesias - "Be With You"
5. Christina Aguilera - "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)"
6. Madonna - "Music" [would have ranked 3rd in 1999]
7. Janet Jackson - "Doesn't Really Matter"
8. Christina Aguilera - "What A Girl Wants"
9. Matchbox 20 - "Bent"
10. Vertical Horizon - "Everything You Want"
11. Destiny's Child - "Independent Women Part I"
12. Savage Garden - "I Knew I Loved You"
13. Santana ft. The Product G&B - "Maria Maria"
14. Sisqo - "Incomplete"
15. Lonestar - "Amazed"
16. Mariah Carey ft. Joe & 98 Degrees - "Thank God I Found You"
17. Creed - "With Arms Wide Open"

There are 5 of these songs which I would say should not have gone to number one: "With Arms Wide Open", "Thank God I Found You", "Maria Maria", "I Knew I Loved You", and "Incomplete"

SPECIAL NOTE: Most of the facts from this piece come from the book "The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits" by Fred Bronson, an excellent book which has far more details than this on all these songs, plus every other song that went to number one, up to and including "This Is the Night" by Clay Aiken.



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