Saturday, 28 November 2015

Ainslie Henderson 'Keep Me Like A Secret'

Chart Peak: 5

Ainslie Henderson was born and raised in Scotland an came to the nation's attention via Fame Academy - he made the final 4 and wrote 'Keep Me A Secret' with fellow pupils Sinead and Malachi... it gave Ainslie his 1st Top 5 hit in March 2003.
Looks like we're getting the full set of pre-X-Factor talent shows at the end of Disc One here, with Zoe Birkett (Pop Idol), One True Voice (Popstars: The Rivals), Kym Marsh (Popstars) and now Ainislie from Fame Academy. He continues the run of acts with short careers too, parting company with his record company without even a second single; it was rumoured that the songs he wrote for his debut album were too scathing in their lyrical content though few have heard any of this material. A freshly-recorded album did quietly emerge in 2006 but actual fame was not to be his. He did, however, win a BAFTA for Best Short Animation in 2013.

He doesn't seem that great a loss to pop, actually. I wasn't a huge fans of this song at the time but I remembered it as more anthemic than it actually sounds now, although the dated production is partly to blame and the chances are that'll sound less glaring in a decade or two. Still quite a dull end to the disc though.

Available on: Fame Academy (UK comm CD)

Friday, 27 November 2015

Kym Marsh 'Cry'

Chart Peak: 2

In early 2001, Kym Marsh was just an unknown singer from Wigan - by early 2002, she had been voted into the original Popstars band Hear'Say, sold a few million records and then left... Early 2003 seems her preparing to release 'Cry', her debut solo single.
I suppose the preparations went well enough, in that the single was kept from the top only by the Room 5 track, but like a lot of the tracks on this part of the album it seems to have vanished into some sort of void beyond memory. In fact, she seems to have had a very similar career to Appleton - first two singles away from the group went Top 10, so did the album, then a third single barely scraped the Top 40 and it was all over. There seems not to have been enough clamour (yet) for a Hear'Say reunion, though, whereas All Saints have already got back together twice since 2003. And if 'Cry' seems even more forgotten than anything Appleton ever did, it's because it's so anonymous from the title downwards. Obviously not a problem in the heat of publicity at the time but there's real reason to listen to it now when you could be listening to a real Natalie Imbruglia record.

Despite the relative brevity of her chart career, Marsh remains well-known in the UK in 2015 as a long-serving actress in Coronation Street. So she can probably afford to stay off the reunion tour circuit for as long as she wants.

Also appearing on: Now 55
Available on: Standing Tall

Thursday, 26 November 2015

One True Voice 'Sacred Trust'

Chart Peak: 2


Matt Johnson, Jamie Shaw, Daniel Pearce, Anton Gordon and Keith Semple are One True Voice, the boys from Pop Stars: The Rivals... Their version of the Bee Gees 'Sacred Trust' famously peaked at No2 just before Xmas 2002, but still went on to sell over a quarter of a million copies.
Famously at the time, certainly although it might be lucky for OTV that most people have forgotten this record ever existed, so comprehensively was it outclassed by the Girls Aloud track earlier on this album. Everything seemed ill-judged from the start, even the name of the group, which just makes me think that the other four voices must have been untrue.

Very much a latter-day Bee Gees composition, their version of the song was recorded in 1998 but only saw release on their final studio album This Is Where I Came In in 2001. I'm sure I remember reading that it had been rejected by other boybands before the Gibb brothers gave in and issued their own version. In fact co-writer Maurice Gibb died in January 2003 while this song was still in the chart.

As an album track it remained little-known - especially to a young audience - so you can sort of see why Pete Waterman thought it had some potential as a hit, but in the event it seems to show how little he'd moved on from his glory days because the song just seems tired, almost as much of a misstep as when he tried to write a song for Eurovision. At least the Bee Gees were already old enough to suit this material, but One True Voice just sound bored by themselves. Waterman reportedly lost interest in the project soon afterwards and the band split after only one more single. Still, oneof them did eventually get to enjoy a Number One single, as Daniel Pearce is the uncredited vocalist on 'Nobody To Love' by Sigma.

Also appearing on: Now 55
Available on: Top 40 - 2000s

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

S Club 'Alive'

Chart Peak: 5

Rachel, Jo, Hannah, Tina, Jon and Bradley tamed up for another Top 5 hit in late 2002 with 'Alive'... 2003 will see the long-awaited release of their film Seeing Double in which they try to stop a wicked scientist from cloning them!
There's a connection here, as a young(er) Zoe Birkett had failed the audition for S Club 7 - apparently she was in the final 12, which seems quite close and in hindsight makes me wonder whether she was "encouraged" onto Pop Idol, given Simon Fuller's involvement in both projects. As that description implies, S Club 7 were seven no more, this being their first release as a sextet after the departure of Paul Cattermole to revive his teenage metal band. With hindsight and possibly even without it, it was clear that they were at the beginning of the end of their career and this ended up as their penultimate single, with the band officially over by the middle of 2003 after the film and soundtrack album failed to do good business, whilst Jo O'Meara suffered a back injury that reduced the act to S Club 5 for much of this single's promotion - Rachel Stevens had to re-record O'Meara's vocal parts in order to mime them. By this point a single only going in at 5 was considered a failure and the writing on the wall.

Although as a tail-end-of-their-career single 'Alive' doesn't get much mentioned it's actually one of their better ones. I was about to call it a good of-its-time pop song but actually it sounds more modern than I expected, with traces of the Scandinavian/American pop sound that has dominated this century. In fact its main flaw is that it sounds so much like an attempt to repeat the success of 'Don't Stop Movin' with even the same pseudo-vocoder effect at the end. But 'Don't Stop Movin' was a good song so I don't mind a second helping.

Also appearing on: Now 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51, 52 [all as S Club 7], 55
Available on: Seeing Double

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Zoe Birkett 'Treat Me Like A Lady'

Chart Peak: 12

Zoe Birkett came down from Darlington, County Durham to enter Pop Idol and became the most successful girl on the programme... Her own pop idol is Whitney Houston and her debut single 'Treat Me Like A Lady' was a No. 12 hit in January 2003.
Birkett in fact finished fourth on the inaugural series of Pop Idol, behind Will Young, Gareth Gates and the aforementioned Darius. Back then the novelty of reality show contestants was strong enough that it was no trouble for her to get a record deal and she was quickly signed up to 19 Recordings, a label owned by the show's creator Simon Fuller. The song was written by UK pop workhorses of the time Ray "Madman" Hedges and Nyge Butler with fellow contestant Sarah Whatmore and is fairly typical fare of its time but less than memorable. Top 20 hit it might have been but in the cutthroat pop climate of the early-mid-2000s that wasn't enough and she found herself dropped before her 18th birthday. She has since followed in her idol's footsteps to the extent that she's touring as the understudy in the musical of The Bodyguard. You can catch her doing the matinées in Crawley this week.

Available on: Treat Me Like A Lady

Monday, 23 November 2015

Jaimeson featuring Angel Blu 'True'

Chart Peak: 4

Rappers Jaimeson and Angel Blu fused drum'n'bass rhythms with UK garage to create the catchy, danceable tune that is 'True', it was a monster No. 4 smash in January 2003.
Well I remember the days when it felt like this was the only record on the Radio 1 playlist, back in the days when that used to move more slowly than the singles chart. Of course the impression was heightened by the roll-call at the start, on which Angel Blu introduces herself, Jaimeson and Steve Feelgood (not sure what if anything he contributes). It's a bit unfortunate that this fundamentally quite likeable track was somewhat ruined by overplay. Angel Blu dominates the track vocally, although Jamie Williams earns his lead credit as the producer and co-writer of the song even if his own rapped vocal seems a bit for the sake of it. There isn't a lot of originality on show here, which might be part of the reason his career proved so brief, but it's fun while it lasts.

I have concluded while writing this post that Jaimeson is the most difficult act name to spell on Now 54. I hope I don't get anyone else's wrong now.

Jaimeson also appears on: Now 56
Available on: Think On Your Feet

Friday, 20 November 2015

Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé Knowles '03 Bonnie & Clyde'

Chart Peak: 2

The American emcee Jay Z first charted in the UK in 1997 and until this year was probably still best known here for his Xmas '98 No.2 hit 'Hard Knock Life'... This collaboration with Destiny's Child diva Beyoncé gave him another massive No. 2 success in January 2003.

The second track on Now 54 to feature a member of Destiny's Child collaborating with a rapper, and the first of three appearances for this particular pairing; indeed the release of this track was seen at the time as the first public acknowledgement of their relationship. It wasn't the first hit for Beyoncé outside the group, as she'd had a solo Top 10 with 'Work It Out' the previous year but it was still part of her staking out the territory for her proper solo career and perhaps trying to make her image a little less squeaky-clean. Conversely, it's a relatively poppy track for Jay-Z, without descending to the novelty levels of the kids-musical-sampling 'Hard Knock Life' or 'Anything'.

It's another track I surprised myself by liking as I hadn't been much interested in Destiny's Child and, as somebody who doesn't hate rap music but doesn't consistently like it either, I'd never liked anything Jay-Z did before and I'm not a big fan of the whole gangster-chic thing either. In fact I subsequently saw the film Bonnie And Clyde and was quite disappointed. Kanye West was responsible for the semi-organic production with live guitars played over the beat from a Tupac song called 'Me And My Girlfriend' (not a big fan of him either, actually) as well as the obvious borrowing from 'If I Was Your Girlfriend' by Prince. I think part of what I like is the thing you'd least expect from Jay-Z (or Kanye West), a touch of humility. He even says in as many words "I ain't perfect..." even if he continues with the line "nobody walking this earth's surface is". Still, that little trace of humour and the fact that he seems to be talking more about the closeness of the protagonists than boasting about any of their exploits gives it a charm you rarely detect in rap of this era. I'm still not quite sure what the sound effect over the chorus vocal is supposed to imply but I'm kind of used to it now. Of all the acts on Now 54 these two are probably the biggest stars in 2015, with Beyoncé even appearing as a guest vocalist on the newly released Now That's What I Call Music! 92.

Also appearing on: Now 56, 65
Jay-Z also appears on: Now 37 [with Foxy Brown], 55, 67 [with Rihanna], 74 [with Rihanna and Kanye West], 75 [with Mr Hudson]
Beyoncé also appears on: Now 66, 67, 68 [with Shakira], 73, 74, 92 [with Naughty Boy and Arrow Benjamin]
Available on: The Blueprint 2 The Gift & The Curse (Edited Version)