As the end of the decade approached, Now That’s What I Call Music 44 became the best-selling volume of the entire series, shifting a massive 2,300,000 copies – many of them purchased to soundtrack New Year’s Eve millennium parties. This sales record remains intact. When you listen to it, you’ll understand why. Even 19 years on, it still comes across as brilliantly sequenced and packjammed with bangers.
There are 17 instances where another compilation got in first:
Big Hits ’99: Lou Bega – Mambo No. 5, Eiffel 65 – Blue (Da Ba Dee), Sixpence None The Richer – Kiss Me, Moloko – Sing It Back, Jamiroquai – Canned Heat.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1999: The Millennium Series: Ronan Keating – When You Say Nothing At All, Texas – Summer Son, Lolly – Hey Mickey, Shaft – (Mucho Mambo) Sway, DJ Jean – The Launch.
Now Dance 2000: Geri Halliwell – Mi Chico Latino (Charlie Rapino Version), Bob Marley vs Funkster De Luxe – Sun Is Shining, Ann Lee – 2 Times, Alice Deejay – Back In My Life (Thrillseekers Remix Edit), Tin Tin Out featuring Emma Bunton – What I Am (Groove Chronicle Remix), .
Huge Hits ’99: Tom Jones & The Cardigans – Burning Down The House.
The Greatest Hits Of 1999: R Kelly – If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time.
There’s no doubt that the opening salvo is extremely impressive – despite the age of some of the tracks. Britney Spears’ hook-laden Baby One More was the sound of March while Shania Twain’s frantic That Don’t Impress Me Much kicked off at the start of the summer. By the time Now 44 came out, both were riding high with You Drive Me Crazy and Man, I Feel Like A Woman. “Candy-pop-with-a-funky-edge smash” was how Entertainment Weekly’s Beth Johnson described the Britney tune. “This should be the national anthem for girls using Tinder.” is what Mark Batarina says about Shania’s catchy winner. Steps’ stupendously brilliant cover of the Bee Gees’ Tragedy was even older, harking back to November 1998. Then there was the dance step of putting both hands parallel to the sides of the head in time with the song title, which became a trademark of the group.
After the tropical loveland sound of Geri Halliwell’s Mi Chico Latino, Robbie Williams drops a piano-driven cover of World Party’s She’s The One. Nice. The original won an Ivor Novello award in 1997 while Robbie’s prizes included 2000 Brit Awards for British Single of the Year and British Video of the Year. There’s more spice on Mel C’s gorgeously dreamy Northern Star – incredible vocal too. The music video was shot in Brighton with scenes of a desert, fast trains and miners. This reflective period continues with Sixpence’s Kiss Me before Texas’ Summer Son ups the tempo for Roisin Murphy to Sing It Back and the sunny Bob Marley reboot continuing to stoke the fire. Next comes the sublime Not Over You Yet from the legendary Diana Ross and Tina Turner’s final appearance on the series, the energetic When The Heartache Is Over, produced by the Believe team (Rawling & Taylor).
The sun is out – finally – so I am listening to Drinking In LA. Bran Van 3000 is derived etymologically from Swedish liquor Brännvin, a style of spirit that can only be described as as low-grade vodka. They were founded by DJ James Di Salvio and E.P. Bergen, the latter drove a taupe coloured Volkswagen Camper Van around Montreal in the mid 1990s. It’s a perfect driving song, steeped in nostalgia for me. More buzz: Supergrass and the timeless Moving, a sweeping slice of beauty. You’ll remember it from the closing credits of East Is East which was set in 1971. I saw it in the recently-demolished Screen cinema. CD1 ends with Phil Collins’ uptempo ballad You’ll Be In Heart, from Disney’s Tarzan. The song went on to win the Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Original Song.
Disc 2 starts off on a downbeat vibe with R Kelly’s soaring ballad, If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time. On the original demo his mother Sadie sang it with him. Moving on with a double solo Spice whammy: more Geri on the joyous Lift Me Up while Tin Tin Out employ Baby on What I Am. Our Tiff’s I’ve Got You shows some marginal improvement from the anemic Perfect Moment. Some infectious boyband stylings next – starting with the pounding Larger Than Life from a meaner, keener Backstreet Boys. Coming afterwards is the true diamond in the mine, former New Kid On The Block, Jordan Knight’s explosive Give It To You. Carnival pop meets a trippy form of R&B, almost drum ‘n’ bass in parts and reeking of Timbaland meets Sgt Pepper. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Growing up: Gabrielle’s wonderfully positive Sunshine followed by Honeyz’s soulful Never Let You Down featuring the voice of Mariama Goodman for the first time. It’s time to move over darlings for S Club 7 and their story, S Club Party. Each line of the song’s second verse describes a different member of the group: “Tina’s doin’ her dance, Jon’s lookin’ for romance, Paul’s gettin’ down on the floor, while Hannah’s screamin’ out for more. Wanna see Bradley swing? Wanna see Rachel do her thing? Then we got Jo, she’s got the flow – get ready everybody ’cause here we go!” Like James Last’s Introduction on his 1974 live album. And the music video was filmed in the Californian desert – in the famous setting of Vasquez Rocks – on the set of the Back To The ’50s special.
Pumping up the sound system are Vengaboys with the Balearic oddity We’re Going To Ibiza. We go Latin with Enrique Iglesias (son of Julio) and the hoary Bailamos. Naturally Shaft’s Sway comes next. And then the clubbing starts: ATB’s Don’t Stop is melancholy autumnal trance while Groove Armada’s I See You Baby is described as “impending chart invasion” – thanks to Gram’ma and Fatboy Slim. Now a Victims selection – Project’s hypnotic King Of My Castle which is followed by Alice Deejay’s pounding Back In My Life. Right about now, the funk force brothers or Alena’s mournful spacer Turn It Around. Elsewhere Tina Cousins’ haunting Madonna-like slowburner Angel gets a second outing (along with a remix by Tall Paul). To the end: a summer smash from Liquid Child – Diving Faces. An anthem from the Human Traffic soundtrack. 1999, what a year.
Steps – Tragedy
Britney Spears – Baby One More Time
S Club 7 – S Club Party
Bran Van 3000 – Drinking In LA
Melanie C – Northern Star
Lest we forget
Jordan Knight – Give It To You
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Probably the best volume since Now That’s What I Call Music 29. Five years is a long time. If they ditched six of the previously compiled songs, this lot would have fitted on:
Pet Shop Boys – New York City Boy. End of decade Go West.
The Charlatans – Forever. The one with the enchanting bass.
Buffalo Tom, Liam Gallagher and Steve Cradock – Carnation. Jam on it.
Gomez – Rhythm and Blues Alibi. Bring it off.
Travis – Turn. Possibly their most melodic few minutes.
Blur – No Distance Left To Run. The split vs asleep.
And thanks to Smash Hits Mag for this advert.