"The Only Way Is Up" is a song written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson and originally released in 1980 as a single by soul singer Otis Clay. In 1988, it became a chart-topping single for Yazz and the Plastic Population. The song is the official theme tune for award-winning ITV2 series The Only Way Is Essex. The song was a favourite of M People's, who would frequently play it on their live tours. The band's lead singer, Heather Small, has described it as her favourite song, and once explained that, should she ever be anywhere, this is the song that she would sing.
The Yazz version was produced by Jonathan More and Matt Black (better known as dance duo Coldcut, who had worked with Yazz on their hit single "Doctorin' the House"). Released as a single in July 1988, "The Only Way Is Up" became an instant smash hit, spending five weeks at number one in the United Kingdom, and ultimately becoming the second biggest selling single of the year. In the United States, however, it fared less well, peaking at number 96 on the Billboard Hot 100, though it did reach number two on the Billboard dance chart.
The cover version's opening horn blast is a sample from Sharon Redd's 1982 dance classic "Beat the Street".
A 2009 remix was released in the United Kingdom on 7 September 2009.
After leaving school, Yazz got a job in a nightclub in Soho and got into her first band called The Biz. She then met the managers of English musical duo Wham! who would be her managers. She took singing lessons and made demo songs that was introduced to electronic music duo Coldcut. Together, they wrote "Doctorin' the House" which incorporates samples from various sources, mainly TV and film dialogue. It reached number six on the UK Singles Chart in March 1988 and was very popular in the clubs. Their second single, the pumping house version of "The Only Way Is Up" was released in July 1988 and become a huge hit in the clubs and on the charts. It spent five weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart and became the second biggest selling single of the year. "The Only Way Is Up" also reached number one on the charts in Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden.