The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 20)

Presenting more golden UK chart smashes from 25 years ago, this is The Story of Pop: 1998. And here comes another massive hit from the British hit parade of a quarter of a century ago…

  • Artist: Lutricia McNeal
  • Song: Stranded
  • Released: 11/05/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Rami Yacoub / Daniel Papalexis / Josef Larossi
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #3
  • Weeks on Chart: 12

Just as there are occasionally some acts who break it big over in the States whilst doing relatively little of note here, so too, there are acts from across the pond who end up being a big deal here but not on home turf. It is the latter scenario that applies to this week’s featured artist.

Born in Oklahoma in 1973, Lutricia McNeal had started her career in 1993, when aged 20, she appeared as guest vocalist on “In Command”, a number one hit in Sweden, for the dance production duo Rob’n’Raz. More guest and backing vocal work followed on from this, before she launched her solo career.

It had kicked off with a soulful cover of “Ain’t That Just The Way”, the old song that former Playboy model, actress and singer Barbi Benton had recorded back in 1975 and had made a minor hit on the Billboard country charts, and which featured in the 70s US cop show McCloud.

Lutricia’s version meanwhile, had been a massive Europe wide success throughout 1996, picking up top 5 positions in Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland. Here in the UK, it peaked at #6 in December 1997, over the course of a 19 week chart run that stretched well into March 1998.

It’s success was enough to convince WildStar Records – the R&B division of Telstar Records – here in Blighty to take up the option for releasing her debut album, My Side Of Town, on these shores, led in by the release of her second single – and a sorely underrated one at that.

“Stranded” was written for the most part by Cheiron production team member Rami Yacoub, who with Max Martin and DenniZ PoP had thus worked extensively with the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC amongst others – and who was to become extremely well known about a year later as one of the writers, along with Martin, on Britney Spears‘ mammoth worldwide debut, “…Baby One More Time“.

It’s the glistening, yearning and melancholic Scandopop wistfulness of those productions that “Stranded” draws on here, but with an old school, soulful quality throughout from Lutricia’s vocal, which really taps into the hurt and pain of losing someone, whilst holding hope that they’ll win them back: “I don’t wanna feel like I’m stranded / Oh baby, I don’t wanna be alone / Cause I don’t wanna feel abandoned / Oh baby, heaven is the place our love belongs”.

“Stranded” was an instant top 5 success in May 1998, climbing to its peak of #3 on its second week of a twelve week run inside the UK top 40, whilst the My Side Of Town album was a top 20 success. And when her third single, “Someone Loves You Honey” followed it into the top 10 at #9 in September, Lutricia McNeal’s star appeared to be on the rise.

Alas, the relative top 20 underperformance of her Christmas release that December with “The Greatest Love You’ll Never Know” – a snowflake encrusted heartbreak ballad that sounded so tailormade for a Disney film that you couldn’t believe it actually wasn’t – meant that was all that was written of Lutricia’s UK chart career.

She did of course go onto release more hit albums and singles across Europe, and in Sweden in particular where she had started her career. But with songs like “Stranded” and “Ain’t That Just The Way” we feel she’s a talent that’s worth revisiting on your Spotify this week – truly an artist that deserves her flowers 25 years on.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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