JustSO release debut album

‘All music is escapism for me, but I like the way that, on a good night, that sense of escapism can be shared’ – Jamie xx

One of the best parts of my job is being able to talk passionately about things I love and discovering new music has always been a great love of mine. Writing this blog has given me many amazing opportunities, and none more amazing than being offered the opportunity to work as press officer for local North East rock band The Longsands after they read a review I wrote of one of their gigs. It helped that I was mates with them at school of course; having an already established relationship made the job so much easier and it was a dream come true for me.

Guitarist from The Longsands Stan had always had a side project in JustSO, a more laid back acoustic offering with vocalist Olivia Morley which he managed concurrently with The Longsands but when the boys decided to call it a day in 2017, Stan moved forward with JustSO and started recording their own material rather than just relying on a popular wedding band repertoire.

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They’ve now just released their first self titled album full of original material and although it couldn’t be more different from The Longsands back catalogue, on just first listen it sounds like a perfect laid back pop album.

The change in direction (for Stan at least) is a refreshing change of pace and his distinctive voice shines through as he shares 50% of the vocals. As soon I heard his guitar kick in I instantly thought ‘there’s Stan’. His voice melts like butter with Olivia’s who although may vocally lack the power of Beyonce or Adele, she certainly more than makes up for it in soul and reminds me of some of my favourite female singers from the 90s like Paula Cole and Jewel.

The album is track after track of polished classy radio friendly hits with a distinct modern americana vibe. Stand out track from me is Stay, which could have been pulled straight off the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and believe me when I say I hold the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack in very high esteem!

History hasn’t been too kind to male/female bands however I think JustSO manage to pull off the musical credibility of Fleetwood Mac (without being too mumsy) and the energy of The Beautiful South (without being a bit rubbish). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard them on radio 2 in the very near future!

Download the album from amazon and find out more about the band on their Facebook page.

A-Z of 90’s Girl Groups

In the early ’90s, it was grunge; everybody was fully clothed. Alanis Morissette was one of the biggest artists in the world, never wore makeup, wearing Doc Marten boots, and then the Spice Girls turn up, and suddenly it all looks a bit burlesque; suddenly they’re the biggest band in the world ‘ – Caitlin Moran

Perhaps it was my historical lack of confidence and self belief but as a teenager I never dreamed of being a Hollywood Actress or Madonna. I always wanted to be in a girl band. I never even wanted to be the lead singer, I think I would have happily been the annoying blondie on the end bopping her pigtails around and giving the peace sign on the cover of Smash Hits. In all honestly I think being in a girl band would have been one of best ways of securing my inevitable marriage to Mark Owen or Nick Carter (depending on which half of the 90’s we’re talking about)

After all the early grunge and brit pop was out the way there was a massive wave of Girl Bands on the scene, some great (All Saints, Spice Girls, N-Tyce) and some not so great (ahem Vanilla ahem) but all of them looked like they were having so much fun and I wanted to be in their gang too. Below is a break down of the best 90’s girlbands ever to get their belly rings out on Top of the Pops, along with some of the great pop songs that came along with them…

0-9 A B C DEFGHI – J – K – L – MN – O – PQ – R – ST – U – V – WX – Y – Z

3LW

Just scraping into the 90’s, they were like Destiny’s Child for a Tween Generation. Their first album was very much pre-teen pop (albeit still well produced and catchy) but their second album, with single ‘I Do’ and ‘I Need That’ was pure R’n’B pop brilliance.

The 411

After a promising start releasing ‘On My Knees’ (the remix with Ghostface Killah is definitely worth a listen) and Dumb it went down hill with their underrated 3rd single, which was a sample of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrops’ and they were never seen or heard from again.

702

If known at all in the UK it will be for their single Where My Girls At which often still appears on Trevor Nelson’s retro r’n’b compilations. I remember ordered their album from CDNow back in the day and being disappointed at the lack of catchy hits. This and You Don’t Know where the only good things they produced sadly.

All Saints

I vividly remember seeing the video for I Know Where It’s At for the first time and thought these were the 4 coolest chicks in the world. I was straight into dad’s wardrobe to steal is army camouflage pants (the fact they were 10 sizes too big for me just added to the look) faster than you could say Spice who?! Their comeback album Studio One is also worth an honourable mention and they toured with the Backstreet Boys in the UK last year. So still the 4 coolest chicks in the world in my eyes!

Atomic Kitten

Safe to say they were my guilty pleasure in 1998, even if they did have an air of ‘girls singing in a 6th form talent show’ about them. They had some good pop songs (a couple of dodgy 80’s covers in Eternal Flame and The Tide is High) under their belt and Kerry Katona and her prawn ring have been in the nations hearts ever since.

Blaque

Another urban group hot on the heels of Destiny’s Child that never really made a ripple on the UK charts. Although they were poppier than 702 their debut album was just as luke warm. This and I Do were really catchy, as was the song they did for the Honey soundtrack (I’m Good) but that was about it. Sadly Natina Reed was killed in a car accident in 2012 just as they were going back into the studio to make a (welcome) comeback.

B-Witched

What wasn’t to love about B’Witched? Their songs were so unbelivevably, soul distressingly catchy and their demin uniform was something any teenager could get on board with. Their debut album was strong (We 4 Girls is quite anthemic and should have been a single) and got me through a very long coach ride to Spain one summer. I actually really loved their last single Jump Down where they were a little more polished and grown up but seems i was the only one and they split shortly after it’s release.

Cleopatra

Another great example of an act who chose to release the weakest songs from their album (apart from this debut single) they had some great album tracks which I think we’re strong than their second and third singles, What You Gonna Do Boy and Two Timer were specifically strong. They seemed to suffer the all too common ‘sophomore slump’ with their second album though, which didn’t do very well at all.

Daphne & Celeste

Say what you want about these two (and most people have) I always got the impression they knew how cack they were all along and the joke was on us. They were also fiesty and fun in interviews, and as far as insults go, it doesn’t really get better than ‘you got the IQ of a digeridoo’ so at least we have that to thank them for!

Destiny’s Child

We all know the Destiny’s Child story by now, but I have a fondness for their earlier stuff with Wyclef and Timbaland (Get on the Bus being my all time favourite song of theirs) and I liked their line up as a foursome Not that the revolving door of destiny did them any harm in the end of course. Whatever happened to their lead singer? You don’t hear much about her these days.

Dream

Dream’s first album was another of my CDNow purchases in a time where it was cheaper to get things shipped from the states than pay HMV’s import prices and although technically they came out in 2000, one look at the video for their debut single and you’d think they were straight out of 1998. This was the only song to be released in the UK, they had a line up change in 2001 and released Krazy (which is brilliant) but a second album never followed.

En Vogue

One of the few bands who don’t sound like they’re from the 90’s at all (Don’t Let Go could be released today and sound current) En Vogue were as if Janet Jackson cloned herself 3 times and started a group. And they’re still one of the groups named as inspiration for more current bands like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix.

Eternal

For me, Eternal were at their best in the early days with Louise, because they were poppier  and Louise and Kelle had good chemistry. They had their biggest successes after she left in 1995 and they became Britain’s answer to En Vogue. There was always something about the Bennett sister’s attitude I didn’t like, they were never very warm or endearing in interviews. Don’t You Love Me was a good tune though.

Fierce

Another late 90’s UK group trying to cash in on what Destiny’s Child had started. Although they had a couple of top 20 singles in 1999 (which were valiant efforts – especially Dayz Like That) they just never quite made much of an impact and were destined to be the 20th song on CD2 of Now That what I call music. That said Their version of Anita Baker’s Sweet Love did reach number 3 in 2000 so that’s something they can tell their grandkids.

Funky Diamonds

Funky Diamonds were unheard of in the UK and only came on my radar because they toured with the Backstreet Boys in Germany in 1996 (and there was NOTHING I didn’t know about the Backstreet Boys in 1996!) They were pretty much ’90s Girl Band by numbers’ silver trousers, cropped sports jerseys and all. They were good poppy fun and have the bragging rights of being able to say they were ‘big in Japan’ where both albums were certified gold.

Girl Thing

More famous for being Simon Cowell’s answer to the Spice Girls than they are for anything they ever released. Girl Thing went away almost as soon as they arrived, which was music to everyone’s ears because they were so contrived it was painful. I like my pop manufactured, but this was too manufactured. Their first single Last One Standing was catchy – much like a venereal disease, their second single Girls on Top was better, but the damage had already been done.

Hepburn

These girls were different because they played their own instruments which meant they must be taken more seriously. I Quit was a decent enough song and was helped along by being on the Buffy soundtrack. I was also quite fond of their 3rd single Deep Deep Down but aside from that a female Hanson they were note heir debut album was pretty bland. Lead singer Jamie Benson released a solo album in 2002 but it was rubbish and that’s the last we heard of them.

Honeyz

Honeyz never really floated my boat in the 90s, they were pretty enough and 2/3rds of them could sing but releasing ballad after ballad left me cold. I was always more of a fan or more upbeat poppy songs with a bit of attitude and these lasses didn’t seem to have any. Being a hardcore Solid Hramonie fan my interest peaked a little when they stole Mariama to replace Heavenli, but even that was short lived. Their song Love of Lifetime was probably best of a bad bunch.

Innosense

Again, only ever entered my consciousness due to my unwavering devotion to the Backstreet Boys and the fact that one of the early members was dating Aj. Once they sorted out their line up (Britney Spears was a member before they released anything) and decided the correct spelling of the word ‘Innocence’ was just too darn difficult, they actually released a very good pop album So Together in 2000. Think Britney’s first and second albums mixed in with a bit of B’Witched enthusiasm and you’d be about right.

Made in London

These girls only ever released the one song, to the best of my knowledge, but it was a goodun, back in the days when a song reaching number 15 was considered a hit!

Madasun

Another one of my guilty pleasure aside from their inability to spell anything correctly either (see Innosense above) I was obsessed with their song Don’t You Worry in 1999 after seeing them support 5ive on tour. The remix featuring female rapper Smooth is particularly good. Their second single Walking on Water however was not particularly good and they were dropped a year later due to poor sales.

Mis-Teeq

For a short time Mis Teeq probably were the closest thing we had to Destiny’s Child (perhaps the Asda smartprice version) but they had a few decent songs  like One Night Stand and Scandalous under their belt in the end. I was never mad keen when they put a garage spin on stuff, I much preferred it when they stayed r’n’b and their cover of Blaque song Can’t Get It Back was excellent. Shame they split shortly after that. Didn’t do Alesha much harm though!

Mokenstef

Back when I was a mere child with nothing better to do on a Saturday night than listen to the Rick Dees weekly top 40 on what was then Metro FM I heard the song He’s Mine by Mokenstef. I was convinced I need never hear another song again, position of ‘favourite song of all time’ was filled. How fickle the teenage brain as that position has been restructured and outsourced many times since 1994. I still look back fondly at mine and Mokenstefs time together though.

Nobody’s Angel

Ugh, so fun, so Disney, so American, so bubblegum. I loved these girls and wanted to be in their gang. This was the only good song they ever released as a single although the song Cherry Crush from their debut album is r’n’b pop brilliance. Fun fact: Sarah from the group was in BSB’s Everybody and Britney’s Baby One More Time music videos.

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N-Tyce

After Solid Harmonie, N-Tyce were my second favourite girl band of the 90s. They were severely, severely underrated, their debut album All Day Every Day is still on my iPod to this day and aside from one or two dullers, is a really classy r’n’b pop album. Stand out album tracks for me are Sunshine, Koo Koo and title track All Day Every Day they had a very All Saints kind of vibe, which is perhaps why they didn’t do so well – they were seen as too much of a carbon copy. I would love to see them on the Big Reunion, they were better than Girl Thing that’s for sure!

Play

Ok I admit it, I’m starting to cheat a little here because these little Swedish pixies didn’t actually release anything until 2001 but seeing as they had all the same writiers as every other pop group in the 90s I thought they deserved a honourable mention. Best song of theirs is without a doubt the rocky I Must Not Chase the Boys which wouldn’t be out of place on a Pink album. Their second album Replay is worth a listen for their covers of Whole Again and Liberty X’s Just A Little alone and dare I say it they’re sang better, as if that was difficult….Meow!

Precious

Precious were first unleashed on the UK when they represented us at Eurovision in 199 with the ultra bland snooze fest that was Say It Again (they came 12th out of 23 in case you cared). Someone saw something sparkling in them though and they released 3 further singles after that. Rewind and New Beginning were given to them with the attitude of ‘it’s working for Britney right now, it might work for you too’ and Its Gonna Be My Way was just embarrassing. Jenny Frost jumped ship to replace Kerry Katona in Atomic Kitten, and still can’t dance.

PYT

Named after Michael Jacksons song Pretty Young Thing this Florida based girl group had two excellent singles in Same Ole, Same Ole (Sampling Next Episode by Dr Dre – and it’s a song that’s been on my gym playlist for over 10 years fact fans) and No Ifs, Ands or Buts. They toured with teen pop brat pack of the early 2000s then disappeared without a trace.

Shampoo

Not sure if 2 people can constitute a group or band but I’m going with it for the purposes of this article. It’s a common misconception that the Spice Girls came up with the whole Girl Power schtick but Shampoo released a song of the same name in 1996 before Wannabe what infected our eardrums. They’re probably best known for their 1994 hit Trouble but I much prefer Girl Power (musically and as a general concept). They’re also in the ‘Big in Japan’ club.

Solid Harmonie

Hooray, my absolute faves! With the same writers and production team and BSB, N Sync and Britney its a travesty they weren’t more popular. They were everything I looked for in a girl group (I wanted to BE Beki in 1997!) from energetic dance routines to catchy pop songs and more importantly they could cut it acapella. They had a string of top 20 hits in 1997 and 1998 but Mariama left to join The Honeyz in 1999 and the other 3 girls went their separate ways. They had enjoyed most of their success in Holland and Beki, Melissa and Elise reunited in 2014 with new single Circus. Another group I’d Love to see in the Big Reunion!

Spice Girls

Show me a girl in her 30s who doesn’t remember the Spice Girls fondly and I’ll show you a liar. Love them or pretend to hate them there’s no denying that there as no escaping them in the mid 90s and being merely 14 when they came out I was thre prime target audience. Surprising really that they only ever released 3 albums in total (only 2 of which we any good although I do have a secret song crush on Goodbye) because it feels like they’ve been around much longer. Spice and Spiceworld had some great album tracks you may not be familiar with (Last Time Lover, Something Kinda Funny and Naked from Spice and Never Give Up on the Good Times and Denying from Spiceworld are up there for me). I am pleased that baby doll dresses aren’t in fashion any more though, I don’t have the knees for them these days!

TLC

What the Spice Girls were to buffalo shoes, TLC were to satin pyjamas. My first introduction was via the afore mentioned Rick Dees weekly top 40 where I heard Waterfalls for the first time and worked backwards from there. It was a time where just the fact you were from America made you instantly cooler than anything we had homegrown. From Oooohh on a TLC Tip to Crazysexycool to Fanmail they just got better and better, even if Left Eye did look increasingly bored in later performances. Whereas I liked Girl Talk from their 4th album 3D it was no No Scrubs and following Lisa’s sad death in 2002 T-Boz and Chilli didn’t release anything further until 2015 where a kick starter campaign was successfully completed for their final album.

Wild Orchid

Did you know before she was a Black Eyed Pea Fergie was in a girlband who kept the entire lipliner industry in profits for most of the late 90s? The group started as New Rhythm Generation (NRG) in high school until Fergie joined and they were renamed Wild Orchid. They had moderate success in the US with a handful of top 40 singles. Fergie left in 2002 due to struggling with drug addiction and they were dropped from their label in 2002. Renee and Stefani collaborated on Fergie’s first solo album The Duchess, so at least they’re all still mates, which is nice.

Xscape

Active from 1993 to 1998 with very little success in the UK but massive during the new jack swing era of the early 90’s in America. Kandi Burruss from the group had a solo hit in the UK with Don’t Think I’m Not in 2000 and is now on the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Backstreet Boys – Show Em What You’re Made Of Movie Review

‘What do you do when you’re a full grown man in a boy band?’ – Brian Littrell

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You’d never know it from my otherwise poised and mature 32 year old exterior (ahem) but I was and forever will be the BIGGEST Backstreet Boys fan on the planet (I’m sure many other fans will tell you that they are, but they would be lying). However when I found out last year that they were doing a movie (akin to recent docu-movies from Katy Perry and One Direction) my initial reaction was – why do they continue to flog this dead horse to death, why don’t they just do their obligatory tour every 3 or so years and collect their paychecks? Much as I am massively found of them and the place they’ve had in my life for nearly 17 years, I wasn’t really sure what place have in the music or movie scene in 2015.

As I learnt more about the film and momentum about it was building on social media, I watched the first trailer almost cringing from the other side of the computer screen out of potential embarrassment for them. Thank god  then that the trailer completely bulldozed over any reservations I had. I was SO excited about the film coming out, I was utterly fangirling, I was 14 again.

Since it was released on 31st January 2015 and I duly downloaded it, I’ve watched it twice; once with the hubby and once spread over a few days at the gym so I could really concentrate on it. It was filmed over a 2 year period from recording their last album ‘In A World Like This’ (an album, incidentally I’ve never been mad keen on – apart from the song Feel Like Home which is amazeballs!) in London and embarking on a supporting world-wide tour. All this is intercut with old footage from back in the early days, chronicling their early success in Europe (a good few years before the US *smugface*) and their eventual world boy band domination in the late 90’s/early 00’s. It also touches on the brief solo careers, alcohol, drug, weight problems, Kevin leaving and coming back again and a few other surprises that even as a hardcore fan, I never knew.

I loved this film from start to end, but I was always going to love it, I’m a fan. If you’re not you probably will find them quite whiny and irritating. Fan or not I do believe it’s an interesting music documentary. Some of it’s a little self-indulgent; visiting each others home towns and reminiscing about their childhoods is a quite tawdry, but sweet non the less. For anyone interested in the inner workings of the pop music business, the story of their former manager Lou Pearlman swindling them out of loads of money through watertight contracts is fascinating, as was his decision to create another band (N Sync) in their image and pit them against each other as direct competition – he does not come across well! It’s also made me want to give their most recent album another listen as the songs from it are well placed in the film along side all of their old classics, and sound mush better than i remember being when it first came out!

Below the picture be some spoilers so don’t read any further if you don’t want to know..

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One thing I really did like about the film is how honest it is, especially Brian talking about his diagnosis of vocal chord dysphonia, which is something that he’s obviously still struggling to come to terms with. This also comes apparent later in the film when he and Nick get into a heated cuss fest in the middle of a meeting (sweet, God-fearing Brian dropping f-bombs is probably the most shocking thing in the whole movie!) about Brian’s inability to sing the way he used to and fears that might jeopardise the tour 0777. The cynic in me did wonder whether Nick throwing a tantrum was set up for the sake of the cameras and to create some drama in the otherwise easygoing, friendly dynamic of the group.

So ok, it’s not going to win any Oscars, and if you’re looking for something on par with Some Kind of Monster, this ain’t it, they’re just not that kind of band. I can’t see why anyone who wasn’t a fan of the group would really be interested in anything they have to say 20 years on but if you are or ever were a fan, or love a good story of 90’s pop, this will be right up your street (see what I did there?!)