Tag Archives: kim wilde

The QH Blend’s “100 @ 30”: [1 thru 20]

Correct!

Spice Girls (1) / Kylie Minogue (2) / Donna Summer (3) / Brandy (4) / Seal (5)

Spiceworld (Virgin, 1997): My desire to grasp “the groove” combined with curiosities for musical epochs gone by when I encountered this album. Further, my appreciation for character in a voice―not just a voice―stemmed from this LP. Spiceworld also proved that producing good music didn’t guarantee fair appreciation from music critics―popular music politics aren’t always just. The Spice Girls were the reason I picked up a pen to write about music and give voice to artists / fans who didn’t have one. 

Kylie Minogue (deConstruction, 1994): Kylie Minogue made me relearn everything I thought I knew about pop song structure at the time. The “suites” that were fashioned on the album weren’t laborious, instead they formed their own patterns. In regard to the actual texture of the music and Minogue’s voice, it was the right blend of maturity, evolution and exploration that captured me.

The Wanderer (Geffen, 1980) Donna Summer never fit into the traditional slot that black women were meant to stay in―musically speaking or otherwise. I was enamored with The Wanderer, but it would be years before I would hear its influence on other women (Madonna, Kylie Minogue) that I favored too. I’ve often remarked that this record was the first “dance-pop departure” vehicle that set that standard that dance-pop was not the only mode pop operated in. Summer didn’t just create that model, she stamped it with this album.

Human (Epic, 2008): Personally, this album has been an emotional companion for me since its release; in the context of Brandy’s legacy I think it was her most consistent thematically. Human had Brandy putting her own experiences to a sonic backdrop that was timely (production wise), but still had that “Brandy feel” to it. I am not sure that she’ll ever top this record.

Human Being (Warner Brothers, 1998): What a songwriter, but due to him being someone of color he was marginalized on both ends of the music spectrum. It’s a shame, because Seal’s ability to work within a soul framework without losing pop’s melody stood second-to-none. This album was darker and maybe that’s why it received such a cold shoulder at the time. I’ve always loved its stormy appeal.

100-2

Cyndi Lauper (6) / Culture Club (7) / Sophie Ellis-Bextor (8) / Cathy Dennis (9) / Madonna (10)

Hat Full of Stars (Epic, 1993): Hat Full of Stars crossed folk, R&B, dance and alternative; Lauper’s style on this was very New York and it made the record sound big, especially listening as a teenager in the summer of 2002 when I copped it. Her songwriting was never better, you can really hear it on “Who Let in the Rain,” “Feels Like Christmas” and “Someone Like Me”.

Colour By Numbers (Virgin, 1983): An album that always comes immediately to mind as living up to its hype. I loved how sharp the music on this was, but not so slick that it didn’t leave room for Culture Club’s character. “Black Money,” an ultimate tearjerker, I realized I had to “grow into” with life experience to appreciate.

Shoot From the Hip (Polydor, 2003): I like that even when her first record painted Bextor in a corner creatively, she made another album that pushed back against pop being tagged as, you guessed it, dance-pop. There are some floor fillers here, but they don’t sacrifice the arc of this album pulling from other places for its inspiration.

Am I the Kinda Girl? (Polydor, 1996): I remember the first time I heard this album and I was just blown away. The way the 1990’s alternative tunage interacted with 1960’s pop was gorgeous. That something this refreshing wasn’t more broadly known continues to sadden me.

American Life (Warner Brothers, 2003): A lot of people incorrectly pegged American Life as Madonna trying to admonish others when she was examining herself. Musically it was her third in a four part electronic quartet that concluded with Confessions on a Dancefloor (2005). Granted Confessions was warmer at its surface, but American Life won me over as the last great ballad vehicle for Madonna.

100-3

Melanie C (11) / Carly Simon (12) / Tori Amos (13) / ABBA (14) / Kim Wilde (15)

Northern Star (Virgin, 1999): The visceral space Melanie C occupied fascinated me as a teenager. I don’t want to say this was a soundtrack to my angst, but that’s slightly accurate. The longing, the curiosity and how the LP bared its fangs…wow. Its underlying sensitivity spun well on the title piece and “Closer”. They’re just gorgeous recordings.

Playing Possum (Elektra, 1975): Never understood the critical drubbing this got. Even though I enjoyed the two previous Richard Perry produced predecessors, Playing Possum was curvier. Its sex appeal was seductive and comforting;Simon was brainy (and busty) when it came to her wordplay on this set. 

From the Choirgirl Hotel (Atlantic, 1998):  From the Choirgirl Hotel was my introduction to Tori Amos a decade ago. Having had this as an entry point, it set the bar Amos repeatedly met as I began trekking through her albums. I loved how succinct Choirgirl was, its combination of electronic and classical music enthralled.

The Visitors (Polar, 1981): ABBA really outdid themselves with this album. Pop acts are supposed to stay behind the lines of “inoffensive” and “innocuous,” but ABBA went noir with The Visitors. Man, you have everything from the personal to the voyeuristic on this effort and it’s (still) superbly catchy. 

Catch as Catch Can (RAK, 1983): Catch as Catch Can’s charm is somewhat unidentifiable. Just as strong as the two previous RAK era albums that came before it, Catch held glossier grooves and assured vocal performances. It was the ideal cap to that first part of her sound.

100-4

Mandy Moore (16) / Lupe Fiasco (17) / Jody Watley (18) / Dannii Minogue (19) / Prince (20)

 Amanda Leigh (Storefront, 2009): I really loved that this was the summation of Moore’s Coverage (2003) and Wild Hope (2007).  Amanda Leigh placed its affection directly in the pocket of 70’s pop and a keen ear will hear her many influences―notably the Carpenters. Moore as a singer made this album a real treat as she wore a variety of hats depending on the song being handled.

Food & Liquor (Atlantic, 2006): My first hip-hop record. I have to be honest, it was my hormones that drew me to Lupe Fiasco; once his music hit my ears, I was a fan. His usage of samples and how he built his stories around them was beautiful. I had never heard hip-hop sound mournful and emotional―yet, there was this devil may care approach in how the songs were expressed. 

Midnight Lounge (Avitone, 2003): Jody Watley has one of the most progressive bodies of work in R&B. From album-to-album, Watley preserved her persona while refining her sound. When I heard Midnight Lounge, its mix of soul and electronica was effortless; the record was revolutionary for Watley and R&B music.

Neon Nights (London, 2003): Where dance and pop intersected best in the last 15 years; Dannii Minogue’s Neon Nights was the record I danced to when I started (gay) clubbing. Outside of its obvious nostalgia, the LP has held up in the ensuing years―especially when compared to the plastic EDM peddled now. 

Parade (Warner Brothers, 1986): Coming off of Around the World in a Day (1985)―Prince at his most pop―the Minneapolis titan managed to rope back in his black base without sacrificing his roving (genre) eye. This album was free, sexy and practical too. He kept churning out some serious master jams, but this LP remains at the summit of Prince’s output.

[Editor’s Note: Please visit your local record store or online retailer for information on availability.-QH]

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The QH Blend Elsewhere in 2014

OtherAssignments

The QH Blend had a very busy year with its essays being published on both PopMatters and Blogcritics. If you’ve missed the essays, I’ve collected them all here; see below for the specific link to the corresponding artist that you’re interested in.  My selections from 2014 will be appearing soon, so be on the lookout!

Beyoncé / Brandy / Madonna & Kylie Minogue / Alanis Morissette / SealDonna Summer / Kim Wilde

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Kim Wilde’s “Teases & Dares” Turns 30 on Blogcritics

Kim Wilde, circa 1984

Kim Wilde, circa 1984

My essay on Kim Wilde’s fourth long player, Teases & Dares (1984), is up for reading now at Blogcritics, where it was first published. Celebrating Wilde’s MCA Records debut, which had her further court synth-pop and dance music, I peer into one of her most beloved recordings. Make sure to check it out!

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Love Blonde: Kim Wilde Discussed

Kim Wilde: RAK Records era

Kim Wilde: RAK Records era

Pop evolution will equate to one name: Madonna. In close succession comes Kylie Minogue and Donna Summer; those names may depend on the age group you’re speaking to. However, one woman preceded Madonna and Minogue while Summer was becoming a “wanderer”―her name is Kim Wilde.

Daughter of 1950’s idol Marty Wilde, Kim’s pedigree was assured and she began her journey in step with the advent of MTV and new wave. Remarkably, the full scope of Wilde’s discography, 13 albums in total, remains unexamined.

The (usually) immortalized image of Wilde is thus: high heeled boots, worn jeans and an unruly platinum mop. It’s easy to see why France dubbed Wilde “The British Bardot”. The expression mirrored a long romance with Wilde who continues to make chart ripples throughout Europe today. That’s not even touching on Kim Wilde being the most charted woman in England during the 1980’s. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, instead let us begin at the beginning.

There was music & there was rhythm & there was something I can’t explain”.

1980-1983

Wilde, 20 years young and fresh out of art college, signed to the imprint RAK Records. What followed was the eponymous debut tailored for the music television generation. From the ironic “Brit creates nascent theme for disenchanted American youth” of “Kids in America” to the punk slathered “Chequered Love,” the singles of Kim Wilde seized the zeitgeist of the disco drop-off, on both sides of the Atlantic, perfectly.

"Kids In America" single cover

“Kids in America” single cover

Album fare for Wilde’s self-titled affair didn’t dally; her hand at esoteric story songs, like “Tuning In, Tuning On,” was superb. The LP was written wholesale by her father and brother, Ricky Wilde. Due to this, Kim’s critical favor always orbited wariness with the British music press.

The best was yet to come though (!). In a move that betrayed her pop intentions, Select (1982) aligned itself with the New Romanticism movement. As the only woman in this sub-genre, the commercial reach of Select was limited to what it could have achieved. Wilde sussed out a balance of rock and synthesizer; the jittery “Ego,” the political panic of “Action City” and the desolation of “Cambodia” became favorites.

By the time Wilde’s junior record popped up, she’d embarked on a major tour in England and acquired all the “new kid on the block” accolades. Catch As Catch Can (1983) marked her first chart bust, but the record surpassed Select with its art. This time the guitars were ornamental as Wilde moved headfirst into synth-pop. Only the kooky “Love Blonde” (to which later Kylie Minogue’s own “2 Hearts” owed its roots) slightly nodded to the (polished) riff grit of Kim Wilde.

From the experimental (“Dream Sequence”) to politely danceable (“House of Salome,” “Dancing in the Dark“), Wilde’s third album played like a menagerie versus a record. The commercial failure of Catch As Catch Can overshadowed its creative merit; Wilde said goodbye to RAK and joined MCA Records.

Look in the mirrors & see the heat of something new!”

1984-1988

When Wilde arrived at MCA, music was changing. Disco hadn’t (really) been banished, it became “dance music”. That development led to the 12″ format that took music media by storm and created demand for what is now commonly known as the “remix”. Into this scene stepped Wilde, ready to prove herself as a songwriter and beat back the growing criticism against her.

"The Second Time" single cover

“The Second Time” single cover

Teases & Dares did just that; its glossiness drew from the rhythmic propulsion of “The Touch” and steely sex of “The Second Time”. Those singles were her primary 12″ mixes and led to an “on again, off again” courtship with dance. Wilde contributed her own compositions this time, two of which smarted in their delicacy: “Fit In” and “Thought It Was Goodbye”.

Wilde held fast to the avant garde vestiges of her RAK days: “Bladerunner” (a homage to the 1982 dystopian flick of the same name) and “Suburbs of Moscow”.  The only miss was the “Love Blonde” xerox of “Rage to Love,” ironically the biggest hit from the soft selling Teases & Dares.

Not seen at the time of its arrival as Wilde’s transitional doorway, 1986’s aptly titled Another Step is remembered for its dark Hi-NRG recasting of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. Topping the singles chart at home in Britain, Wilde (briefly) conquered America with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. Wilde was the fifth British woman (out of six) to secure the pole position on the U.S Singles Chart.

Another Step was more than a Supremes cover, the LP platformed the 26 year-old reveling in shaping straight-ahead, smart, sexy pop music. Even with the gawky “rock & groove” bits of the initial side (the title track and “The Thrill of It”), Wilde landed sonic strikes that boomed: the anti-boys splendor of “Hit Him” and the “pop starlet playing R&B dress-up” of “Say You Really Want Me”. The latter’s music video was banned, deemed too steamy.

"Hey Mister Heartache" single cover

“Hey Mister Heartache” single cover

The second side possessed no less than five sophisti-pop smoldering pieces; “She Hasn’t Got Time For You” and “Missing” were the stars of the quintet. Another Step, with a smidgen of outside assistance (Dick Rudolph, Rod Temperton notably), was primarily piloted by Wilde herself; Dad Marty and brother Ricky were solid back-up.

Victorious, Wilde widened her audience and took an expressive step ahead. Sales were stable, but they were nothing compared to the approaching blockbuster of Close (1988).

The Close LP spun off hits in England and Europe: “You Came,” “Four Letter Word” and “Never Trust a Stranger” to name three. “Never Trust a Stranger,” a breathtaking paean to Donna Summer, was the stunner of the set.

A blend of youthful energy and austere tastefulness, Close serviced a variety of outlets and became Wilde’s biggest seller. Sweetening it all, Wilde was invited to open the European leg of Michael Jackson’s Bad World Tour. The only drawback was that Close couldn’t follow-up on the flashes of Wilde’s U.S. favorability. It was a shame as the R&B-pop tingle of “Hey Mister Heartache” wouldn’t have been out of place among the Exposé and Taylor Dayne hits of the day.

Towards the open sky, gonna spread my wings & circle above”.

1990-1996

Emboldened by Close, Wilde’s Love Moves (1990) was indeed a labor of love. By now, she and her brother Ricky’s writing had improved immensely. Building on the adult contemporary element of Close, Love Moves was softer. Next to the urgency of Close, many wrote Love Moves off as an inferior follow-up; sales and critical reception were mixed.

"Love Is Holy" single cover

“Love is Holy” single cover

Listening closely, the progression of Wilde’s voice astonished. Fuller and adept at song reading, she supercharged the singles “It’s Here” and “Time” (two of her prettiest entries) and non-singles with emotion: “Storm In Our Hearts,” “In Hollywood”.

Only the naiveté of “World In Perfect Harmony” grated, but its genuine affability was sympathetic. Wilde remained in demand as a performer, David Bowie had her open for his Sounds+Visions Tour the same year.

Stung by the apathy toward Love Moves, Team Wilde enlisted songwriter / producer Rick Nowels to join them on Love Is (1992). Shifting the gear higher (the guitars returned), Love Is gave Wilde a minor charter with the Belinda Carlisle-esque “Love is Holy”. Far better material strung throughout the album; the electric “I Believe In You” and wistful “Million Miles Away” saw Wilde sharpen the formula from Love Moves.

The problem was Wilde’s listening group had changed. She’d long since lost the hipster crowd indicative of her RAK period, and the youth market she flirted with at the dawn of her MCA tenure had moved on. Wilde had aged out into a niche base.

With all of that, Wilde logged a decade and three years into popular music, a milestone to be celebrated. An abridged “singles collection” appeared in 1993 with two new cuts. Of the two, Wilde’s take of Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” was delightful, if dated (production wise). Wilde toured Europe, Australia and Japan in lieu of her singles package in 1994; the preparation for her next project had begun too.

"Shame" Single Cover

“Shame” single cover

Nineteen-ninety five unveiled the controversial Now & Forever LP. Departed from her rock and synth,Wilde based herself in R&B textures that spanned acid jazz (“C’mon Love Me”) to hip-hop soul (“True to You”).  Wilde had been accruing a (somewhat) soulful presence since “Say You Really Want Me”; the bulk of Love Is temporarily halted that momentum.

Wilde’s vocals bore a heretofore unseen control (“Hypnotise*,” “Back to Heaven”) and the clean mid-tempos were contagious. Hampered by length and a few dated house duds (“Heaven”), its inherent charm of being Wilde’s vocal showcase was lost. In spite of the obvious passion that went into the recording, its singles “Breakin’ Away” and “This I Swear” couldn’t save what would be her final MCA record.

Outside a curious rendition of “Shame” (originally by Evelyn “Champagne” King) in 1996 as a “single only” release, Wilde’s focus shifted. The West End beckoned and she heeded its call to star in the rock musical ‘Tommy’. Constructed around the tunes of The Who, Wilde gave a lauded performance and met her future husband Hal Fowler on set. Wilde decided to take an indeterminate break from music; she’d pursue family and a lucrative career in horticulture / landscaping.

Now’s the time to look further to the future”.

2006-Present Day

Wilde made her homecoming to music with Never Say Never, via EMI Germany, in 2006. The German deal made dollars and sense as Wilde enjoyed European returns throughout her career. The mass of Never Say Never was set-up by The Wilde’s (Kim and Ricky) with Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen; a European pop / rock sheen (think Roxette) steered the sound.

Between new material and revisited classics, Never Say Never was a safe bet. The day-glo romance of “You Came” (her second score with this song) and the bounce of “Four Letter Word” stood as the winning pair of the 2006 resets. Original material was so-so, though the electronic buzz of “Forgive Me” and “Maybe I’m Crazy” were divine for the Teases & Dares crowd. The record became a fair victory for Wilde.

"Lights Down Low" single cover

“Lights Down Low” single cover

Cause to cheer came with Wilde’s first LP of new work, Come Out and Play (2010); this record was courtesy of Sony Music Germany. Kim and Ricky’s creative partnership cast an eye to the RAK eon with a modern rinse; additional album assistance came from Henrik Guemoes. Guitars and synths came together,  à la Select, on two of the album’s best points: “Lights Down Low” and “I Want What I Want”.

It cannot go without mention that Wilde’s two “comeback” recordings had her alongside a host of guests: Nena (of “99 Luftballons” fame), Charlotte Hatherley, Nik Kershaw and Glenn Gregory (of Heaven 17). Previously, Wilde’s contributions had been limited only to Junior Giscombe (on Another Step and Close) and Jaki Graham (on Love Moves).

Twenty-eleven ushered in Wilde’s covers record, Snapshots. Excellent song choices and the chemistry of reverence / reinvention were glimpsed on Wilde’s spins of Tasmin Archer’s “Sleeping Satellite,” Cilla Black / Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and Suede’s “Beautiful Ones”.

By this time, Wilde’s touring abilities were keen and she boasted defining performances in this phase of her career. Recently, Wilde wrapped a series of Christmas shows inspired by her (inaugural) holiday LP, the indie-issued Wilde Winter Songbook (2013). The record was her first commercial effort in England since Now & Forever.

It’s simple to dismiss Wilde as a “nostalgia act”; objectively, one can’t deny that Wilde’s music is as strong, curvy and endearing as any of her peers and followers. Yes, that includes Madonna.

[Editor’s Note: *-denotes British spelling. Kim Wilde’s discography is readily in print, digitally and physically, barring: Love Moves, Love Is and Now & Forever. The latter three can be purchased in used music retailers, all are imports. For current information on Kim Wilde, visit her official website. Special thanks to the Marcel Rijs official fansite, Wilde-Life.com.-QH]

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