The Story of Pop: 2000 (Chapter 8)

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Welcome one and all to this week’s installment of The Story of Pop: 2000, as we continue our look back, week by week, of the runners and riders – and all the big hits – from the UK charts of two decades ago. This week: one of the Nineties’ foremost girl groups return with that year’s second biggest seller…

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By mid-February 2000, it had been 448 days, 10,752 hours and 645,120 minutes since All Saints had released ‘War of Nerves’, the fifth and final single from their self titled debut album, which had spawned off three number one singles – including the million selling ‘Never Ever’ – and sold over 10m albums worldwide.

In that time, they’d gone on a sold out tour of the UK, Melanie Blatt had given birth to her daughter, Lily Ella, and they’d still been in the public eye for their men, their Met Bar antics, and of course, those ever omnipresent rumours about their long term future as a group which saw them constantly in and out of meetings with lawyers.

But as a new millennium dawned, they had a new album – their second, ‘Saints & Sinners’ – ready to come out the starting blocks, and they decided to announce their return with a song that was sonically a million miles away from what had come before, whilst still sounding unmistakeably like them.

Whilst Melanie and Nicole and Natalie Appleton signed up to appear in the Dave Stewart directed crime caper Honest, Shaznay Lewis was also getting into the movies. She was approached by Danny Boyle, the famed director of Brit flick Trainspotting, amongst other things, to work with – yes, him again – William Orbit on a song for a new film adaptation of the popular Alex Garland novel The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

‘They showed me less than a minute of a clip of where the song was going to go, played the backing track, and asked me to write to it based on that scene,’ Shaznay recalled in a recent interview with HuffPost. ‘It was a case of watch this, be inspired, go off and give it a go … [and] it was quite an enjoyable process because it was the first time I’d done something like that … It’s a nice way of storytelling.’

Coupled with a memorable, and suitably dreamy, psychedelic night vision heavy video shot on the beautiful Holkham beach in Norfolk, ‘Pure Shores’ saw All Saints be welcomed back with open arms by the British record buying public, and it shot straight to number one exactly twenty years ago.

It stayed there for two weeks in all as the fourth chart topper of their career, and it was the biggest selling single in the UK for much of 2000 until all but the last three weeks of the year. The follow-up single, the equally dreamy ‘Black Coffee’ followed it to the top in October, along with the ‘Saints & Sinners’ album. But then, by year’s end, after one acrimonious argument too many – chiefly over a jacket – All Saints were no more by the start of 2001.

They have since forgiven, reconvened and reunited, releasing three more stellar albums in the shape of ‘Studio 1’ (2006), ‘Red Flag’ (2016) and ‘Testament’ (2018), and this summer will even be supporting Westlife when they play at Wembley Stadium in August. But to this week, and to ‘Pure Shores’, a record that still stands proud today as a brilliant 21st century pop single, and one of the crowning glories to the legacy of All Saints.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2000. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2000.

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