2022 sees legendary pop band Bananarama celebrate 40 sensational years of releasing music, chalking up an astonishing 30 chart hits and 30 million record sales. To mark this momentous occasion the band will release brand new album ‘Masquerade’.
The album is released on 22nd July in a limited edition run of blue and red vinyl as well as cassette, CD and digital formats, and is available for pre-order now here.
To mark the album’s announcement a new song ‘Favourite’ is released today as a treat for fans.
The track was written by Sara’s daughter, singer songwriter Alice Dallin-Walker (Alice D), and Oscar Scheller, and originally appeared on Alice’s 2018 album ‘Narcissus’. Alice also collaborated with Dallin on several other tracks on the album.
“It’s just a brilliant pop song,” Keren says. “We’ve done a different take on it but with Alice on backing vocals because we couldn’t not use her ad libs, they’re just too good.”
Bananarama have always had a way with a remake – in 1986, their Hi-NRG reimagining of Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’ topped the US charts – but Woodward says it was especially gratifying to cover a song that “is just so personal to us”.
Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward are marking 40 years of Bananarama in the best possible way: with an excellent new album, ‘Masquerade’, and a string of exciting live shows with more surprises throughout the next year.
”When we started out, we could never have envisaged that we would be doing this for 40 years,” Dallin says. “I remember in the early days, I was 26 at the time, and someone in an interview said we were pushing 30 and we were getting a bit old to make music. Women in the music industry were seen as having a shelf life.”
Bananarama have proved this interviewer wrong in quite a spectacular way: if they do have a shelf life, it’s one that is nowhere near over. ‘Masquerade’ is their 12th studio album; they’ve racked up 30 UK chart hits and topped the US charts, and built a reputation as a rousing live act who delight crowds everywhere from Glastonbury to Manchester Pride and the Singapore Grand Prix. They’re already booked and busy this summer with festival shows at Kenwood House, Kew The Music, Rewind Scotland, 80s Party in the Park – at the Queen’s Sandringham estate, no less – and loads more.
“We still get so many incredible opportunities and feel so lucky to be doing this,” Dallin says.
Masquerade sees the duo reunite with producer Ian Masterson, with whom they also worked on 2019’s In Stereo – their highest-charting album since the late ’80s – and 2009’s Viva, home to the thumping club hit ‘Love Comes’. They originally conceived this latest project as an EP, but when the pandemic wiped out their live schedule in 2020, they carried on writing and Masquerade grew into a sleek and cohesive 11-track album.
“I love writing songs it’s probably my favourite part. Shutting myself away and coming up with ideas and then telling a story in less than 4 minutes, it really is quite an art”, says Dallin.
“Arranging the music, vocals and harmonies really is our forte,” Woodward adds.
The result is a tremendously entertaining electro-dance album that sounds both fresh and quintessentially Bananarama. Its title track and lead single is a pulsing slice of club pop with a hint of Pet Shop Boys in its musical DNA and lyrics that tap into our growing awareness of identity.
“When I was in lockdown, there were a lot of conversations happening to do with inclusivity, diversity and gender and racial equality,” Dallin explains. “And that kind of led to this idea of ‘masquerade’: how you present yourself in different ways depending on the situation, but really, you just want people to live how they want to live. It’s a song we’re really very proud of.”
At times, the album is both wistful and anthemic. “Stay wild, stay wild and free – you are evergreen,” they sing on the shimmering ‘Stay Wild’. Other highlights like ‘Bad Love’ and ‘Let’s Go Outside’ have a cheeky glint in their eye. The latter has a brilliant bridge with a perfectly timed pause: “I’ve got a feeling in my soul that you and me are gonna be something a little more… than friends.”
Bananarama have always kept things personal. Published in October 2020, their joint autobiography, ‘Really Saying Something: Sara & Keren – Our Bananarama Story’ reminds us that this group is built on a lifelong friendship. It also tracks Dallin and Woodward’s remarkable journey from schoolgirl punks – famously, in the early 80s they lived for a time above what used to be the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal space in Soho – to global success with era-defining hits including ‘Cruel Summer’, ‘Shy Boy’, ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’, ‘Love in the First Degree’ and ‘I Heard a Rumour’. It’s no exaggeration to call Bananarama one of the great organic success stories in British pop.
They’re also one of the most enduring. When fellow co-founding member Siobhan Fahey left the group in early1988, Dallin and Woodward recruited old friend Jacquie O’Sullivan and embarked on their first ever world tour. Since 1991, they have operated as a rock-solid duo, scoring further hits including ‘Movin’ On’, ’Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)’ and ‘Move in My Direction’. In 2017 Dallin and Woodward asked Fahey to join them for ‘The Original Line Up Tour’. It was a triumph and this jubilant, brief reunion was made even more poignant by the fact that Fahey had never performed live with Bananarama in the ’80s. Back then, when the music industry was still driven by massive physical record sales, touring wasn’t seen as quite such a high priority.
Forty years after they released their debut single ‘Aie a Mwana’, Dallin and Woodward’s friendship still underpins everything that Bananarama do and above all, makes it fun.
“From the age of 18 or 19, to be able to travel the world and write and perform music, it really has been incredible,” Dallin says. “Yes, there’s a lot of hard work involved and certain things we’d rather not have to do, but we have achieved so much and we’ve had some hilarious moments along the way. And they never seem to stop!”
Woodward says their band members always know when they have arrived at the airport “because they can hear the laughter coming”. And long may it continue: as Masquerade shows, Bananarama’s creative flame is burning brighter than ever.
Some things in life are inevitable. For a while, that inevitably was a new Shrek movie with an updated pop cover like “I’m a Believer” from Smash Mouth. These days it’s a new Despicable Me movie, this time in the form of spinoff Minions The Rise of Gru. And just as we all predicted, the new Steve Carrell led film comes stacked with a loaded soundtrack headlined by St. Vincent.
For her contribution to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack, St. Vincent covered “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Her version was produced by Jack Antonoff and continues a run of luck for the musician that earlier this year saw her win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
Antonoff also gave St. Vincent a shout-out for her album Daddy’s Home when he won Producer of the Year at the Grammys.
Announcing the release of her funky cover, St. Vincent took to Twitter and wrote, “Excited to say the @Minions (including @jackantonoff) and I have just released our version of ‘Funkytown’ from #TheRiseofGru soundtrack. Shout out to Gru and them…” Included with the post was a graphic of St. Vincent as a minion.
Joining St. Vincent on the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack are Tame Impala, Kali Uchis, Brittany Howard, Thundercat, Caroline Polachek, Diana Ross, and Weyes Blood, just to name a few.
The album will be released on July 1, coinciding with the film’s theatrical release. You can listen to St. Vincent’s cover of Lipps Inc. “Funkytown” below!
Back in October of 2021, Parmalee released ‘Take My Name’ as the second single from their third studio album. It was written with and produced by David Fanning, producer of the massive hit ‘Carolina’ that introduced me to the band back in 2008, Ashley Gorley and Ben Johnson. Robyn Collins of ‘Taste of Country’ described the song as “a musical marriage proposal” and lead singer of the band, Matt Thomas, says it was inspired by the marriage of brother Scott; he says “it made me think about what I would want to say to my future wife.”
Some songs almost become bigger than themselves when they tap into the lives and moods of everyone and this is very much one of those songs. It’s not difficult to see why this song has been adopted by fans all over the world irrespective of their taste in music; its words conjure all the romance and love that you’d hope to feel when you ask someone to marry you. It’s lyrically a shopping list of everything you feel at the moment you realise you’ve met the one, even if that’s after only a short time. I remember proposing to my wife after just 8 weeks and if I try to remember what I was feeling at the point I proposed and tried to put it into words I would hope it was very similar to this song. Now over 31 years later and still happily married I listen to this song and it brings all those feelings back in a rush so why wouldn’t it be the perfect song to overlay a proposal, sing at the wedding or just be part of the moment; it’s how I’d love my sons to feel when they propose to their partners.
Parmalee are very aware of their fans needs and were quick to record a wedding version for such occasions with a less catchy percussion and a softer piano focussed vibe than the original version. There have even been brilliant occasions where the band has turned up to “crash” a wedding and sing this song to the happy couple reminiscent of Maroon 5 and their song ‘Sugar’. None of those guests will forget that wedding in a hurry!
With all the interest in the song and the brilliant videos and messages the band have received, they felt the time was right to make their own narrative video to accompany the song as an addition to the previously released visualizer. The ‘Wedding Version’ video of the romantic song was filmed in Gallatin, TN and directed by Shane Drake. The heart-warming story follows the journey of the protagonist through middle school and all the way to adulthood featuring kids from a local school, an original 1968 Mustang Shelby GT350 and appearances from the band with the lead being played by frontman Matt Thomas.
“From the jump, the fans have really latched onto this song in such an amazing, life changing way- our fans have been the reason for so many of our own major milestones, so it means that much more to us that folks are using our song for their proposals and weddings and allowing us to be a part of those major moments in their lives. We wanted to pay tribute to the fans who have been on this journey with us since the beginning so in the music video you’ll see a story of love and loyalty unfold across the years-but don’t expect to see any weddings or proposals – the fan created videos far exceed anything we could depict. We love watching them.”
With over 135 million global on demand streams, the song has raced up the Country charts, outpacing the band’s previous single, the multinational Number 1 smash ‘Just The Way’ with Blanco Brown and has been popping up all over TikTok with creators playing the song over proposal and wedding videos and even sparking a trend of using the sound of the song and writing “if your man doesn’t make you feel this way then what are you doing?” over the video.
Coming from their recently released album ‘For You’, an album that has garnered critical acclaim with American Songwriter calling it “authentically real, genuinely inspired” and Billboard saying that “Parmalee find itself in the enviable position of being able to tap into multiple audiences”. What is very clear is that Country music is slowly starting to find a new, younger audience in the UK to stand alongside the existing fans of the genre. Zack Bryan has recently found himself high on the Spotify album charts and UK stars like Ed Sheeran have appeared alongside Country stars like Luke Combs at the Country2Country festival. Even Tom Odell has found himself headlining the British Country Music Festival in the Summer. Parmalee may be the band to really break down the barriers between Country music and the UK Charts with this song as the musical genre of this release is far less important than the honesty and emotion of the lyrics and Romance will always break down all of the barriers, or at least I would hope it would.
‘For You’ is out now and can be streamed and downloaded here. Find out more about Parmalee and their music online on their official website.
This Copenhagen DIY pop artist has managed the difficult task of mixing her soulful voice with vibrant dreamy production and lyrics with real streetwise attitude. The result is something that has given her the hit single ‘Obvious’ which Danish radio loved and the internationally acclaimed single ‘Back to Business’. Now she is releasing the excellent lead single ‘Summer’s Already Gone’ which sounds very modern Bond in its lo fi production but tells an unusual love story. Not a story about falling in love with a person, but about the love affair that always ends; the affair with Summer.
“I wanted to write a song that could represent both the fearlessness of the magical Summer days and the truly blue sadness of the re occuring love story it actually is when Summer eventually comes to an end. I know it’s a heartbreaking, melancholy feeling but it’s also everything I love about Summer.”
The song was written in Mercedess’ living room with Danish indie superstar Goss and the guitarist Søren Breum and is produced by the critically acclaimed artist Vera. It allows the velvet of the artist’s voice to tumble over the muted trumpets, break beats and flirty acoustic guitars and strings bringing to life the seasonal heartbreak.
The fact that it is about the love and anticipation felt for Summer is almost more poignant this year as we embark upon the first free Summer for a few years. The affair with Summer this year promises to be a torrid passionate affair as we’ve been apart so long but the heartbreak of its end will be felt more keenly. This song will be the soundtrack to the affair for sure.
The single is released on the same day as the debut album from this exciting new talent. Mercedess says of the album: “Casa Fantasia is an album about longing for closeness and honesty. These songs are an escape from reality-a place to feel free and be yourself. Writing it was a personal journey and process to me that hopefully will make space for creativity, art and emotions for others too”
The album promises to do just that with the artist’s melancholy and yet warm and dreamy vocals and marks an exciting new chapter for an artist destined to find international acclaim with this collection of music. Summer may come and go but I’m sure the appeal of Mercedess will be perennial.