Following our Billboard staff-picked list of the 00 greatest songs of 2000, we're writing this week about some of the stories and trends that defined the year for us. Here, we're visiting with some old pop and rock friends we might not have heard from in a little bit -- BBMak, Evan and Jaron, Baha Men, Nine Days and 2Gether -- to reminisce about old times, and see what they've been up to since we last spoke.
BBMak arrived in a music field crowded with pop princesses and boy bands at the turn of the millennium. The trio had a cool edge, however, as two of the three gents played guitar, while all three penned their songs. The bright-eyed Brits also skipped the obvious sunny locale of Los Angeles when it came time to shoot their video for debut single “Back Here,” opting instead for a visual that displayed the band busking in Tube stations and on bridges in London.
Initially, “Back Here” barely scraped its way inside the Top 40 on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1999. After becoming a No. 13 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 2000, however, BBMak’s home country finally stepped in line when the single was re-released and sent the lads into the Top 10.
Who they are: The trio of Mark Barry, Christian Burns and Stephen McNally, hailing from Liverpool, England.
How you know them: “Back Here,” off BBMak’s album Sooner Or Later, was ever-present on pop radio and MTV’s Total Request Live throughout spring and summer 2000.
Pop pedigree: All three band members penned “Back Here” with Phil Thornalley, a former bassist for The Cure who also co-wrote and produced Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.”
Most vivid memory of recording the song: “I remember when we heard that guitar intro for the first time,” says Burns. “We flew over to Hollywood to go and work on the record in the Hills with [producers] John Shanks and Oliver Leiber, walked into the studio and the intro was on loop. We all looked at each other and knew something magical was cooking here.”
When they knew they had a hit on their hands: “I heard the song on the radio a lot in the States,” Burns adds. “After it had been out a couple of weeks, we went to a mall in Glendale [California] to do a signing. When we got there something had changed for sure. Literally thousands of people showed up and they had to close the mall down!”
What happened next: Like “Back Here,” BBMak’s follow-up single “Still On Your Side” became a top 10 hit in the U.K., while stateside the band popped up in guest stints on daytime soap All My Children and Disney Channel’s Shia LaBeouf starrer Even Stevens. “As with any successful song, there is always going to be pressure to follow that up with something,” Burns says. “‘Out Of My Heart’ from [2002 sophomore LP] Into Your Head was a great single to come back with. That was our ‘Back Here’ off that album.”
Then the band took a 16-year break: “Yes, that’s quite a long time indeed! We have all been very busy,” Burns notes. “Ste with his martial arts and his other band, 10 Reasons To Live. Mark has been working in the fitness and wellbeing industry as a very successful physical therapist, and I have been making music and touring the world since 2002 with my solo and various other projects.”
BBMak reunited in 2018: “We are super proud of our latest offering, an album called Powerstation. It’s 10 brand new tracks from us. If you loved the first album, I really think you will love this too,” says Burns.
There’s more on the way: “I am busy working on music with the boys to release later this year, as well as my other projects, All Hail The Silence [with BT] and The Blind Love, plus my solo Christian Burns album.”
Christian’s personal favorite pick from 2000: Richard Ashcroft’s solo album Alone With Everybody.
EVAN AND JARON
“Crazy For This Girl,” by pop pin-up duo Evan and Jaron, sounded so perfectly tailor-made for radio upon release that -- naturally -- it eventually found its way onto the soundtrack for seminal teen-angst series Dawson’s Creek. But the truth is that the song’s success didn’t exactly happen overnight.
“Here’s something I’ve never said publicly: The song shouldn’t have been a big hit,” Jaron Lowenstein, one half of the pair, says to Billboard. “It was a great pop song, but it [initially] petered out around No. 30 [on the Hot 100]. It was then that the head of Columbia's pop promotion at the time, Lee Leipsner, started getting on planes to travel across the country to convince program directors to keep the song alive.”
As Leipsner racked up a solid collection of air miles, the effort helped push “Crazy For This Girl” further up the Hot 100. Evan And Jaron eventually found themselves peaking at No. 15.
“He single-handedly manufactured that song into a hit, and every programmer who was around back then will tell you the same story,” Jaron continues. “We owe him a lot.”
Below, both siblings recount the history of their biggest pop hit.
Who they are: Evan and Jaron Lowenstein, identical twin brothers from Tucker, Georgia.
How you know them: “Crazy For This Girl” was a slow burner that appeared on the brothers’ 2000 self-titled major label debut LP. Before that, the pair, who started out on the coffeehouse circuit in Georgia, performed at the1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
The chorus that wasn’t: “The original lyric in the chorus was ‘she’s got me thinking about a family,’ instead of ‘thinking about her constantly,'" Jaron explains. "The president of Columbia called and said we gotta change the lyric -- it was too wholesome... So, [producer] T-Bone Burnett pitched ‘locked inside a mystery’, which was very cool, but the label felt it would get lost on the audience. After a week or so, Evan came into the studio and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this constantly and I can’t come up with anything great’. I said, ‘That’s it -- she’s got me thinking about her constantly’!”
The guys’ diva move: Evan recalls, “One day, while recording the album, we noticed a bunch of gear being carted into another studio. But it wasn’t musical gear; it looked like decorations for a luau. It turned out Brian Setzer was getting ready to record in studio D and he wanted the design to 'suit his vibe'. So we approached Jeff Greenberg, the owner of the studio, and complained that nobody had offered to create a vibe for us. He apologized and offered to do anything we wanted to the studio in order to make us feel at home. We jokingly told him we had a puffy blue toilet seat at home and we’d like the same one in the studio.
"We had forgotten all about it, when one day, months later, Jeff walked us to the bathroom and, pointing proudly, said, ‘There it is! Your puffy, blue toilet seat!’ He proceeded to tell us that he had to order nearly two dozen seats from various stores around the country before finding one that would fit the antique toilet bowl. He said he’d never not fulfilled a request and wasn’t going to let us be his first.”
Most vivid memory of their early success: “Playing Madison Square Garden was great, but arriving in Italy in early 2001 was like something out of a Beatles film,” Jaron remembers. “Our label told us we were going [over] to promote the single, but we had no idea it was already No. 1 there. When we got off the plane, there were hundreds of girls holding signs and screaming, ‘We love you Ivano and Gennaro!’ And I’m so fucking stupid that I leaned over to Evan and said, ‘Wow! There must be another act on our flight with names that sound like ours’. It took us a good 30 seconds before we realized that we were Ivano and Gennaro.”
What happened next: Four years passed between the release of Evan and Jaron on Columbia and 2004 independent follow-up Half Dozen. Jaron explains, “We toured for 18 months, and then began recording in late 2002 in Nashville with Dann Huff. By the time we finished the album, the label had a new regime that didn’t like identical Jews. I’m kidding! Shortly thereafter Columbia dropped us.
"By the following week, we had three record deal offers -- Virgin, Arista and one other that I can’t remember right now -- but we decided it was better to pass and take some time to plot our next move. We had been at it for 10 years straight at that time and achieved just enough success to kill our passion. A year later we began getting distracted with other things and ended up releasing our follow up album reflexively.”
The fellas pursued separate opportunities: The music biz can be quite a grind, but that didn’t stop Evan and Jaron from exploring other areas, albeit individually. Jaron recalls, “In 2009, I returned to music-making. In 2010 I had a pretty big country hit under the name Jaron and The Long Road to Love, with a song called ‘Pray For You’. It went platinum and the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Album chart. Around the same time, Evan launched the world's first digital performance venue called Stageit, which is absolutely exploding right now due to the unfortunate grip of COVID-19.
"Then, in 2012, I felt compelled to help others get a turn, after having been a one-hit-wonder twice. I started managing talent. In 2013, I saw a musical genius named Scott Bradlee online and joined forces to help him build Postmodern Jukebox into a global enterprise. In recent years, I’ve also played a hand in shaping the current landscape of the public intellectual space.”
Evan And Jaron’s personal favorite pick from 2000: “‘Country Grammar’ by Nelly was so big that we used to do an acoustic version of it,” Jaron says. “It was almost as though we had to find a way to work it into our set because everybody wanted to hear that song 27 times a day.”
Who indeed let the dogs out? Initially, it was Trinidadian songwriter Anslem Douglas, who released chiding party jam “Doggie” in 1998. When S-Curve founder Steve Greenberg heard a cover of Douglas’ song, he insisted that the Baha Men, signed to his label at the time, record a cover in their own style.
By the summer of 2000, Baha Men’s rendition had been let off the leash, complete with the new title “Who Let the Dogs Out?” As the group’s Dyson Knight told VICE in 2015, “Management had the vision, and the Baha Men were reluctant, but the group went in and recorded it anyway. The rest is history.”
Lead vocalist Rik Carey tells Billboard, “First off, I have never barked so much in my entire life. It was myself and most of the entire band recording stacks and stacks of background vocals on the chorus and the barking. I thought it was funny as hell, but then I realized sonically why the producer needed it to sound a certain way.”
Who they are: The Baha Men have gone through many member switch-ups since forming in the Bahamas as a nightclub act in 1977. Vocalist Rik Carey joined up with the band just in time to ride the wave of success with their signature song.
Where you’ve seen them before: The 1994 incarnation of the band appeared in Disney movie My Father the Hero, the plot of which revolved around Gerard Depardieu’s character taking his teenage daughter -- played by Katherine Heigl -- on vacation to (you guessed it) the Bahamas.
When they knew they had a hit: “I felt that ‘Dogs’ would be big the moment I saw what avenues it took us down,” says Carey. “First it was kids that embraced us, then pro athletes and teams across the USA. Then eventually the world embraced us.”
The song’s impact: “Who Let The Dogs Out?” became then-Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez’s walk-up music until, ultimately, it was adopted as the team’s overall anthem. The New York Mets reportedly got into a light-hearted chicken-or-egg squabble with the Mariners over which team played the song at a game first. And that was just the beginning; the band went on to win a Grammy, two Billboard Music Awards and two Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards for their canine-themed contribution to popular music.
What happened next: Carey recalls the downside of fame. “For me, it was very hard dealing with the pressure of following up with another smash. The thing was, I had so many things on my shoulders at that time, that the pressure was significant. I was only 22 years old, and I was still discovering my talents and abilities as an artist and a musician. I didn’t have much room to be as creative as I wanted to be. Being from a tiny archipelago of islands, it was all a huge adjustment for me. However, I am loving the skin that I am in now because I have developed my own style and swag as a triple threat recording artist/performer/producer.”
Rik recommends: The Baha Men’s most recent release, 2015’s Ride With Me. “Some of my favorite songs I recorded with the guys are on that album, like ‘Night & Day’ and ‘Ride With Me’. I’m looking forward to seeing what the fans’ response is gonna be like when we drop some more new music very soon.”
What’s next for the band: “We recently shot a really dope music video for our upcoming single ‘Take A Chance (Motion Repeat)’. I’m excited to see what happens when Sony Latin releases it. It’s going to be interesting, because we’re aiming toward the Latin market with this new sound. It’s current and nothing but cool and sexy vibes... I’m so happy to still be here in the business and still killing these shows every chance Baha Men get bookings. The real Baha Men fans that stuck with us throughout the years know how amazing the band’s live show is.””
Personal favorite music from 2000: “I remember Beenie Man’s album at that time, plus *NSYNC, P!nk when she was a pop/R&B artist, and J-Lo with her sexy self. I also remember Sisqo’s ‘The Thong Song’ was also killing it too."
Singer John Hampson and his fellow Nine Days members considered themselves very much “a band,” and never felt the pressure to produce a radio hit -- that is, until the frontman wrote “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)”.
“We had been around for about three years. We showcased and we had a manager and a lawyer, and we’d been through demos and producers,” Hampson explains, two decades after Nine Days’ big breakthrough at pop radio. “We were always so close, but couldn’t quite get over the hurdle. When I wrote ‘Story of a Girl’, it was a completely inspired moment. The song came to me and I just knew there was something about it that was different.”
Who they are: Nine Days first came together as a band in the mid-1990s, in Long Island, New York. They released three albums independently before subsequently signing with Epic.
The story of “Story of a Girl”: Hampson had a good feeling right away about “Absolutely (Story Of A Girl)”, which eventually hit No. 6 on the Hot 100, and was written for the woman who eventually became his wife. The singer recalls, “I remember when I brought it into the band for rehearsals the first time, I made everyone learn the song musically before I would sing it. Normally I’d come in with a guitar and say, “Here’s a song I’ve got’. I’d play it on guitar, everybody would join in and we’d work it out. But this time I was like, ‘This is exactly how it has to be’.”
Recording the song: “When we did this album [The Madding Crowd], the band had played so many shows, so many gigs, that we were such a fine-tuned machine. We went down to Atlanta to record, and we blasted through the album pretty quickly. But that song, over the course of the five or six weeks we were there, almost every day the producer, Nick DiDia, would say, ‘Hey, John, just go in the vocal booth and give it a try.'
"I never felt like I got it. I must have gone in there like two dozen times. I remember feeling like the track sounded so good, that every time I tried to sing it I was like, ‘I’m ruining the song!’ Talk about pressure. I just felt like, ‘I have to sing this well or we’re doomed’.”
When John knew the song was going to be big: “Every year there’s a conference called the Gavin Conference, and all the radio programmers gather, and the labels bring out their new songs and artists and look for feedback. So Epic submitted ‘Story of a Girl’ for a few different formats. We knew that if it didn’t test well, it would probably mean that we weren’t gonna get a lot of support.
"We’re playing some little club in Baltimore and my manager calls and says, ‘Last year the song that really blew up was ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ from Ricky Martin.’ So I’m going, okay, he’s clearly just setting me up to let me down, because that was a massive hit. And then he was like, ‘This year it was ‘Story Of A Girl’.’ That was the moment where I began to think this might really happen.”
The confusing height of their success: Turns out the view from the top wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. As Hampson recalls, “The bottom line is we spent almost two years touring. We were in a weird world because we really did think of ourselves as a rock band, yet we were constantly playing these shows with pop artists or track artists like BBMak or Jessie Simpson or P!nk when she just came out. So we’d be playing these things and we’d be like the heaviest band on the bill. And then we would play these rock festivals, and it’d be us and Rage Against The Machine, Godsmack and Stone Temple Pilots, and we’d be the pop band, you know? We’d be getting s--t thrown at us!”
What happened next: Nine Days followed up The Madding Crowd with the prophetically-titled So Happily Unsatisfied in 2002. “That record is like half a record,” Hampson admits. “You know [how on] VH1's Behind the Music, at the half hour mark, they would always say, 'And then, the bottom dropped out?' That’s our VH1 Behind the Music halfway point, right there. We pushed back and tried to make a rock record, but probably what we should have done was stayed with more who we were. We were a little bit more of a melodic band. The whole entire thing just didn’t go as smoothly as everyone would have liked.
"It caused a lot of friction within the band, and the label didn’t know what to do with the record when we gave it to them. They made a half-hearted attempt to promote it, and it didn’t take off right away, and they were like, ‘We’re done.' They gave it a few weeks on radio, and when it didn’t light the world on fire they literally just unplugged it and that was the end of it, which was a mind-blower.”
The band took a 10-year break: “It’s a typical story. It’s a total cliché, and yes we lived it,” says Hampson. “It took its toll on everybody and it took us a few years to regroup and put that behind us.” That said, Nine Days reunited to record 2013 album Something Out of Nothing, and followed it up in 2016 with Snapshots. “I would have to say, if you only know The Madding Crowd album, you should go listen to Snapshots. With that, we were like, ‘Let’s go make the record we should have made to follow up The Madding Crowd’. That one I think is a perfect next step.”
What’s coming up: “We’re ironing out all that, and God knows how long that’ll all take with what’s going on [with the Coronavirus health crisis], but we’re planning a vinyl re-release of The Madding Crowd in the summer and doing some shows. We’re actually starting the process of doing a new album, as well.”
The band Nine Days was into in 2000: “We were all fans of Third Eye Blind, so we toured with them for a while. That was such a highlight, because we’d play our show and then I got to just go sit and watch them every night. That was a great part of it for me.”
In the middle of boy band hysteria, when the likes of Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, 98 Degrees and O-Town were plastered all over the walls of teenage bedrooms, MTV debuted 2Gether, its first full-length TV movie about a fictional boy band of the same name, imagined by the cousin duo Brian and Mark Gunn. But the fivesome (real-life actors Noah Bastian, Michael Cuccione, Kevin Farley, Evan Farmer and Alex Solowitz) ultimately assembled by MTV for their titular show quickly became more than a made-for-TV group.
Known in 2000 by their 2Gether aliases -- Chad Linus, Jason “Q.T.” McKnight, Doug Linus, Jerry O’Keefe and Mickey Parke, respectively -- the “boy band” sang infectious pop tunes with satirical lyrics that were right in line with those of their peers, but with a different intention: to make you laugh. Perhaps the most prime example was the group's Hot 100 hit “The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff),” a punchy track that spins a traditional breakup tale into a hilarious chronicle of a “kleptomaniac” ex who dared to even take the guy’s cat (complete with strangled “meow” noises, courtesy of Farley).
“The Hardest Part” was featured on 2Gether’s second album, the soundtrack to its spinoff TV show 2Gether: Series that MTV launched in August 2000 after a ravenous response to the movie. Outside of their TV fame, 2Gether gained a real-life boy band-like following, resulting in a top 5 album on the Billboard 200, a tour with Britney Spears (sort of -- more on that later) and a legacy as perhaps the funniest boy band of all time.
Who they are: Actors Alex Solowitz, Evan Farmer, Kevin Farley, Michael Cuccione and Noah Bastian, who played Micky Parke (“The Bad Boy”), Jerry O’Keefe (“The Heartthrob”), Doug Linus (“The Older Brother”), Jason “Q.T.” McKnight (“The Cute One”) and Chad Linus (“The Shy One”).
How you know them: MTV’s original TV movie, 2Gether, and television show, 2Gether: The Series, the latter of which ran for two seasons from August 2000 to March 2001.
Why MTV was the perfect partner: When Mark and Brian brought the idea for a “Spinal Tap pop boy band,” the network was immediately on board. “They considered it the sweet spot of being able to poke fun at themselves, but also actually promote a real boy band,” Brian recalls. “They kept the mockumentary structure [we had in mind], but they saw it as a little more of a sales tool than we did. So when 2Gether would sing, it would be cut together much more like a slick well-produced video.”
MTV also enlisted powerhouse producers like Veit Renn (*NSYNC/BSB) and Brian Keiruf (Britney Spears) to pair catchy melodies with the Gunns’ funny lyrics, resulting in songs that resonated with the traditional boy band audience. “That was the tone we were after,” Brian says. “We wanted the lyrics to be silly, but we wanted [the songs] to be legit catchy.”
No, they didn’t want you to take them seriously: “That tongue-in-cheek thing [we had] took on a life of its own,” Farley says. “We’d sign autographs, and some of these girls, they’re like 13 or something, go, ‘You guys are my favorite boy band,’ and I would say, ‘Now, you know we’re joking right?’ And they go, ‘No you’re not, you guys are the real deal!’ So I always said to the guys, ‘Let’s make sure that we stick to being a comedy group, because I certainly don’t want to bleed into being a real boy band.’ We wanted it to remain comedic. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another band like our band -- maybe The Monkees, but that was such a long time ago.”
Why the band's name might've been their most inspired joke: “We just felt [the name 2Gether] was so utterly ridiculous," Brian says. "It’s not particularly clever. The idea of 2 with the first syllable replaced with a numeral just seemed so uninspired that it cracked us up. It’s someone’s idea of cool, but not ours, exactly. [Laughs.] We even had some fans say that there was a hidden meaning in there, that 2Gether was supposed to be broken down into 2-Get-Her, almost like, vaguely predatory double entendre -- that didn’t even remotely occur to us.”
The moment they knew 2Gether was more than just a TV movie: When the group attended 2000’s iteration of Wango Tango a couple months after the 2Gether movie premiered, Farley remembers feeling like they were the stars of the show. “We were sitting together in the stands at Dodger Stadium, and all of the sudden people started recognizing us from MTV, and we were chased out of there,” he says. “Security said we couldn’t sit in the stands anymore because we were causing too much of a raucous. That was when it started to hit us: We’re like, ‘What is this? This is strange.’”
They opened for Britney Spears… kinda: “[Our manager] said we would be on Britney Spears’ tour and we were all excited for that,” Farley recalls, referencing Spears’ Oops!... I Did It Again Tour in mid-2000. 2Gether was on the bill, but not quite in the way they were thinking: “We were driving up to the Verizon Center in Irvine outside of LA, and it’s a huge parking lot. We saw this mini stage to the right of the stadium and said, ‘Who’s on that stage?’ and [our manager] goes, ‘Well, you guys.’ We had hay bales, and as people walked by this tiny little stage to go to the Britney show, we would do our songs.” He adds with a laugh, “Maybe that’s when I knew we were going to get cancelled.”
How fellow boy bands felt about the satire: Though Mark asserts that 2Gether’s real-life contemporaries “were totally open to the joke,” Farley remembers things a little differently. “They didn’t really acknowledge that we were funny,” he says. “They were in such a big business, they had to be serious about it. Backstreet [Boys] weren’t that friendly, but *NSYNC was more friendly to us. Chris Kirkpatrick was a good friend -- he had a great attitude about it all, and he just thought it was fun.”
Regardless, actual boy bands served as major inspiration for both the group and the Gunns. “We sort of wallowed in boy band culture for a while there,” adds Brian.
The heartbreaking reason they split: In the middle of filming the second season of 2Gether: The Series, Cuccione -- who was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1994 -- began suffering health complications from his earlier cancer treatments. Brian says he and Mark considered writing Cuccione out of the show so he could focus on his health, but “his doctors and his family, and Michael himself, always said that the show was the main thing he had to look forward to, that it was something to live for.”
Cuccione passed away on January 13, 2001, eight days after his 16th birthday. “That was a big blow to everything,” Farley says. “Everybody was so sad that it was hard [to continue] after that.” Mark echoes Farley: “We all felt like, the season was over, and it was a perfect time to sort of all move on and do other things.”
2Gether opened doors for everyone: “[In] meetings on various projects, 2Gether usually comes up [talking about] where we got our start,” Brian says. “We’ve been in so many rooms with people -- generally women who were like 13-, 14-year old girls when 2Gether came out -- and they’d start gushing.” Brian and Mark have continued to work together since the 2Gether days, writing everything from family-oriented programs to 2019 thriller Brightburn. (They’re currently working on a family movie for Universal and a DC comic book movie for Warner Bros., but that’s all they could share).
As for Farley, he says, “I’ve always been a comedian, so [2Gether] helped me a lot in that regard.” Along with weekly stand-up shows around the country, he’s doing voice-over work on the Bill Burr-produced animated Netflix series F is For Family. And speaking of family, Farley -- sibling to late SNL legend Chris Farley -- also highlights that he produced a couple of documentaries about his brother (2015’s I Am Chris Farley and 2019’s Chris Farley - Anything For a Laugh for A&E’s Biography series).
It’s still good vibes all around: Farley, Solowitz and Bastian reunited for a mini show at Hollywood’s Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in 2012, where they did a Q&A and sang a few songs (Farmer couldn’t make it, but sent his regards in a video message). Farley says he’s open to another Q&A, but a bigger performance-based reunion “would have to have some backing,” because of their respective busy schedules.
He still talks to Solowitz once in a while, and ran into Farmer in Nashville a couple of years ago; Brian says he and Mark have been in touch with every member over the years “very sporadically and lightly.” But thinking back to the two-year 2Gether heyday still makes all three of them smile. “I wouldn’t have traded it for the world, I feel very lucky to be part of it,” Farley says. “It was two fun-filled years.”