The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 11)

It’s Thursday, and time as always to revisit the big hits of two decades ago on the UK charts, with The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: the most unlikely film soundtrack success of the year. Booyakasha!

  • Artist: Ali G and Shaggy
  • Song: Me Julie
  • Released: 11/03/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Orville Richard Burrell /  Dave Kelly / Sacha Baron Cohen / Dan Mazer
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 14

Let us make no bones about this; had we chosen to write about 2001 last year, then it is indisputable that Mr Lover Lover himself, Shaggy, would have undoubtedly been one of its biggest stories we covered.

Having been dropped from his label after the downturn in sales from his initial success with the likes of “Oh Carolina” and “Boombastic” in the mid 90s, he came firing back on all cylinders with “It Wasn’t Me”, the worldwide smash denying every romantic wrongdoing to his name.

Number one here and just about everywhere else across the globe, it was also the biggest selling record of that year in the UK, shifting over a million copies, with follow-up single “Angel” also providing him with another chart topper from his multiplatinum album Hot Shot.

But after winning a BRIT Award for Best International Male at the start of 2002, few could have predicted that his next musical manoeuvre would have been into a film soundtrack – and a most unusual one at that. For this, we have to set the wayback machine a little bit further still, to 1998.

Channel 4’s satirical sketch series The 11 O’Clock Show had helped launch the careers of Ricky Gervais, Mackenzie Crook, and one Sacha Baron Cohen. It was the latter who appeared as different characters in a number of skits, but perhaps the best known of all of these was that of Alistair Leslie Graham, or, as he was known to his “West Staines massiv”, Ali G.

Such was the popularity of the character – hell, even Richard Madeley memorably dressed up as him whilst hosting This Morning one time, lest we forget (video’s still here if you want to cringe at it) – that eventually Cohen’s alter ego spun off into a chat show called Da Ali G Show, which then also led to a number of other star turns.

Amongst them was that guest cameo in the video for Madonna’s own chart topper “Music“, a now infamous interview with Victoria and David Beckham on Red Nose Day for Comic Relief, and hosting the MTV Europe Music Awards. The next logical step therefore, was the big screen.

It’s always a tricky thing when a comedy character that’s started off on TV leaps into a movie, as the task then abounds of how to sustain the laughs that usually only work in 30 minute time slots over a two hour film instead. In strictly commercial terms, Ali G Indahouse did hit the mark – raking in £17.2 million at the box office.

The soundtrack’s main song, “Me Julie” – about Mr G’s other half, who was played by future EastEnders star Kellie Bright in the film – came backed with a video mimicking every hip-hop / reggae motif in the book, and with Shaggy playing along with tongue firmly in cheek (let’s be honest, it’s impossible to deliver a line like “Woman ya turn me on with ya big Babylons” with any kind of pathos) it just about kept it on the right line of humour without rinsing the barrel of comedy dry.

Entering and peaking at #2 upon release, the single eventually went onto be one of the year’s top 20 biggest sellers, and whilst Shaggy has yet to achieve a hit with the same level of success since, it set Baron Cohen up on a lucrative film career that saw Borat, Bruno and other comedic creations of his hit the big screen, of which this film was the start. Respec’, innit.

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 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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