This week, Billboard is publishing a series of lists and articles celebrating the music of 20 years ago. Here, we’re visiting with some old pop and rock friends we might not have heard from in a little bit — Afroman, American Hi-Fi, ATC, The Corrs, Eden’s Crush and S Club 7 — to reminisce about old times, and see what they’ve been up to since we last spoke.
Before and after 2001, there have been countless songs about rolling joints and getting stoned. But there’s been no ode to weed quite like Afroman’s “Because I Got High.”
The lightly rollicking sing-along presents a series of marijuana-induced happenings — err, nonhappenings — like not going to work and skipping school, narrated by a delightfully jolly (and likely blazed) Afroman. Punctuated by its silly “la da da, da da da” hook, “Because I Got High” is an undeniable hit, whether you enjoy its titular pastime or not. (The song even earned Afroman a Grammy nomination for best rap solo performance in 2002.)
“I just wanted to have fun with this song,” Afroman (whose real name is Joseph Foreman) says of “Because I Got High.” “I had been doing a lot of complicated shit like battle rap, and I thought that was going to get me rich. Then I started studying songs that were simple, but big, like [Bobby McFerrin’s] ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ and it made me want to play a little musical golf instead of football. I thought [‘Because I Got High’] might be that goofy thing that everybody messed with. And I was right.”
To this day, Afroman continues to rock his signature ‘fro, happy as can be that his song is still resonating. “Man, when I play that song, love just gets in the air,” Foreman adds. “There’s lots of weed in the air, but there’s some love in there with that weed!”
Who he is: LA-born, now Ohio-based rapper/singer Joseph Foreman.
How you know him: His stoner anthem “Because I Got High” charmed more than just weed lovers, taking Afroman to No. 13 on the Hot 100 and helping the rapper land a top 10 album on the Billboard 200 with The Good Times.
His name’s hairy origins: “I got named Afroman on the streets,” Foreman says. “Back in the mid-’90s, afros was out. All black dudes that had something on the ball had a haircut — Michael Jordan, Tupac Shakur, even Martin Lawrence. I couldn’t afford to go to the barber shop every other day, so I didn’t have a big, beautiful, voluptuous afro. I had that little irritatin’ situation.
“This girl started calling me [Afroman] in college, and everybody thought that s–t was funny, so they started calling me that,” he continues. “I couldn’t get away from it, so I said, ‘Okay motherf–kers, my name is Afroman!’ I started making T-shirts, and I tried to make it as creative as possible, putting my head in the ‘O.’ And it worked! Everybody that was laughing at me was buying T-shirts, and they started loving me.”
Overnight success, years in the making: Following years of trying to get his rap career off the ground, Foreman gave it one last shot by passing out CDs at a party in 2000. Luckily for him, one of the recipients uploaded the album — which featured “Because I Got High” — to the then-newly launched file-sharing service Napster. Under 48 hours later, “Because I Got High” had generated buzz around the world. “I went viral before viral was viral,” Foreman jokes. “Napster put me in a position to be signed. Universal Records said, ‘This guy’s hot’ and signed me real quick before I got loose.”
He actually was going to clean his room: Foreman confirms that the song’s opening line, “I was gonna clean my room, but then I got high” is a true story. “One of my homeboys came over, and he wanted to smoke some weed with me,” he remembers. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna clean my room after we smoke this joint.’ We started smoking, then some girls came over with some beer, and it turned into a big ass party. When I woke up, my room was worse. Then I started thinking about other stuff I was gonna do until I got high. Then, I started living vicariously through my friends and thinking about stuff that they were going to do. Then, I was just trying to make a nice song — you want to make a song that everybody can relate to. But the root of the song was that I was going to clean my room.”
Playing both sides: Despite crafting a track dedicated to getting high, Foreman had the wherewithal to ensure that his song wasn’t going to have repercussions. With references to forgetting to pay child support and gambling away car loan money, “Because I Got High” hints at the pitfalls of getting too high. “I threw the mishaps in there so people wouldn’t be on my ass too much,” Foreman asserts. “The wrong person might feel like I’m trying to get their kids to smoke dope, and I’m not trying to do that. I was laughing about my own personal experience. I threw the bad stuff in there to kind of move kids away from the gateway drug that might lead them to something worse. But it went with the comedy. I made it all work.”
His approach reaped benefits, too. “It was funny, I got money from both sides — the antis and the pros,” he laughs. “I accidentally played ‘em both, because if you’re anti [drugs], you can be like, ‘Aha, see, that’s what happens when you smoke too much weed!’ And then if you’re pro, it’s kind of like, that elbow joke, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Why he left his label: Though Afroman had signed a six-album deal with Universal, he found that the follow-up the label was looking for didn’t align with his vision. “I think Universal wanted some more ‘Because I Got Highs,’” Foreman says. “But that’s a magical song, and I probably can’t do that twice. [At that point], the world was ready to talk about weed and legalization. My song put that topic on the table.” He has since independently released nearly 30 projects — including plenty more weed references — with most being issued through Afroman’s own Hungry Hustler Records.
Rapper reinvention: Even amid a worldwide shutdown, Afroman managed to land a new business deal. “I got this saying, ‘This ain’t no joke, this ain’t no gimmick, we got to get paid in the middle of a pandemic,” Foreman quips. Teaming up with a new independent label/artist development firm called Cosmic Wire, Afroman signed a full label and management deal in March. The rapper linked with rising singer HEwas on a bouncy track called “Whole Thing” late last year; he plans to release more collaborations, as well as original tunes that he says will mix funk and soul with electronic sounds, later this year.
“We wanted to reinvent and reintroduce the world to Afroman because he is just so much bigger than ‘Because I Got High,” Afroman’s manager, Cosmic Wire co-founder Jerad Finck, tells Billboard. “He sings, plays guitar, and has this entire soul thing going on that was largely overlooked. I think that is starting to come out.”
He has found his purpose: Afroman has been playing small shows around the country (as coronavirus limitations have allowed), which has helped him shape his goals for this next chapter. “I love all the joy that comes to the crowd when I’m singing ‘Because I Got High’ and ‘Crazy Rap,’” Foreman says. “In the middle of my show, I tell these jokes. I love to make people laugh, I think it’s what I’m really here for. More than anything, I’m here to make people smile. So, I don’t want to boohoo about my problems or make no political statements [in my music]. I just want to get up there and make everybody laugh their ass off.”
Afroman’s 2001 jam: “I love that Nelly song, ‘Ride With Me,’” Foreman says (after excitedly singing the beginning of the chorus, of course). “That was my song that wasn’t my song.”
At the cusp of pop-punk fully taking over the mainstream in the ‘00s, American Hi-Fi served up a perfect mix of gritty guitars and infectious hooks with their breakthrough hit “Flavor of the Weak.” As the Boston-bred band’s debut single, the song took American Hi-Fi on a wild ride through both the rock and pop worlds in 2001.
“Flavor,” a guy’s rueful account of observing from the sidelines as a bonehead boyfriend takes his girlfriend for granted, landed at No. 5 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart, and reached No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was penned by American Hi-Fi’s frontman, Stacy Jones, who formed the group with three hometown buddies that were, as he puts it, “just four friends playing cover tunes.”
The only problem about the song’s immediate success was that it took American Hi-Fi from being nobodies to being on big-time tours, which backfired for a rock band at that time. “We had never even played a real show, and all of a sudden we had a song on the radio,” Jones says. “We didn’t build a grassroots audience, and I think that’s something that definitely hurt us.”
But that ended up working out for the American Hi-Fi guys, as they’ve all been able to pursue other ventures while continuing to make Hi-Fi music on their own terms. Three of the four members have remained in the music business (Jones is Miley Cyrus’ longtime musical director), but all of them fondly look back on their heyday, and still reunite on occasion, formally or informally. “It’s just a fun thing to have in our lives,” Jones says.
Who they are: Best friends-turned-rock group hailing from Boston, consisting of lead singer Stacy Jones, guitarist Jamie Arentzen, bassist Drew Parsons, and drummer Brian Nolan.
How you know them: “Flavor of the Weak” was an early crossover hit of the ‘00s pop-punk craze, complete with a video that paid homage to the underground cult-classic documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
No, Keith Richards did not name their band… “That is a total lie,” Jones laughs, when asked about the oft-circulated original story for American Hi-Fi’s name involving the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist. “When we were first starting to do interviews, we were doing press junkets with like 40 interviews over the course of two days. At a certain point, Drew and I were sitting in some suite hotel room in New York, and we decided to crack open the minibar. We got a little bit loose, and I made up that story on the spot. Drew just kind of followed my lead. We literally told that story, like, one time, and it kept coming back around. So we played along.”
…but James Hetfield (sort of) did: The Metallica singer phoned Bob Rock as the producer was working with American Hi-Fi on their debut album — though at the time, they were called BMX Girl, inspired by Jones’ AOL account name (“BMX Boy was taken,” he insists). “We just hear Bob say, ‘yeah,’ then ‘no,’ then ‘yeah,’” Jones recalls. “We’re like, ‘Okay, what happened?’ And Bob is like, ‘James doesn’t like the name.’ So we’re like, “F–k it, we’ve got to change it. So I started writing all these names down in a notebook, combining different words, and I landed on American Hi-Fi. It’s one of the better decisions we’ve made as a group, going with that, because I really think it’s a cool name. And I think it has sort of stood the test of time as well.”
How the song came to be: A female friend of Jones’ inspired “Flavor of the Weak,” but not because he liked her. “My angle wasn’t ‘she should be with me,’” he explains. “It was, ‘Man, these guys are idiots.”’ Jones says that in fact, the song originally came from a different perspective. “I started by putting myself in her shoes: [Sings] ‘My boyfriend, he don’t know anything about me,’” he explains. “I never thought of it as a song for American Hi-Fi, ever. I picked up a guitar in the studio one day and said, ‘Hey Bob, check out this tune.’ I sang the chorus, and Bob was like, ‘Dude, that’s a f–king hit! Why have you been sitting on that song?”
Rock suggested Jones flip the script and sing from his perspective, and to add a roaring opening guitar riff. “We recorded it that night,” Jones says. “It came together really quickly.”
Losers for the win: Though the focus of “Flavor of the Weak” is to call out deadbeat boyfriends, there’s a moment in the chorus that even the schmucks might want to belt out: “He’s too stoned — Nintendo!” “That was one of those lyrics that I thought was goofy,” he continues. “I thought the whole song was kind of goofy. Bob had to convince me to do it. And I’m so glad he did, because obviously, it changed all of our lives.”
Eventually, Jones also came around to the hit song himself. “Once we started really getting into it, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I really like this song. It tells a story, it’s relatable, it’s a hooky tune,’” he explains. “I was really into bands like The Posies, Redd Kross, Teenage Fanclub, and Fountains of Wayne. I felt like it sort of landed in that lane a little bit, so I was happy about that.”
Mixed radio signals: “What was interesting about Hi-Fi was that we started on alternative radio, and then the song crossed over to pop,” Jones says. “So we found ourselves doing these shows with Foo Fighters, Linkin Park and Saliva. Then when it started getting played on pop radio, we were playing shows with Christina Aguilera and Willa Ford. It was just strange to go from playing a show with Foo Fighters at RFK Stadium, to then going to Dodger Stadium, and having one of the girls from Dream pass out in front of my amp before we went on because she’s dehydrated.”
While the crossover helped the song reach a wider audience, Jones notes that the band struggled making their way back to their original FM base. “Alternative radio sort of turned their back on us,” he recalls. “[It was] like, ‘Okay, you’re a pop band now, so we’re not gonna play you anymore.’”
Unfortunate timing: Jones also acknowledges that American Hi-Fi just barely missed the pop-punk explosion that really kicked off a year or two after “Flavor of the Weak” debuted. “When that scene exploded, bands like New Found Glory, Good Charlotte and Sum 41 were just getting huge,” Jones says. “And rightly so, because they had radio songs — but they had also done the groundwork that we never did. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do that, it’s just the way it happened. We made that record thinking we were gonna go on tour and grind it out, and all of a sudden we had a hit.”
From pop-punk to pop star: The group went on to release two more major label albums (2003’s The Art of Losing through Island and 2005’s Hearts on Parade via Maverick), which produced two other Alternative Airplay charters, but no more pop radio hits. After a six-year grind, Jones switched gears to writing and producing for other artists. Along the way, he ran into producer Jason Moring, who was looking for a musical director for Hannah Montana — though no one knew just how big the show (or its star, Miley Cyrus) would become. Jones recalls, “[Jason said], ‘I want you to put together a kickass band that will be her band for the next 20 years.’”
Cyrus’ band is almost the same 15 years later, including Jones’ Hi-Fi bandmate Arentzen on lead guitar. “When we were putting together those Hannah Montana tours where she was wearing a wig and all that, I never would have thought that I’d be with her 10 years later, collaborating with like Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips and Joan Jett,” Jones says. “I’ve enjoyed every phase of her career; the Bangerz album was really fun. It’s been an awesome ride. She’s the best.”
The band is now a hobby: “That’s what Hi-Fi has turned into for all of us,” Jones says. “Once a year, or once every two or three years, we’ll get together and maybe record some music or play a show. It has become an outlet for us, and an excuse for us to get together and hang out.” The band has released three more albums in the past 10 years, including an acoustic version of their eponymous debut album in 2016. During last year’s quarantine, American Hi-Fi recorded an EP of cover songs titled Anywhere Else but Here from their respective home studios.
Along with Cyrus, Jones serves as the musical director for Troye Sivan and 5 Seconds of Summer, among others; he’s also been the touring drummer for Matchbox Twenty since 2012 and continues to drum for Letters to Cleo. Arentzen is a session musician when not working with Cyrus; Nolan has played drums for Everclear since 2018. Parsons recently relocated to the countryside for “semi-retirement,” as Jones puts it, after a run in the Boston restaurant business.
What the future holds: As touring begins to restart, Jones says he’s hoping American Hi-Fi will get a chance to play at least one show in 2021, since it marks the 20-year anniversary of their self-titled LP. He admits that it’s hard to find time for the band, but promises “we will figure out a way to squeeze in a gig” if the fates allow. “We’re really lucky to be in the position where we can just throw something together, and we have a small fan base that digs it,” Jones says.
“Hi, everybody — we’re gonna take you on a journey through Planet Pop.”
So was promised in the opening lines of Planet Pop, the debut album for international pop quartet A Touch Of Class (a.k.a. ATC), a group of musical theater actors who decided to give it a go as a pop group. Though the band themselves basked in the glow of stardom for only a brief time, to paraphrase their biggest hit — “Around The World (La La La La La)”, which hit the Hot 100’s top 30 in Spring 2001 — their magic melody still goes on and on and on.
In fact, the song has recently returned to the Hot 100, in the form of Ava Max’s “My Head & My Heart,” which interpolates “Around The World,” and in March reached a No. 45 peak on the chart — fortuitous timing, given how the group’s four members had recently reappeared to take part in a fan Q&A session over Zoom early the same month.
Twenty years after their debut single literally took ATC around the world, the quartet’s journey continues on — with a reunion tour having been discussed for 2020, before the entire live industry was put on pause. “We would love to get back on the road one more time for some shows,” offers the group’s Livio Salvi. “And we are trying to make it happen.”
Who they are: Sarah Egglestone from Australia, Joe Murray from New Zealand, Tracey Packham from the United Kingdom and Livio Salvi from Italy.
How ATC formed: “We were all doing Cats in Hamburg, Germany, at the time,” explains Murray. “Tracey and Livio were flatting together…and one day we switched the TV on and came across VIVA, similar to MTV at the time. One of us said, ‘Oh, man — we could do that.’ That spurred each of us to confess that we’d always had that dream of becoming a pop star. The next day we went into the theatre early to start working on some songs. We wrote three pretty quickly, recorded a demo of them in a friend’s lounge studio — John Mortimer, one of the musical directors at Cats — and shopped around, working with different producers for about a year and a half until we met [German producer] Alex Christensen.”
The Russian roots of “Around The World”: “We were introduced to Alex Christensen by a mutual friend, who said Alex had been given a song by [former BMG vice president] Thomas Stein that we should listen to,” Murray recounts. “Alex told us straight away that it was a cover of the original Russian song [“Pesenka”] by Ruki Vverh. The rest of the world hadn’t heard that version, so most people thought ‘Around The World’ was the original.”
Murray recalls an appearance on German TV where the song’s cover nature was treated as more controversial than the group found it. “The host declared that the song wasn’t in fact original and made out like he’d uncovered a scandal,” he details. “He turned to us and said something like, ‘Isn’t it true that “Around The World” is a cover?’ It was like a telenovela moment, and we couldn’t help ourselves from laughing. He was speechless. We met the 2 guys from Ruki Vverh in Moscow when we were there to open up BMG/Sony Russia. Really nice guys.”
A smash around the…well, you know: In addition to landing at No. 1 in Germany, “Around The World” cracked the top 10 across Europe and in Canada. ATC’s lead single also landed at No. 15 in the UK and, in the spring of 2001, No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Germany, Switzerland and Austria was more of a singles market — as opposed to albums, not Tinder! Record companies used to release a single or two first to see if it was worth producing an entire album,” Murray says. “So while we were heavily promoting our first single, we were also in the studio getting [album] Planet Pop down. We released a second single, “My Heart Beats Like a Drum,” at that time, which went to No. 3 [in Germany]. I think we had our first two singles in the top 5 at the same time. The album went Gold in a week.”
Murray credits the band’s producer with helping to keep everything together amidst the chaos. “Alex was great,” he raves. “On top of his Midas touch, he was so cool, calm and collected, especially when the four of us would come into the studio straight from the airport, phones ringing for interviews all the time, someone from the record company there to sort the next video shoot. We managed ourselves, so it was pretty intense.”
Racking up the air miles: As Tracey recalls, “We toured Europe, Asia, America, Canada and Australia and made so many great memories. Appearing on shows such as Top Of The Pops, and even presenting it, was a dream come true. In Europe we would do gigs with people such as DJ Bobo, Vengaboys, Right Said Fred and No Angels. In England it was Sugababes, S Club 7 and Westlife. America was incredible — we were often the opening act at gigs which would include anyone from Ricky Martin, Nelly Furtado, Billy Idol and even Aerosmith.”
What happened next: Sonically, “I’m In Heaven (When You Kiss Me)” the lead single off ATC’s 2003 sophomore LP Touch The Sky, bridged the gap between their two albums. And as Salvi explains it, the band’s second effort allowed the quartet to flex their creative muscles: “The great thing about Touch The Sky is that we wrote half of the album — ‘Star’, ‘Secret World’, ‘Touch The Sky’, ‘Baby, Bye Bye’ and ‘Maybe’ — and got the freedom to work with various producers.”
While ATC weren’t long for this world after that — the group disbanded in 2004 — all four members remain friends.“Nowadays Sarah is running her Pilates studio in Australia, Pure Pilates,” Salvi continues. Tracey is working in London as a carer, and Joseph and I are also based in London and they perform together with a jazz/swing/pop trio called Demodé. Joe also has a public speaking business, and I am a movement director and photographer.”
Still going “Around”: Billboard could probably spend a week detailing the covers and songs that have sampled ATC’s biggest hit — including “Magic Melody” by beFour, “Sing La La La La La” by Carolina Marquez and Flo Rida and a rather stunning orchestral rendition of the tune courtesy of producer Alex Christensen, the Berlin Orchestra and Melanie C of the Spice Girls. Most recently, of course, Ava Max interpolated “Around The World” for her own hit, “My Head & My Heart.”
“We’ve had lots of people contacting us to tell us that they heard a new version of our song,” muses Salvi. “We got curious and found out that it was Ava Max. These remixes have somehow put us back onto the music scene and it’s so nice to get messages from young people telling us that they love our music, even if they were not around 20 years ago.”
The ATC reunion that almost was: Salvi reveals that ATC were actually about to reunite for a tour when Covid set in. “We were planning a reunion tour in 2020, but as you can imagine we had to put our projects on hold because of the pandemic,” he says. “We might have to be a little more patient [now], till we can physically reunite and be free to travel from country to country.”
And as for new music from ATC? “Nothing has been confirmed yet,” Livio teases. “We’ll keep you posted on Instagram!”
Talk On Corners, the sophomore album by The Corrs, was a turning point for the sibling quartet. Throughout 1998 and 1999, the band played over 150 concerts in support of the LP, as singles like “What Can I Do,” “So Young” and Fleetwood Mac cover “Dreams” dominated radio worldwide. Needless to say, the Irish act had “overcome the second album syndrome, which was always a challenge,” says frontwoman Andrea Corr.
On the heels of such massive success, The Corrs set about putting together their follow-up, In Blue — an effort that saw them craft their biggest global hit, “Breathless,” which peaked at No. 34 on the Hot 100 in April 2001. It was a bittersweet time, however, as the band was dealt with a family tragedy while in the midst of the writing process.
Rather unexpectedly, Andrea, her brother and sisters received comfort during this trying time from an unlikely source: their “Breathless” collaborator, legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. “We were huge ‘Mutt’ Lange fans — [AC/DC’s] Back In Black record, The Cars, etc.,” says Andrea. “He is such an interesting man, and so interested himself.”
Who they are: Andrea, Caroline, Jim and Sharon Corr, siblings from Dundalk, County Louth in Ireland.
How you know them: Before their musical output began, all four Corrs appeared in Alan Parker’s 1991 Academy Award-nominated musical film The Commitments.
How they came to work with “Mutt” Lange: By the end of the 1990s, Lange had produced an eclectic array of artists that included AC/DC, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys and then-wife Shania Twain. “Our manager organized us working together,” Andrea recalls. “I went out to Switzerland to his house where we wrote ‘Breathless’ together… It was a lovely experience. I think we all learned a lot from him.”
Most vivid memory of recording “Breathless”: “Initially we would finish up for dinner at 8 p.m. and think we were all going home afterwards, only for Mutt to have us back in the studio after dinner until 2:00 or even 4:00 a.m. — which was a bit of a shock! We were, of course, used to those hours, but not for working! He likes to record many takes, and you just have to go with it — though you couldn’t possibly hear the subtle differences that he hears. He knows what he is doing, what he is going for. But he likes to talk, too. As I said, he is interesting and interested.”
A tragic moment for the Corr family: The band worked on two additional collaborations with Lange, whichwould end up appearing on The Corrs’ 2000 LP In Blue — but the family suffered a major loss during the creative process.
“I can’t leave the experience of working with ‘Mutt’ Lange without mentioning how caring he was,” Andrea explains. “Having written ‘Breathless’, I returned to Switzerland to write more songs with him only to be told that I had to turn back. The family had been called to our mother’s hospital bed, where she died a matter of days later of a rare lung disease. [Lange] was so caring in this awfully sad time and I’ll always be grateful.”
The “Breathless” video was super hot…in more ways than one: Shot at Trona, California’s small airport in the Mojave Desert in late May 2000, Andrea, Caroline and Sharon are seen having flirty exchanges with a male employee at the airstrip in the Nigel Dick-directed visual for “Breathless.” Alas, the experience brought even more heat than expected.
“I suffered heat stroke and dehydration! [We were] up at 4am, jet-lagged, and it was silly degrees in the desert,” Andrea remembers. “And then they switched on the huge camera lights! The heat was extraordinary. I collapsed, my manager John picked me up, carried me into a Jeep and they drove us across the desert to a clinic where they gave me liquids and rehydrated me. Sharon also nearly collapsed.”
Undeterred, the band powered through the rest of the two days of work. “Luckily we had most of the video in the can,” Andrea adds. “A couple of head shots were done later, and then [‘Breathless’] went to No. 1, so it was worth it.”
On Chairlift frontwoman Caroline Polachek’s 2020 “Breathless” cover: “I love it,” declares Andrea. “I saw her perform it recently on The Late Late Show With James Cordon and it was superb. I sent her my best wishes. I was looking forward to seeing her gig in Ireland, but it got cancelled due to Covid.”
What’s next: Over the past 20 years, The Corrs have successfully continued their output. In between the band’s releases here and there, Andrea has also recorded solo LPs, including last year’s Christmas Songs.
As for what we can expect next from the band, Andrea states, “On that question, we are like everybody else — because of Covid we don’t know. We have to wait and see.”
Before American Idol spawned Kelly Clarkson and The X Factor UK produced One Direction, the now-defunct network The WB attempted to find the next big thing in pop music with the two-season reality series Popstars. And, at the time, it worked: Season One winners Eden’s Crush fit right in with the countless other successful pop vocal groups of the early ‘00s.
That season’s nationwide search was whittled down to five starry-eyed females who were immediately thrown into the “fast lane of fame,” as the show’s narrator stated. The series followed the women as they recorded their Popstars album — which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 — and prepared for global stardom, from the all-nighter shoots to performing for thousands of fans.
But their moment didn’t last long. Within a year of Popstars airing, Eden’s Crush parted ways — an unfortunate end to a promising beginning. “We really thought we were gonna go all the way,” the group’s Ivette Sosa Dempsey says. “We were young, and there was no reason for us not to. We worked with [Michael Jackson’s choreographer] Travis Payne, we went on tour with *NSYNC and Jessica Simpson. Why wouldn’t we?”
That’s the burning question that some fans may still be asking 20 years later. Regardless, Eden’s Crush loyalists can rest assured that the members have zero regrets. “We were watching all of this happen in front of us and we were like, ‘How the hell are we a part of this?’” Rosanna Tavarez says. “It was an incredible experience. We were just happy to be invited to the party.”
Who they are: Ana Maria Lombo, Ivette Sosa Dempsey, Maile Misajon, Nicole Scherzinger (yes, the Pussycat Doll), and Rosanna Tavarez, the five finalists from Season 1 of the American iteration of the talent-search reality series Popstars. (The show had formats in over 40 countries.)
How you know them: After fans watched their whirlwind experience unfold on Popstars, the group released an album of the same name in May of 2001. The LP spawned the Hot 100 Top 10 hit “Get Over Yourself.” (And if you were an *NSYNC fan, you may have caught Eden’s Crush as an opening act on the PopOdyssey Tour.)
Adjustments to sudden fame: As the show’s opening line proclaims, “For thousands of girls, this is their dream.” Tavarez, who found out about Popstars through an ad in the Miami New Times, agrees: “I would be lying if I said that I didn’t take a brush to the mirror.” Sosa Dempsey admits that being a pop singer didn’t seem to be “in the realm of possibility,” as she had just wrapped a production of West Side Story in Milan when she auditioned for Popstars. As fate would have it, they were two of five women chosen to be transformed into the latest-and-greatest girl group.
“All of it seemed so extraordinary, even more so at the time, because we didn’t have the plethora of reality shows that we do now,” Tavarez says. “It was one of the first times that we saw a group going from unknowns to pop stars, and watching that transformation. The transition for us individually was challenging, but also exhilarating at the same time. We were all strapping ourselves into the rollercoaster ride.”
That oh-so-memorable music video shoot: One of the Popstar episodes was dedicated to the creation of the “Get Over Yourself” video, a vivid memory for both Sosa Dempsey and Tavarez — for good and bad reasons. “I think it’s why, if I don’t have to wear heels, I won’t,” Sosa Dempsey laughs. “We had strappy shoes, so our feet would just swell. The indents in my feet took at least a day to go away.”
The “all-nighter shoot” also served up some surreal moments for the girls, including superproducer David Foster (who produced the Popstars album) giving pointers to sing along to the track so it’s more believable on camera. Tavarez asserts that lip-syncing wasn’t their thing. “We did actually sing live on tour and at a lot of our appearances,” she says. “We were expected to do so by the label. We had a backup track, but the vocals were always live.”
The tour of their dreams (well, most of them): While many women would have given anything to be on tour with *NSYNC, Tavarez wasn’t one. “I didn’t know the difference between *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys,” she admits. “I confessed this to other girls in the group, and they sat me down and made me watch the *NSYNC HBO special. They were like, ‘You don’t know *NSYNC?! This is Justin! This is JC!’”
“They were really hard-working,” Sosa Dempsey says of the *NSYNC guys. “I think that’s why we watched the show almost every night, because there was always something to learn from them.” As both she and Tavarez suggest, though, the standout moments from the tour happened off stage. “They closed down a bowling alley and we went bowling with them,” Sosa Dempsey recalls. Tavarez adds with a laugh, “I tried to look really cool in front of all the *NSYNC members, but I was a really, really sucky bowler.”
As Tavarez remembers, being part of such a massive tour had its tiring moments, too. “The first day that we opened for *NSYNC, we were booked on a red eye. When we arrived at the hotel, our room was not available yet, but they were like, ‘We have a room that is California king.’ So all five of us climbed into bed and fell asleep for about three hours — that was all we had, because then we had to do our hair and makeup and go straight to doing promotional stuff. When artists talk about being burnt out from tour, believe them!”
Their impact: With three Latina and two Hawaiian Filipino members, Eden’s Crush were more than a reality show success story. “We represented a pretty diverse mix of cultures, and we were very aware of that,” Tavares says. “We felt it the most when we went to [places like] New York or Orlando. It was nice for a lot of fans to be able to identify with us.”
“Our first in-store signing was in Chicago, and a little girl came up to me for an autograph and said, ‘It’s so amazing to see someone with hair like mine,’” Sosa Dempsey recalls. “I will never, ever forget that. It reminded me of the responsibility that we had to just be our authentic selves.” Pointing out that the group’s track “1,000 Words (Mil Palabras)” features Spanish verses, Sosa Dempsey adds, “I feel like we got great responses from the fan base — that they felt like we were them, and they could be that, without the fluff.”
Why they only lasted one year: Despite their immediate success, Eden’s Crush faced inevitable disbandment upon their label, London-Sire, shutting down by the end of 2001. “We were all like, ‘Did this really just end?’” Sosa Dempsey says. “We didn’t know what to do. The music industry was so different then. If you didn’t have a label, what could you do?”
It didn’t help that reality television was still so new, Sosa Dempsey says. And as great as their multicultural appeal was, Sosa Dempsey proposes that it may have actually hurt them back in ‘01. “We had talks with Maybelline and all of these different ad campaigns who didn’t really know what to do with all of these ethnicities 20 years ago,” she says. “We were sort of ahead of our time, and placed in the wrong time period.”
Sosa Dempsey also notes that the 9/11 tragedy occurred just as Eden’s Crush wrapped their tour with Jessica Simpson. “Perspective started to change for all of us,” she says. With the label folding only months later, Tavarez adds, “it was just something we had to let go of.”
What happened next: Though Eden’s Crush was short-lived, Sosa Dempsey suggests, “It helped us channel where we wanted the rest of our lives to go.” Four of the five members continued to pursue careers within the entertainment business: Tavarez got into TV hosting; Sosa Dempsey returned to theater; Lombo created a new artist persona with alter ego Annie Trousseau; Misajon moved to Nashville, finding love and, eventually, inspiration for her blog, Mother Is a Verb. And of course, Scherzinger found her way to another girl group — The Pussycat Dolls, which earned her four more Top 10 hits on the Hot 100.
Tavarez and Sosa Dempsey have since pivoted to teaching, with Tavarez fully focusing on dance, and Sosa Dempsey instructing both dance and theater. Nicole has more recently devoted her time to television (though The Pussycat Dolls did tease a return in 2020 with the steamy comeback single “React”), currently serving as a panelist on The Masked Singer. According to Sosa Dempsey, “Where we all are now is no surprise.”
Still in touch: Both Sosa Dempsey and Tavarez thank social media for allowing the ladies to stay up-to-date on each other’s lives, but also for giving fans an outlet to still show their support even 20 years later. “At least a few times a month there will be someone tagging us,” Sosa Dempsey says. “I just saw someone say the other day that they were at Dave & Busters and [‘Get Over Yourself’] was playing at the bar. It’s humbling that people still listen to the music or remember that time.”
She adds, “I often think, ‘What would it be like if we all got together and sang?’ It would be really incredible to get in a room with them, because I think you would also see such different people and how we’ve evolved. We were a family. While there was a time period where we were all doing our own thing, we’ve sort of come full-circle. It was hard work and it was crazy. But overall, I could never look back on that time and think, ‘I would never do that again.’ It was such a pivotal moment for all of us, and we were really fortunate to be on that ride.”
Eden’s Crush’s girl crushes: “That whole era of J. Lo was my jam,” Tavarez says. Sosa Dempsey flashes back to the tour bus: “We jammed a lot to Aaliyah. And Britney did the whole snake thing at the VMAs when we were on the bus. I remember watching that like, ‘What is she wearing? Yes! Go for it!’”
S CLUB 7
Ain’t no party like an S Club party! For five years, turn-of-the-millennium British pop act S Club 7 hopped back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean to simultaneously shoot wildly popular TV kiddie programs and send a barrage of bubblegum singles into the upper reaches of the charts all over the globe.
The singing and dancing? No problem. After all, the lineup of S Club 7 knew what they were getting into when they auditioned for Simon Fuller in 1998, who by that point had launched the Spice Girls into the stratosphere and guided the solo career of Annie Lennox. But it was the acting in S Club 7 In Miami, a post-Monkees/pre-High School Musical series that helped catapult the septet to stardom, that threw one particular band member for a loop.
“The earliest memories was realising we were going to be doing a TV show as well as music, which completely terrified me,” recalls S Club’s Jo O’Meara, who would go on to take lead vocals on several of the group’s biggest hits. “I had never done the acting side of things before like some of the others.”
O’Meara eventually channeled her inner thespian convincingly enough and found herself front and center on “Never Had A Dream Come True,” an S Club ballad that became both an MTV Total Request Live staple and 2001 prom anthem. Still, the singer carries one misgiving with her about the group’s biggest stateside hit: “The very last word of that song has always bothered me. as I didn’t get it exactly how I wanted it to sound. So that always sticks out on my mind!”
Who they are: Jo O’Meara, Rachel Stevens, Hannah Spearritt, Tina Barrett, Bradley McIntosh, Paul Cattermole and Jon Lee.
How you know them: S Club 7 In Miami was filmed for U.K. television and aired in the US on Fox Family in 1999: Think a fish-out-of-water concept (courtesy of Spice World scribe Kim Fuller) about seven talented teens, plucked from England and dropped in sunny Florida in order to work at a hotel, while seeking fame and fortune. S Club 7 In L.A. immediately followed, which saw the band co-starring with — wait for it — The Exorcist head-spinner Linda Blair.
Pop pedigree: “Never Had a Dream Come True,” off the group’s sophomore album 7, was co-written and co-produced by Cathy Dennis — no stranger to the charts in the early ‘90s as a hitmaker in her own right (“Touch Me (All Night Long),” “Just Another Dream”) — and musical director Simon Ellis (Spice Girls, Britney Spears). Dennis had already penned numerous previous U.K. hits for S Club by this point, like “Two In A Million,” “Reach” and “Natural.”
“Cathy was always so lovely to us,” says Jo. “Being new to the business, it was great to chat to her about how the industry worked and her [own] experiences. I’m forever grateful to her for writing some amazing songs for us.”
How the song fared: “Never Had a Dream Come True” sailed straight to the top of the U.K.’s Official Chart, and subsequently climbed to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 2001. S Club 7 even wound up jetting over to the States to perform the tune on TRL, a move that ultimately helped parent album 7 achieve Gold certification on this side of the pond.
What happened next: After Paul Cattermole left the group in the year that followed “Never Had a Dream Come True,” S Club eventually called it a day in 2003. Jo O’Meara and bandmate Rachel Stevens went on to separately pursue solo endeavors. In Jo’s case, the result was 2005 LP Relentless, which included songs crafted by the Metrophonic team of Brian Rawling, Mark Taylor and Graham Stack.
S Club fans’ dreams came true a decade later: Turns out the members of the band never forgot their “Reach” mantra of “I got you and you got me” — as the septet reunited for a U.K. tour in 2015 that proved there was still a paying audience for another S Club party.
“It was so nerve-wracking to be back doing something we hadn’t done for years, hoping people would still like it, “Jo admits. “But once we all got together it just all worked. And it was like the old days once again! People just loved it, especially when ‘Reach’ came on — the whole place erupted every night.”
What’s next: The 20th anniversary of the band’s biggest pop success is well timed, as O’Meara recently announced on Twitter that she’s been recording once again with the Metrophonic team. Per Brian Rawling, the single, “I’ll Be There For You,” will be released in May, with the singer’s album following at some point in the summer. Rawling co-produced the song with Paul Meehan, and Rawling describes it “very up and positive — good words for today we think.”
Jo adds, “After 15 years away I am happy to be back doing what I love the most — singing! I honestly think this is the best work I have done yet.”