In the 90s, there were a lot of boybands. You might remember *NSYNC, who were one of the big American ones. They did some catchy songs like Bye Bye Bye and It’s Gonna Be Me and they won eight Grammy awards for their trouble. Then they split up, and their lead singer, Justin Timberlake, went on to have a hugely successful solo career. What you might not remember is that *NSYNC had another lead singer, who co-wrote a lot of the songs with Justin Timberlake, and his name is JC Chasez. He too launched a solo career after the band split up, and his 2004 debut album was called “Schizophrenic”. This is it.
A good cover version can make the world a better place. One talented artist taking the work of another, and filtering it through their own lens, can bring new depth or a different sound to something familiar. The best cover versions take something wonderful and turn it in new and unexpected directions to produce something else that’s wonderful. Have you ever heard Stevie Wonder’s version of “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles? Have you heard David Bowie covering The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”? A good cover version can be glorious.
A bad cover version, on the other hand, adds nothing. Singing your way through someone else’s song just to say you’ve done it will only make your audience wish they were listening to the original, because the original is associated with happy memories and was made with a conviction that the cover is entirely missing.
If you would like to listen to twelve cover versions in that second category, plus a badly made “megamix” and one track of library music that seems to have got lost and arrived here by mistake, then the album for you is Discomania, a compilation of genuinely dreadful music released by Mercury Records in 2004 when they could have just as easily not bothered.
Last month, Mariah Carey was cruelly denied the Christmas Number One yet again. In 1994, “All I Want for Christmas is You” was kept off the top spot by East 17’s “Stay Another Day”; in 2021 it actually reached number one the week before Christmas but was then bumped into second place by Ladbaby, whoever the hell they are. Hang in there, Mariah. You’ll do it one day. Until then, let’s set aside the best Christmas song ever recorded to spend some time with Music Box, Mariah’s third studio album, released in 1993.
I don’t think I need to introduce Mariah Carey. She’s one of the best selling female artists of all time, has a net worth in the vicinity of half a billion dollars, arguably influenced most of the vocalists you hear in the charts and every single person who has ever appeared on a TV talent show, and still retains such an air of mystery that Wikipedia doesn’t know what year she was born in.
Ah! Celine Dion. Sometimes the random albums that arrive on my doorstep are a bit of a mystery, but we all know Celine Dion. One of the most popular artists the world has ever known, shifting more than 200 million albums worldwide, she isn’t just one of the biggest selling English acts of all time (although, yes, she is), but she achieved that having only learned to speak English around the age of 20, four or five years before The Colour of My Love was released, and continued releasing French-language albums in between her English releases. She also speaks and performs songs in Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)
What we have here is her second English language album, released in 1993, and the source of several of her biggest hits, The Colour of My Love.
After four long months – that’s over nineteen weeks, if you’re counting, or more than a third of a year – I have finally returned home. Just temporarily, for now, you understand: Steve Stevingtons has an important three week “Malcolm in the Middle” conference to attend, so the place is empty. But temporarily or not, here I am. And if I am back at my desk again, you know what that means: it’s time to grit my teeth and endure another dreadful album of unknown provenance. Today, we subject ourselves to Bobby Brown’s 1986 debut album, King of Stage, released when he was just 17.
Are you a fan of Our Cheryl? I have to admit I didn’t know much about her before 3 Words, her debut solo album from 2009, plopped onto my doormat in a padded envelope. Cheryl Cole (previously Cheryl Tweedy, now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, future changes of surname TBC) started out in Girls Aloud, a band created by the ITV series “Popstars”. She then went solo and is now an X Factor judge.
I cannot explain how Four Word Reviews work. The CDs just arrive, I don’t choose them, and they arrive by their own mysterious schedule. Right now I have a lot of them stacked up. Being in a position where I had a lot to choose from, I took a punt on Jonathan Ansell’s Tenor at the Movies, basically because I’d never heard of him. Here he is, look.
Back in about 2004, when I was at university, I attended a guest lecture by Pete Waterman. The university had given him an honorary doctorate, for reasons that were largely to do with the campus being in Warrington and Pete Waterman being about the only person of any note to come from Warrington who wasn’t Kerry Katona. Perhaps Chris Evans was busy.
He said he was often asked, after the many chart hits of Stock Aitken and Waterman, what was the secret formula for chart success. “There is no formula,” he proudly told us. You have to do what is right for the song and for the artist. Oddly, when discussing what was right for the song and the artist, he chose not to mention an album he’d put together four years previously called Motown Mania.