A Hip Take on a Timeless R&B Classic: “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”

innercity-whatchagonnadowithmylovin

As I travel deeper and deeper into the heart of my fanfiction for NaNoWriMo, it’s time to take a breather. During the endless marathons of typing away at plot changes and character developments, I have been listening to a ton of music on my music player, on video sites like Youtube, and from a couple of blogs. This post is inspired by one of my favorite blogs on WordPress, Mixed Tape Masterpiece. It’s a really neat site that features songs and radio snippets that were recorded on cassette about twenty years ago before the age of high-speed internet and iTunes. Please check it out if you have a chance!

At the beginning of the 1990s, it seemed like music was changing constantly.  New genres were added to Billboard’s Top 40 charts as previous established ones expanded their definitions. One group that dared to challenge musical genres in 1989 and helped throw “Detroit House” and “Detroit Techno” into the public’s eye was Inner City.

Inner City formed around the Detroit area in 1987 by accident. Kevin Saunderson, credited as a co-founder of techno and a member of the group Bellevue Three, was composing music with James Pennington one day at Pennington’s studio. One of the successes from this jam session was the creation of Inner City’s iconic “Big Fun“, which Saunderson described it as a song with “a chord, sampled, one note, spread through the keyboards and replayed, mixed down with a pad and a few other sounds”.[1] The duo continued to work on the song over the weeks, adding percussion done by Terry ‘Housemaster’ Baldwin and a keyboard solo by Art Forest. However, the song was missing something momentous.

James Pennington suggested Chicago-native Paris Grey to be the tune’s lead singer. Saunderson sent the track to Paris, who had the task to write the vocal melody and lyrics for song. She completed the job in one month and sang the finishing product to the producers, who fell in love with her voice and the song even more. That was when Inner City was born.

Over the span of the band’s initial run, they added two more members (including Saunderson’s wife Anne), released five albums, and a handful of singles. Their debut album, “Paradise” (renamed “Big Fun” in the United States), was a hit in UK where it reached number three on the charts. As Inner City rode on their moderate success, singer Paris Grey wanted to take a step back to raise her daughter around the mid-90s. The group took a pause after the release of “Do Me Right” in 1996, enabling Paris to take a break and Saunderson to go on to do more projects.

However, the group never really broke up as they gotten back together many times since their hiatus. They released two singles in 1999 and 2000. And another two in 2011 and 2014 with an updated techno sound.

As I continue to type countless words for my novel, I cannot stop listening to the Kevin McCord Club Mix of Inner City’s 1989 single ‘Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”. A cover of the 1979 Stephanie Mills’ song, Inner City updated it by adding jazz, a hint of R&B, and 80s’ house. The song captures anyone’s attention at the beginning when Paris starts off by singing the title with a blaring saxophone bit following it. I absolutely love how this horn instrument is used throughout the song, especially at the 6:08 mark. This particular instrument helps to paint a jazzy scenario with the disco-styled piano solos thanks to the Roland TR-909 (listen for an imperfect authentic cadence at around the 4:50 mark), the bluesy percussion beats, and the tone of the background vocals. But, listeners are reminded that this is still a (then) modern-day house and R&B song thanks to the funky bass synthesizer that serves as the backbone of the song.

Speaking of vocals, can we take a minute to talk about how amazing Paris Grey vocals are. Saunderson was right in a recent interview about how Grey’s vocals are “their own instrument”.  Her voice is warm, deep, and rich as she brings out each low note with a slight hold. She ends each line with style that embodies the texture of velvet, rich and silky, that leaves the listeners wanting more.  It doesn’t end at the chorus as she continues to sing in a soulful tone.

The Kevin McCord Club Mix of  “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'” is a tasteful mix of past and current musical genres. The tune is a spectacular blend of disco, R&B, soul, blues, jazz, and others. Anyone who is a fan of any type of musical genre will enjoy this musical gem.

If you enjoy to take things slow, you should listen to the original version. I find it too slow for my taste but still amazing.


References

[1] Saunderson, Kevin. “Kevin Saunderson, Inner City and the inside Story of ‘Big Fun’.” FACT Magazine Music News New Music. FACT Magazine, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2015. (http://www.factmag.com/2014/09/02/kevin-saunderson-inner-city-and-the-inside-story-of-big-fun/)

Making Your Week “Happy Go Lucky” with Steps

steps-buzz

A week ago, I started to listen to television and movie soundtracks once again. One soundtrack that I listened to was the one for Disney’s “The Princess Diaries”. One of my favorite movies and book series when I was in junior high school, “The Princess Diaries” had a pretty solid soundtrack featuring known and unknown artists like Myra, Backstreet Boys, Steps, and others. Many would remember such songs like Myra’s “Miracles Happen” and Krystal Harris’ “Supergirl!”. Who didn’t sing “I’m Supergirl, and I’m here to save the world” out loud when the movie came out?

One of the less prominent songs off the soundtrack is “Happy Go Lucky” by the English pop group Steps. Formed in 1997 by music manager Tim Byrne and the writing team Steve Crosby and Barry Upton, Steps featured five members; Claire, Faye, H, Lisa, and Lee. The group released their debut single, “5, 6, 7, 8”, a year later with some success. This techno-flavored single caught the eye of one of my favorite producers, Pete Waterman, who signed them to Jive Records in hopes to create a new ABBA. Doesn’t that sound familiar? A*Teens?

The group released more singles, a mixture of covers and originals, before the end of the millennium. The group’s most successful single was “Heartbeat / Tragedy” featuring an original ballad and a cover of a Bee Gees’ song. The single went onto be the number one single of January 1999 and charted for over thirty weeks. The group released their debut album, “Steps”, and the follow-up, “Spectacular”, while going on tour in America with artists like Britney Spears and Youngstown.

Sadly, the success didn’t last long as the band started to slip when their third album, “Buzz” was released in late 2000. Relations also became fracture with Claire and H leaving the group in 2001 as they said they became miserable. The group official split quietly after the release of the single “Words Are Not Enough / I Know Him So Well” in 2001. The split angered fans back then for various reasons including capitalizing and lying.

The group reunited in 2011 to release new music. During this time, they released an album, “Light Up the World”, and hosted a small Christmas tour. The group also appeared on various talk shows and had their own reality show, talking about the past and why did they break up. However, the reunion was short-lived as the group announced a hiatus in 2013 with many of the group’s members resuming their solo careers.

I never really knew about Steps during the whole pop band epidemic of the late 90s. All I knew in terms of pop bands was the ones featured on Disney Channel or TRL; Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Youngstown, B*Witched,  and 5ive/Five. It was when my mom bought Steps’ debut album from a thrift store during my high school days that I really noticed them. Sadly, I wished I had paid attention to them in the late 90s as they are pretty talented and buoyant group. I really like the fact that there were both male and female members with each one playing an important part in every song.

“Happy Go Lucky” plays on Step’s signature sound of bubblegum synthpop despite “Buzz” being a more mature-sounded album. I feel like the song starts off in a minor progression as the beginning is “a bit under the weather” in terms of a mood. Throughout the verse and pre-chorus, the progression somehow goes major as the chorus is a bit chipper. This cycle of sad to happy to sad keeps on going throughout the song until the ending.

Or, maybe I just imagining this?

The lyrics are a bit sad though. The character laments that she tries to pull off being happy and makes everyone believe that she is ok. However, it’s a lie. Under the emotional mask, the character is truly sad as she just experienced a break-up with a man mentioned in the song. She does her “happy-go-lucky dance even if I am foolin’ myself” in order to make people believe that nothing is wrong. “Happy Go Lucky” makes me feel a bit sad for the singer as the lyrics and melody paints the internal emotional struggle of the main character.

Even though the atmosphere isn’t so happy, the song is definitely a hidden gem in Steps’ discography. The vocals are a perfect match for the song as they aren’t too strong or sweet. In fact, this song is a perfect song for the The Princess Diaries or even anyone’s playlist as it’s an easy-listening tune. The best part for me is the chorus because it’s memorable with the lyrics, which I remember easily and sing them out loud randomly on occasion. Nonetheless, the song is a winner as it’s catchy, displays how skillful the group is with the lead and backing vocals, the lyrics’ plot, and the fervor.

Take a listen to the song below and tell me what you think.

“Dance trance all in a globe”: A Celebration of a Timeless Trio

globe-1998

One of the first Japanese pop groups I ever discovered was globe. A trio that included a legendary producer, a virtual unknown, and a up-and-coming rapper and VJ. This year marks their twentieth anniversary since their debut single. Since their debut, globe has changed the Japanese pop music scene in their own way.

After TM Network performed their final live concert TMN 4001 DAYS GROOVE in the spring of 1994, keyboardist Komuro Tetsuya decided to form a three-piece band with MTV VJ and DJ Marc Panther. Komuro was one of the hottest producers in the Japanese music scene by that time. Along with being a member of the mega-popular band TM Network, he was also producing hits after hits with artists like Mizuki Arisa, TRF, Watanabe Misato, and others. His most famous single, “Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokoro Tsuyosa to”, a collaboration with ex-Tokyo Performance Doll member Shinohara Ryoko, was released in the summer of 1994 and sold over two million copies. With all this prestige, Komuro was looking to create another super group.

But, what should it be? With whom?

The first member, which was mentioned above, was Marc Panther. He was going to be the rapper of the group while Komuro was going to be the producer, keyboardist, composer, and backing vocals. Komuro choose the band’s genre as eurodance. Which made Marc’s role easier to understand because a lot of dance music from the West incorporated rapping into their high-energy music. Nevertheless, all they needed was a lead vocalist, which Komuro would find in one his many talent auditions. He picked a then-unknown young adult from southern Japan named Yamada Keiko.

The group made their debut on August 9th, 1995 with the song “Feel Like dance”. At first, keiko’s face was obscured during TV and public appearances as the company thought it would be a neat idea to have a “ZARD-like”, mysterious member. The first single’s music video was actually all done in CGI. (Which would have another version later on with the member’s faces.) It wasn’t until the second single, “Joy to the love”, when we first saw the members.[1]

1996 proved to be a monumental year for the group. They released the wintry break-up song, “DEPARTURES”, in January with huge success. The single was the band’s first number single to chart on the Oricon charts and it sold over two million copies. Their self-debut album was more impressive as it sold over four million copies.

By the end of the decade, globe proven to be one of the top artists in Japan with all their singles charting in the top 10, many reaching the number one position. However, the group changed during the new millennium as they steered away from eurodance and got their hands dirty by experimenting with house and trance. One the best examples to describe globe’s trance sound is the 2002 album “Lights2”, especially with the instrumental piece “TRANSCONTINENTAL WAY”.

keiko and Komuro got married following the release of “Lights2”. Also, the group’s activities slow down tremendously by 2005 as keiko started her solo career, Marc was sort of continuing his, and Komuro was heavily involved with the restart of his old band TM Network.

However, the group has also been facing setbacks since mid-2000s. One of these setbacks happened in 2008 when Komuro was arrested and sentenced for fraud. The group was supposed to released their thirty-first single, a cover of TM Network’s signature song “GET WILD”, on November 26. However, it was shelved and later placed on a best album due Komuro’s arrest.

Another setback happened in 2011 when keiko was rushed to hospital after collapsing at home. It was later discovered that she suffered from subarachnoid haemorrhage and went to rehabilitation, which she is still primarily focusing on at the moment. Two years after the tragic incident,  Marc and Komuro decided to continue the group without keiko by releasing a series of remix albums; “globe EDM Sessions” (2013), “GDM” (2014), and “Remode 1” (2015). These new albums had past favorites updated as EDM-styled songs, which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet. Although, I have seen Marc and Komuro recently doing nightclub tours to promote “Remode 1” and their 20th anniversary. It looks like the lives were a great success judging by the pictures and messages.

i first got into globe when I was a junior high school student. Back in the early 2000s, avex trax had three main music video channels that were streamed over the net for free. I would always spend my free time watching these channels as I was just beginning to get into Jpop. The first globe song that I listened to was their 2002 trance-flavored “OVER THE RAINBOW”. What made me like the song was the mystical but yet mysterious synthesizers and keiko’s pure vocals.  However, I would become more in love with its b-side, “INSPIRED FROM RED & BLUE”, as it so emotional and powerful.

I think the emotional side of globe’s songs made me like them when I was younger. Even though I didn’t know a lot of Japanese back then, I would understand the emotional side of each song due to how keiko used her vocals. I could feel such emotions like sadness in “DEPARTURES”, frustration in “Wanna be a dreammaker”, and longing in “Wanderin’ Destiny” thanks to keiko’s efforts. And due to that, these songs helped me during the most difficult times of my life.

keiko’s techniques would also inspire me when I started voice lessons. keiko will always be one my biggest inspirations for singing because I really admire her ability to hit high notes, her marvellous tone, and the ability to put a lot of emotions in her singing. So, in honor of globe’s twentieth anniversary, I sang globe’s debut song. Now, I am no keiko, as you can recognize while listening. But, I had lots of fun singing and also rapping.

Please listen to my cover here: 

Here is the original:

“Feel like dance” isn’t my favorite globe song. I don’t think it’s even in my top five list….

…However, here is my top five list for globe songs:

5. SWEET PAIN (1995)

4. FREEDOM (1996) / Love again (1998)

3. Music Takes Me Higher (from the album “globe”; 1996)

2. INSPIRED BY RED & BLUE (2002)

1. Wanderin’ Destiny (1997; which was the theme song for the drama “Aoi Tori”, starring one of my favorite actors Toyokawa Etsushi.)


References

[1] “Globe.” Globe – Wikipedia. 24 June 2004. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.  (https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globe)

The Underground Solution’s “Luv Dancin'”

The Underground Solution-Luv Dancin

Hey, Happy August! I hope you are enjoying the month so far even though it’s super hot. I been enjoying it with a week-long vacation. I been super-lucky and was able to catch up on sleep and cleaning.

Today’s blog entry is bought to you by my eccentric music collection. Doesn’t everyone has an unusual piece in their collection? Something that is odd but wonderful at the same time. What is odder, this piece was just a random find that you haven’t seen//heard of before but just picked it up because you want to try to understand it?

That is what today’s song is all about!

There isn’t a lot of information out there about The Underground Solution. The only thing I can find is that it was an alias for then-newcomer Rodger Sanchez, who is now an award-winning DJ. Many fans label “Luv Dancin'” as his debut single even though his official site says differently. Whatever the case maybe, “Luv Dancin'” was done by someone and was one of the first releases on the dance record label Strictly Rhythm. According to dmp on the international music catalog site Discogs, this dance bear features samples of three songs:  “Exodus – Together Forever” (1982), “Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way” (1977), and “Loose Joints – Is It All Over My Face”.

“Luv Dancin'” is one of those perfect club songs as it has two distinct personalities. It carries a day side where it’s a bouncy tune with a down beat detailed by deep bass synthesizers and quick, clamorous vocals. But, it also has a night side where the airy electronic keyboards and a flute-like instrument helps to create an ambient, cool atmosphere.

Speaking of instruments, I am very surprise how “modern” this song sounds. My image of dance songs in 1990 is Madonna’s “Vogue” or some eurodance stuff that features sounds only heard in the early 90s. But,  “Luv Dancin'” is different as Rodger Sanchez works the samples in a way that wouldn’t have the listeners try to pinpoint a certain decade for the song. It sounds so fresh that you could play it in today’s club scene and some people might even think it was made in 2015.

When I randomly picked up this single from a second-hand store, I had no clue who produced it or what did it sound like. However, I knew that I wanted to give the record a chance. And by giving it that chance, I was able to enjoy the song with its soothing summer night atmosphere.

Maybe it will be your summer dance jam for 2015 too?

Going Round and Round with Cherry and Eurobeat

cherry-roundnround

I get to talk on today’s blog about something that I loooooooooove to talk about and listen: EUROBEAT!! It seems like yesterday when I downloaded my first Eurobeat album (P.S: I mostly buy albums now, just look at my collection), enthralled by the deep electronic sounds and heavy guitar riffs in such songs like “Night of Fire” and “Like a Virgin”. Yes, there is a song named “Like a Virgin”. I too was curious if the eurobeat version was anything like the classic Madonna song. However, it is totally different.

Nevertheless, I got into eurobeat thanks to a boom in the late 90s and early 2000s that made a major impact on the Japanese music industry. One such artist that helped to make an impression was the idol group HINOI Team, a girls group that covered a lot of eurodance songs. Actually, this month marks the 10th anniversary of HINOI Team’s formation and the release of their first single, “IKE IKE IKE”. I remember listening to one of my favorite HINOI Team songs, “Super Euro Flash”, and was in love with its upbeat tempo, the applicability of the synthesizer, and the fast pace. It was from the up-tempo beats and a dance routine called “parapara” that made eurobeat exciting, memorizing the songs musical contours easily by using arm movements.

I wrote an extensive paper about the topic when I was taking a pop culture class at the local community college in 2008. I wish I could share it on this blog because it was a well-crafted piece (I might still have it, depending on the condition of my old college laptop that I left in America). The paper basically summarizes how eurobeat influenced Japanese pop culture and used many examples like parapara and popular artists like Namie Amuro, MAX, Ayumi Hamasaki, and others.

One artist that helped to shape the sound of Eurobeat is Clara Moroni, who many Eurobeat fans know her under the pseudonyms like “Cherry”, “Virgin”, “Linda Ross”, and “Mela”. That is what makes Eurobeat a bit strange; most artists releases a song not under their real names but under a nickname. Maybe because it is easier to remember each artists or it creates mystery whenever a new Super Eurobeat compilation album is released every month. For Clara, I think she chose to release songs under different names as each name as had a different personality. Mela had the soft vocals, Cherry had the blazing vocals that was a perfect fit for fast-paced dance songs, and Clara Moroni is the rock side.

Whatever the case is, Clara Moroni captured the Japanese music scene when she released the song “Help Me” under the name Mela in 1991. The song became an early eurobeat hit with the memorable chorus of “Cause Baby You Can Help Me.” During the same time, she was involved in the Eurodance group King Kong and The Jungle Girls, providing vocals to their signature song “Boom Boom Dollar”. [1] Clara later released her debut album in Japan and Italy (Note: The Japanese Wikipedia says it was “Ten Worlds” but the Italian Wikipedia says it’s something else. Does anyone know what was the album’s name?).

Clara changed labels in 1995 and went to TIME Records. It was during this time when her popularity skyrockets as her tunes “Yesterday” and “When I Close My Eyes” became staples in every Super Eurobeat playlists. She also had “popular” songs under different names, like Linda Ross’ “Love is Danger”, Virgin’s “Only You”, and etc. Clara also provided vocals for almost all songs that “released” under the labels Time and Delta

“Round N’ Round” first made its appearance on the album Super Eurobeat Vol. 66 in 1996. It’s high energetic dance beat attracted many. The Japanese music label avex trax even became a fan, letting the Eurobeat-flavored idol girl group D&D cover it a year later.

Why does “Round N’ Round” appeal to so many? The high energy; it is a super paced song that is in the range of 150 BPM. It wouldn’t surprise me if the song is in 2/4 or in an even shorter measure as the notes sound like they were sped up. Nevertheless, the fast pace helps to create super-dance movements. If you check out D&D’s music video above, you can see there is not a moment in the dance routine slows that down or becomes unattractive. It’s always moving as the girls dances somewhat complex moves rapidly.

As for the melody and vocals, it isn’t memorable as the pace. Maybe I am a bit bias because I like D&D’s version better than Cherry’s. Olivia Luftkin, the lead vocalist of D&D, had smoother and more strength controlling her vocal range that made the cover version more uniformed, understandable, and enjoyable. It is unlike Cherry’s vocals which were choppy with notes being vaguely connected.

Another thing to point out is how the songs stretches of Cherry’s vocal range too much. If you listen to “Round n’ Round” closely, you will notice that it is all sung in the upper part of Cherry’s range. It seems taxing on her as the notes sounds strained and tinny. I think she sounds a lot better when she uses her lower range in such songs like “Yesterday” and “Too Cool To Fall In Love”. She has better control in those songs then in “Round n’ Round”.

I am not trying to argue that “Round n’ Round” is a bad song, it isn’t. I like the song as It’s “catchy” as the other songs in the Eurobeat discography. However, I think it’s not a piece that really displays Cherry’s vocal ability. Just listen to D&D version or any other songs by Cherry if you want to delight your ears with controlled vocals. If not, ignore the last paragraph and enjoy!


References

[1]  “Eurobeat-Prime 3.0.” Eurobeat-Prime 3.0. Web. 24 May 2015.

Let the “Weekend” Never Stop With Mocki

mocki-weekend1

It’s Sunday once again and it’s almost the end to another beautiful weekend. In about seventeen hours or so (depending on your time zone), many of us will have go back to normal lives; school, work, commute, and so on. We never want our weekend to end. We secretly wish that we could put Sunday/weekend on endless “repeat”. However, the shimmery hope towards the next weekend soon dawns when we go to work on a gloomy Monday. Hopefully, the song that is featured in today’s post can help give you a positive push for that weekend.

Not much is know about Mocki. Is it an artist? Is it a band? What genre? Google doesn’t really have answers. Although, I was able find some information on the sites Earmilk and This Must Be Pop. It was these two sites that introduced me to Mocki’s “Weekend” by featuring it in their daily posts. Thank you!

Mocki is a German three-piece indies band consisting of singer Domino and the producing duo Sister. Their music experiments with mostly dance, punk, and electronica, according to Earmilk.[1] The band released their first album, entitled “Kitsune”, earlier this year. From the album, “Weekend” became the band’s debut single, becoming a semi-popular selection as the music video has over 56,000 views. It got a further push in the limelight when Jai Wolf released a remix of the song a month after.

“Weekend” is a fantastic electronic song when the first beat drops. The synthesized bass beat thumps at the very start, subconsciously making you want to dance instantly. The instrumentation is pretty basic for a club song; just the vocals, a strings kit, and a few synthesizers. Nothing too special. Instead, the vocals fill the void with Domino’s smooth, strong vocals that are manipulated cleverly here and there with the help of a vocoder. Because of this machine, my favorite part of the song is at the chorus’ final, where the instrument takes a brief pause while Domino’s synthesized vocals sing “Yeah Yeah”.

Although Mocki doesn’t have a lot of releases, you should listen to “Weekend” as it is a great song to move to. If you are a fan of Daft Punk’s, Yasutaka Nakata’s, or Towa Tei’s electrical melodies, strong vocals of Debbie Harry, Michiyo Heike, or Donna Summers, or if you like a little punk mixed in your dance music, you should check the video below.

The Single Mix

The Jai Wolf Remix


References

[1] Murray, Peter. “Mocki Gets Wet and Wild in New Video for “Weekend” [Video Premiere].” – EARMILK. 2015. Web. 10 May 2015. .

[2] Jessica. “Song of the Week: Mocki – Weekend.” This Must Be Pop. 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 May 2015. .

The Fantasy That Pulls You Into “The Land of Make Believe”

allstars-thelandofmakebelieve

(Originally written on May 4, 2015)

Happy Golden Week everyone! There are a week of consecutive holidays on the Japanese calendar for May that people don’t have to go to work or school and go on vacations. Luckily, I get a week off from work; which I been using to sleep, relax, be lazy, write, and see a lot of free mini-concerts around Nagoya City. Starting this week or the next, I am going to do a write up about the lives I see in additional to the monthly post about the anime songs of 1995. I will try to see indie artists as well as popular artists, so please check them out.

In this post, let’s head “across the pond” to the United Kingdom to check out allSTARS*. This pop band was formed with five members; Sandi, Thalia, Thalia, Ashley, Rebecca, and Sam. Interesting fact, if you take the first initials of each member’s names, you get the “STARS” part of the group’s name. Coincidentally or not, the TV station CITV wanted to bank on the member’s ambitions of being stars after seeing the extreme success of the S Club 7 television series, “Miami 7”, which was co-producer by Simon Fuller (which Japanese TV show “Music Station” labelled him last week as the top producer in the world).[1]

Formed in 2001, allSTARS* starred in their own TV show, STARStreet*. The show featured fifteen minute episodes where each episode focused on the different experiences of the group living in a house together. The show was apparently popular as they made two “seasons” and produced a couple VHS tapes.

While the show was on the air, the band decided to take a stab at a musical career. Hey, if S Club 7 could have a TV show, sing, and dance, allSTARS* could too? To take the chance, the group released their first single, entitled “Best Friends”, on June 11, 2001. The childish fun hit, as the website “This Must Be Pop” puts it, was a mediocre hit as it reached No. 20 on the charts.[2] However, their next two singles proven to be more successful as the second single reached #12 on the charts, due to a tie in with the Scooby Doo movie soundtrack, and the third single managed to get in the Top 10.

After finding their success in being a cover band, allSTARS* decided to release original material. Their fourth single, “Back Then / Going All the Way”, was deemed a failure by their label company Island as it barely made the Top 20. A month later, the band released their self-titled album with the same results; this time charting at number 42 for only two weeks. Feeling like the popularity of the band was waning, Island dropped allSTARS* from the label. The band split up soon after with each member going their own ways.[3]

Most of the members found success after the band’s breakup. The most prolific member was Ashley as he returned to the British soap opera “Hollyoaks” (which he starred in before he joined the group and still acting in as of today) while appearing in various musicals, shows (see Season 11 of “Strictly Come Dancing”), and being nominating for many awards. As for Ashley’s former college roommate and band mate, Sam, he found success off-screen as the co-founder of a well-recognized intern program.

Thalia found success on the small screen like Ashley as she appeared on various TV dramas and shows. Her most recognized appearance was in Big Brother (UK) 8 as she appeared as a “fake housemate” named Pauline. For the other girls of the band, Rebecca and Sandi made minimal TV appearance throughout the years. Eventually, the two woman eventually married their partners and currently living a quiet life with their own families.

allSTARS*’s third single is simply magical. A cover of the same-titled song by the 80s pop band Bucks Fizz, “The Land of Make Believe” reminds you of Limahl’s “Neverending Story”, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s me but I think they have that same “fantasy/magical” sound by the songs’ use of the europop sound, the lyrics, and how each song is sequenced. They also share the same musical technique, especially the use of prolonged notes (like the half and whole notes) in the stanzas. Another thing that sticks out is how the lyrics for “The Land of Make Believe” reminds you of “Neverending Story” due to a connecting theme: a nonchalant mystical world, full of dreams, and adventures. The vocal arrangements and the synthesizers further this concept throughout the song.

I really like the remix version of “The Land of Make Believe”, found on their self-titled album, better then the singles version. I don’t have anything against the original single version, really I don’t. However, I think it’s because the remix version makes the song more magical with the echo effects on the “Fun in the sun” part, how the vocals are softer, the addition of dramatic pauses, and better instrumentation that features more synthesizers, a stronger club-sounding backbeats, and electric guitars. The other reason why the remix version better is because it has a more appropriate speed that is suited for the song. The single version, when listening, makes you feel like you set the speed of 33 RPM on a record that was meant for 45 RPM; just too slow.

The mystic sound of allSTARS*’s remake of “The Land of Make Believe” makes the song a treat to listen to in any environment: dancing, exercising, commuting to work, and etc. Too bad the group disbanded quite prematurely as we could have gotten more delightful tunes like “The Land of Make Believe”.

The Single Version:

You can find the “Almighty Mix” here at Poprush.


References:

[1] “Music Station.” Yamamoto, Takao. TV Asahi. 1 May 2015. Television.

[2] “Whatever Happened To… AllSTARS*?” This Must Be Pop. 25 Sept. 2010. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.thismustbepop.com/2010/09/25/whatever-happened-to-allstars/

[3] “Allstars (band).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Aug. 2006. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allstars_(band)&gt;.