Sometimes it seems to me that the concept of a “Guilty Pleasure” is based on artists who were once popular but have failed to sustain their level of commercial success. If Katy Perry hadn’t come back with that hit-filled Teenage Dream album I’m pretty sure “I Kissed a Girl” would have practically gone down as a novelty song. Same with Rihanna, her debut single “Pon de Replay” was a big hit worldwide, but in retrospect the Bajan Creole-inspired singing and title coupled with the happy-clappy beat might not have dated so well if she hadn’t followed it with an big fat “SOS” from her sophomore album. Both these singers started off with a gimmicky track as their first single in order to grab attention and then began to develop their musical style later on in their career. But what happens when artists don’t get past that all-important big first single? What happens when they only really have that one big hit and then fail to follow it up with anything that is quite that big ever again? Well, they themselves become an “Unguilty Pleasure” that’s what.
So for my tenth “Unguilty Pleasure” I’ve decided to do something different. I have selected Natalie Imbruglia as the artist, who by all accounts is a very respectable artist who sings good quality songs without having to take her clothes off or sell out. Unfortunately, her success has been diminishing since her first single and now no-one seems to want to know anymore. But I couldn’t decide which of her songs should be the Unguilty Pleasure for this week so I have decided to go through her back catalogue and highlight some of her most noteworthy tunes, any one of which could qualify as an Unguilty Pleasure.
Imbruglia’s career has been a success story from the word go. At the age of 16 she bagged herself a recurring role on Australian soap Neighbours, which itself has turned out a few popstars in its time, as the dungarees-wearing Beth Brennan. After becoming disillusioned with the quality of her scripts she decided to quit the show in 1993 in order to focus on her musical career. She disappeared into the wilderness for a few years and then resurfaced in 1997 with a stonking cover of Ednaswap’s 1995 single “Torn”, which not only improved on the original by far, but also became a massive worldwide hit, peaking at No.1 in Belgium, Canada, Denmark and Sweden, as well as on the US Airplay chart (however it was ineligible to chart there due to the lack of a physical single). “Torn” only managed to peak No.2 in the UK, stalling behind Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” for 3 consecutive weeks, but did go on to become the second biggest selling single of all time not to top the UK singles chart (after Wham’s “Last Christmas”) and went on to sell well in excess of a million copies in that market. “Torn” also often features on many lists of the best pop songs ever and is, to this day, the most played song on Australian radio since 1990 with an average of 75 plays per day. The success of “Torn” provided momentum for Imbruglia’s debut album Left of the Middle which went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide and yielded the worldwide hit singles “Big Mistake”, “Wishing I Was There” and “Smoke”. Basically, you’d be hard pressed to find a more successful start to a music career.
Perhaps because of the four year gap between Left of the Middle and her sophomore album White Lilies Island, the latter failed to match the success of her debut by a long way. The first single “That Day” failed to reach the top ten of every market except in Australia, where it peaked at No.10. The second single “Wrong Impression” did manage to claw its way into the UK top 10 and to chart in the US, but by this point it was clear that Imbruglia was no longer the powerful force in pop that she had been four years ago. The album managed to peak at No.3 in Australia, but failed to stick around for very long in the top 100 and missed the UK top ten altogether, selling around 200,000 copies in that market.
After another long gap Imbruglia decided to grace pop with her presence again in 2005, releasing a comeback single “Shiver” which became her biggest hit since “Torn”, peaking at No.1 on the UK airplay chart for 5 non-consecutive weeks and reaching a high of No.8 on the Official Singles Chart. Unfortunately, success for “Shiver” was limited outside of the UK and the single only managed to peak at No.19 in her native Australia and charted moderately in mainland Europe. Similarly, the album Counting Down the Days became her first album not to go top 3 in Australia where it bowed at No.12. However due to the success of “Shiver”, Counting Down the Days went straight to No.1 in the UK and went on to sell over 200,000 copies there. The second single and title-track from the album “Counting Down the Days” became her second single, garnering significant airplay in the UK but only reaching No.23 on the singles chart.
After Counting Down the Days Imbruglia decided to go on a European tour and release a Greatest Hits collection: Glorious: The Singles 97-07 to celebrate her 10 years in the industry. The collection yielded the single “Glorious” which is a euphoric, uproarious jam which deserved to reach much higher than No.23 in the UK. Imbruglia quickly moved on from this disappointment however, creating her own record label Malabar Records and releasing her fourth studio album Come to Life in 2009. The album featured several songs written by Chris Martin and garnered very positive reviews but became a massive commercial disappointment, peaking at a lowly No.67 in Australia. The lead single “Want” failed to become a hit anywhere but Belgium and Italy, reaching No.88 in the UK. Subsequent single “Scars” was eventually cancelled and so was the album release in the UK.
And, sadly, that’s where the story ends for Natalie Imbruglia’s music career up till now. It’s a story of diminishing popularity and bad promotion, but there may still be light at the end of the tunnel as Imbruglia is rumoured to be recording a cover album of songs by male artists in early 2015. Let’s hope it manages to restore some of her former glory.
So this one is up to you guys. Here are the options for this week’s Unguilty Pleasure and you can comment as to which is your favourite below:
September has been kind to us and here’s 11 of the hottest tracks at the moment:
11) One Direction – Fireproof
Sorry for the rant but One Direction are one of those annoying boy bands whose careers are primarily fuelled by hysterical teenagers who are in love with at least one of the members of the band. I didn’t like them on the X Factor and I like them just as much in real life. Of all the acts which have emerged from the X Factor in 2010 (let alone from all the other series) One Direction are one of my least favourite. However…..despite my frank disdain for all things One Direction I do believe that they have been very well managed. This is one of the times when Simon Cowell has managed to tune into the public psyche very well. The world was missing a soulful boy band à la Take That and One Direction fit the bill perfectly. Songs like “Story of my Life” did actually manage to give the band a shred of credibility and even made hardened haters like me begin to take notice. So for their fourth album, which is imaginatively titled Four, One Direction have decided to pursue the “Story of my Life” avenue further with the first promotional single “Fireproof”. Although essentially it has only been released to whet the public’s appetite before the release of the lead single proper “Steal My Girl”, I’m betting “Fireproof” turns out to be much better quality. For one thing the group’s harmonies on “Fireproof” are the best they have ever been and the chorus is immediately catchy. The whole piece has a chilled out ghostly feel to it It has made me slightly rethink my attitude towards One Direction. Might have a sneaky snoop at the album when it comes out and decide whether 1D are worth bothering with after all.
10) Meghan Trainor – Dear Future Husband
I did want to put this one higher in the list because it is undeniably a stonking jam of epic proportions. However, I’ve been slightly put off because of the backing beat’s creeping similarity to Olly Murs’ UK No.1 single “Dance with Me Tonight”. It’s such a shame because the lyrics are witty and well written, but the similarity is too clear to overlook. If no-one picks up on this one I’ll be very shocked as its much more obvious than, say, the similarity between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” or “Brave” and “Roar”. This is literally the same beat. I’d be willing to give Meghan the benefit of the doubt as she may not have ever heard of Olly Murs, he has only had the one hit with “Troublemaker” in the US after all. Plus she clearly doesn’t need to copy other people as demonstrated by the success of “All About that Bass”. I’ll let you decide whether she should be condemned and cast asunder.
9) Jennifer Lopez Feat. Iggy Azalea – Booty
What do you do when your album takes a massive belly flop and disappears from the charts only a few weeks after release? What do you do when your last couple of singles failed to garner any radio airplay or chart success? You pull out the big guns, that’s what! And we all know what JLO has got some pretty big ones that she ain’t shy about showing off. Oh yes and you ditch Pitbull because, well been there done that three times (“On the Floor”, “Dance Again”, “Live It Up”), and rope in popstar of the minute, the generously proportioned Iggy Azalea, to add some extra jelly for shakin’. As if JLO didn’t already have enough. The thing is that JLO didn’t even want to include “Booty” on her album in the first place. She thought that the title was too crass and was only persuaded to include it by her children after playing it to them in the car. But really she should be very glad she did record it because it’s the only single on the album that is capable of reviving the flagging sales. “Booty” is, of course, lyrically on trend and acts as the successor to Miley Cyrus’ twerking-inspired hits of last year while she is busy preparing another horrifyingly fascinating LP for us all to enjoy. It also follows on from Jason Derulo’s middle-eastern inspired sound, particularly “Talk Dirty”. Basically, should you choose to look beyond the tacky glitz of “Booty”, you will undoubtedly see that it is nothing more than a cold and calculated career move, but with both JLO’s and Azalea’s booties in the way now, who is going to bother looking past when the view is so good.
8) Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me
Jessie Ware is one of those artists who might have slipped under your radar if you haven’t been paying close attention to the British music scene over the past couple of years. Her debut album Devotion managed to peak top 5 in 2012 despite failing to yield a top 40 single and was heralded by critics as one of the best releases of the year. Now Jessie is back and has been slowly teasing the release of her latest soon-to-be masterpiece Tough Love throughout 2014. The campaign started with the release of the fantastic lead single “Tough Love” which managed to peak at No.34, becoming Ware’s first top 40 single, and now she has released the video for the ethereal “Say You Love Me”. The sparse styling of the single lets Jessie’s measured song writing breathe like a fine wine and the Ed Sheeran-assisted epic choral line around the 3:15 mark gives me some hope as to the single’s commercial appeal. This could be the breakthrough Jessie’s been looking for.
7) La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell
“Kiss and Not Tell” is the second single from La Roux’s already underappreciated sophomore effort Trouble in Paradise and probably the only song on the album which is capable of reviving the album’s flagging sales. “Kiss and Not Tell” boasts a warmer and sunnier disposition in comparison with, say, “Bulletproof” or “In for the Kill”, but manages to retain La Roux’s quirky signature style. In fact, “Kiss and Not Tell” is an indisputable pop gem which is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. The perky 80’s synth line froths and bubbles throughout the track resulting in a peppy, uplifting bounciness which should provide for perfect radio fodder. After all, in a music world dominated by crashing beats, drops and overproduction, La Roux stands out for their uncomplicated hooks. Sometimes the simplest tracks are the best.
6) Chris Brown Feat. Ariana Grande – Don’t Be Gone Too Long
I did swear that I’d never listen to another Chris Brown song after “the Rihanna incident”, but seeing as pop-starlet of the moment Ariana Grande has a prominent part on this one I can just ignore Brown and gorge on the Grande goodness. “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” grabs you from the very beginning with that throbbing 808 and Grande and Brown’s perfectly blended voices. Hold that thought, bloody hell their voices blend so well. That’s disturbing. It’s as if they were the male and female counterparts of the same person. Erm…tangent alert. Sorry. Anyway, “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” confirms my belief that anything that Grande is on currently is going to be ridiculously good. Plus, the Game of Thrones-inspired video is pretty exciting. “Don’t Be Gone too Long” is a moody, pensive affair which manages to stay the right side of epic without straying into emo territory. Good for them.
5) Mary Lambert – Secrets
Best known as the female singer in hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ same-sex marriage themed hit single “Same Love”, Mary Lambert is now on the verge of releasing her first major label album Heart on My Sleeve. On lead single “Secrets”, you can’t fail to notice Lambert’s barely-concealed glee in revealing all her deepest darkest secrets in her Lily Allen-esque sing-song voice. This refreshingly candid attitude is reminiscent of Meghan Trainor’s recent booty-themed “All About that Bass” which could be a good move for Lambert as it seems like self-acceptance tracks of this ilk are the order of the day for late 2014. I don’t know what’s so wrong about using an analogue clock though. Still the cheerful trumpeting and good dose of comic relief will surely help this become a breakthrough smash for Lambert. Diary of a Pop Fan likes a popstar with humility and as long as her tracks stay this smart and catchy, Lambert could become a permanent fixture in pop, especially with a video that features her dressed as a Nordic opera singer reaching notes that only bats can appreciate.
4) Nicole Scherzinger – On the Rocks
First things first, the title of Nicole’s new album has been announced as being Big Fat Lie, which is possibly one of the most ridiculous album titles I’ve ever heard and suggests that man-celebrating lead single “Your Love” was pretty misleading as to the lyrical direction of the album. Sounds like it’s a bit more heartbreak-centric than “Your Love” would have us believe. And, if second single “On the Rocks” is anything to go by, our Scherzy has been having a pretty rough time of it. “On the Rocks” is a mid-tempo ballad with a prominent, thumping drum line which lyrically relies on the repeated use of the line “serving a break-up on the rocks”. Now correct me if I’m wrong but is our Scherzy trying to make a pun here? A relationship can be “on the rocks”, meaning going through a rough patch, and a drink can also be “on the rocks”, meaning with ice. Oh Scherzy you’re such a wit! Joking aside, “On the Rocks” is a solid piece of R&B pop which will hopefully give Nicole’s career some badly needed street cred. I’m slightly doubtful of its ability to light up the charts though as I don’t think it’s showy or annoying enough, which is a very good thing in terms of quality but not so good in terms of chart position.
3) Mary J. Blige Feat. Disclosure – Right Now
This much is clear. Someone obviously sat up and took notice of Mary J’s collaboration with Disclosure on the exhilarating club smash “F for You”. And thank god they did! That’s why Mary has decided to collaborate with Disclosure again to produce the lead single from her upcoming 13th studio album The London Sessions. However, “Right Now” isn’t the “F for You” rehash that it could have been. For one thing it’s heavier on the lyrics (Mary certainly had something to do with that) and there’s much more personality, something which can easily get diluted amidst the overpowering Disclosure-y synths and effectively convert the singer into a robot. Luckily, if anyone has enough personality to withstand such an onslaught, it’s Mary J. “Right Now” is the most exciting lead single she has released since “Family Affair” and proves that Blige is still as relevant today as she was in 1992 which makes us very excited for The London Sessions.
2) Charli XCX – Break the Rules
Having already had a hand in two of the biggest hits of the year “Fancy” and “Boom Clap”, as well as on Icona Pop’s smash hit “I Love It”, anything Charli XCX releases now is sure to be a massive hit. Luckily, “Break the Rules” is pretty awesome so I can definitely make my peace with hearing this on repeat for the whole winter. I think “Break the Rules is much more representative of who Charli XCX is than “Boom Clap” as well. She has a very British rough-around-the-edges attitude going on which has obviously translated well into record sales across the pond as well as on her home turf. “Break the Rules” is also infinitely more fun than “Boom Clap” and plays on the classic bad girl rebel at school persona which has become almost a stock character in pop culture. This has all the hallmarks of a huge global smash and that sick, throbbing backing beat would make even a nun feel like grinding up and down on a pole. Fact!
1) Ella Henderson – Glow
The past couple of months have seen X Factor finalist Ella Henderson transcended her roots and become a bonafide popstar in her own right which is all down to her dedication, songwriting skills and admirable pipes. Now, as she is looking to solidify her position as the new Leona Lewis, she sneaks into epic ballad territory with latest single “Glow” which will almost certainly keep her from descending into one-hit-wonder territory. This one is more of a grower than “Ghost” and features a weird sighing sound playing during the verses which is slightly reminiscent of a pedophile deep breathing at the other end of the phone. Despite all that however, it works. And very well at that. After a few listens the crashing, bombastic chorus will get lodged in your cranium. In fact, you can even see her performing it in a long flowing dress with moody, spectral lighting (in reference to the name “Glow”) on the X Factor in a few weeks. It’s also kind of Halloween-y in so far as it’s got a spooky vibe going on. Basically, it’s a great song and its release has been time to perfection. All hail the new X Factor queen (sorry Cheryl).
And, seeing as it’s No.1 on Diary of a Pop Fan’s list, here’s a bonus acoustic version:
UK boyband McFly have been delivering deliciously, sugary pop treatlets for our aural pleasure served with a generous side of good natured adorableness and non-life-threateningly infectious beats for over a decade now. During that time they have managed to amass a disturbingly long string of chart hits, including 21 top ten hits (7 of which reached No.1!). In recent times their clean sheet of top tens, which they maintained for four and a half long music-filled years has been slightly spoiled with some less than savoury chart positions: namely a No.18 and a No.35. How very dare you British public. Nevertheless, they still remain one of the most commercially successful British boybands and producers of toe tapping, head bopping tunes which should be added to the list of illegal commodities by the European Union. They’re too catchy you see. It just can’t be allowed to continue. As you can see it has already driven me insane. Now run before they get to you too.
Moving swiftly on, I have created this comprehensive list of McFly’s most beloved tune-age to celebrate how friggin’ amazing the band has been throughout the years. It’s been hard task as their back catalogue is a veritable gold mine of poptasticness which means that only I as “The Pop Fan” of Diary of a Pop Fan am able to compile a list of such pop potency. Handle with care guys. This pop is so good it’s corrosive.
10) I’ll Be OK
Sneaking in at number ten is the perfect sonic pick-me-up in the form of the second single from McFly’s second album Wonderland. “I’ll Be OK” is one of those songs which never fails to make you smile on a rainy day and peels you off the floor when the world has all but reduced you to a gibbering wreck. Who could resist lyrics like “try your best to make it through the day/just tell yourself I’ll be OK”. It also doesn’t hurt that it has an irresistible sing-a-long chorus which banishes that Monday morning feeling so well that you’ll find yourself humming along before long. Needless to say that “I’ll Be OK” shot straight to No.1 on release and helped the band achieve their second consecutive No.1 album. Guess they were OK in the end after all.
9) Room on the 3rd Floor
This one would have done so well if it had been released nowadays. I remember it being quite unexpected when it was released as the fourth single from the band’s debut album in November 2004 but perhaps it was ahead of its time. It’s got that rustic country vibe going on, the type which made Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum so big in the first place. The chorus is also tremendously anthemic and stadium ready that it could fill Wembley in a pinch. I mean, really, you can’t beat a good storytelling tune, especially when it’s about argumentative hotel neighbours and an annoying maid. Plus, it’s all about keeping your feet on the ground. I like a band with a strong moral compass.
Ooh cheeky live version!
8) Love Is Easy
If the other songs on this list are Cheddar, then this one is pure Stilton. A definite Unguity Pleasure. It was apparently the first song lead singer Tom composed on his new ukulele and, if this is the result, here’s hoping he’ll whip it out many more times in the future (and that’s not a metaphor). “Love Is Easy” is undoubtedly one of the band’s mushier offerings and it’s no wonder when it was inspired by the film Love Actually, which itself is the greatest heart-warming lovefest of all time. Mystery solved. “Love is Easy” was released as the first single from the band’s second greatest hits collection in 2012 and peaked at No.10, echoing the Hugh Grant’s epic words that love really is everywhere.
Ooh there seems to be stripped down versions of most McFly tracks. This one is unbelievably adorable.
7) Shine a Light
I’ll always have a soft spot for “Shine a Light”, mostly because it was a big, fat slap in the face to all the haters who had been increasingly implying that McFly weren’t relevant anymore. “Shine a Light” more than proved them wrong and managed to become the band’s second best-selling single, despite only peaking at No.4. The fusion of McFly’s pop/rock sound and Taio Cruz’ signature squelchy synths work perfectly together to create a massive chorus that you won’t be able to resist singing along to. Everyone loves a few cheeky “eh ehs”.
6) The Heart Never Lies
Billed as the band’s first proper ballad, “The Heart Never Lies” was released as the first single from the band’s first greatest hits collection in 2007. It was up against pretty stiff competition in the singles chart having Leona Lewis’ all-conquering monster smash “Bleeding Love” and Take That’s starry-eyed love ballad “Rule the World” to contend with but it did manage to peak at a respectable No.3 behind those two. The real achievement of “The Heart Never Lies” however was to prove the band’s capacity to make you cry as well as dance and smile. The rain soaked video never fails to tug at a few hearstrings.
This live version is triumphantly epic.
5) Star Girl
Speaking of McFly making you smile, “Star Girl” is literally like an instant shot of high-concentration espresso injected straight into your heart. It literally never fails to make me at least sway (and on a good day jig around my bedroom). That, my friends, is the power of music. The british public obviously agrees with me too as “Star Girl” immediately shot to No.1 upon release in 2006, becoming the group’s sixth chart topper. In a delightful twist to the tale, “Star Girl” was played by NASA to wake up astronauts on a space station in 2009 as part of a Twitter campaign started by band member Tom Fletcher. BBC Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles even played the song every Friday morning for two years as part of a feature called McFlyday, such is the extensive influence of “Star Girl”!
Here’s “Star Boy”, a version of “Star Girl” recorded as a thankyou to Chris Moyles’ for his support over the years.
Ooh this one is taken straight from McFly’s so-called “dark phase” when they went a bit emo and wrote songs about cheating hobags who use other people to get what they want. Makes my blood boil. Upon release, “Lies” managed to peak at No.4 in the UK, just 7 copies behind the Pussycat Dolls’ comeback single “When I Grow Up”. The song, however, became an unexpected veritable smash in Brazil of all places where it sold over 170,000 copies and was featured the international soundtrack of the popular telenovela “Caminho das Índias”. Must have been chock-a-block with scheming skanks.
The keyboard is funky on this one.
3) 5 Colours in Her Hair
Moving on to cheerier topics, at No.3 we have McFly’s debut single about a weird girl with 5 colours in her hair. The track has an insanely funky sixties vibe which makes me feel like watching Austin Powers. I particularly love the breakdown when she goes insane and shaves her hair which disturbingly foreshadows Britney’s tragicomedy meltdown in 2007. How did McFly know? Wisdom beyond their years, that’s how. The same wisdom that helped them compose the song’s “doo doo doo doo doo” hook. Well, if “la la la la la la la la” worked for Kylie…
Obviously it’s “Obviously” at No.2. It’s just so carefree and even country sounding. Gosh I didn’t even realise that McFly sounded kind of country on their first album. Good for them. “Obviously”, being the ridiculously catchy ditty that it is, obviously managed to become the band’s second consecutive UK No.1 smash when it topped the chart in summer 2004. McFly made teenage girls’ hearts bleed all over the country (that sounds a bit too emo sorry) when lead singer Tom declared in “Obviously” that he would be never good enough for a girl and that she was “out of his league”. Have some bloody self-respect man! You’ve got legions of girls falling at your feet.
1) All About You
I don’t think that many people would argue that “All About You” stands up as McFly’s chef-d’oeuvre. It was the first time McFly had used an orchestra and the chorus is simply tremendously catchy and sincere. Upon release it went straight to No.1 and remains the group’s best-selling single to date. To top it off, “All About You” was released as the official 2005 Comic Relief single with all profits going to charity. Of course, the single’s chart run was slightly besmirched by being knocked off the top spot in its second week by Peter Kay’s heinously insipid miming of “Is this the Way to Bloody Amarillo” (for the record I did actually like that song but it was horrendously overplayed and did much better than it should have). Anyway, back on topic, the video for “All About You” is also just as enjoyable the song featuring a host of celebrities such as Fearne Cotton, Johnny Vegas, Davina McCall, Graham Norton, Dermot O’Leary… the list is endless! Basically, “All About You” is the perfect love song with the perfect video and it was all for charity. Not even the coldest heart could resist.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave any comments.
This week’s Unguilty Pleasure will probably be familiar to everyone whatever version you might have heard. Actually when I chose this song as this week’s Unguilty Pleasure I thought there was only one version but in fact there have been three successful releases of this song by three very different artists. It’s….
When You Say Nothing At All
Of course, I was thinking of the Ronan Keating version which reached No.1 in the UK and was a smash hit all over Europe and Oceania in the summer of 1999 (except in France for some reason). Keating’s version also featured on the soundtrack of the highly successful British romcom featuring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, Notting Hill, which went on to become the highest grossing British film of 1999 and the soundtrack, which also featured songs from Shania Twain, Lighthouse Family and Elvis Costello and Keating’s band Boyzone, was nominated for a Brit Award. Keating’s take of “When You Say Nothing At All” is, of course, much poppier than the other versions but his earthy Irish tones and the soulful backing choir thrown into the mix make this song as welcome as returning home to a long, warm hug after a hard day at work. It never fails to make me smile.
“When You Say Nothing At All” actually marked Keating’s debut single as a solo artist after achieving great success as the lead singer of the boyband Boyzone who went on to have 17 top 5 singles in row in the UK, including 6 No.1 singles. Phew, slow down boys. The release of “When You Say Nothing At All” marked the beginning of the end for Boyzone and they split at the end of 1999 and Keating officially launched his solo career with “Life Is a Rollercoaster” which went straight to No.1 in the UK and Ireland and was a big hit throughout Europe (except in France). Overall, in his career, Keating has managed to achieve 14 consecutive top ten hits in the UK and has released 10 albums, four of which topped the UK album charts. He has sold 20 million records worldwide as a solo artist and 25 million with Boyzone. But before I start chatting about Ronan Keating all day let’s move on swiftly, shall we?
“When You Say Nothing At All” was originally performed by American country artist Keith Whitley who took the song to the top of the US Country chart in 1989. The single was his second last before his untimely death due to alcohol poisoning the same year and became one of a string of five consecutive char toppers on the US Country chart for the singer. Whitley’s heartfelt original version of “When You Say Nothing At All” has gone down as a classic in the history of country music. His bassy tones lend a soothing, rootsy vibe to the song which makes the lyrics stick much better than in Ronan’s pop version. Not that I’m taking sides at all. I like both.
So let’s move on to Alison Krauss’ version of “When You Say Nothing At All”. At the tender age of 23 Krauss was already a veteran bluegrass performer, 5 albums into her career, when she was approached to record “When You Say Nothing At All” with her band Union Station in 1994 for a Keith Whitley tribute album. Word of mouth played a large part in the song’s success and, as a result, country radio started to pick up on Krauss’ version. Following this unexpected success, her record label decided to release Krauss’ version as an official single which went on to peak at No.3 on the US Country chart. It also went on to win “Single of the Year” at the US Country Music Awards and even became a crossover hit, entering the US Billboard chart at No.53.
You’ve got to hand it to the songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. To write a song and make it a hit is one thing, but to write a song and make it a hit three times no less is no mean feat. They must be laughing all the way to the bank. But then it’s a testament of the quality of the songwriting that three very different versions of the song have been made by three very different artists with their own unique take on the song and each time it has become a hit, transcending genre boundaries and sounding as fresh as ever.
I’ll leave it to you guys to decide whose version you prefer, whether it’s Keith Whitley’s bassy tones and lonely guitar twanging; Alison Krauss’ pure, innocent voice ringing as clear as a bell; or Ronan’s hearty Irish soul and inspirational choir in the background.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share which version is your favourite.