The 31st volume of the Hits series, New Hits ’98, was released in March 1998. Making the “featuring” section of the front cover were Celine Dion, Cornershop, Run DMC, Five, Oasis, Will Smith, Aqua, Backstreet Boys, Another Level, Natalie Imbruglia, Cleopatra, All Saints “and many more.”
Just five of the 40 tracks had already appeared on previous compilations:
Now Dance ’97: Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life.
Now That’s What I Call Music 38: All Saints – I Know Where It’s At, Lighthouse Family – Raincloud.
The Best Of Dance ’97: Robyn – Show Me Love.
The 1998 Brit Awards: Jamiroquai – High Times.
CD1 is front-loaded with heavy hitters. Run DMC’s 1983 debut single, It’s Like That, was remixed by house DJ Jason Nevins at end of 1997 and went on to sell over 5,000,000 copies, topping the UK charts for six weeks. The memorable promo video featured a male vs female breakdance battle on the streets of L.A. Sadly for the Spice Girls, It’s Like That brought their run of #1 singles to and end with Stop stalling at #2. In close proximity are Five with the colourful When The Lights Go Out and Cleopatra’s Theme, a one hit wonder on the joys of dancing in your room. Plus Will Smith’s ace Getting Jiggy With It, built on samples of Sister Sledge’s He’s The Greatest Dancer and The Bar-Kays’ Sang And Dance.
Another unlikely success were Cornershop whose Brimful Of Asha 45 also hit the jackpot in early ’98 when reissued and remixed by Norman Cook. The band had previous critical acclaimed; NME plaudits for In The Days Of Ford Cortina and Lock, Stock and Double Barrel EPs, the hypnotic 12″ singles 6am Jullander Shere and Butter The Soul, a perfectly-realised third album When I Was Born For The Seventh Time while Brimful topped John Peel’s Festive 50 of 1997. However the enhanced version of their tribute to Indian playback singer Asha Bhosle set them firmly into the public domain and it remains a pivotal ’90s memory. I still haven’t found a curry-coloured 7″ of the first EP though. Anyone?
The debut single from Another Level – Be Alone No More – continues the smooth R&B groove – ’98 boyband style. This is replicated later with the more experienced sound of the Backstreet Boys on the emotional All I Have To Give. Time for some baroque chords to meet a dance rhythm: Aqua’s Mattel doll tribute Barbie Girl. Or if you prefer social commentary that’s dissing femininity. Break out the moves for the Italian singer Alexia’s sparkling international breakthrough Uh La La La. Staying global, Cameroon’s Wes and the evocative Alane which is sung in Duala. It now plays back like a Pure Mood tune, recalling the peaceful era before the new millennium. Edit: it’s on World Moods.
Finley Quaye drops Your Love Gets Sweeter and we all smile. Total positive rush. More birth: Destiny’s Child set out their stall with No, No, No. This is Part 2 – the remix – with Wyclef Jean on guitar. Dolls #2: Barbi Benton’s Ain’t That Just The Way is given a soulful makeover by Lutricia McNeal. 2,000,000 sold. Getting into a serious groove is Shola Ama’s intense Much Love while Peter Andre joins forces with Warren G on the tasty as honey All Night All Right. Hey ho. And its the end of the road for OTT on their gorgeous Story Of Love, the ballad that keeps on giving. The first half ends with Wham! and their faster ’97 update of Everything She Wants – a funky house sound courtesy of Forthright.
CD2: Natalie Imbruglia take #2 – the sprawling Big Mistake, the follow-up to Torn. Video shot in Barcelona and inspired by Godard’s Weekend. Part of the indie sequence; it was also compiled on Shine 10 later on that year. Nice treat next, the radio edit of Oasis’ All Around The World, the epic blizzard of sound that closes Be Here Now. In competition: Catatonia whose manic pop thrill Mulder And Scully still comes across a helium-filled hook-laden classic. Bedfellows Space are next, unleashing Avenging Angels, not a riposte to Robbie Williams. What comes afterwards is absolutely horrendous; I can say with definite certainty that Lilys’ Maid In Manhattan is the worst track in the entire Hits series. The most ugly cacophony of noise that I’ve ever heard. Take a bow.
Celine Dion’s The Reason zips by anonymously but not before a messy guitar solo. M People’s Angel St is an improvement but a little bit away from their best work despite the sax solo. Deep disco time, a jumpin’ pumper from Juliet Roberts, the aptly named So Good. There’s a look back to the recent past on De’Lacy’s Hideaway. You’ll remember the 1995 original appearing on Smash Hits 3. Now it gets the mean speed garage treatment. Meanwhile get ready to scatter and swing with Lionrock’s devastatingly great take on Rude Boy Rock. Rap action: Puff Daddy’s guitar-heavy It’s All About The Benjamins (Rock Mix), Ginuwine’s exciting Holler and Mase’s catchy Feel So Good. Would Mogwai approve?
If you can’t beat ’em. . . Jay-Z gets Gwen Dickey to join him on his cover of Rose Royce’s Wishing On A Star. This version appeared on the UK version of In My Lifetime Volume 1. Following this hip hop stretch is Dannii Minogue’s seriously frantic Disrememberance. And now, electronica Kylie. The sumptuous Breathe is lifted from Impossible Princess and became her final single for Deconstruction. It’s a seductive and hypnotic groove that still sounds amazing 20 years on. One for the primary discos – Steps 5, 6, 7, 8 that sounds like the bastard son of Cotton Eye Joe. We finish with an exclusive: The Cast From Casualty murdering Everlasting Love. Instant karma. And it’s back to music now. . .
Natalie Imbruglia – Big Mistake
Wes – Alane
Lionrock – Rude Boy Rock
Kylie Minogue – Breathe
Oasis – All Around The World
Lest we forget
OTT – The Story Of Love
Missing tracks and other thoughts
A solid round-up of the winter / early spring chart action. Some more tunes which could also make a case for inclusion:
Teletubbies – Teletubbies Say Eh Oh. Does a bear shit in the woods?
Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey – History Repeating. Another banger.
Rakim – Guess Who’s Back. The Northbrook Avenue year – a favourite spin.
David Holmes – Don’t Die Just Yet. Cinematic shuffle with ace remixes.
Usher – You Make Me Wanna. A chart-topper that’s not that well remembered.
Green Day – Time Of Your Life. Bitter not sweet. For the mallrats.
ETA – Casual Sub (Burning Spear). Funky demon all across my KAMs.
You’ll notice that I haven’t commented much recently – this is predominantly because 97 was a bit of a tipping point for me when I lost interest in music for a while. As a result I don’t share your enthusiasm for many of the tracks on here, in particular I found almost every Will Smith song of this era risible and derivative in the extreme!
However….for some reason I can’t explain I REALLY love ‘Disremembrance’ by Dannii.
1 point to note: Cleopatra weren’t one hit wonders, they had 3 or 4 Top 40 singles IIRC.
Hi Andy – no worries, thanks for your reply. I kept my “hand in” the pop / charts world then (by buying compilations) while primarily being interested in other less mainstream releases. I can appreciate the tunes a little more with the passage of time. Good call on Disremembrance and point taken re Cleopatra; this was the one that stood out most.
I will be back in the 1980s around October when I start tackling the Now Millennium series (1980 – 1999).
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Hi Paul, I think this was the last in the series that I played a lot! Strangely sequenced album in that it wanders from different genres with almost free abandonment. Rude Boy Rock is one of my favourites of all time and I only discovered it on here.
I’d just read your great review of Now 39 and decided to look this up for obvious reasons. I couldn’t help noticing that one album cover is much more appealing than the other and it got me thinking. This reborn Hits series hardly had the most appealing covers in comparison with the Nows – artwork was almost non-existent! Does it matter? Probably not.
Rude Boy Rock is still played a lot here. Agree re the covers, very basic and not much thought in them – wouldn’t really catch the casual eye!