The year is 2003, a four-year-old Sam has just received his first album and has it blasting on repeat all day long while choreographing thrilling dance movements to each song. It isn’t just one singer’s album though, oh no, instead it’s the greatest complication album every created in the history of music – Pop Party. Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Avril Lavigne, P!nk and it even had Aqua; all these various musical talents combining into one of the greatest albums ever, having anyone who listened to it dancing and singing along like there isn’t a tomorrow. It was revolutionary to me, so much so in fact, that I wouldn’t receive my next album for at least another four years, and so all the album’s lyrics, song orders and quirks and ingrained into every fibre of my brain as well as explaining why my music taste has sadly failed to be anything other than those early 2000s’ pop bangers.
What song started this complication? Well, it was no other than Spears’ magnum opus ‘Baby One More Time’. With its iconic keyboard opening and those lyrics we all know (“oh baby baby”), in a moment the Sam my family knew was gone as I instantly let my inner woman out (she’d never come back in after this) and started singing in the back of my throat with a surprising accurateness to Spears rendition (this is a fact, four-year-old me remembers harmonising perfectly and so it must be true, no matter what my family say). It was a power-move to start any album this way, but now imagine the next song was Busted’s ‘Year 3000’ or even ‘Sk8er Boi’ by Avril Lavigne; the bar which was initially already set high had been raised to whole new levels and I couldn’t get enough of it. I strutted up and down my room with an entourage of personalities created by this album, leading me to retrospectively wonder if it was this album which caused my later identity crisis (that was a joke by the way).
Yet, an early 2000s’ album wouldn’t be a hit without those cheesy pop songs, right? Anyone remember the PHENOMENAL and GROUNDBREAKING ‘Asereje (The Ketchup Song)’ by Las Ketchup, a Spanish song that is unarguably the definition of celebrating Spanish culture and music. Well, that was track 8. Or what about the ‘Fast Food Song’ by Fast Food Rockers, with those nothing short of masterful lyrics which go “a Pizza Hut, a Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a Pizza Hut” or “McDonald’s, McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a Pizza Hut” – let me tell you, that was track 9. Then you had S Club 7‘s ‘Reach’, or Steps’ ‘Tragedy’, Venagboys ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’, but wait, there was more. It even had one of the greatest songs ever made in the history of music with the masterpiece that is Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’, the song every straight guy said he hated but we all know they secretly love it. It was the ultimate cheesey-music-lovers dream, and I personally think it would make for a great night at any club on the cheese floor (or Jesters anyone?).
Sure it had some songs which were more of a miss than a hit. Gareth Gates’ ‘Spirit In The Sky’ anyone? Atomic Kitten’s ‘The Tide is High’? When I was younger I often skipped these songs, but on an album which also contained Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, DJ Otzi’s ‘Hey Baby (Uhh, Ahh) and Baha Men’s ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’; it was a complication made up with more hits than misses and it was simply an album I couldn’t get enough of. All I can really say is this whole album lives rent-free in my head and it really was the best album to be gifted as my first album. Weirdly enough though, I misremember Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’ as being one of the songs, a huge disappointment when I relistened to the album very recently, but that didn’t stop me from reliving a childhood fantasy (I still remember some of the very complicated floor movements I prepared for some of the songs).
Jokes aside. Pop Party really was what its complication title suggested. A party of pop songs that had anyone who listened to it up and ready; four-year-old me can’t even begin to explain how great it was as an album. It went from high to high, and laid the foreground for the love of cheesy music within me, generating a huge appreciation for the music that the turn of the century brought us. I mean, it may have not been the high of the early 80s, but I didn’t appreciate that back then, so I can fondly say this really was the album that got me started and in love with the world of music.