In 1997, Northwestside Records put together a new urban boyband to join their roster alongside Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. Dane Bowers, Wayne Williams, Bobah Kianoush and Mark Baron formed Another Level and released their debut single, “Be Alone No More” featuring Jay-Z, in February 1998, reaching #6 on the UK singles chart. This was followed-up by their sole UK #1, a cover of American group Silk’s “Freak Me.” Their debut album followed in November 1998 achieving Platinum certification.
After a few more singles and a short break, the group launched the campaign for “Nexus,” their second album, with a Diane Warren hit, “From The Heart,” taken from the soundtrack to the movie, “Notting Hill.” Two further top ten hits followed, before Wayne left the group; the group planned to recruit a new member to join them, before Bobak also quit, causing the group to disband. Dane went onto achieve some solo success, including “Out Of Your Mind” with Victoria Beckham. Mark went onto work for Alan Sugar, whilst Bobak moved into modelling, as well as pursuing anti-vaccine, climate change denial, global reset conspiracies online.
Sisters Shelly and Karen Poole signed to Mercury Records in 1995, and worked with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics on their debut album, “Alisha Rules The World,” which included their debut hit single, “I Am, I Feel.” The album went platinum and in 1998, the duo returned with their second album, “Illumina,” which gave them three further top 15 singles including “The Incidentals.” A third album, “The House We Built,” followed in 2001, which unfortunately missed the UK top 40 leading to Shelly and Karen deciding to no longer release music together.
Both sisters went onto establish themselves as hit songwriters, with Karen co-writing with artists including Kylie Minogue, Lily Allen, Sugababes and Will Young, whilst Shelly has written for acts including Boyzone, Westlife, and Janet Jackson.
Faith Hill is one of the most successful female country artists of all time with over 40million albums sold worldwide. Her most successful crossover, “There You’ll Be,” taken from the “Pearl Harbour” soundtrack, reached #3 in the UK and went top 10 across the world in 2001.
Her album, “Breathe,” is one of the biggest selling country albums of all time, with the singles “Breathe” and “The Way You Love Me,” reaching #1 on the US country chart, and both being remixed for release internationally. Faith had previously released revised albums in Europe, such as 1996’s “Piece Of My Heart” compilation in Germany, 1998’s “Love Will Always Win,” based on her third US album, “Faith,” which was home to one of her biggest hits, “This Kiss,” and 2001’s “There You’ll Be.”
2002 saw her release “Cry,” her first country-pop crossover, which reached the top 20 in Germany and Australia, and went top 30 in the UK. She released her third US #1 album, “Fireflies,” in 2005, followed by a full greatest hits in 2007. After a Christmas album in 2008, Faith took an extended break from recording, with a Vegas residency with her husband, Tim McGraw, starting in 2012. In 2017, the duo released a joint album, “The Rest Of Our Life.”
Aqua are a Danish-Norwegian group, consisting of René Dif, singer Lene Nystrøm, Claus Norreen, and Søren Rasted. Originally known as Joyspeed, the group’s first single as Aqua was “Roses Are Red,” with “My Oh My” following. However, outside of Denmark, it was 1998’s “Barbie Girl” that led them to international attention, reaching #1 in the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Two further UK #1 singles followed, from their debut album, “Aquarium,” (and remix albums, “Bubble Mix” and “Mania Remix”) in “Doctor Jones,” and “Turn Back Time,” which was taken from the soundtrack to “Sliding Doors.” They returned in 2000 with a second album, “Aquarius,” which featured the top ten hit, “Cartoon Heroes.” A few further singles were released, before the group disbanded. In 2008, Aqua reunited and released a “Greatest Hits” album, with a new recording, “Back to the 80s” which became their fifth #1 in Denmark. A third album, “Megalomania,” followed in 2011. The group has toured on and off since, with Claus leaving in 2016. They released a cover of “I Am What I Am” in July 2021 for Copenhagen Pride and are currently working on new material.
Boyzone were one of the most successful boybands of all time, with over 25million records sold worldwide. Consisting of Ronan Keating, Mikey Graham, Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch, and Stephen Gately, the group were formed in 1993 by Louis Walsh. The group were first active from 1993 to 2000, with all 16 of their singles reaching the UK top five, six of which hit #1 – “Words,” “A Different Beat,” “All That I Need,” “No Matter What,” “When The Going Gets Tough” and “You Needed Me.” Their first three of their albums, and “By Request,” a greatest hits, also hit #1 in the UK.
Each member pursued solo work after their split, with Keith starring in “Coronation Street,” and both Ronan and Stephen pursuing solo careers. In 2007, the group announced they were to reunite, and toured throughout 2008 and 2009, releasing new singles, “Love You Anyway” and “Better.” On 10 October 2009, Stephen, one of the first openly LGBTQ+ pop stars, passed away at his home in Majorca from an undiagnosed heart condition.
Boyzone released “Brother,” their fourth studio album in tribute to Stephen in March 2010, touring in 2011, and releasing, “BZ20,” in 2013 to celebrate their 20th anniversary. An album of Motown covers followed, and in 2018 they released “Thank You and Goodnight,” and announced a tour of the same name, which would be their final recording and tour together.
Chantel Alleyne, Aisha Peters and Sabrina Weathers came together in 1998 to form Fierce, recording their debut album for Wildstar Records and supporting Puff Daddy and Whitney Houston on their UK tour dates. Their debut single, “Right Here Right Now” reached #25 on the UK chart, and was followed by “Dayz Like That,” (later covered by Canadian “Popstars” winners, Sugar Jones), which reached #11 and started a run of top 15 hits.
“So Long” followed, with their biggest hit, a cover of “Sweet Love” remixed by Stargate into “Sweet Love 2K” reaching #3 in January 2000. In June, Aisha left the band to “pursue other interests” and the group departed from their record label. In 2021, the girls reunited on Instagram to talk about their experiences in the group.
In 1998, Medicine Management began to put together a new British girl group to follow in the footsteps of All Saints. Sophie McDonnell was the first to join Precious, bringing her friend Jenny Frost, with Anya Lahiri, Kalli Clark-Sternberg and Louise Rose completing the line up. They signed to EMI, and one of their first demos, “Say It Again,” was entered for the Great British Song Contest, to pick the UK’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest 1999. The group made their debut on “Top Of The Pops” in February 1999, and won the contest with 52,457 votes in March.
“Say it Again” hit #6 on the UK chart, and came 12th in Eurovision with 38 points. The rest of 1999 saw them record the rest of their album, and nearly a year later, they released their second single, “Rewind,” which hit #11, quickly followed up in June with “It’s Gonna Be My Way,” which hit #27. Their self-titled debut album was released in November, preceded by fourth single, “New Beginning.” The single reached #50, and their album charted outside the top 75.
The group parted ways with EMI before the end of 2000, but within weeks, Jenny Frost was recruited to join fellow EMI group, Atomic Kitten, promoting “Whole Again” with them in January 2001; the song hit #1 in the UK and across Europe. Kalli pursued a career as a backing singer; Louise moved into acting; Anya returned to modelling and became a fitness instructor, and Sophie became a CBBC presenter.
In 1998, Tim Byrne, who helped form Steps, decided to found a second band with Paul Marazzi, who had just missed out on joining Steps. Christian Ingebrigtsen, Mark Read, and Ben Adams joined the group after a round of auditions and A1 was formed. In summer 1999, they debuted with “Be The First To Believe” and their debut album, “Here We Come.”
After a string of hits, they returned in August 2000 with a cover of “Take On Me,” which hit #1 in the UK, followed up by a second #1, “Same Old Brand New You,” both from “The A List.” Their third album, “Make It Good,” was released in 2002, preceded by the #2 single, “Caught In The Middle,” but its follow-up, “Make it Good,” became their final single in the UK for many years, after Paul left the group.
In 2009, the band reformed without Paul, and released a charity single in Norway, “Take You Home,” followed by “Don’t Wanna Lose You Again,” which came second in Melodi Grand Prix 2010. They released “Waiting For Daylight,” their fourth studio album that year, and continued to tour, with their fifth album, “Rediscovered,” being released in 2012. They took part in The Big Reunion in 2013 as a trio, and both Norway-only albums were released in the UK in 2015. Paul rejoined the group in 2018, and they performed across Asia, with a headline UK gig as a quartet in 2019. They are currently recording new music to celebrate their 20th anniversary, with “Spiders” being released in 2021.
In the late 90s, four cast members of the German production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, who had become friends, decided to become a dance group. Tracey Packham from the UK, Joey Murray from New Zealand, Livio Salvi from Italy and Sarah Egglestone from Australia, met with producer Alex Christensen and began recording under the name ATC – an acronym for A Touch of Class.
Their first single, “Around the World (La La La La La)” (a cover of “Pesenka” by Ruki Vverh!) went to #1 in Germany for 6 weeks in summer 2000, eventually being released in remixed form in the UK in 2002 where it reached #15 and became their only UK single. It also reached #28 in the USA, and went top ten across Europe, where it was followed up with a second single, “My Heart Beats Like a Drum (Dam Dam Dam)” and their debut album, “Planet Pop.”
Two further singles followed, before the group began to record their second album. After two singles, they were forced to stop using the ATC name, losing a legal battle against German DJ ATB. The group officially became A Touch of Class, and released a further single, “New York City,” which peaked at #81 in the German chart, leading into their second album, “Touch The Sky,” which stalled at #97. A Touch of Class decided to go their separate ways, and the album campaign was halted. The group reunited for a photoshoot in 2020, and Ava Max featured an interpolation of the group’s debut single on her song, “My Head and My Heart.”
Sean Conlon, Ritchie Neville, Scott Robinson, Abs Breen, and J Brown formed Five (sometimes stylised as 5ive) after responding to an advert in ‘The Stage’ placed by Bob and Chris Herbert, who created the Spice Girls. Five’s eponymous debut album, their only UK #1 album, saw the group work with Max Martin, under Simon Cowell’s direction, establishing them as British rivals to Backstreet Boys and *NSync. Cowell tried to secure Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” for them, but was unsuccessful. Instead, they were offered “Bye Bye Bye,” but turned it down; it was later recorded by *NSync and became a huge hit, and the group began to encounter troubles with their US and Asian record label divisions.
Back in the UK, the group continued scoring hits; in 2001, just before scoring their third UK #1 with “Let’s Dance,” Sean left the band, and the group disbanded later that year with a double-A side of “Closer to Me” and “Rock the Party” (released in Europe as a standalone single). They tried to reform in 2006, without Sean, but decided against it a few months later. In 2013, they took part in ITV’s “The Big Reunion,” without J Brown; they toured until 2014, when Abs left the group. In 2021, they returned again with new material as a trio, releasing a new album, entitled “Time,” in January 2022.
Hepburn and Jamie Benson
The group signed to Sony Music UK and burst onto the scene in May 1999 with “I Quit,” which reached #8 in the UK chart and went onto be featured in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” They followed this up with their #14 hit, “Bugs,” and self-titled album, which reached #28 in September.
Shortly after the album’s release, Beverley left Hepburn and was replaced by Lisa Gordon, who also left and was replaced by Tasha Baylis. The group released one last single – “Deep Deep Down,” which reached #16 in February 2000 – and re-released their album with Tasha on the cover, before disbanding.
In 2001, Jamie Benson went onto pursue a solo career with Concept Music, whilst the other band members appear to have left the music industry altogether. Jamie released one commercial single in November 2001 – “Invincible,” which had been a B-side on Emma Bunton’s “Take My Breath Away” in August of the same year – which reached #95. A second single, “Dumb (Slip and Slide),” was sent to radio stations in early 2002, but ultimately cancelled; however, her debut album, “My Confession,” was released. The album missed the top 100, but a third single, a cover of Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” was sent to radio, followed by a double A-side of “Stay” and “When The Sun Hits The Sky”; unfortunately neither were commercially released.
Blue are one of the most successful UK pop groups of the 2000s, with three #1 albums, and record sales of 3.6million albums and 1.4million singles in the UK alone.
The group – consisting of Antony Costa, Simon Web, Lee Ryan, and Duncan James – disbanded in 2004 after releasing a greatest hits collection, but reformed in 2011 to represent the UK at the 56th Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Germany. The song, “I Can,” came 11th in the contest, and Blue continued to release new music, with their most recent studio album, “Colours,” reaching #13 in the UK albums chart in March 2015.
Blue have continued to perform together, including supporting Steps on many dates of their 2018 Summer of Steps tour. In November 2021, they announced that they were going to embark on a UK arena tour in 2022, celebrating their 20th anniversary, supported by Atomic Kitten.
Stacie Orrico is an American singer-songwriter, best known across the world for her hit singles, “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life” and “Stuck,” taken from her self-titled major label debut album, which was released in 2003.
Signed to ForeFront Records, a contemporary Christian record label, at aged 14, and began recording her debut album, “Genuine.” The album had the highest debut week sales ever for a female Christian artist in the USA, selling over 500,000 copies, and was distributed by Kingsway Communications Limited in the UK. Her second album was due to be entitled “Say It Again,” and her UK distributors released an EP of the same name to precede the album, which was available from Christian bookshops. Plans for the album were put on hold when Virgin Records expressed interest in helping Stacie crossover to the mainstream market. “Stacie Orrico” went onto sell over 3.5million albums in the USA alone, featuring many songs intended for “Say It Again,” alongside new songs.
Stacie left ForeFront Records in 2005, and released “Beautiful Awakening,” a soul album she recorded with the Underdogs, Dallas Austin, KayGee, Novel, and Track and Field, on Virgin Records America. The album was not as commercially successfully as its predecessors and Stacie left the record label in 2006. She has continued to make public appearances since, but has also heavily invested her time in charity work and other projects.
Paula Abdul is a singer, dancer, choreographer, and actress, who has had six #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1988 to 1991, making her one of the most successful female solo performers on the chart.
Across her three studio albums, Paula sold over 60million records worldwide, and is recognised as one of the most influential dance pop acts of the era, becoming one of the original judges on “American Idol” in 2002. Paula returned to performing in 2018, with her first headlining tour in 27 years, celebrating 30 years since her debut album, “Forever Your Girl”; a Vegas residency followed in 2019, named after her single, “Straight Up.”
In the UK; “Forever Your Girl” was certified Platinum, and the follow-up, “Spellbound,” was certified Gold, with Paula having three top 10 singles – “Straight Up,” “Opposites Attract,” and “Rush Rush.” Paula also co-wrote Kylie’s 2000 UK #1 single, “Spinning Around.”