Archive for the ‘This Day in Pop’ Category

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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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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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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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On This Day in…2003

September 15, 2008

Rachel Stevens releases her debut solo single

So, hope you all enjoyed our launch post yesterday viewers. We now have the first of our “On This Day In…” posts. These posts see us hop aboard our imaginary pop time machine to find out what was happening on a given day at a given time in pop history – who was being born, who was being launched, who was releasing a significant single/album etc. And today, on this very day 6 years ago in 2003, one former S Club 7 beauty and general baton of pop goodness, Rachel Stevens, was emerging into the spotlight with her debut solo single “Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex” (video below).

The story of the song starts where S Club came to their untimely end in May earlier that year after a movie, greatest hits and *sniffle/blub* final #2 single with “Say Goodbye/Love Ain’t Gonna Wait For You”. Rachel was almost immediately signed back up to Polydor and Simon Fuller’s 19 Management stable as a solo artist, and sort of rush embarked on recording what would be her first solo album, “Funky Dory”, which also celebrates it’s 6th anniversary as an original release next week (it was repackaged twice to reach final sales of a quarter of a million copies in the UK alone following the cringey #26 chart showing for it’s title track, the second time round it included new cover artwork and the addition of her 2004 Richard X helmed mega hit “Some Girls” and the less interesting but otherwise well executed cover of “More, More, More”).

In a interview for the Sunday Times in February 2005, she admits at the time that, “I wish I’d taken a bit more time with it in some ways. But then, I’m kind of a control freak like that. I have to know what I’m doing and where I’m at so to speak.” A Latin tinged pop number with flashes of electronic synths, “L.A. Ex” actually started life in sessions for Britney Spears’ fourth studio album, “In The Zone”. It’s writer, Cathy Dennis (Can’t Get You Out Of My Head/About You Now and Never Had A Dream Come True for Rachel when she was in S Club) wrote it as a response to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”, which had been percieved to be a response to his much publicized break up with the Spears. The lyrics Dennis had in mind for retaliation included lines such as “What planet are you from?/Accused me of things that I’ve never done/Listen to you carrying on/Cheating in another love song”.

Britney however, deciding to rise above it all in the far inferior “Everytime”, rejected it, and when presented to Rachel, she knew that “it had to be the first single, cos’ it was still pop, but it was, erm, pop with a difference I think.” Rachel went about her launch with a world exclusive first performance of the track on Top of the Pops (see above) and a headline grabbing cover shoot for Arena magazine in a barely there leather kilt and elbow length leather gloves (and it certainly wasn’t to be the last time in her solo career that she frolicked about in gloves either).

After then spawning a short lived dance craze involving some Cat’s cradle-esque ribbons and a few pouty looking girls, “L.A. Ex” then leapt into the UK charts at #2, just behind Black Eyed Peas’ peace anthem “Where is the Love” and went onto become one of the biggest selling and most recognised tracks of the year with 10 weeks on the chart and sales in excess of 200,000 copies, plus nominations for “L.A. Ex” at Record of the Year and the BRITs 2004 for Best British Single, where it lost out to Westlife and Dido respectively. Here’s to hope against hope then, that Rachel will return with new material off the back of her appearance on the brand new series of Strictly Come Dancing that gets going this Saturday.