You may notice that there’s a bit of a girl power theme to some of the blogs this weekend, viewers. You’ll find out why in the case of tomorrow’s blog, but for this week’s #BlastfromthePast, it’s a six times whammy of it.
For every Spice Girls or Little Mix, for every Girls Aloud or The Saturdays, pop history is littered with girl groups – some brilliant, some dire, who for whatever reason, just didn’t live up to the hype and expectations thrust upon them. And nowhere was this more prevalent, than at the dawn of the new millennium.
About a year or two ago, we invested in some of the albums (and unreleased ones at that) of these perspective ‘gonna-bes’ (some of whom we bought the singles of the first time round) and have spent the best part of a year listening to them and discovering some new-old favourites in the process.
Read on to see if you remember any of this lot or their hits – and Tweet us using the hashtag #BlastfromthePast or leave your comments below…
Who were they? Vonda, Vicky and Abby.
What happened? Signed up by multi millionaire tycoon Richard Branson’s label V2, and named after their perception of people’s reaction during the solar eclipse in the summer of 1999 as being ‘mad as the sun’, this sassy and sophisticated trio, with a sound best described as Texas meets TLC, had three top 30 singles here in the UK, and a gold selling record in Australia. After poor sales of their debut album ‘The Way It Is’, they were dropped by their label in 2001.
Their finest hour? Debut single ‘Don’t You Worry’ (the aforementioned gold seller in Australia, a #6 hit there and #14 here in the UK in February 2000) was a cool and laidback offering, so much so that cult Channel 4 series As If even used it on their soundtrack (at least, when Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ wasn’t being used for the umpteenth time).
- GIRL THING
Who were they? Linzi, Nikki, Anika, Jodi and Michelle.
What happened? In a time before superstardom as a judge on Pop Idol and The X Factor came calling, Simon Cowell – having had success with Five and Westlife – decided he wanted in with his own girl group, the imaginatively(!) named Girl Thing.
Launched in a multi-million pound blaze of hype and promotion (including a launch showcase at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and a Smash Hits cover feature before they’d even released a single), their debut effort and poor man’s ‘Wannabe’, ‘Last One Standing’ had been hyped up in all quarters as a potential number one, only to debut at a more modest #8 in July 2000.
Just one more top 30 hit followed, with their album pulled when they were dropped and only released in Asia, with one of it’s songs – ‘Pure & Simple’ – being given to and becoming the huge selling debut single for Popstars winners Hear’Say.
Their finest hour? ‘Girls On Top’ (#25 in the UK in November 2000) was actually the better single of theirs. It took the best nods/musical motifs from 70s disco and soul pop, so why they didn’t go with this one first is beyond us. Then again, Messr Cowell rarely makes on the money decisions. How else do you explain the Pudsey the Dog movie? And Grease Is The Word? And the non careers of Matt Terry, Louisa Johnson et al? Exactly.
- MADE IN LONDON
Who were they? Sherene, Kelly and Marianne.
What happened? Hailing from Jamaica, Finland and, erm…Bristol, this gritty lady trio were formed by BMG Records in London from auditions (hence the name) with the aim of tackling the En Vogue end of the market in R&B styled pop.
Things started promisingly with a debut top 20 hit, but when the second, the charmingly named ‘Shut Your Mouth’ failed to make the top 40 at all, their deal was cancelled, with their album ‘A Perfect Storm’ only getting a release in South Africa.
Their finest hour? Centred around a sample of hip hop classic ‘The Humpty Dance’, ‘Dirty Water’ (#15 in the UK in May 2000) wasn’t a song, as my own dad pointed out jokingly at the time, about how full of shit the Thames is, but is instead a galacial kiss off to a scheming, back stabbing former friend.
Who were they? Jamie, Lisa, Sarah, Beverley (later replaced by Tasha).
What happened? Hailing from Cambridge, Hepburn were the first of three girl groups wielding guitars and drumsticks to be launched in 1999 (and one of two by Sony Music), scoring three top 20 hits along the way and even landing themselves a cameo appearance in angsty 90s teen supernatural series Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Drummer Beverley left shortly after the release of their self titled debut album, and was replaced by Tasha, but this second lineup only lasted for one more single before they were shown the door by their label at the end of 2000 due to – yep, you guessed it – poor album sales.
Their finest hour? It has to be ‘I Quit’ (#8 in the UK in May 1999). Originally offered, if you believe the whispers of the time, to Natalie Imbruglia (it shared a producer in Phil Thornalley), this growly, Alanis Morissette-esque power pop belter told a no-hope boyfriend that ‘loving you’s a job I don’t need – ain’t gonna go to work no more’. Miaow!
Who were they? Jane, Nicky, Brigitte and Stef.
What happened? Arriving three months after Hepburn, and formed by 1st Avenue – the management team behind Eternal, Louise Redknapp and Honeyz, and pitched as The Bangles for Y2K, Thunderbugs boasted a multicultural lineup, with members hailing from France and Germany as well as the UK.
As if to prove labels were more than happy to splash out a couple of million pounds without a thought of making it back, they were launched in August 1999 with a grand showcase at the Hilton in London, and an advertising campaign advising all that it was ‘Thunderbugs are go!’
An instant UK top 5 hit with ‘Friends Forever’ followed that September, but the poorly timed scheduling of release for the second single in the Christmas rush derailed their grand plans completely, with their album ‘Delicious’ only gaining a release on MiniDisc here – and on CD in mainland Europe.
Their finest hour? Both their singles – the aforementioned ‘Friends Forever’ and the doomed follow-up ‘It’s About Time That You Were Mine’ (#43 in the UK in December 1999) were actually credible but catchy guitar pop, not unlike the sort of thing you’d find playing on an episode of Friends or Dawson’s Creek. Props also has to go to their cancelled third single, a gorgeous reworking of the American standard ‘Angel of the Morning’.
- 21ST CENTURY GIRLS
Who were they? Leanne, Kate, Meriam and Charlotte.
What happened? After Simon Fuller was sacked by Spice Girls in November 1997, he spent the next year focussing his energies into several new pop ventures for his 19 Management firm. One of which was this feisty group of Dudley born and bred teenagers who had formed the band whilst all still at school.
Like their fellow West Midlands chart legend, Slade’s Noddy Holder, they specialised in shouty, glitter strewn glam rock indebted pop stompers. Alas, their eponymous debut single was their only foray into the top 20 in June 1999, before they disappeared from view altogether, their equally eponymous album only gaining a release in Japan.
Their finest hour? Cancelled second single ‘Teenage Attack’ was a little less concerned with being lumbered with the introductory responsibilities of their debut, and as a result sounded like the fun kid sister of Kenickie and Republica rolled into one.