Feb 28, 2024

Ultimate 90s number one: Should we praise Fatboy Slim like we should?

Yesterday, I announced my quest to discover the best UK number one single of the 1990s. My two main judging criteria were (a) is it a banger? and (b) is it bleepy?

Time to delve into my first randomly-picked noisebag of nineties tunes. Here are the first contenders, including the record label and the date it got to number one.

The contenders

All Saints, Under the Bridge / Lady Marmalade  |  Boyzone, A Different Beat  |  B*Witched, C'est la Vie  |  Deep Blue Something, Breakfast at Tiffany's  |  DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Boom! Shake the Room  |  Fatboy Slim, Praise You  |  Hanson, MMMBop  |  Lou Bega, Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of...)  |  Michael Jackson, Black or White  |  Tori Amos, Professional Widow (It's Got to Be Big)

Harpooning the worst

Let's harpoon some blubber before we've even cast anchor. Lou Bega can get lost, with his mangling of 1940s Cuban instrumental Mambo No. 5. I don't want to know how much he fancies Monica, Erica, Ethel and Ermintrude. 

And apologies to any Friends fans, but I rewatched a load of Friends over lockdown, and it's horribly one-dimensional and depressing. Deep Blue Something are deep blue nothing. 

Oh and no Boyzone. Absolutely no Boyzone.

A black and white decision

That's three of this ten dispatched pretty quickly. Now it gets more difficult. Black or White is Michael Jackson's best single of the 1990s, but that's not saying much. This whole period felt like echoes of his more spectacular past. 

At the other end of the pop careers were All Saints and B*Witched, the first with a questionable cover version and the second with too much denim. 

And that Hanson single was a, er, bop, but have you heard it recently? Utter hogwash.

A Tori victory?

Which leaves us with three genuinely impressive singles. Boom! Shake the Room, Praise You and Professional Widow.

I knew all the lyrics to the Fresh Prince's 1993 hit Boom! Shake the Room. "Pump it up, Prince!" I used to shout before going "tick, tick, tick, tick, boom" and doing a bomb impression with my hands. The track was so joyful, and yet hinted towards a violence that would erupt at the 94th Oscars when Smith tolchocked Chris Rock across the choppers. Rather too banging for my liking.

Next? Fatboy Slim's Praise You topped the charts in early 1999, and was pay-off for Norman Cook's incredible transformation from humble Housemartin into big beat remixer extraordinaire. He brought the Roland TB-303 to the forefront of chart popularism, and even made Cornershop cool. The sample-and-paste simplicity of Praise You had us all dancing around ghetto blasters. 

You may be less aware of Tori Amos's 1997 hit Professional Widow. You could dismiss Amos as kooky, but here was a titanic talent who refused to compromise in an era of uncompromising women: step forward Polly Harvey and Bjork. In a way, it's a shame that the single that topped the UK charts was a Armand van Helden remix, because it reduced her fascinating complexities to vocal fragments. Still. Very much a banger.

Praising the best

Praise You is the best of the batch. It may not have had Christopher Walken defying gravity, as in one of Fatboy Slim's other videos, but it fits my criteria perfectly. It bangs. It bleeps. We're going to go a long, long way together.

I guess Mr Slim moves forward to.. the final? Yes, let's have a final. Plenty more of this to come.

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