Good afternoon and welcome aboard this week’s Pop Essays, our weekly look back at some lost classics in our music library that we dust off and polish good and proper to shine as they deserve to. This week: an overlooked single from one of my all time favourite bands…
- Artist: All Saints
- Song: Chick Fit
- Release Date: 26/02/2007
- Writers: Shaznay Lewis / Rick Nowels
- Producer: Rick Nowels
- Chart Run: DNC (Did Not Chart)
I’ve written about All Saints – and my love of them – a fair few times on this little corner of the web, particularly in recent years when they’ve delivered two of my most favourite albums in the last decade in both 2016’s Red Flag and 2018’s Testament. But as any pop fan of my age will tell you, these of course weren’t their only returns after their first run of success in the 90s.
I’ve also written before about the way that, at the height of their fame, manipulated by the team around at the time and the toxic environment that the music industry of the late 90s sadly operated in, the lines between their business relationship and friendship blurred to such an extent that it resulted in their quite public breakup in 2001.
The story goes that five years later, in 2006, after Melanie Blatt and Nicole Appleton reconnected and reconvened their childhood friendship whilst on seperate holidays in the South of France, they along with Natalie Appleton and Shaznay Lewis all subsequently reconnected as friends at a burger bar in Hampstead Heath upon return to the UK, as the friendship previously torn apart was reborn as old wounds healed over.
Into the mix of all this then came Jamie Nelson, then Head of A&R at Parlophone, asking Shaznay – who was at a meeting to discuss writing for other artists on the label – what she and her bandmates were up to. Informing him of their recent reconnection, and without them actually being back in each other’s lives as bandmates, a new record deal was offered on the spot with Parlophone.
In hindsight, this was an incredibly brave – and as we’ll discuss – possibly unwise move to offer a new record deal to an act who has been dormant for nearly half a decade without testing the waters to see if there was still an audience and demand there, even whilst ‘Never Ever’ and ‘Pure Shores’ remained airplay staples. It was this that all parties were to find out to their cost.
I feel it’s important to say at this point that Studio 1, the resulting third album that they released with Parlophone, was and still is a mightily good record. Were it coming as an album released off the back of a reactivated greatest hits, it may have been a different story altogether sales wise. But regardless of the ultimate commercial fate that befell it, it still stands proud musically in their back catalogue.
It’s a pleasing update of the sound that had carried them thus far, their ear for lush harmonies still in tact, at times incorporating 60s and 70s sounds that called to mind Burt Bacharach or early reggae and ska. It was the latter that was particularly most evident on what ended up being the album’s first single ‘Rock Steady’.
Looking back, despite its instant chorus, and the fact it performed relatively well (it peaked at #3), it was a short song to say the least (just over 2 minutes to be precise) and sat somewhat at odds with the kind of thing they were known for. A well documented accusation from Girls Aloud – Cheryl in particular – saying it was ‘copying’ their sound didn’t help matters. But truly as a comeback single, its role, I feel, would have been better suited to the single that followed it.
A ballsy, part Neneh Cherry meets N*E*R*D hip hop laden banger about the excitement of being around a new love (‘Boy whenever you call / My stomach’s in bits / I can’t focus at all / You got me twisted’), ‘Chick Fit’ had the attitude and fun of their earlier releases (it happily sits next to say, ‘I Know Where It’s At’) but kept things fresh and moved them forward. Even now when they play it live on tour it’s still one of the best songs of the set.
That Parlophone seemed to turn off the money tap the second the Studio 1 album was released (it peaked at #40 before disappearing) and thus relegated this single to a digital download only release before dropping them unceremoniously is one thing. The press and industry at large failing to give them the chance to reemerge and be remembered for more than insignificant squabbles for gossip page fodder is another. ‘Chick Fit’ being nothing more than the pop equivalent of collateral damage? Pardon our French, but absolutely fucking not. It is one of their finest singles 15 years on. Fact.
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