195. JX - There's Nothing I Won't Do (Released: 1996, UK peak: #4)
Chart run: 7-4-7-9-12-17-17-20-26-31-41-56-63
JX (or Jake Williams in "real life") was a dance DJ who appeared during the mid-'90s and scored a number of hits before promptly disappearing again. This was his biggest single and remains for me one of those tracks that just invokes arms-aloft discotheque euphoria. A thumping, hi-NRG dance track featuring vocals from Shena, this doesn't have the musical depth or top-notch production of other songs from the genre at the time; it's simply a relentlessly catchy song and that's more or less all there is to it.
Indeed if further proof were needed that the 1996 release was pretty much perfect, you need only look at the version released by Ignition-X almost a decade later which is more or less identical to the original save for a slightly better sound quality. It's still got the same dizzying, frantically pounding synths, the vocals are more or less identical and it's still as uplifting as it ever was. Indeed I thought it was quite odd to not even attempt to update or alter the source track, but I suppose stranger things have happened (and the '00s version wasn't a hit in any case).
Although JX only charted a handful of singles, he never really had a proper "flop" (his worst performing track was 'Restless' which reached #22 in 2004). Equally his career in the '90s never really got going - although that's most likely because any momentum between hits was killed by the length of time for a follow-up. His first two tracks charted exactly a year apart and when he finally cracked the top ten in 1995 with a re-release of his debut single 'Son Of A Gun', 'There's Nothing I Won't Do' didn't appear for another nine months. Even the accumulation of two top ten singles didn't speed things up - his next release after this one came another ten months later. Needless to say anticipation was not high, indeed it was pretty much non-existent and a seven year hiatus from the charts ensued.
194. Next - Too Close (Released: 1998, UK peak: #24)
Chart run: 24-39-50
Billboard Hot 100 chart run: 45-29-24-22-14-13-11-10-4-3-1-1-1-1-2-1-2-2-3-3-3-3-4-6-7-6-8-9-9-14-13-11-9-11-13-17-18-16-17-16-20-20-32-28-30-32-39-34-27-30-43-48-50
In the UK this song is of course best known as Blue's second single (and their first to hit #1) after they covered it in 2001. In America it was also Next's second single and similarly their first (and only) to reach #1. If you're more familiar with Blue's version then all you really need to know is that they really didn't put their stamp on it at all - arguably they didn't need to given the original missed the top 20, but everything about theirs is more or less lifted wholesale from the original - to the point where it's debatable whether they even bothered to re-record the vocals in the chorus.
Although 'Too Close' doesn't exactly manage to forge a unique vocal identity for Next, their delivery of it does give the track a more genuine R&B tone and the ad-libs towards the end actually serve a purpose in bringing the song to a natural climax. One of the things definitely (and deliberately?) toned down in Blue's version is the sexual nature of the song - that's not to say Next's original is more explicit, but the production isn't as big and the beat just that bit more hypnotic - you get a much better sense of the lyrics and the intent of the track. I always felt that by comparison that side of things never really comes across in Blue's version despite the fact that both groups are singing exactly the same thing. In that sense I can totally see why this was such a massive hit since it's a very sexy club track, but I have no idea how they managed to garner such massive airplay on American radio - the spoken intro ("I wonder if she could tell I'm hard right now") could easily be edited out, but lines like "Step back you're dancing kinda close, I feel a little poke coming through, on you" seem like the kind of thing that would send concerned housewives into a FRENZY.
Clearly no one objected THAT strongly because 'Too Close' ended up being absolutely huge. It was the biggest song in America of 1998 and ended as the 16th biggest single of the decade. It was easily the group's biggest track; they did manage another top ten single in 2000 with 'Wifey' which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 (it was also their highest peaking release in the UK, albeit only making it to #19) but ultimately they failed to generate any other significant hits and when their third album 'The Next Episode' missed the top 100 in 2002, they left their record label. The group is still active though; a fourth album has been stuck in pre-release purgatory for approximately seven years (and counting).
193. Bryan Adams - Cloud Number Nine (Released: 1999, UK peak: #6)
Chart run: 6-10-17-28-42-45-52-61-69
Before Chicane got their hands on 'Cloud Number Nine' it was a perfectly pleasant mid-tempo album track with more obvious guitar and piano leanings than the single version. I'm not sure that it would necessarily have performed significantly worse had it not been remixed - in the aftermath of 'When You're Gone' and with the 'On A Day Like Today' album plodding along, his profile was quite high. But I really do love what Chicane did with this - having previously turned down the opportunity to remix a Bryan Adams track, this was the first of several times that the pair worked together in subsequent years.
Far from turning 'Cloud Number Nine' into a dance track, Chicane merely makes it even more radio friendly with the addition of a drum loop and some obligatory synths alongside a few vocal tweaks. It's not a massive transformation, but it just makes the song sound a bit more current and streamlined. The additional production frills give the track a hint of that dreamy, blissful vibe that Chicane does so well - it's most evident in the parts where the vocals are more heavily processed, like the swirling "number nine, number nine, number nine..." intro and middle-eight (which might actually just be the best bit of the song). None of the remix treatment takes anything away from the track itself or compromise Bryan Adams' presence on his own single - it still sounds like it belongs in his back-catalogue and sits quite comfortably amongst his rockier efforts.
The pair would eventually top the charts the following year with 'Don't Give Up' but Bryan Adams hasn't actually scored a new top 75 single in the UK for almost a decade now ('Summer Of '69' reached #47 last year). That said he still maintains a fairly high-profile - his last studio album reached #6 in the UK and he made an appearance on The X Factor in 2011 where he championed “the lady in the blue dress” (Amelia Lily).
192. Jade - Don't Walk Away (Released: 1993, UK peak: #7)
Chart run: 36-20-11-9-8-7-13-51
Billboard Hot 50 chart run: 43-27-21-17-13-13-9-9-7-4-5-5-5-5-6-7-10-11-10-13-15-16-21-25-26-36-35-40-44-50
Jade were a briefly semi-successful R&B group from America. In the UK they scored three top 20 singles, this one being the only to reach the top ten, whilst in America they scored six entries on the Billboard Hot 100 and released two albums which failed to reach the top 50. 'Don't Walk Away' was unsurprisingly their biggest hit and continues to amass a small amount of recurrent airplay as well as making infrequent appearances on R&B compilations.
I think this is the perfect little R&B summer jam from the delivery through to the bouncy beat. Tthis really isn't the kind of track that would benefit from being sung to within an inch of its life; rightly so, the vocals are tight and cohesive without any showboating (even though there must have been the temptation to do so since TLC were rapidly setting the benchmark for R&B girl groups around the same time). The track has quite a "lightweight" sound about it; it's not a thumping R&B track but for the most part closer to a pleasant little radio-friendly pop ditty than anything. That is until the last minute or so when 'Don't Walk Away' suddenly veers into a particularly enjoyable stuttered breakdown which is nicely offset against the rest of the track before it recovers for a final chorus.
'Don't Walk Away' hung around the Billboard Hot 100 for quite some time, whilst in the UK it had a slightly bizarre chart run where it peaked at #7 in its sixth week on the chart and then dropped like a stone, leaving the top 75 just a few weeks later. The song has re-visited the chart in the years since it first charted - in 2004 it was covered by Javine and released as a "make or break" single after a series of underperforming releases. The obvious flaw being that whilst perfectly enjoyable and pleasant, 'Don't Walk Away' just isn't the kind of song that has enough legacy or punch to revive and sustain a career - if it couldn't do it for Jade then it wasn't going to do it for Javine.
191. Five - If Ya Gettin' Down (Released: 1999, UK peak: #2)
Chart run: 2-4-6-9-13-20-28-40-47-55-67-75
Five's second album really felt like the moment where their image and sound fell into place - they'd released songs along the same lines as this previously ('When The Lights Go Out' and 'Everybody Get Up') but here it all felt much more polished and deliberate - I particularly liked Abs and J ()'s black outfits in the video which looked like they were about to go and work the door at a nearby club.
There are so many highlights in 'If Ya Gettin' Down', it's a relentless assault of hook after hook and I could barely pick them apart. The rapping is absolutely perfect, it works so well - there are moments where the track almost sounds tongue-in-cheek, particularly with the inclusion of comedy record scratches alongside ridiculous lines like "Wiggy wiggy, I'm getting jiggy, open up the door, I got the keys to your city". What really makes it work for me is the conviction with which it's delivered - it never stops being a FUN pop song but it's the kind of track that wouldn't work if the group wasn't completely committed to it. It's brash, it's big and it's cocky, that's what really completes it - although credit also has to go to the bassline sampled from 'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life' which creates a looming undertone for Five to play around in.
I can't discuss 'If Ya Gettin' Down' without acknowledging the pre-chorus which is easily amongst the group's finest moments (it might even be the BEST). Usually moments in pop songs designed to invoke audience participation don't work at all for me (see: the whole of Justin Timberlake's 'Señorita') but this one was a personal pop music highlight of 1999 for me:
I heard somebody say (WHAT?)
She's at the party so (HUH)
I'm gonna get me some
The song's recent inclusion in The Big Reunion concert confirmed that although it didn't reach #1 (it was held off by Ricky Martin's 'Livin' La Vida Loca'), it remains one of Five's most popular tracks and still sounds fantastic now - partially because it's not as obvious a choice as 'Keep On Movin' or 'Everybody Get Up' which seem to be the two most common tracks that DJ's reach for. 'If Ya Gettin' Down' really kickstarted probably the most successful phase of Five's career (in the UK at least) - although the 'Invincible' album was their lowest peaking studio release (their debut reached #1 whilst the follow-up peaked at #3), it went on to house two #1 singles and ended up their biggest seller, after which it all fairly quickly imploded.