You know how, occasionally, something you’ve never experienced before is somehow just what you expected? That is how I felt when Rachel Stevens’ debut solo album, Funky Dory, went into my CD player. I more or less remembered the lead single, Sweet Dreams My LA Ex, but apart from that the main thing I knew is that it was a solo album from the best one out of S Club 7. Rachel Stevens evidently wanted to sound a bit more grown up now that she had thrown off the shackles of the other S Club 6, and it was 2003. Put those things together and you’ve got exactly what this sounds like.
There are good and bad things in that. It is, for example, full of very middle of the road pop that might have been written for any solo female vocalist circa 2003 – the lyrics are all a bit half hearted (“glide freer than an airborne cloud”) and parts of it are in a sort-of generic American accent. However, a solo project borne of S Club 7 could have been horrendous, and this isn’t horrendous; it stands up quite well considering it’s twenty years old and very much a product of its time. If you have to go solo and make some mass appeal pop music, I suggest you get on the phone to whoever produced this.
Let’s see what’s in the bag.
|Track||Word 1||Word 2||Word 3||Word 4|
|1. Sweet Dreams My LA Ex||Classic||airport||themed||pop|
|2. Funky Dory||Slightly||funky,||empty||lyrics|
|4. Breathe In Breathe Out||Twinkly||pop||like||Cleopatra|
|6. Heaven Has to Wait||It’s||the||mandatory||ballad|
|7. Blue Afternoon||Sultry||Copacabana||lounge||number|
|8. I Got the Money||Tesco||Value||En||Vogue|
|9. Little Secret||Mucky||pleading||affair||song|
|12. Sweet Dreams My LA Ex (Bimbo Jones Club Mix)||Totally||unsuitable||banging||beats|
Nothing here will stun you but neither will anything here cause you to put your head in your hands. A lot of it sounds so much the same that I kept failing to notice when another track had started and I had to skip backwards a fair bit while I was making notes. Some of the songs remind you a lot of other people who were setting the bar for pop music at this point, and the rest all sound just like early 2000s pop in a way that’s hard to describe. There’s a lot of stuttery effects – much like Holly Valance’s music – and Rachel does all her own backing vocals, with little telephone-quality spoken asides here and there.
The pick of the songs is probably Blue Afternoon which does sound a bit different and interestingly lounge-inspired. There’s also Sweet Dreams My LA Ex itself, which looks for all the world like it was written for an American artist – using, as it does, a pun that relies on a knowledge of American west coast airport codes – but which is a decent enough pop song. Counting against it all, though are the bloody awful lyrics. My favourite was the chorus to Funky Dory which ran out of steam for the fourth line of its chorus, ending it with the all-time great filler “and that’s all”.
In summary, then, my favourite thing about this album was that it skilfully avoided all references to Ian’s pervy dream about Rachel Stevens eating salad, which I feared might be alluded to in the lyrics somewhere. My least favourite thing is that the dreadful club mix that forms the final track is eight and a half minutes long. I am trying to find out who to bill for the time I wasted listening to it.