Sunday, July 31, 2005

Amanda - Can't Stop My Love

Amanda was one of the many female solo singers launched in the US in the early part of the decade, during the teen-pop boom, to try to steal some of the limelight from Britney, Christina and the others. She was born in France but grew up in Taby, Sweden, where she caught the eye of some record producers whilst in a talent show. She was then signed to Madonna's Maverick label in 2000, the first female pop singer on their roster (well apart from Madonna herself!)

She featured on the "Rugrats In Paris" soundtrack, with "You Don't Stand A Chance", and her next single "Everybody Doesn't" was released in April 2001, followed by the album of the same name in June. "Everybody Doesn't" incidentally was covered by Thai popstrel Tata Young on her "I Believe" album..

Sadly, the album was not a commercial success, and like many of the other US popstars, she never made it to a second album, although her album was released in Japan! (They get everything over there!)

"Can't Stop My Love" was geared up to be the second single release from the album, but got cancelled. The track is written and produced by BAG and Arnthor of the Murlyn stable who have also worked with Samantha Mumba and Precious in the past. It's a rather good slice of teen-pop, and could easily have been recorded by Jessica Simpson and the like. Since then, all has been quiet on the Amanda front, but strangely, her official website is still up and running on Maverick Records website...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Mariah Carey - Weakness Of The Body

A bit of a rare one for you today. I'm not going to bore you with a bio on Mariah as everyone knows who she is, and to celebrate the fact that she is currently enjoying some of her biggest success of her career, both in the UK and abroad, I'm presenting a track from the very beginning of her career.

Way before Mariah even had a deal, she sang on the demo for this track back in 1986. Originally supposed to be recorded by 80s popstar Brenda K. Starr, for whom Mariah had sang backing vocals for (and also covered one of her tracks "I Still Believe"), the song was eventually recorded by Judy Torres. The track is very typical US dance/pop of the 80s, often called Freestyle, and it's very similar to the style of bands like Exposé, who were one of the biggest bands of that genre.

It's interesting to hear how Mariah's voice evolved over the years, there are parts where you can really tell that it's her singing (especially some of the ad-libs, and the talking in the middle 8), but there are other parts where she soulds totally different. It's also funny to hear Mariah singing something other than the R'n'B she does these days, and it harks back to the more "pop" feel of her first few albums...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nina & Kim - Universe Of Love

Nina Inhammar and Kim Kärnfalk first came together back in 1999 when they became members of the band Friends along with 3 guys in a Swedish reality-TV show a bit like Popstars. The band were so popular that they went on to represent Sweden in Eurovision in 2001 with "Listen To Your Heartbeat", coming 6th. The band continued to be fairly popular for a few years until they split in 2002.

However by this time Nina & Kim were very close friends and rather than try to have a solo career, they decided to stay together and become a duo. Known simply as Nina & Kim, the girls released their first single "Om Du Stannat Hos Mig" in October 2003, which shot straight to #1! They then competed in Melodifestivalen with "En Gång För Alla" in February 2004, but alas, didn't make it through the heats, but their second single "Bortom Tid Och Rum", which included their Melodifestivalen track, got to #2 in March 2004, and their album "En Annan Tid" performed well, reaching #12 soon afterwards.

The girls final release from the album was a AA-side of "Hallå Hela Pressen" a famous old Melodifestivalen track from 1982, and their first English track "Universe of Love", which did well to reach #14 in a land where later singles never do too well on the charts. The brave move of going solo seems to have paid off for the girls as they are now more successful than they were whilst in Friends!

Since their last single the girls have been rather quiet, but we should hopefully hear something more from them soon...

"Universe Of Love" is in fact an English version of their second (and best) hit "Bortom Tid Och Rum" (which translates as "Beyond Time And Space". The track was the official anthem for Stockholm Pride 2004 (previous official songs include Alcazar and Shirley Clamp) and the video (view it here) for the track is rather funny and features the girls looking gorgeous, and a rather interesting wedding taking place!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Alsou - Let It Be Me

The absolutely gorgeous Alsou Safina Tenisheva (her name means "Rose Water") was born on the 27th June 1983 in Bugalma, Eastern Russia, but moved to London when she was 12. She is a big star in her homeland, so big in fact that she is arguably the biggest music act in Russia, selling loads of albums.

She represented Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm in 2000, where she came an impressive 2nd with her Britney-style stomper "Solo", which was her first English release, after releasing a couple of Russian language albums in Russia. The song became a hit all over Europe, and is the biggest selling single ever in Russia. This was followed by a duet with Enrique Iglesias, "You're My #1", neither of which were released in the UK.

So far, she has had one solitary UK Top 40 hit with "Before You Love Me", which got to #27 in May 2001, despite getting #1 on the Daily MTV chart shown with it's Matrix-style video. A second single produced by one half of the Artful Dodger "He Loves Me", was promoed but eventually canned, and the album "Alsou" never got a release outside of Russia and the Far East.

Since then, Alsou concentrated on releasing music in Russia with continued success, but has recorded another English language album, which is supposed to be out sometime later this year. A single "Always On My Mind", was promoed but not released, and she has worked with Nelly on the album. She is also starring in a Brit horror flick "The Spirit Trap" with Billie Piper, which is due for release in the UK on August 12th.

"Let It Be Me", is taken from her aforementioned English language debut, and was written by Jorgen Elofsson and Kara DioGuardi, who have both written many other tracks from such artists as Britney, Kylie (Spinning Around) and more recently, Ashlee Simpson. 2005 certainly looks to be a busy year for the young Russian...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Lara Fabian - No Big Deal

Something slightly slower for you today, just to show that I can love a ballad too!

Lara Fabian was born on January 9, 1970 in Etterbeek, near Brussels in Belgium. She first appeared on our TV screens in 1988, when she represented Luxembourg at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Croire", coming a respectable 4th, the year Céline Dion won for Switzerland. This paved the way for her to release her debut album "Lara Fabian" in 1991 which went on to sell over 100,000 copies around the world, and was followed by successes with other French language albums including "Carpe Diem" in 1994, "Pure" in 1997, "Nue" in 2001 and "En Toute Intimité" in 2003. Her latest French release "9" (as it is her 9th French album release including a few live albums) was released earlier this year.

Lara was also the voice of Esmerelda in the French version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and her song even appeared on the English language version of the soundtrack, and she also appeared on the soundtracks for other films such as "De-Lovely" and "AI: Artificial Intellegence".

Lara continues to be popular all over the French language world, and has her own wax model in the Grévin Wax Museum, and was also named "Revalation Of The Year" by Paris Match magazine in 1998.

With having such massive success, Lara signed a recording contract with Sony in 2000, and started recording her debut English language album. Released in 2000, "Lara Fabian" was another success and Lara had hits with "I Will Love Again" (written by the same guys as Cher's "Believe") and "I Am Who I Am". "I Will Love Again" was even released in the UK, but with poor promotion, it could only get to #63 in October 2000.

Lara's second English album "A Wonderful Life" was released in 2004, and the lead single from the album was "No Big Deal" and it was co-written by Lara herself and Gary Barlow of Take That fame. It's very typical of Lara in style, and the album went on to be another success for her.

Lara may not be as well known as Céline in the English language world, but over in France and Canada, her star burns just as bright...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shirley Clamp - Min Kärlek

Shirley Natasja Clamp comes from the poptastic land of Sweden, or Sverige as it's known to Swedes (Jag lärar mig Svenska!) She was born in 1973 in Stockholm. She started out singing backing vocals for Swedish acts such as Ace Of Base and A-Teens, and she sang backing vocals for in Eurovision 2001 for Greece with Antique and "Die For You" which came third.

Shirley branched out on her own and competed in one of the semi-finals in the Swedish heat of the Eurovision Song Contest national finals, known as Melodifestivalen in 2003, with "Mr Memory". She only came 7th and so didn't qualify for the final, but this didn't stop her trying again in 2004.

Singing in Swedish this time with "Min Kärlek" (pronounced Shar-lek) which means "My Love", she finished 4th in her heat which meant yet again, she hadn't qualified for the final. However she did make the "Second Chance" round which was for the songs which had finished 3rd and 4th in their heats, in which she came second, which meant she had made the Melodifestivalen final! On the night, Shirley came from nowhere and came second, behind Lena Philippson with "Det Gör Ont".

With the release of her album "Den Långsamma Blomman" not long after the contest, which included the 2 Melodifestivalen tracks (albeit "Mr Memory" in it's Swedish version "Äntligen") plus the singles "Jag Fick Låna en Ängel", "Eviga Längtan" and "För Den Som Älskar", she spent the majority of the year in the Swedish charts, ending with a dance cover of "Do They Know It's Christmas" which was miles better than the Band Aid 20 effort! Fred Bronson of Billboard, even called Shirley's album the best of 2004!

Shirley competed in Melodifestivalen again in February this year with the track "Att Älska Dig" ("To Love You"), which came 4th, and her second album "Lever Mina Drömmar" was released in April.

"Min Kärlek" means "My Love" and was one of the biggest hits of the Summer in Sweden last year, spending months in the chart, and was nominated at for an award at the Swedish Grammis. In case you are not fluent in Swedish, you can follow the lyrics of "Min Kärlek" at this website, which also has loads of info on every Melodifestivalen ever, if you like that sort of thing...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tata Young - Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy

Tata Young (real name Amita Marie Young) was born on the 14th December 1980 in Thailand and is one of Thailand's biggest pop sensations over the past few years. With a Thai mother and American father, she has been recording music in the Thai language since 1994, and has now released 10 albums! She has also won numerous music awards over the years, including the Thai Music Organisation's best singer in 1999, and was named as one of Thailands 10 most influential people by Elle Magazine.

Tata released her first English language album "I Believe" in 2004, which she recorded mostly in Sweden with a number of well known producers and writers such as Martin Ankelius and Aleena. Some of the tracks had previously been recorded by other artists, such as "I Believe" which was originally sung by Carola, (which I posted last week on the blog), "Cinderella" which has been recorded by a few other artists including i5 and Play, and "Everybody Doesn't", originally by US singer Amanda.

The album was a massive success all over the far east, and spawned 3 hit singles - "Cinderella", "I Believe", and "Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy", which was the first single off the album. She also sang the English version of "Dhoom Dhoom" the title track to the Bollywood film Dhoom in 2004, which saw Bollywood crossed with Hollywood in a film about motorcycle robbery!

"Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy" is a fun pop song with great lyrics, and is a track I could have seen Britney sing back in the day. Ironically Tata herself seems a very sweet girl, and the lyrics are probably suited to a few other female singers I daren't mention! The track was co-written by Savan Kotecha, who used to be a regular on the Popjustice messageboard, and has co-written various other tracks for the likes of Holly Valance Geri Halliwell and Dannii Minogue! Tata hasn't yet started her assault on Europe yet, but as there are a lack of Asian artists over here, she'd be a refreshing change!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Kakko - We Should Be Dancing

Kakko (real name Anju Suzuki) was born in Japan in 1969 and is one of Stock/Aitken/Waterman's most infamous acts. She started off as a tea-girl for the PWL studios, like Rick Astley, and eventually she got a record contract. S/A/W wanted a Japanese act to have success in Japan, but it didn't quite go the way they planned...

She released 2 singles in 1990, "We Should Be Dancing" which was written and produced by S/A/W, and "What Kind Of Fool" which was from the PWL stable of Harding/Cunrow/Clift.

"We Should Be Dancing" hit the dizzy heights of #101 in February 1990. S/A/W called it one of the biggest mistakes they ever made, and some S/A/W fans have called it the worst S/A/W song ever. (A Bit harsh in my opinion!) Even so, it's one of the rarest S/A/W CD singles, and has been known to go for three figures on Ebay. Rumour has it that Kakko couldn't pronounce the letter "R" properly, and Mike Stock had a hell of a time trying to figure out lyrics that didn't feature the "R" sound prominently!

Somehow, she managed to get a second single "What Kind Of Fool" (no, not the Kylie song) which was written and produced by Harding/Cunrow/Clift, who at the time worked at the PWL studios. The song didn't chart. And that was it for dear Kakko...

Apparently, locked away in the vaults of PWL HQ is about half an album's worth of unreleased Kakko songs that will never see the light of day. Whether you think that's a good or a bad thing is your opinion!

These days, Kakko goes by her real name and she has done a lot better over in her native Japan, and is a popular TV actress, and has appeared in lots of dramas. She even appeared on the Japanese version of "This Is Your Life", on which Pete Waterman even appeared!

"We Should Be Dancing" was released in February 1990, and I can still remember her performing it on TV-AM all those years ago. I still can't work out what the hell she is singing though...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kerri Ann - Irreplaceable

Irish girl Kerri Ann was born in 1978 and comes from Dublin. She was fairly well known in Ireland for a short period of time, and had a brief pop career which spanned 2 singles in 1998. She was managed by Louis Walsh, of Boyzone and Girls Aloud fame.

Her debut single was the salsa-tinged "Do You Love Me Boy?" (written by the same guy who wrote "Ooh Ahh...Just A Little Bit" for Gina G), and it reached an impressive #2 in Ireland, but it could only stall at #58 in the UK when it was released in August 1998. Her second single "Irreplaceable" went one better in her homeland and went all the way to #1 - but after being delayed a few times, the single was never released in the UK, though it did chart on import, reaching #163(!) in November 1998. Despite having hits in Ireland, Kerri Ann was dropped by her UK-based record company, and never got to release an album...

In 1999, Kerri Ann was in the British press in a story in which she was apparently set to marry Boyzone singer Stephen Gately - but we all know this was a complete hoax, and as both parties had the same manager, it looked a bit suspect. At one time, she was also in the running to be a presenter on The Big Breakfast, but nothing came of that either. Since then, info on Kerri Ann has been a little bit thin on the ground, but I'm sure she's out there somewhere...

Irreplaceable was produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken (them again!), and it wouldn't sound out of place on a Louise album. Kerri Ann also recorded a couple of other unreleased tracks with Stock/Aitken - the fab "It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This" which was played on LBC Radio a few years back, and "That's For Sure" which went on to be recorded by Scooch in 2000!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Puff Johnson - Over And Over

Puff was born in 1975 and hails from Detroit in the USA. She had a relatively short musical career, cumulating with one album release "Miracle" which was released in the US in 1996, and the UK in 1997. She had 2 top 40 singles in the UK from the album "Over And Over" (#20) in Jan 1997 and "Forever More" in April 1997. A third single "All Over Your Face" was released in the US only.

Since then, Puff has disappeared from the public view and has not released any other material, despite the album being well received in the US. I've not been able to find out anything else about her, apart from the details on her official website which hasn't been updated in 8 years and now looks ancient!

"Over And Over" was taken from the soundtrack to the film "The First Wives Club" which starred Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, and appears on the end credits. It was added to the UK release of the album, and does not appear on the US version. The version of the song I have posted here is the one taken from the soundtrack, and not the version which was on the single and her album. The only difference is that the soundtrack version is about a minute longer and has a proper ending, unlike the shorter version which fades out, a bit like Puff herself...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

West End - It's Raining Men

West End were another 90s girl group and consisted of Dawn, Sheryl and Lorraine. They have one appearance in the top 75, when "Love Rules" made #44 in August 1995. The track was a dance track sampling the speech made by King George VIII in 1936 when he abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson.

After this, the girls appeared on the 1995 charity single "The Gift Of Christmas" alongside some 90s popstars such as Dannii Minogue, Deuce and Michelle Gayle! The track made #9 in December 1995. The girls then returned the following year with a cover of the Weather Girls "It's Raining Men". Unfortunately the single was never released in the UK, despite a video being made, and being shown on cable music channel The Box reguarly. I even saw it a good few years afterwards! After this, the girls split, though I have a suspicion that a few of them have sang on other records, but I haven't been able to find anything out. Incidentally, the girls are not the same West End who appeared on "The Love I Lost" featuring Sybil, who were not even a group, and were just a fictional band!

The version of "It's Raining Men" I have posted is the Extended Radio Mix, which was supposed to appear on one of the CD singles. It was produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken of SAW fame, and is a pretty good version of the track, I even think it's better than Geri's attempt a few years later. There was also a Motiv8 mix, which is amazing! Yet another girl group consigned to history, but I'm glad they gave us this little gem!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Jennifer Paige - Make Me

Jennifer Paige was born in Atlanta in 1973, and first burst on to the Pop Scene in 1998, when she released the classic "Crush" which got to #4 in September 1998. Taken from her eponymous debut album, (which peaked at #67) she also released the singles "Sober" (#68) in March 1999 and "Always You" (#97) in August 1999, neither of which were promoted very well, resulting in poor chart performances. She also sang "Beautiful", which was the theme from the Winona Ryder/Richard Gere movie "Autumn In New York" in 2000.

After taking a break from the music scene, her next album "Positively Somewhere" was released in the US in September 2001, and in the UK in September the following year. The lead single in the US was "These Days" which had previously been sung by those Aussie Popstars Bardot on their debut album, and had been released as a single in Australia. For the UK release, the record company chose "Stranded" in August 2002, which had terrible promotion, and could only get to #85. No more singles were released from the album.

Although she has parted company with her record label Hollywood Records, she is currently recording her third album, and Hollywood Records recently released "Flowers: The Hits Collection" in some territories, which features all her singles, some album tracks, and some previously unreleased tracks, as well as a DVD with all her videos. Check out her official website, where she has posted clips of some new songs she has been working on.

"Make Me" is taken from "Positively Somewhere", and was written by Andy Goldmark and Mark Mueller, the same team who wrote "Crush". Originally recorded by girl group Solid HarmoniE (of "I Want You To Want Me" fame) for their unreleased second album, it was given to Jennifer when the group split up. Apparently, Jen was quite tipsy when she recorded this track, especially when she did the ad-libs at the end! Oh and in case you are wondering, the lyrics are "Let you in my private thoughts" and not something rather ruder, as I first thought...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Carola - I Believe In Love

Carola Häggkvist is one of Sweden's biggest popstars, and has been recording music for over 20 years. Born on tht 8th September 1966 in Stockholm, she took her first step on the road to stardom when she won Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection for their Eurovision song entry in 1983 at just 16 years old with the song "Främling" (Stranger) and consequently went on to represent Sweden in that year's Eurovision in Munich, coming a respectable third. After that she released her debut album, also called "Främling", ehich went on to sell half a million copies in Sweden and to this day holds the record for the biggest selling album ever in Sweden!

Carola continued to release albums over the following years including "Runaway" in 1986, which was her first foray into the English language and was produced by the Bee Gees.

After a four year break, Carola then tried her luck in Melodifestivalen again in 1990, but could only come second with "Mitt I En Äventyr" ("In The Middle Of An Adventure"), but her biggest success was to come in 1991 when she won Melodifestivalen for the second time with "Fångad Av En Stormvind" ("Captured By A Lovestorm") and then won the Eurovision in Rome after a close contest with the French entry which received the same number of points, but Carola won as she had received more higher marks. Carola was now established as a massive star in Sweden and continued to release albums over the following years includong a gospel album "My Tribute" in 1994, and a Christmas album "Jul I Bethlehem" ("Christmas In Bethlehem") which is still a big seller in Sweden every Christmas. She returned to pop music in 2001, with the English language album "My Show", and celebrated her 20th Anniversary in music with the release of her greatest Hits album "Gold, Platina och Passion" in 2003. In May this year, her newest album "Störst Av Allt" ("Biggest Of All") was released, and once again was another big hit. Carola today is still a massive star in Sweden and with her albums covering a vast range of styles from pop to rock to gospel to hymns, and even children's songs she is also one of the most versatile.

"I Believe In Love" is taken from her 2001 album "My Show", and is probably one of her most poppiest tracks she has ever recorded. It reached #13 in the Swedish top 60 in May 2002. Since then her style has changed again, but this is a pretty good represenative of Swedish pop. The song has also recently been covered by Thai singer Tata Young, and it sounds as if she has used the same backing track as Carola's version!