[15] Ne-Yo, ‘Closer’

Ne-Yo

Hats in pop. It’s not fashion; these stars are bald as a cue ball. Pete Doherty, Captain Sensible, Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes, Noddy Holder – all 100% cooters. In the comforting warmth of the studio, while penning and producing songs for the likes of Britney Spears, Paula Abdul, Rihanna and Beyoncé (the peerless ‘Irreplaceable’), Ne-Yo can let his chrome dome run free. But get him up on stage, and those spotlights aren’t going to stand for it.

Sorry, the song: the first real heavyweight of the countdown, a shining example of black American music’s bold ambition, ‘Closer’ is an r’n’b tune in pumping dancefloor clothing. It oozes confidence even as Ne-Yo bemoans his powerlessness.

This was one for the iPod on the bus, as Junior sat and listened carefully. I tapped her on the shoulder a minute or so in and asked if she knew what the song was: “Closer,” was the matter-of-fact reply – and I don’t think I’ve ever played it to her before. She announced it was “dancey”, which I suppose would please the lad.

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[9] Britney Spears, ‘…Baby One More Time’

Britney Spears

Odd to think that this is the first time Junior’s heard this, when the rest of us could probably sing it in our sleep. That’s almost the case for her too – I have to wake her up, and we grab our jukebox moment in the five minutes before we need to scoot off to nursery. Junior greets the song with a blend of crying, laughing, dancing and squawking. She’s obviously been watching Britters’ recent videos.

With this record, teeny pop took a swerve for the better, beefing up its sound and realising that the kids wanted something more than saccharine ballads. Which was hardly rocket science. The 8-12 year olds used to buy Blondie, Duran Duran, Frankie, A-ha, all of whom had a bit of muscle behind the velvet. Surely the 90s kids could cope? OK, I suppose some of this record’s success was down to the school uniform – no accounting for dubious taste – but it’s still top-drawer power pop.

Of course, Britney’s second single was ‘Sometimes’, a sugarsweet ballad.