Category Archives: Pop Post-Mortem

Pop Post-Mortem: Samantha Fox

This post was all conveniently timed and planned to tie-in with the reissue of Sam Fox’s first four albums this week, but as luck would have it the release has been postponed for a few weeks due to “manufacturing delays”.  Hmph. Regardless, it’s about time the Fantastic Ms Fox was given the recognition she deserves for a peerless pop career.

Firstly what’s unique about her is that unlike many starlets who end up doing softcore nudity once their hits have dried up, it’s how Sam kicked off her music career. By the time she was only 20 she had already formally “retired” as a Page 3 girl with £200,000 insured breasts, although she would make occasional forays back to keep her pervier fans happy. Katie Price would kill for her easy transition from dirty old man’s pleasure to national pop treasure.

While her first single ‘Touch Me’ remains her most well-known hit in the UK (out of three domestic top 10’s), it’s hard to believe that this is a woman who has managed to sell 30 million records. How? Through consistent moderate hits across Europe and the US throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties. What she lacked in smash No.1’s, Sam made up for in decent chart placings, such as ‘Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)’ which despite being the fifth single for her self titled second album temporarily brought her profile back in the UK.  The different tastes between her European audiences who fell over each other for her Stock Aitken and Waterman collaborations and US fans whom she worked with hip hop producers Full Force for can also be attributed to her lack of global dominance – she had a foothold on either side of the Atlantic, but not firmly.

The Nineties, after her fourth album Just One Night failed to resurrect things, were a bit of a wilderness for Foxy. In 1995 she unsuccessfully attempted to represent the UK in Eurovision with a nice enough song called ‘Go For the Heart’ which might’ve fared quite well had it been selected. In 1998 she released her masterpiece, 21st Century Fox on the wave of some new interest which might have had something to do with this the year before:

A big fat Nineties dance hit was just what the Doctor had ordered and should’ve been enough to put 21st Century Fox on every kid’s Christmas wishlist along with the Spice Girls dolls. Unfortunately as she was by this stage with a miniscule US-based hip hop label, distributing costs meant that the album had to be stagger-released, killing off any momentum. At least ‘Let Me Be Free’ was a club hit of sorts across Europe, just like the old days.

Angel with an Attitude, her most recent album in 2005 suffered from more business woe with the label going bankrupt and Sam having to go independent and release it herself. It’s a solid effort, sounding much less cheap than it actually was with lyrics referencing personal experiences such as suing her Father for embezzling £1 million from her, giving us a rare glimpse behind the woman with the big knockers.  These days Samantha seems to be spending her days very slowly writing her autobiography and appearing on intermittent reality shows with her girlfriend while a new album is apparently in the pipeline for release this year. Her involvement with the reissuing of her first four albums also shows that she never saw music as just a passport to fame – she also wrote ‘Dreams’ for All Saints who rudely demanded she change her name to “Karen Wilkin” on the credits. With random singles such as ‘The Secret’  last year or the amazing ‘Midnight Lover’ (see below) appearing on UK iTunes without any announcement, you can never be certain when The Fox will emerge from her den. Probably your best bet is to follow her on Twitter and tolerate her enthusiastic commitment to animal rights. When the four reissues are eventually released I’m going to be getting my hands on I’m Wanna Have Some Fun as it contains a brilliant SAW cover of Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’ for starters. Forget about Kylie’s K25 celebrations, 2012 is officially the year of S26.

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Pop Post-Mortem: How they ruined Alexandra Burke

Once upon a time, there was a popstar called Alexandra Burke.

You know – her: Famed for THIS:

And ultimately THIS:

This in turn led to an album being cobbled together. An album that immediately gave you two brilliant singles. THIS (which not even Flo-Rida could ruin):

And this:

So far, so good.  The third proper single, even with bloody Pitbull was ok.  It was then that Syco started to balls things up for Alex. Instead of recording a brand new album, they opted for a re-release of her debut, pissing off everyone who had bought Overcome when it first came out. Now when you’re Amy Winehouse you can get away with this – not when you’re a TV talent show winner kickstarting your career.  With four new tracks on it there had probably been the option of having a proper crack and recording 8 more for album No.2. The singles weren’t as strong as previous material but still managed to showcase those powerhouse vocals and bag her another number one single. A dose of good old-fashioned homoeroticism may have helped:

By this stage Alex had as many number ones as Leona Lewis, always hailed as the paradym of X Factor success, even though she was far more versatile in what she could deliver. Signing a new joint deal with RCA gave the (false) hope that Syco alone wouldn’t be able to balls things up any more for her.

Then this came along in March:

Seriously? What the actual fuck is that? Certainly not the work of the same woman who shattered glassware from Dundee to Dudley by performing with Beyoncé. It’s an embarrassing whispery mess that even Pixie Lott would turn down. And although it managed to claw its way to second place in the charts (albeit with sumo-heavy airplay on Capital), by the second week of its release it had fallen out of the Top 10 completely. This should’ve been a wake-up call, as if Leona’s unconvincing Dance makeover with ‘Collide’ hadn’t been enough.  I’m no musical genius, but it seems fairly obvious; if you’ve got a strong set of pipes then for Christ’s sake don’t layer them to smithereens in the same production treatment Dannii Minogue would demand in 1998. Are you listening?

I didn’t think so. Have now started to dread Heartbreak on Hold if this is the direction they’ve headed. It just seems like a total waste of talent in an effort to sound hip and current. Oh well, at least the artwork might be nice:

Aaaaaaargh. Unbeweaveable.

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Pop Post-Mortem: Daisy Dares You

Something the music press seems hopelessly addicted to is the the BBC Sound of… the ritual which annually dictates what we should be supposedly getting excited about like a puppy for a walk. In reality it’s a sham, a soulless facade that allows major record labels to plug their latest wares to us while Auntie manages to have an “exclusive” in some weird symbiotic relationship – like a one of those birds which cleans the shit out of a crocodile’s teeth. That shit then becomes “hot shit”that we music-buying consumers gorge ourselves on, with a bit of luck forgetting that this hideous cycle happened last year with it’s “new talent”, and the year before that, and the year before that…

But every now and again this doesn’t work. Every now and again what we’re being musically force-fed is so unpalatable that we don’t swallow it. And in 2010 exactly that happened with this:

Daisy Dares You was first spawned into the public consciousness thanks to the BBC Sound of 2010 and predictably was soon everywhere in newspapers wanting to look current. With a performing name referencing ZZZap!– the ’90s CITV programme, Daisy Coburn seemed like she was aiming for a younger target audience, especially after Jive made such a big deal that they’d signed her after stumbling across her *gasp* using social media to showcase her material. The material itself? As you’ve heard from the above; generally a squawky, insipid mess. With all this hype on her side, as well as roping in trendy rapper du jour Chipmunk, debut single ‘Number One Enemy’ should’ve managed to cling onto the inside of the Top 10 but No.13 was as good as it fared.

Maybe it was the fact that she was barely old enough to be doing her GCSEs, but she didn’t exactly ingratiate herself. Whingy soundbites such as “Anyone who says I was influenced by Avril Lavigne can get stuffed” (really?) didn’t help her cause. In fact at every available opportunity Daisy was given to talk to the press she appeared to use to say exactly what she wasn’t: “Like Pixie Lott” or “A fan of grime” and “(I) never said I hated grime”. Asides from this it was frankly impossible to pin her down asides from “Taylor Momsen from Essex”. This was the year when the combined hype machines of Marina & the Diamonds and Ellie Goulding were in full throttle, so being as irritating personality-wise as you were musically really wasn’t going to help your case. A second single, ‘Rosie’, was supposed to be released in May 2010 with a 12 track album Rush out the following month. This did not happen. When Jive disbanded last year a large amount of artists were quietly dropped instead of being carried on by the merge into RCA. Either Daisy is in cryogenic suspension while RCA scientists work around the clock to make her less screechy, desperately trying to inject some semblance of media training into her system…or she’s been dropped. I suspect it’s the latter.

Flush or float? FLUSH. 

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Pop Post-Mortem: The Modern/Matinee Club

In the music industry it can sometimes seem that no matter how good the material, the stars have somehow aligned against an act and no matter what they do, they’re destined to be doomed. In such cases even changing your name several times won’t shake off your bad luck – just ask The Modern, who then called themselves Matinee Club, before reverting back to The Modern (they were also originally called Dirty Blonde). Confused? Me too.

They were first formed way back in 2001 with Nathan Cooper (brother of actor Dominic) and Chi Tudor-Hart as the sole frontmen, before recruiting glamorous blonde actress Emma Cooke (who’d played a young Pat Butcher in Eastenders) as a vocalist in 2003.  Why did they then ditch the name Dirty Blonde? Was it just a bit too obvious? Who knows…

After the name change, guitarist Telee and drummer Rees Bridges joined The Modern’s first incarnation before Bridges then left and was replaced by Bob Malkowski. After a shaky start it finally looked as though they had a permanent line-up and they were lucky enough to be signed to Mercury in 2005.  They then teamed up with producer Stephen Hague and recorded a few songs for a debut album that was originally going to be called Life in The Modern World, including ‘Jane Falls Down’  which against the odds of commercial radio ignoring them managed to peak at No.35. Were their fortunes on the up?

The next chapter in the tale is when things went PROPERLY wrong for The Modern.

Their next single, ‘Industry’ was the smash they were waiting for, managing to sound unique while slotting perfectly into the Eighties -aping charts of the time.  The song was about to enter at No.13,  a position that could’ve given them some much-needed exposure…and then they were disqualified from the charts. Huh?

Turns out Chi Tudor Hart’s father bought 141 copies the single, apparently because he was “in Austria with my mum and he went online to get copies to send to family and friends.” Whether this was deliberate dodginess or just plain cack-handedness, it kick-started the slow but inevitable decline of the band.

By September 2006, they announced their online forum (Oh come on, this was 2006) that they were no longer with Mercury Records, and that both Bob Malkowski and new guitarist Robert James had left. Continuing as a trio they then renamed themselves Matinee Club and soldiered on, signing to an independent record label called Planet Clique that allowed them to release one of their greatest songs, the brilliant ‘Discotheque Francais’ that had absolutely bugger all impact on the charts.

Shortly after that, they changed record labels once again, this time moving onto Universal under Europa Recordings, although shortly afterwards this label was shut down. Let me remind you that they still hadn’t released an album at this stage. They then flitted back to Planet Clique for the digital release of ‘Discotheque Francais’  before their album, Modern Industry, was finally made available to download in December. It’s one of my favourite best-kept secrets as although it’s a homage/pastiche of everything synthy in pop 25 years prior to its release, it manages to have a fresh and individual identity of its own, especially on the slower tracks such as ‘Goodbye Means Forever’.

Since the album’s release, they released The Modern LP through Ninth Wave Records in the US  and changed their name (again!) back to The Modern with with original drummer Rees making an unexpected return in November 2008. They also signed another record deal that covered Asia and released a double album, confusingly also called The Modern LP in 2009 with an extra disc containing 4 new tracks and 6 remixes. Since then it’s mostly been quiet, with Emma appearing in an episode of Midsomer Murders and Nathan launching an excellent new musical project called Kid Kasio, so I think we can safely assume that the group is either dead or extremely comatose.

As I said at the start, like in the rest of life sometimes things are just jinxed in music and whether they were cursed by a gypsy or refused to blow someone important, The Modern/Matinee Club were damned no matter what they did. At least we got 16 excellent tracks out of of them.

Flush or float? FLOAT

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Pop Post-Mortem: Deuce

MANY acts have faded through the mists of time, many deservedly so for being simply forgettable. However, a fair few don’t deserve the worst indignity to music – to be barely played if at all. So every now and again I’m going to exhume an undeserving casualty and display its twitching corpse for you all to appreciate.  So without further ado, let’s get the first ever Pop Post-Mortem going with this lot..

Poor old Deuce. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were about 2 years too early, they would’ve been Steps before Steps. A mixed gender pop group, with an affinity for brilliantly camp outfits and Eurodance – if you didn’t know the dates of their releases you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been launched by Simon Fuller in an attempt to cash in similar to his ill-fated 21st Century Girls project. That’s where you’d be wrong. Deuce was first formed back in 1994 when Tom Watkins, manager of the Pet Shop Boys and Bros spied Kelly O’Keefe, a talented young work experience girl in his office. After recruiting both her and her friend, dancer Lisa Armstrong, he then threw in Craig Robert Young and Paul Holmes to balance out the group and form the quartet.

Like many doomed pop acts, Deuce initially had some chart success. Their debut single,  the still-brilliant ‘Call It Love’, entered the UK Singles Chart at number 21 in January 1995 before peaking at No.11.  The follow-up ‘I Need You’ was entered into the UK’s pre-selection show as a Eurovision Song Content entry but came third, a crying shame. When the song was released as a single it went straight to No.10  in April 1995, their highest performing chart position. One further single, “On the Bible”, reached No.13 in August before their forgotten masterpiece of an album, On the Loose was released and charted at No.18.  Still an enjoyable mixture of thumping dance tracks like ‘Boyfriend, Girlfriend’, the Shampoo-esque ‘Kiss It’  and out-of-place but mandatory soppy ballads such as ‘I’ll Be There For You’.

The prophetically titled ‘Let’s Call It a Day’, was scheduled for release as a single in November ’95, but was cancelled after O’Keefe quit. Despite this and then being dropped by London Records, the group staggered on Rasputin-like, signing to Mike Stock’s label and recruiting dancer Amanda Perkins before releasing a defiant new single ‘No Surrender’…which flopped at No.29.  Fleeing to Australia in the hope that no one would have heard of their rapid rise and fall, Deuce relaunched yet again, this time without Craig Young but a random blonde chap replacing him for TV performances whose name time has forgotten. Even the Sugababes bother to name their bandmates. After their final Australian single, a dance remix of ‘No Surrender’ which failed to chart, Deuce finally gave up the ghost.

Young went on to do bits of acting, popping up in everything from bits of theatre, presenting MTV UK  and appearing in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Armstrong is now a make-up artist and Holmes apparently went on to write songs  for other people. Sod all appears to be known about the other bandmates, but they’re probably still alive, performing at a regional pride event near you.

Deuce’s lifespan might’ve been relatively short, but I’d still go as far as saying that Pete Waterman & co obviously pecked at their carcass a large amount when it came to producing Steps in ’97.  Even the video for ‘On The Bible’  was blatantly ripped-off by/inspired the now-iconic ‘Tragedy’ video. But part of why Deuce really appealed to me when I first discovered them is all their obvious imperfections and slightly more adult feel as opposed to Steps’ kiddy-friendly choreography. On the Loose is definitely worth checking out if you’re taken by the singles, rather than you remaining doomed to a life of Scooch as your only alternative Brit Europop group.  There were whispers a few years ago that Deuce were contemplating some sort of a return, but much as I love them I’d rather remember them like this; young, Nineties and wonderfully cheesy as fuck – rather than ageing, with a new conservatory to pay for.

POST-MORTEM OVER. Rest in peace Deuce.

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