This week, Billboard is publishing a series of lists and articles celebrating the music of 20 years ago. Our 2002 Week continues here as we visit with some some old pop and rock friends we might not have heard from in a little bit — Daniel Bedingfield, Dirty Vegas, Khia, Phantom Planet & DJ Sammy — to reminisce about old times, and see what they’ve been up to since we last spoke.
Until 2002, the closest the U.K. garage music scene came to flirting with American crossover success was Craig David’s debut single “Fill Me In,” a 2-step ode to teenage lust that breezed to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer months of 2001.
Around this time, New Zealand-born Daniel Bedingfield was earning wages in London during the dot-com boom, while also hiding romantic feelings for a female friend and pouring his angst into homemade recordings in his bedroom. One of those tunes in particular proved to be the key Bedingfield needed to kick the door to pop stardom wide open.
“I was rollerblading to work as a web designer over Tower Bridge, and the rhythm of the skates hitting the bridge was the bedrock,” Daniel Bedingfield, 42, explains. “The track, along with the song [lyrics], came to me. Bam…bam-bam…bam. Needed to tell myself I would survive the moment. I hadn’t told my best friend I loved her. I didn’t want to ruin the friendship.”
That aggressive-inline inspiration resulted in the creation of “Gotta Get Thru This,” a garage anthem that landed at No. 1 in the U.K. in December 2001 and subsequently became a stateside smash for Bedingfield the following year.
Who he is: Daniel John Bedingfield, big brother of “Unwritten” singer/songwriter Natasha Bedingfield.
How you know him: “Gotta Get Thru This” climbed to No. 10 on the Hot 100 in 2002 and earned Bedingfield a Grammy nomination for best dance recording.
The unique sound of “Gotta Get Thru This”: “The garage scene was exploding,” says Bedingfield. “I’d spent the previous two years with my friend Izzy B. going from record store to record store playing tracks to DJs, trying to make headway in the emerging explosion. Garage was the heir to the drum and bass crown when jungle and DnB died, and nothing could stop me being out in the clubs two-to-three nights a week – dancing my ass off on the dance floor.”
Bedingfield’s big break: “I sent [DJs] my tracks and just kept reacting to the feedback, making them iteratively better. It was the DJ community that got this record started. A massive garage DJ at the time, DJ EZ, was making the best compilations, trust. He was the one that blew up ‘Gotta Get Thru This’. Then we were straight into a record label bidding war. What a rush.”
A rookie mistake, fixed: “I signed a cut-throat type of deal you only sign when you’re young, ambitious, naive and ill-advised by ‘professionals’ who act in your favor. Switched lawyers to Russel Roberts at Sheridan’s after that. Problem solved.”
What happened next: Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This album yielded another Billboard Hot 100 top 20 hit with pop ballad “If You’re Not The One,” produced by Mark Taylor (of Cher’s “Believe” and Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos” fame). Then, while visiting New Zealand in 2004, the singer was driving a car that skidded out of control and flipped over several times.
“Whatever your views on meditation and prayer and shit, a bunch of people decided to pray for me online and the server max was 300,000,” Bedingfield recalls. “So many people showed up that they crashed the server. Dope. That’s a lot of people caring about me. It felt amazing. I was dying and people cared.”
His sophomore outing: Bedingfield’s 2004 follow-up album, Second First Impression, included a lead single (“Nothing Hurts Like Love”) penned by Diane Warren. But there’s a reason you might not have heard it.
“My label decided not to release it in the States,” he explains. “That was their choice. Record companies held my music back for eight years of my twenties. That’s why I’m excited about Web3, which aims to fix that kind of thing.”
He wound up simply “being a human being” in the decade that followed: “I went to Burning Man every year for 15 years, learned eight languages — Japanese, Hebrew, Chinese, French, Spanish, ASL — and built a sustainable farm. Kiwi boy. Travel, learn and grow shit. Date the world!”
Bedingfield’s return to radio: In 2014, producer Rowan Harrington, going by the name Secondcity, topped the U.K. singles chart with house track “I Wanna Feel,” produced by Adam Fenton and featuring uncredited vocals by Bedingfield.
“Adam F made my favorite drum and bass record of all time, ‘Circles.’ Descending bassline in the middle eight, like a cascade of meaning,” Bedingfield notes. “He brought [“I Wanna Feel”] to me and said they needed some extra bits to complete the song.”
Two years later, Fifth Harmony scored their biggest chart hit with “Work From Home,” a cut that instantly sounded familiar thanks to its interpolation of “Gotta Get Thru This.” Says Bedingfield of the girl group’s 2016 Billboard Hot 100 No. 4 smash, which gave him a songwriting credit for the lift: “When the rights owners are recognized and compensated, sample culture is a true artform that I celebrate. I was excited that a whole new generation were able to discover that the genesis of this modern pop hit was a song I made in my bedroom when I was 18…I love what Fifth Harmony did with it –- such a fresh spin.”
What he’s up to now: “I’ve been living between LA and Silicon Valley, working on my farm and working on a Web3 startup. There’s a lot of stuff in the news lately about how legacy songs make up 70% of the U.S. music market. That’s the problem we’re targeting. A solution that will make the process of getting new music in the hands of fans promptly and efficiently after it’s made. Web3 and decentralized finance — de-fi, crypto, NFTs — are bringing sovereignty and ownership to the creators, so I’m most excited about that. It’s the future and it’s here now. Sign up at danielbedingfield.com if you want to hear from us first.”
And as for new music: Bedingfield points out that his “new favorite collaboration” — with Justin Caruso, John Ryan and Nicky Night Time — is due out later this year. Called “BODYLOVE,” he promises “the hook is f–king epic.”
Daniel Bedingfield’s “Gotta Get Thru This” was nominated for best dance recording at the 2003 Grammys, but it was “Days Go By’ that went home with the award. The atmospheric house groove, crafted by the British trio Dirty Vegas in London while they were exploring the late 1990s club scene, was aided by its prominent placement in a Mitsubishi Eclipse car ad that seemed to be ever-present on American television two decades ago.
“At the time, so many bands saw licensing to a commercial [as having a stigma] attached to that,” Dirty Vegas vocalist Steve Smith says over a Zoom chat. “But we saw what Mitsubishi was doing with a very forward-thinking, contemporary campaign. When [advertising agency] Deutsch LA called the label, they said, ‘We want to use this song for the campaign here in the US’. We’d known that The Wiseguys had already done a previous campaign for Mitsubishi, and Groove Armada. So for us, it was a straightforward kind of, ‘Yeah — let’s do this’. I did not expect what happened to the song after that!”
That commercial, along with the single’s unforgettable breakdance-themed video, helped propel “Days Go By” to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the band’s self-titled debut album to No. 8 on the Billboard 200.
These days Smith divides his time performing as both part of Dirty Vegas with being a percussionist and backing vocalist for legendary English pop-rock band Squeeze, who he officially joined in 2017. Below, he looks back on the song that got his award-winning career as a singer-songwriter off the ground.
Who they are: Steve Smith and Paul Harris. Previous member Ben Harris, no relation to Paul, is still on great terms with the band.
“We kind of all heard of each other through clubland, through the U.K. club scene,” Smith explains. “Ben had a name for being a great engineer, a great producer, and he was completely immersed in dance music at the time, in progressive house. Paul was a DJ that was doing various one-off singles, going under different pseudonyms. But we all knew each other purely just through going out and seeing each other at the same places, hanging out and going down to John Digweed’s night at Bedrock.”
Dirty Vegas’ biggest hit was there from the get-go: “I was pitching around the labels at the time to be a solo singer-songwriter. ‘Days Go By’ was on the showreel,” Smith recalls. “The guys had said, ‘Come into the studio, let’s make some house music’. We were doing instrumental club tracks, then they were like, ‘You sing, don’t you?’ It could have been something as random as, ‘Have you got anything in the key of D?’ But there was this groove and I started to sing.”
Their big break: A few dance labels “were looking at us for singles,” Smith explains. Then Parlophone came along and realized the potential for releasing a whole album by the trio.
The inspiration behind “Days Go By”: “It was about my girlfriend at the time. We had split. I recorded it onto a cassette – she was living in Indonesia at the time – and I mailed it to her. The beautiful thing is that we got back together.”
The song’s iconic music video: Dirty Vegas themselves take somewhat of a backseat in the “Days Go By” visual to Garland Spencer and Byron McIntyre, a pair of breakdancers who play the same man at different points in his life outside Los Angeles eatery Chroni’s Famous Sandwich Shop.
“The first time we saw both those guys dancing was when we showed up at 6 am on the set at that LA diner,” Smith says. “We spent the day watching unfold one of the best videos of dance music. We knew that day, this is special. The song’s okay, but the video’s amazing! We still get people hashtagging on the socials that they breakdance outside [the diner], which is a beautiful compliment.”
He continues, “That was the first major video for any of us. There must have been 100 people there, all for a little song recorded in our South London studio on an SM-50 microphone. I was just bewildered with the whole thing.”
The woman featured on the album’s cover: “We went through quite a lot of artwork. The moment that Richard Phillips’ incredible artwork landed on the record company meeting room table, we were just like, ‘That’s it!’ [Phillips] asked to hear the music, so they sent it to him and we were all biting our nails. He came back and he was like, ‘I’m in.’ We commissioned six incredible pieces of his art for the campaign.”
Smith then swivels his webcam to reveal a large reproduction of the Dirty Vegas cover image above his mantle. “’Jazz,’ as she is known. Richard Phillips told us she was found in a German ‘70s porn magazine,” he says. “We were like, that’s the [cover]!”
The doors that opened for Dirty Vegas: “Justin Timberlake wanted us to remix. Madonna wanted us to remix. We did the James Bond theme [“Die Another Day”] for Madonna. We toured with Moby. At that moment in time, 2002 was Britney Spears, Eminem, Nickelback, Nelly, Vanessa Carlton. We didn’t fit, nor did Moby. There wasn’t Calvin Harris or David Guetta. For us to group-up with Moby and take electronic music around the States for that tour, it was brilliant.”
What happened next: Dirty Vegas’ sophomore LP One followed in 2004. “Pretty much after the first album we all went off and got married, had kids and stuff,” Smith explains. “We decided to take a three-year break. In 2008 we got back together and signed to a great label called Toolroom, Mark Knight’s label. That first album was more of the dance floor roots. The second album was like, “We’ve all got relationships and babies.” But then the stuff that was leading into [third] album [Electric Love, released in 2011] was where we wanted to be. It’s probably my favorite album that we ever released.”
On becoming a recent addition to Squeeze: “I grew up on that music,” he explains. “I knew Glenn [Tilbrook] and Chris [Difford] from way back, and I bumped into them and played one of their shows. Ended up doing percussion on an album and they’re like, ‘Would you be interested in joining Squeeze?’ That’s been five years and it’s been brilliant.”
Smith says the music of Squeeze “just lives within” him. “I had an older sister and I’d hear their music coming from her bedroom,” he recalls. “It’s funny, and it sounds like name-dropping, but we played a festival a couple years ago in Kentucky. So Dave Grohl jumps up with Squeeze, and afterwards we were talking, and he was just like, ‘I can’t believe I just played with Squeeze!’ And he said exactly the same story that I had: ‘I used to steal my sister’s tapes of Squeeze!’”
Looking back on Dirty Vegas’ days gone by: “For me, just follow what you believe in,” Smith says. “I never expected anything like [“Days Go By”] to happen and what it’s done. I’m so glad it did. The doors that it’s opened for a piece of music like that, it means so much when people compliment that song 20 years later.”
“If you don’t wanna hear a filthy song, get the f–k out, please!”
So says Elle King at the top of her cover of “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)”, Khia’s hyper-raunchy cunnilingus manifesto. And we couldn’t have put it better ourselves: If 2002 was the year popular music got down and “dirrty,” Khia was the head matron who instructed listeners how to talk the talk.
Given the Teflon-like endurance of “My Neck, My Back,” you might be surprised to learn the song originated from a joke the Tampa, Florida rapper cracked while watching 1995 stoner comedy Friday.
“God bless his soul, A.J. Johnson passed away [last year]. But Friday was the big movie back then,” Khia explains over the phone. “[Johnson, as the character Ezal, had the line] ‘My neck! My back! My neck and my back!’ And then me goofing around like, “My neck, my back! My pussy and my crack!” – one of my good friends was like, ‘Queen, that’s hilarious. You need to write it!’”
The track became Khia’s lead single off debut LP Thug Misses, and immediately set tongues wagging.
Who she is: Khia Shamone Finch, who has either produced or co-produced her entire discography. “I never had a label deal,” Khia says. “I’ve been independent pretty much for 22 years.”
Her big break: “I was managing a bar in Tampa. It was Studio 7 and Club XS. When we had acts that would come through, I would open up. It was DMX, it was Cash Money. Nelly was out. If they came through the club, I would open up. I was promoting myself, and then other promoters would book me. It kind of grass-root grew. It opened the door for me to be seen, and it’s been history since then.”
The time it took for “My Neck, My Back” to come together: Khia says, “It probably was 20 minutes while watching Friday, acting silly and smoking ganja. And who would have thought? I mean, two decades later it’s still as if it’s brand new.”
Raunchiest line from the song: This is Billboard, folks. You’ll just have to listen for yourself above.
The impact: Khia proudly points out, “It’s brought so many cultures together, from my young fans to old fans at 75. From white to black to Brazil to Mexico. I’ve toured all over the world with that song! I knew the urban people would love it, but not a 37-year-old white lady in Dallas, Texas and Nashville and Oregon! That was kind of the shock, how all of the cultures really love the song. Young and old, men and women, gay and straight. It will always be a hit.”
On controlling her own music: “I always produce all of my stuff. Even when I went with [Thug Misses distributor Artemis], the album was done and they went in and re-produced it, because they wanted to get credit for it. They went in and had another producer reproduce my original songs. That’s why I’m about to release Thug Misses 2.0 for the 20th anniversary.”
And it’s still going: From the above-mentioned cover off Elle King’s debut release The Elle King EP to Miley Cyrus showcasing her own rendition of the tune out during a live gig in 2015, “My Neck, My Back” continues to grab the attention of each generation that discovers it.
“I’m sure Miley’s mom and Billy Ray had it blasting when she was a baby,” Khia cracks. “I wish she would have called me and said, ‘Khia, come perform it with me!’ I did a remix to her ‘We Can’t Stop’. I love her to death.”
Side note: Might we recommend the Michael Buble-esque swing version by (ahem) Richard Cheese?
What happened next: Janet Jackson came calling for “So Excited,” a collaboration that featured Khia off Jackson’s 2006 20 Y.O. album.
“I love Janet and I’m always gonna be a fan,” Khia says. “Of course, Jermaine [Dupri] had done some production on a remix for [“My Neck, My Back” follow-up single] ‘The K-Wang’. Then when he was dating Janet, it was like, ‘Janet is a fan of ‘My Neck, My Back’. She’s working on a new project. She wants you to come down to LA and then you guys can collaborate’.”
Khia loved the track for “So Excited” and says recording with Janet was “like a dream come true.” But, as the rapper explains it, the vibe changed when it came time to shoot the music video.
“I don’t know — now that the [Lifetime] documentary [Janet Jackson] came out and she talked about how Jermaine was a cheater and sleeping with all those women, I guess maybe she thought Jermaine and I might have had something going on. Who knows? Because that day was not as friendly and nice as it was when [Janet and I] first met at the studio. And then somehow I ended up on the TV [in the video]. I don’t know if Janet was just fed up with Jermaine and his ways, but I never could figure out why I ended up on the TV? I’m like, why would you pay a stylist and I’m making four wardrobe changes, all of this footage, for me to only end up on the TV?”
What’s coming up: “I’m on my 13th album. I continue to tour with my band, and I have a new single that’s called ‘Lick Me Low’ and it’s dropping this spring, before Memorial Day. So be sure to go to iTunes and look for that. Support independent artists!”
By the time Phantom Planet recorded “California,” their power-pop-anthem-turned-O.C.-theme-song, the band members had been playing live for seven years, signed two label deals and experienced the highs and the lows of being working musicians.
“I had totally forgotten that I couldn’t pay my gas bill for the entire time we recorded [sophomore] album [The Guest] back in 2001,” vocalist Alex Greenwald recalls. “Everyday before the studio, I would try to boil water in a pot, run it upstairs, dump it in the bathtub then run back down and try to boil more water and repeat the process. No matter how fast I tried to do it, the water always ended up cold. When I got to the studio I put on my game face and pretended nothing was wrong. I also couldn’t really afford gas so I would walk there most of the time. I think it was about four or five miles.”
That’s just one of the memories that resurfaced for the singer when Phantom Planet went about revisiting The Guest to celebrate the LP’s 20th anniversary.
“We just streamed a special show where we played the entire album front to back in the same exact studio where we originally recorded it,” he says. And, total bonus – this time, he was able to drive there!
Who they are: Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Alex Greenwald, lead guitarist Darren Robinson, bassist Sam Farrar and drummer Jeff Conrad. (Previously, Jason Schwartzman – yes, that Jason Schwartzman –- served as the band’s drummer, from 1994 to 2003.)
Humble beginnings: After the band signed with Geffen Records for the release of their 1998 debut, Phantom Planet Is Missing, the label was bought by Universal. It would be another four years before sophomore LP The Guest was released via Epic Records.
“The time between leaving Geffen and going to Epic is all kind of a blur,” recalls Greenwald. “We knew we had to impress whomever we were going to sign with, so we worked our asses off writing new songs and rehearsing. So much writing. So much rehearsing. We were a well-oiled machine.”
No sophomore slump here: To help craft the sound of The Guest, Phantom Planet turned to veteran producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake.
“We met with a lot of potential producers before recording the album,” remembers Greenwald. “We vibed the most with Mitchell and Tchad. They had a good pop sensibility but clearly weren’t afraid of getting weird. They have both produced records that were very influential on the band, like [albums by] Pearl Jam and Elvis Costello.”
The album’s breakout track: “In 1998, Phantom Planet went on our first tour — we were 18 years old. ‘California’ came out of being homesick. In early ‘99, Jason Schwartzman and I started writing the song. I had just moved into my first apartment, and he came over with the beginnings of the piano melody. We sat on my roommate’s giant purple couch and finished it then and there – lyrics and all – in about an hour.”
The rest, Greenwald notes, “is history”: Fox’s teen drama The O.C. first aired in August 2003, roughly a year and a half after the release of The Guest.
Greenwald explains, “The show’s creator, Josh Schwartz, called me out of the blue one day and told me he was a fan of the band. He had gone to see us play a lot. He said he had written this show around the idea that the song ‘California’ would be the theme. It was the first time anyone had said they were inspired by something the band had made. It was an honor.”
So, was he a fan of The O.C.? “Honestly, I am still looking forward to watching it. I watched the pilot before the show aired, but that’s it.”
What happened next: Phantom Planet released two more albums, in 2004 and 2008, respectively, then went on a decade-long break.
“We took some time off from the band because we had been doing it nonstop since we were teenagers. Half the band were going to have kids and we all felt like there were all these things humans do that we hadn’t experienced yet.”
Eventually the band members “felt like we could make something cool with our acquired hiatus experiences,” and reunited to record the 2020 LP Devastator.
Coming up: “We’re going to play a bunch of shows in 2022 and keep writing for a new record,” Greenwald reveals. “I’m thinking we might put out a mixtape and a super-deluxe version of The Guest later this year.”
Imagine a time and place where two DJ/producers, from Spain and Germany, respectively, and a Dutch singer converged in a studio to inject a mid-‘80s Bryan Adams ballad with a dose of turn-of-the-Millennium Eurodance adrenaline. Stranger things have happened in the pantheon of pop, to be sure. But DJ Sammy, Yanou and Do’s collaborative cover of “Heaven” became pop gold in 2002.
Now consider this: There was yet another dance rendition of Adams’ 1985 Hot 100 chart-topper doing the rounds at the same time.
“Sammy and Yanou came up with their version and put it out in some European countries, and that’s when we found it,” explains Cory Robbins, who founded Robbins Entertainment, the label that released “Heaven” in the States. “[Airplay Monitor editor] Sean Ross had heard it in Canada, and he turned me on to it. I thought it was great and so we went after it. But in the interim, someone else had covered it exactly like Sammy’s version.”
That subsequent “Heaven” cover came courtesy of American artist Eyra Gail. “WKTU in New York started playing that version and not ours,” Robbins recalls. “I was obviously miserable about this. [Sammy and Yanou] thought of it, they did it and this person just copied it, note for note.”
So how did DJ Sammy emerge the victor in this “Heaven”-ly face-off and reach No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100?
Who he is: Spanish DJ and producer Samual Bouriah, who began to explore music at the age of 14.
“My sister was a piano teacher and my father played instruments, so I really had no other choice,” Sammy explains. “But I wanted to discover electronic music instead of playing in a band. I was working during the summer holidays and cleaning glasses in a disco pub. There I discovered turntables and it was the start of my big love to be a DJ and producer.”
Sammy’s big break: “I was playing in a club called Joy Palace, a very popular club in my island Palma de Mallorca, close to Ibiza. A gentleman showed up to the DJ booth and asked the name of the song I was playing. I said, ‘It’s my own work from my bedroom.” So he invited me to Germany to sign a record deal. When I arrived, he was not in his office. I was disappointed, but at the same time I made a few calls and went to another record label with my songs. The product managers of Motor Music did not appreciate my work. But on my way out, the president of the label said to me, ‘I will sign you. Not because of your songs, but because of your confidence.’”
How singer Dominique Rijpma van Hulst – aka Do – came to sing “Heaven”: While visiting a friend in Germany, Sammy was introduced to Yann Pfeiffer, better known as Yanou, who played a few of his demos.
“I heard the voice of Do and was amazed by her magical voice,” Sammy explains. “I said to Yanou, Let me work on this idea. It all started from there. When I finished ‘Heaven’, I directly sent it to a few labels. They were not sure about the song, so I released it on my own label, Super M Records. It was big risk, but it was worth it.”
“Heaven” vs. “Heaven”: Once Robbins Entertainment signed DJ Sammy to release “Heaven” as a US single, the label was determined to win the airplay battle that was brewing with the competing cover of Bryan Adams’ song.
“We took [the song] to [New York radio station] Z100, where we had a very good relationship,” remembers Cory Robbins. “The [Eyra Gail version] was exploding from KTU in New York. [Z100 DJ] Cubby Bryant was aware of the other one and thought ours was better. Z100 added the Sammy version and — Z100 being one of the most important radio stations in the world — other stations started following with Sammy’s version. The other record eventually went nowhere except for KTU and our version went top 10.”
Did Bryan Adams approve? Sammy eventually met up with the Canadian crooner Adams in London.
“We had a short dinner and he told me a very funny story,” the DJ-producer recalls. “He said, ‘Sammy, I was in a cab in New York and your version of ‘Heaven’ came on the radio. I said to the driver, ‘Please play it louder,’ because I was not sure what I was listening to’. He loved it and of course he was very proud about what we had out of his original.”
What happened next: DJ Sammy stuck with the ‘80s for a trance cover of Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer,” which, like “Heaven,” shuffled into the upper reaches of charts around the the world (including Billboard’s Dance Singles Sales, where it peaked at No. 5). And though he hasn’t released an album since 2005, Sammy has kept busy DJ-ing in Ibiza and says there’s more music coming.
“I just created a label, MyClubroom, together with my partner and manager Oliver Franke. We released a couple of tracks that have been successful in Europe. It looks really good to do more things in the near future – especially great music!”