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2001 Revisited, Part 1: Kylie, Gorrilaz, Blue etc…

November 11, 2008

Now then, I know that I promised that the second instalment of my “Revisited” posts was going to be on 2005, but I instead decided to settle on a year that I feel would be an interesting one to write about in retrospect because of the fact that it was a rather transitional year in the UK charts as the threat of a then illegal Napster loomed over the heads of respective record company executives. It was also probably to be one of the last three years when pop would still have a “market” as it were. Ladies and gentleman, for the next four part Revisited, I welcome you to 2001.

 

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Leading the way this year in the world of pure chart pop – or at least, in the latter part of the year – was the woman who was not only experiencing a career renaissance under her new label, Parlaphone, but would also, despite all the assorted hits in between, release a single that has not only stood the test of time as a 21st century pop anthem, but would finally mean she had one other colossal hit aside from her Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced 1987 UK debut, “I Should Be So Lucky”.

 

 

Following up 2000’s medium sized return to chart glory with her 7th studio album, “Light Years”, Kylie Minogue’s “Fever” album was widely heralded as her best one to date, a critical response that was also reciprocated commercially. It’s lead off single, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” (video above), co-written by former 90’s pop woman Cathy Dennis and ex-Mud guitarist Rob Davis with it’s siren like, irresistable hook of “la la la” was impossible to avoid by the year’s end – but then, when it shot to UK #1 for four weeks in September of that year and then pretty much everywhere else around the world, it’s not hard to see why it was everywhere.

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After being in the top 10 bestselling albums of the year two years in a row in the UK with their BRIT award winning second album, “The Man Who”, Glaswegian four piece Travis released their third album “The Invisible Band” in the summer of 2001 and zoomed straight to the top of the charts once again with their infectious and melodic brand of indie rock. In fact, with headlining appearances at Glastonbury and V that year, it seemed as if revellers were going to be chanting the likes of “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” for some time to come.

Joining that list of crowd pleasing sing alongs was, aptly enough, their new album’s lead off single, “Sing” (video above, UK #3, June 2001), with it’s infamous Q Award nominated food fight video that was then replicated on their Top of the Pops performance of this track, and was then followed by “Side” (UK #12, September 2001) which involved them all getting abducted by aliens, and “Flowers in the Window”, a track that Fran from the band had penned with his wife in mind, which reached #19 the following April.

 

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The song that beat them to “Best Video” at the Q Awards that year was a band with Damon Albarn, but not strangely enough, by a Blur video. Instead it was Damon’s new band, Gorrilaz, the first ever animated band – consisting of Murdoc, 2D, Russell and Noodle – who were the brainchild of the then former Blur frontman along with Dan the Automator and Dangermouse, who would later go onto do the rare and extremely popular Jay-Z and Beatles mashup album “The Grey Album” and be one half of Gnarls Barkley alongside Cee-Lo Green.

Their winning video was the one that accompanied their debut offering “Clint Eastwood” (video above), which, courtesy of a little remix from garage heads Ed Case and Sweetie Irie (or the “Refix” as they so point out at the beginning of their version of the song), propelled to UK #3 in February that year, then followed by “19/2000” (UK #7, June 2001), and then “Rock Da House” (UK #18, October 2001). The following year at the BRITs, thanks to a little 3D trickery, they were also the first animated band to perform live at the BRITs. Not a feat any band will be able to top I’m sure.

 

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With Westlife fast becoming the dullards of boybands and A1 out on a year long break after one more top 10 hit from their second album “The A List” (that being “No More” which hit #6 in February), a new group of impressionable young uns’ was needed to keep the UK’s prepubescent girl population occupied until such times that Busted came along. And that was, quite unprecedently, four virtual unknowns – Lee Ryan, Duncan James, Simon Webbe and Antony Costa – more specifically Blue to you and little us.

Meeting after being regulars on the audition circuit, 2001 was the year they catapaulted to unprecedented success – first with the anthemic “All Rise”, produced by the legendary StarGate production team that hit UK #4 in June that quickly became something of a summer anthem, to then be followed by two UK #1’s – a cover of R&B outfit Next’s “Too Close” in September and then “If You Come Back” in November, all then followed by the release of their debut album, also called “All Rise”, which hit UK #3 in the album charts and then stayed around for pretty much all of 2002 as well, before finally hitting the top spot in May that year.

 

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If dance music for 2001 could be summed up very neatly, then there’s every chance that Daft Punk could have done it. After the success of Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter’s 1997 debut “Homework”, 2001 saw the release of their second album “Discovery” which is still widely regarded as being one of their best to date. After producing one major hit from the album in November the previous year – that being the UK #2 hit “One More Time”, they then hit big with several other singles off the album.

“Digital Love” (video above, UK #14, June 2001) and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (UK #25, October 2001) along with unreleased favourite “Aerodynamic” were all accompanied with videos that were taken from the band’s Japanimated film “Interstella 5555” that was released on DVD in 2003 and they provided the full score for. Having not seen the film ourselves we aren’t quite sure what it’s about viewers, so we’ll leave that for you to decide. In the next part of our lookback at 2001, we bring you five more pure pop nuggets including the posh indie gal turned disco queen, the Irish R&B pop diva, Britain’s first winners of a reality pop show and the septet that were living it up in Hollywood.

 

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On this day in…1999

October 31, 2008

 Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton released solo singles on the same day in the UK, beginning a week long battle for number 1 in the UK singles chart

 

 

Today’s “On This Day in…” takes us back nearly a decade ago to when, with a debut album from Melanie C, and imminent material the following year from Victoria and Melanie B, Solo Spice mania began to climb towards the levels marked “insanity” in the UK, highlighted by what happened on this particular day in 1999, when the stage was set for a week long high profile chart battle, Blur vs Oasis style, between two former members of Britain’s biggest girlband at this point in time.

In the red corner stood Emma Bunton, who was making her solo mark for the first time as guest vocalist on a cover of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians’ 1988 hit “What I Am” alongside remixer/producer types Tin Tin Out (video above). Meanwhile in the blue corner, Geri Halliwell, who already had two top 3 hits to her name as a solo artist including one chart topper that year with “Mi Chico Latino” in August, offered the fairly forgettable but otherwise gentle offering, “Lift Me Up” (video below 3rd paragraph) as the third single from her debut UK top 5 solo album “Schizophonic”.

It is a battle that, it has to be said, neither of the girls had anticipated or indeed had wanted. Speaking to Radio 1 shortly after “What I Am” and “Lift Me Up” were released, Emma said, “It was just a media thing really. And it’s a shame they made it into a media thing because there’s always going to be other artists who are out at the same time as you, but you know, there’s room for everybody.” Geri offered a similar opinion in her second autobiography, 2002’s “Just for the Record”, saying, “It always warmed my heart whenever one of the girls had a solo record out and it still does, because it proves to people how talented and successful the Spice Girls were. But the minute I heard that it was Emma on the Tin Tin Out record, and then found out that there was no way of changing the release date, I was horrified.”

Geri however couldn’t have been too horrified. At this point in her solo career rarely anything she said or did would go unnoticed in the press, whether she was singing for Prince Charles on his 50th birthday, starring in her own documentary on Channel 4, making new best friends with George Michael, acting as a goodwill ambassador on behalf of the UN for her “World Walkabout” series for the BBC, or even when Boyzone beat her debut solo single, “Look at Me”, with it’s infamous Ginger bashing video to the top spot earlier on that year in May. To make matters worse, Geri, still being sceptical about how long she had left in the spotlight following her chart thrasing via Boyzone, was extremely motivated for one thing only to stop her sliding into obscurity – success. And this time, it was business as usual all over again, with what appeared to be Geri resorting to any desperate measures she could in order to reach the top of the UK chart for a second time that year and in her own words, not be a “one hit wonder”.

Aforementioned desperate measure came along in the form of then TFI Friday and Virgin Radio breakfast host, Chris Evans. A fellow ginger, Geri had idolized him since his days presenting Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast with Gaby Roslin, when she was still trying to break into showbiz. Interest had been raised after a very lovey dovey interview that Geri did on TFI Friday with Chris some weeks previously. Before too much longer, it was soon all over the papers on the week of the release that the two had been spotted out and about together and were “happily in love”, and quite a few industry cynics (and Spice fans) commented that the whole thing was just a big publicity stunt in order for Geri to get to #1, something which Geri adamantly denied at the time.

Either way, by the time the following Sunday rolled around, all was fair in love and publicity as Geri trounced Emma by 70,000 copies between Thursday that week and right up until tills closed on Saturday. “Lift Me Up” zoomed straight in at #1 to give Geri her second solo chart topper of the year, whilst Emma and Tin Tin Out’s “What I Am” quietly entered not far behind at #2. Both records went onto be some of the biggest sellers of the year, but by the time Christmas rolled round, Geri and Chris were no longer an item, definitely suggesting to all concerned that their relationship was all in aid of a chart topper. Emma would however get her chance to shine (and her own back) some 18 months later, when her follow up single, “What Took You So Long?” soared to the top of the UK charts for a fortnight in March 2001.

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1998 Revisited, Part 4: Aqua, Five, Billie Piper…

October 17, 2008

And so viewers, we reach the climax of our four part revisit to 1998. Seeing us out of our look back this week at the year where Bill Clinton lied like a rug about Monica Lewinsky and suckers for a love story everywhere weeped over Leo and Kate in “Titanic”, are a quintet of suitably cheese-tastic pop acts from this year who by all accounts were the biggest in their field, and one of them, rather like several others that year, was from Denmark, and that was the act who were the Marmite band of the year – Aqua. Chances are you were either jumping for joy upon hearing their Mattel bothering, plastic fantastic worldwide #1 smash “Barbie Girl” upon it’s release in November the previous year, or you were grinding your teeth in agony.

 

Still, it didn’t stop Lene, Rene, Claus and Soreen from topping the charts a further two times over the course of 1998 – first with their follow up single to “Barbie Girl”, February’s “Doctor Jones” (UK #1, video above), and then their rather good song from the soundtrack to Gwyneth Paltrow flick “Sliding Doors” – May’s “Turn Back Time” (UK #1), both of which were on debut album “Aquarium”. However, July’s “My Oh My” (UK #4) and November’s “Good Morning Sunshine” (UK #15) both failed to make the impact their predocessing chart toppers did, and after two more hits in 2000 with “Cartoon Heroes” (UK #6) and “Around The World” (UK #27) from their flop second album “Aquarius” the band appeared to fade from view. Or so they would have us believe, as they have since announced a reunion tour of Europe and the Far East, as well as a forthcoming greatest hits due out before this year’s end.

 

Brought to us by the father/son team of Bob and Chris Herbert, the same management team that were the first victims of girl power in the early days of the Spice Girls when aforementioned Spices walked out on them for their deal with Simon Fuller at 19 Management, Ritchie, J, Sean, Scott and Abs, otherwise known as Five, arrived on the popworld and filled in the big boyband spot left vacant at RCA/BMG Records by CBBC favourites North and South (who were dropped this year) with their eponymous, chart topping debut album in this year after a string of successful hits, which they repeatedly entered the top 5 with during 1998.

First, at the tail end of the previous year, was “Slam Dunk Da Funk” (UK #4, November 1997). Next was “When The Lights Go Out” (video above, UK #3, February 1998), swiftly followed by July’s “Got The Feeling” (UK #3), September’s Joan Jett sampling “Everybody Get Up” (UK #2) and November’s “Until The Time Is Through” (UK #2). However, like with All Saints, rumours of inter band strife continually dogged not only their public being, but also cemented their reputation as pop’s “bad guys”, something that would manifest further the following year after an alleged punch up with Westlife in a bar in Dublin.

 

However, this wasn’t the only drama surrounding Five – so too, was Ritchie’s relationship with a young lady who quickly became a hate figure for their target audience almost as quickly as she had become a figure of adulation (see her boo-ridden performance at that year’s Smash Hits Poll Winners Party for evidence). Hailing from Swindon, then ex-Sylvia Young graduate/former Smash Hits ad girl/Madonna devotee Billie Piper came out of nowhere to become the youngest female singer ever to top the UK charts with her debut #1 “Because We Want To” in July at the tender age of 15. Again, like Aqua, the song divided the nation – you either loved the playground chants of “Why you gotta play that song so loud?/BECAUSE WE WANT TO, BECAUSE WE WANT TO!” or you detested it with a passion.

However, the future Rose Tyler, assistant to Doctor Who, earned herself four more chart smashes off her debut top 20 album “Honey to the B” over the course of 1998 – October’s also chart topping “Girlfriend” (UK #1), December’s “She Wants You” (video above, UK #3, which was backed with a legendary cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas”), and finally, the album’s title track which also reached the top 3 the following March, and would then, thanks to recent chart rules about any song being eligible to chart if available for download, then creeped back into the chart in January last year at UK #17 thanks to a campaign by Chris Moyles’ breakfast show on BBC Radio 1 (for our overseas fans, that’s a bit of a big deal, depending on whether or not rasping beer bellies first thing in the morning are your thing or not.)

 

Girlbands and the world of clothes and fashion seemed to go ever more predominantly hand in hand in 1998. Whilst Posh Spice was tarting it up in a little Gucci dress, and All Saints were moodying it out in combats and Doc Martens, over in the corner marked “B*Witched” it was all about the denim for the four young girls from Ireland who set chart records over the course of 1998. Edele, Keavy (sisters of Boyzone’s Shane Lynch), Lindsay and Sinead saw their self dubbed brand of “Irish hip hop pop” take them to the top of the charts between May this year and March the following year a record four times.

First was “C’est La Vie” (UK #1, May 1998), then Rollercoaster (video above, UK #1, September 1998), then the heartfelt “To You I Belong” (UK #1, December 1998) and finally, “Blame It On The Weatherman” (UK #1, March 1999), all of which were from their self titled debut album and all of which came accompanied with a different style of denim for each of their videos. However, by the time their ill fated, Afro-celt inspired second album, 1999’s “Awake and Breathe” was released, the denim had gone, as had the hits, and Westlife had overtaken their chart record by 7 UK #1 debuts. Proof the charm of the Irish really does (and occasionally doesn’t) work wonders viewers.

 

But meanwhile, fashion wasn’t high on the agenda at all of 1998’s other big new girlband, sisterly, jester hat and goggle wearing trio Cleo, Zainam and Yonah, otherwise known as favourites of Madonna, Cleopatra. First coming to industry attention after winning a talent contest at Notting Hill festival in 1995, bigwigs at Warner Music took notice and had soon signed the girls up to record a debut album, and then go onto sign a US deal on the aforementioned queen of pop’s now ex-record label, Maverick.

The first fruit of their labour from their debut, catchphrase titled UK top 20 album “Comin’ Atcha” was February’s “Cleopatra’s Theme” which hit the top 3, to then be followed by two more top tenners with “Life Ain’t Easy” (video above, UK #5, May 1998) and an inspired cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” (UK #7, August 1998). However, in spite of a successful Monkees style TV show on ITV1 the following year, and after flopping with their fourth single, the following February’s “A Touch of Love” (UK #29) and their comeback single, “Come and Get Me” which hit a dismal UK #27 in July 2000, they were all but no more. They did however, reunite for ITV1’s reunion themed reality series “Hit Me Baby One More Time” in 2005, only to be beaten by the likes of Tony Hadley and Tiffany, who would go onto win the show.

And that, as they say viewers, is that. Starting soon will be the next four part Revisited, where we’ll be going back to the more recent past as we relive what was one of the best years for pop so far this century – 2005. Make sure you don’t miss this one, it’s gonna be huge.

 

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On this day in…1996

October 13, 2008

Spice Girls released their second single “Say You’ll Be There”

Though coincidental, it is rather fitting that Britain’s best new girlband, The Saturdays, are releasing their second single, “Up”, on the very same day that 12 years ago, saw the girlband who were at the time the biggest thing on Planet Pop since Take That also release their second single. That girlband of course was the Spice Girls. After spending a seven week reign at the top of the UK charts that summer with their million selling, anthemic debut effort “Wannabe”, Spice fever was hitting the nation big time, and the rest of the world would soon follow.

Already a massive hit in Japan by the time it came out back home in the UK, Ginger, Posh, Baby, Sporty and Scary as they were now affectionately known thanks to then Top of the Pops magazine editor and future founder of Polydor’s pop division Fascination Records, Peter Loraine, were however already being written off by their detractors. In her 1999 autobiography “If Only”, Geri Halliwell said that, “After ‘Wannabe’, so many of our critics were saying that we were a lightning bolt that wouldn’t strike twice.”

But within the industry, there was confidence that there’d be another huge hit on the hands of the girls, and both Virgin Records, their label, and Simon Fuller, their then manager and future creator of the Pop Idol format and brains behind S Club 7’s staggering chart success. “Say You’ll Be There” was actually reaped with far more praise than “Wannabe” got as a single, with many praising the slick and sassy production courtesy of Steelworks’ Elliot Kennedy as what made the song that bit more enjoyable than the shouty, in yer face-ness of their debut. The song in fact was one of their earliest recorded songs, as it was their first for the album that had been recorded along with album track “Love Thing” shortly after leaving their original managers, Bob and Chris Herbert of Safe management.

The video for the song, which picked up a BRIT award for Best Video and nominated for a MTV EMA for Video of the Year the following year, is also often cited as being their best. Filmed out in the Mojave desert at the beginning of September that year, the girls, kitted out in PVC catsuits and with wild hair, all adopted kung fu alter egos in a video that made more than a passing nod to old B-movies like “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” as Geri played “Trixie Firecracker”, Melanie C played “Katrina High Kick”, Victoria played “Midnight Miss Suki”, Melanie B played “Blazin’ Bad Zula” and Emma played “Kung Fu Candy” as they tormented men in exchange for their cars.

Needless to say, it caught on with the public once more, and the single gave the girls their second UK chart topper by the time the following Sunday rolled round. In the space of a month the single would go onto sell in excess of 400,000 copies in the UK alone, and then another 300,000 by the year’s end, making it the 4th biggest selling single of that year, just a couple of positions behind “Wannabe” which was the second biggest selling of that year with sales of just over a million copies. It all stood up in good stead for their debut album, “Spice”, which upon it’s release a few weeks after “Say You’ll Be There” also thundered to the top of the charts and spent no less than two months at the top of the UK album chart. It’s true to say then, that after this single, Britain was well and truly about to become Spiced up.

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1998 Revisited, Part 3: Natalie Imbruglia, Another Level etc…

October 8, 2008
And now we make a much delayed return to our 1998 Revisited series today viewers, looking this week at 5 more rather well performing chart acts from the year that saw army combat wear come back into fashion via All Saints, and the year that Denise Van Outen was very annoyingly everywhere, including on the ill fated and completely unfunny ITV1 sitcom Babes In The Wood.

 

It was a good year for the Aussies again this year in the charts. Although both Kylie and Dannii Minogue were to both be dropped by their respective record labels this year after the underperformance of the final singles from their commercially maligned new studio albums – “Breathe” from Kylie’s “Impossible Princess” album and “Disremembrance” from Dannii’s “Girl” album which reached #14 and #21 respectively in the UK singles chart – it was a fruitful year for the lady who would go on to be Neighbours’ second biggest chart star after Kylie.

 

Reknowned for playing the role of Beth on the popular Aussie soap until the mid 90’s, Natalie Imbruglia first came to our musical attention at the end of the previous year when her debut single, the timeless radio favourite/scorned woman classic “Torn” rocketed to UK #2 and became the first ever single in UK chart history to sell a million copies and never reach the top spot. Still, this bittersweet achievement didn’t stop Natalie from releasing three more fantastic singles from her best selling debut album “Left of the Middle” in 1998 – first with “Big Mistake” (UK #3, March 1998), then “Wishing I Was There” (video above, UK #17, June 1998) and finally, the poignant piano pop of “Smoke” (UK #5, October 1998), all of which helped build a following that would reward her with two BRIT award wins the following year.

 

 

 

 

The other big Aussie chart act of the year were a band who could probably sympathise with the situation that Gabriella Cilmi and Sam Sparro now must be in after their hits, “Sweet About Me” and “Black and Gold” respectively, have become bigger than them and possibly prevented them from undeservedly ever getting another chart hit of similar chart performing proportions again. In Savage Garden’s case, their never ending hit of the year was the Dawson’s Creek soundtracking mid tempo “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (UK #4).

It was a track that not only went onto be the 8th biggest of the year in the UK, but after it’s release in February that year stayed on the charts until the end of June. As a result, it ended up eclipsing the success they had with “To The Moon and Back” (UK #3, August 1998, video above) and “I Want You” (UK #12, December 1998) in terms of chart runs and sales performance worldwide. Nevertheless, it helped their self titled debut album tot up worldwide sales of over 4 million copies, something that their follow up, 2000’s “Affirmation” album never quite managed to achieve.

 

This year would also see the prototype being set for a still unformed Blue, as whilst Boyzone occupied the seats Westlife were to occupy a year later and Five were busy being “the bad boys of pop”, Another Level, a London four piece of Dane, Mark, Wayne and Bobak who were more closely associated in sound with the likes Blackstreet and Boyz II Men spent the large part of 1998 soundtracking millions of chav teenage pregnancies up and down the country with their chart topping second single from July that year, a cover of Keith Sweat’s “Freak Me”.

Before and after that though, were a couple of other chart botherers from their self titled debut top 30 album – “Be Alone No More”, a collaboration with a pre-Beyoncified Jay-Z that reached UK #6 in February that year (video above), and the “Lately”-esque “I Guess I Was A Fool” that hit UK #8 in November. Needless to say, despite a few more chart hits and another album, “Nexus” in 1999, after 18 months inside the charts they were soon to be no more, with Dane famously going onto solo greatness vocoder stylee with the True Steppers and a solo Victoria Beckham.

 

After a plethora of success with the likes of “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not” from their multi million selling, Grammy winning debut album “The Score” two years previously, The Fugees all branched into solo ventures over the course of 1998. Wyclef Jean started things off with “Gone Til’ November” (UK #7, February 1998), soon followed by Pras Michel with one of that year’s summer anthems with “Ghetto Superstar” (UK #2, July 1998). But the one that was to eclipse them all, in terms of sales and certifications alike, was Lauryn Hill.

Getting things off to a great start with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” at UK #3 in October 1998, it was the first of three singles from her so far only solo album, “The Miseducation Of” that was to give her the biggest solo success of the Fugees, as well as bag her a few Grammy award wins the following year. She’s remained unusually silent since then with the exception of an MTV Unplugged album, but has since announced that she’s hard at work on a new album that is due for release early next year.

 

Continuing their success following the re-activated hit “Scooby Snacks” from 1997, Fun Lovin’ Criminals released their second album “100% Colombian” in August this year, the follow up to their 1996 debut, “Come Find Yourself” which is noted for paving the way for the likes of Bran Van 3000 and LEN to name but a few. The first single from the second album “Love Unlimited” (UK #18, video below) was then followed by “Korean Bodega” which hit UK #15 in May the following year, however, after one more big hit – 2001’s “Loco” (UK #5), their hits all but dried up and their last album could only reach UK #57.

Next week, we reach the final installment of our look back at 1998, as we look back at two more of that year’s biggest girlbands, Denmark’s biggest act of the year and a girl who was the youngest female to top the UK charts ever in this year. Also coming your way we have another Retro Album Review, so watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

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On this day in…1984

September 30, 2008

Keisha Buchanan (Sugababes) was born in Kingsbury, North London

 

Today’s “On This Day” post sees us celebrate the life and career of Keisha Buchanan, one of the founding and still only original member of Sugababes, one of Britain’s most successful and acclaimed female pop acts of the 21st century, who turns 24 today.

Born Keisha Kerreece Fayeanne Buchanan on 30th September 1984 in Kingsbury, North London, she has a family background of a Jamaican mother and Scottish father, and is also cousins with Simon Webbe, formerly of chart topping boyband Blue, and is also good friends with X Factor winner Leona Lewis, who she met her current boyfriend of two years through. She has been singing from a young age – in fact, since she met and became friends with fellow founding Sugababe Mutya Buena at her local primary school. A few years later, when both were aged 13, they met the band’s other original member, Siobhan Donaghy (aged 12 at the time), at a party and Sugababes were formed, taking their name from Keisha’s school nickname of ‘Sugar baby’ (so dubbed because of her love of sweets).

In 1998, they signed their first record deal whilst still only 13 and 14, with London Records, at the time home to All Saints, and began working on their debut album, “One Touch” with acclaimed producer Cameron McVey, who had also worked on All Saints’ debut album from the same year and that album’s biggest hit single, “Never Ever”. The record surfaced two years later in 2000, reaching the top 30 in the album chart and spawning four top 40 hits, the biggest of which being the debut single, “Overload” (video above), which entered at #6 in September of that year and was nominated for Best British Single at the following February’s BRIT Awards.

In 2001 however, due to poor sales of the album, the group were not only dropped by London Records but also lost Siobhan, who exited the group by excusing herself quietly from promotion in the Far East. She was then replaced by Liverpudlian and original Atomic Kitten member Heidi Range a month later, and the girls were resigned, this time to Universal Island, and began work on a second album that would help take them to greater heights. Released in 2002, “Angels With Dirty Faces” was critically acclaimed by many, including publications like Q magazine who said that the beauty of them as a group was that “they sounded like Asbo angels whilst remaining sassily confident and mature beyond their years.”

This time however, they were greeted with greater commercial success, achieving two UK #1’s with the Gary Numan sampling cover of Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” (produced by Richard X, TOTP performance above) and “Round Round” (produced by Brian Higgins and Xenomania). Following award wins at the Q awards, Smash Hits awards and BRITs and a sold out theatre tour, the girls would continue to break more boundaries in 2003, performing at Later With Jools Holland, the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, and releasing their third album “Three” and another chart topper, “Hole In The Head” (CD:UK performance below).

It was on this album that Keisha would co-write her first song without involvement of the other members of the band. Her track, “Whatever Makes You Happy”, was, she says, “a personal track that I wrote about the fickleness of the industry…particularly in light of Pop Idol and stuff like that, yeah.” It’s track 2 on the album and is held in high regard in fan circles as one of their best album tracks to date. However, in spite of all the success, rumours still circulated in the press that the girls weren’t getting along, and apparently that they came to blows over, of all things, Britney Spears’ “Toxic” before a gig in Dublin in 2004 that was then promptly cancelled minutes before they went on stage.

Adding fuel to this press construed belief was the fact of Mutya then falling pregnant with her first child, who was to then be born in the spring of 2005. Needless to say, the girls feverently denied all talks of inter band strife, and rose above it all with the release of their fourth album, “Taller In More Ways” in September 2005, and it’s lead single, “Push The Button” (co-written by TLC hitmaker Dallas Austin, Popworld performance above), which went on to be one of the biggest singles of the year, topping the charts in numerous countries (including the UK, where it stayed at the summit for nearly a month) and winning them another Best Single nod at the BRITs in 2006. However, by this point, Mutya had abruptly left the band to look after her daughter, again fuelling speculation over their relationship with one another.

But still, the girls powered on through as usual, recruiting new member Amelle Berrabah in December 2005, releasing their first single with her, “Red Dress” (another Xenomania production, Album Chart Show performance above) in March 2006, before then providing support for Take That on their massive comeback arena tour that summer. This does of course mean that in the current line up, Keisha is now the only original member of Sugababes. However, she went on the record in a ITV2 documentary in December 2006, saying “I still intend to carry on making and releasing music under Sugababes”, thus ruling out rumours of her possible departure. She also added that “As far as I’m concerned this is the line up that people will see when we reunite in 10 years time. Someone once said to us that if the world was going to end tomorrow then they’d want to be standing next to us so that we didn’t change line up again!”

And so to today then. After two more hit albums – their greatest hits album, “Overloaded: The Singles Collection” in 2006 and “Change” last year – latter of which providing another big #1 single in “About You Now” (produced by Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, T4 on the Beach performance above) – the girls are now in their 10th year since signing their first record deal, a feat that Keisha said in an interview this week she was extremely proud of and she said had felt like a journey. And the journey continues this week and the next, with the release of their new single, “Girls” (which has shot to #8 on downloads alone this week) and their 6th studio album “Catfights and Spotlights”, out on 20th October. And here, we hope, is to many more years together for Sugababes and more success for Keisha.

 

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“This is my new single, ‘Hey Kid’, which is out on Monday. Please buy it or I’ll get dropped!”

September 27, 2008

The third part of 1998: Revisited is on it’s way soon, but for now it’s time for our first ever Retro Album Review, and an absolute classic from two years ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Basics:

ARTIST: Matt Willis

ALBUM: Don’t Let It Go To Waste

LABEL: Mercury

RELEASED: 20th November 2006

HIGHEST UK ALBUM CHART POSTION: #67

CERTIFICATION: Gold (100,000 copies+)

PRODUCER(S): The Collective/Jason Perry/Julian Emery

RECORDED: August 2005 – January 2006

SINGLES: Up All Night (UK #7, May 2006), Hey Kid (UK #11, September 2006), Don’t Let It Go To Waste (UK #17, November 2006)

 

 

A year on from Busted’s much publicized and sudden announcement of a split, the former members of the chart topping, BRIT award winning punk pop trio were all experiencing various degrees of success, the majority of them being middling – main quitee Charlie Simpson was still struggling for recognition with post-hardcore outfit Fightstar, while the band’s main pensmith James Bourne appeared to be heading the same way Gary Barlow went after Take That when his new band Son of Dork, who despite an initial burst of success with two top 10 hits and a gold album, were far from experiencing the “Ticket Outta Loserville” their debut single claimed and instead remained the butt of the music industry’s jokes long after their demise.

It did therefore seem as if all hopes were resting on Matt Willis to be the most successful solo venture of Busted. Largely because A) he was the last one to do it, and B) he was more often than not referred to as the band’s most likeable member whilst James flounced about with a weird Transatlantic twang talking about the brilliance of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey and how much he wanted a DeLorean and Charlie just seemed to stand there, not saying much and looking moody with his infamous caterpillar-esque eyebrows.

 

Though his solo debut didn’t surface until nearly 18 months after the split, in some ways it was regarded by many of it’s fans as a smart move. Matt could have rather easily come out off the back of the split, it has to be said, with the kind of album that James did with Son of Dork on “Welcome to Loserville”, which was basically an unsuccessful hybrid of Busted had they made a third album and Bowling For Soup/New Found Glory, but rather luckily for us, he didn’t. In a weird way, the time spent in between the split and releasing his debut solo offering was to be what A) influenced it and B) made it such an interesting, ground breaking pop album.

Out of all of Busted, Matt was the one that it appeared to hit the worst. In an interview for Popjustice in May 2006, he recounted of his experiences of how he went into rehab for drinking problems as he was “upsetting everyone…and before I knew it…I was there, actually being driven to the gates, and I was like ‘S***, I instantly regret this decision! I wish I hadn’t said that!'” Needless to say, it was the metaphorical kick up the butt that he needed to get out there and prove his worth as a solo artist. Jetting out to Ireland’s famous Grouse Lodge studios at the start of summer 2005, he began recording and writing a “kind of mad, Van Halen “Jump” type stadium pop album” with former “A” frontman Jason Perry’s writing team The Collective, who’d also go on to co-write and produce hit albums and singles for Matt’s good friends McFly as well as Andrea Corr and Sugababes.

Indeed, his tales of drunken upsets and failed attempts at rehab made for some of the most wildly incongrous songs on the album – on “Luxury” for example, he talks about how “They tell me I’m angry/Don’t need their bull**** therapy/Don’t need no excuse/I’ve got my own issues” and on “Up All Night”, he talks of his confusion of the “names to all the faces of the places I’ve been going lately”. Angry, vitriolic and full of energy, the critics were quick to take their hat off to Matt’s album, praising it’s maturity and inventiveness. So why then, did it all go wrong commercially for an album that was a hit with the critics? Well, even we’re not quite sure to this very day viewers. Either way, despite a strong top 10 start with “Up All Night” (video above), when the follow up and single that was initially planned to be his debut, “Hey Kid” could only scrape to #11 in September 2006, penny counters at his record label, Mercury, made the imbecilic move of pushing the album’s release back until November, possibly as some sort of muted reaction to Matt’s offhand comment before performing the track at V Festival that summer.

As a kind of attempt to salvage interest further for the album, Matt was to end up appearing on (and then winning) that year’s series of “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!”, but it ultimately didn’t work for either single or album of the same name. “No one cares about my music sadly,” he said at the time. “The whole point of me going on there was to drum up interest for my music, but all everyone wants to talk about is what my Buschtucker trial was like.” Criminally, Matt was then dropped a year later and is now, after marrying long time other half and MTV VJ Emma Griffiths, finding steady work as a presenter on various shows for UK satellite channel ITV2.

Our advice if you happen upon this album in a bargain bin somewhere then viewers? Get it. Never has an album given such an autobiographical snapshot of a popstar’s life that ultimately makes it personal as much as it is captivating. Even though he’s vowed never to go solo again, Matt should be congratulated on the music he made in his time as a solo artist.

Popcomments rating: 9.7 out of 10.

Download: “Up All Night”, “Hey Kid”, “Luxury”, “Who You Gonna Run To”.