Pop Essays #27: Zero 7 feat. Sia and Sophie Barker, ‘Destiny’

Welcome to this week’s Pop Essays, where as always every Thursday, I bring you my thoughts and general love on a personal classic from my extensive music library. And this week’s one is just a little bit gorgeous so let’s see what it is, shall we?

  • Artist: Zero 7 feat. Sia and Sophie Barker
  • Song: Destiny
  • Release Date: 06/08/2001
  • Writers: Sia Furler / Henry Binns / Sam Hardaker / Sophie Barker
  • Producers: Zero 7
  • Chart Run: 30 – 46 – 55

Now you’ll have to forgive me before we start. When I first started planning out which songs I was going to write about on which weeks for this series, I had always earmarked this one for the start of July, reasoning that the time of year to write about it would be perfect.

Alas as I write this, it is grey, wet and a bit blustery and I have candles lit. So you’ll have to allow me some poetic licensing on this occasion, dear pop pickers. That established, I invite you to grab a chilled drink of choice, go barefoot, get comfy and enjoy the soothing sounds of this week’s featured lost gem as if it were a balmy summer’s evening.

I did state that one of the reasons I didn’t do a The Story of Pop series for 2001 was because in order to offer an accurate account of the charts of that year, it would mean not getting to write about my actual favourites from that year which deserved far better. Alas, with the contractual need to write about ’21 Seconds’ or ‘Pure & Simple’ when I care about neither record dispatched, I am a master of my own pursuits.

The early 00s were a somewhat eclectic time for me musically speaking. The pure pop I had grown up in the last two years immersed in was slowly beginning to be looked upon by both my peers and the public in general with fickle derision. What was coming through – the grittier, less appealing side of UK garage, the urbanification of US teen pop favourites and nu-metal – wasn’t appealing to me.

I instead sought musical bliss in some of the more ambient sounding electronic dance tracks and albums that were around at the time. In fact, there is a playlist I have on my Spotify called Chilled Summer, which is full and plenty of songs like Air’s ‘All I Need’, Moby’s ‘Porcelain’, Groove Armada’s ‘At the River’ and this song.

There is a tendency amongst music snobs to dismiss such music as ‘Chillout’, a sort of lazy yet loaded byword for a genre that they reason is only listened to by overtly stressed corporate executives who like a foot spa with an M&S 2 for £10 Dine In after a hard day in the office.

To place Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, aka Zero 7 under such a bracket is, I believe, a massive discredit of their talent. More so when you consider firstly their pedigree (between them, production and engineering work on tracks for Pet Shop Boys, Robert Plant and Radiohead), and secondly who their guest vocalists and songwriters were on this, their debut single from the summer of exactly two decades ago.

For yes, before she took to having a fringe to rival both Dougal from The Magic Roundabout and Claudia Winkleman, ‘Destiny’ was quite a few people’s introduction to Australian singer-songwriter Sia (years before David Guetta backed genericness came calling), together with the quite brilliant and ethereally voiced Sophie Barker.

The result, a lush, dreamy and melodic yet soulful number about a long distance relationship, was quite simply marvellous: “When I’m weak, I draw strength from you / And when you’re lost, I know how to change your mood / And when I’m down, you breathe life over me / Even though we’re miles apart, we are each other’s / Destiny-y-y-y”.

Issued as a single after their Mercury Prize nominated debut album Simple Things was released at the start of August that year, it curiously and unfairly underperformed, barely scraping the top 30.

But its extensive use on a number of soundtracks (chiefly US TV series Smallville and indie flick The Garden State) and ‘Essential Chillout’ compilation albums over the next year and a bit that followed did afford them the chance to be a slow burner.

In all, Zero 7’s debut album would go on to spend 56 weeks in the UK album chart, selling over half a million copies in the process. Viewed in strictly commercial terms, and by virtue of being on the album, ‘Destiny’ is probably better known than we are giving it credit for. But whenever the weather feels a bit more like that where you can sit in the garden with a Kopparberg on ice at 8pm, then this is the track to do it with.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new Pop Essays playlist on Spotify, which includes all the songs we’ve written about. What are your memories of this week’s featured song or band? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or message us on our Instagram.

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