Quarter Life Crisis: Steppin'

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I turn 25 this year and resting in a the comfortable grey area of a 'quarter life crisis'. To celebrate, for the next few weeks of September, I'm recapping some of my favorite albums and singles that are turning the big 2-5 along with me...

Kim Wilde has had quite a checkerboard type of career, which is why she takes up an ample amount of spot in my music library. I know what you're thinking: "Really? Kim Wilde?? Shouldn't that kind of proclamation be saved for someone more avant garde?" To state my case, any artist who's sound evolves with each album always gets a gold star from me.

Wilde began in the 80's as a pouty New Wave darling with the hit, "Kids In America"  and then throughout the rest of the decade she zipped around doing pop, R&B, House, and everything in-between, and it my opinion, never got the credit for it. At the time of Another Step in '86, Kim did her first sound transition as she discarded the brooding New Wave attitude and adopted a spunky platinum blonde pop persona. Yeah, the 'Madonna Syndrome' had effected a lot of female artists at the time who felt the competition and needed to capture that same sound, but Kim kept on her side of the street, and did pop the British gal way.

To give you the Sparknotes version of this '86 fave: Another Step feels like taking in an Orange Julius at the mall on a Saturday while wearing frosted pink lipstick and acid wash jeans---or so I'd like to imagine if I had been a teenager in the 80's.

Polished up in pop sparkle and armed with guitar power, Another Step is Wilde's glossiest effort, and it's new style was crafted to reel in American audiences. It worked, as America was allured by her re-do of Diana Ross and The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" as it went all the way to #1, and became Wilde's second biggest US hit. Even though the hi-NRG number seems on paper like a insult to the original as the Supremes and Motown is precious to most, but it's an insanely fun interpretation.

The fun continues with mall rat numbers like "I've Got So Much Love", the horn peppered (and most Madonna sounding) "Schoolgirl", and the Junior assisted, "Another Step Closer (To You)". Wilde gets soulful in a few spots such as "She Hasn't Got Time For You" and "How Do You Want My Love" which switch gears, but Wilde doesn't lose her footing.  Even though the funky synth workout, "Say You Really Want Me" doesn't fit with the edgier rock n' sock 'em numbers, it still has a lot of charm in its step. That's really what Another Step as an album is---a real charmer. Wilde's not an 'Aretha' and Another Step isn't the most glamorous, flashy, nor the most earth shattering record put to black wax, but if you're in the mood for some crackling pop candy, Another Step hits the spot---and it's totally guilt free!

Notable Tracks

You Keep Me Hanging On
Kim's final #1 in the US, but still it had every right to be there. Pretty much defines the term, "power pop".

Another Step Closer To You (ft. Junior)
Junior (from "Mama Used To Say" fame) joins Kim in a real punchy pop-rock number. To my ear, there is some Motown spirit nestled in it when the chorus kicks in. Extremely catchy number---so don't say I didn't warn you!

Say You Really Want Me
I find it sort of criminal that this Rod Temperton produced number failed to at least make the top 20 (it hit #44). Just having Temperton's name in the credit should have guaranteed instant hit, not to mention the swiveling 80's R&B groove and energetic synth work.

She Hasn't Got Time For You
All hail to the saxophone! There is an up-tempo version of this and it really sucks out all the soulful magic the album version contains, even drowning out the great sax solos. How rude. Deemed as filler by some, but personally, this is my favorite from the album.

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