I don't want people to not know who I am. I don't want to be pigeonholed as the new George Michael, or the guy that won the reality TV show, or Mick Hucknall for the Noughties, or whatever nonsense gets said. It's just me and it's about having a bit of self-belief and turning up the volume a bit" – Will Young, in a café by the Thames, November 2005 Hold onto your trilby... In fact, take off ...
Atomic Kitten are Natasha Hamilton (Tash), Elizabeth McClarnon (Liz or Lil’) and Jenny (Jen). They officially formed as Atomic Kitten in 1999 as a trio, with Tash, Liz and Kerry Katona, who left in early 2001 to pursue a career as a wife, house mother and TV presenter. She was replaced by Jenny Frost (formerly of Precious, a UK girl group whose single “Say It Again” was a UK Eurovision entry) in 2001. Atomic Kitten released 4 Singles with Kerry – “Right Now,” “See Ya,” “I Want Your Love,” “Follow Me” as well as the debut album “Right Now.” They were launched onto the scene with a top 10 hit, which was followed up by a #6 hit and a third top 10 hit. However, their fourth single struggled to make top 20, just scraping in, and the album struggled to make the top 40 two weeks later. It was not until 2001, after a year as a lukewarm successful girl group, that the girls finally achieved a UK #1 single.
Kerry had just left the band, she was pregnant and due to have a baby and get married to her lover Bryan McFadden, of the Irish boyband, Westlife. Jenny was already a friend of the band, after meeting them on the showbiz circuit when she was with her former band, and was immediately sketched in and began promoting “Whole Again” with Tash and Liz. Precious, her former band had disbanded after a failed album and three singles, and the final straw for them for their last single not making the top 40. Everything was riding on “Whole Again” for Atomic Kitten, and Jenny, Lil’ and Tash had no clue. Sales projections placed “Whole Again” at #20, but the midweek charts were surprising for Innocent and the girls’ management. It was at #1, and was sold out with CD2 selling out in the first 2 days of release.
“Whole Again” was so successful that a second single was not yet needed, giving the girls time to re-record “Right Now”, so Jen could sing on the tracks with Tash and Liz. New songs were also included – their previous up-tempo “pop” days had not been too successful, whereas their first real ballad was a massive hit. More ballads along the lines of “Whole Again” were included, such as “You Are,” “Eternal Flame” and “Tomorrow and Tonight.” “Bye Now” and “Cradle” were also remixed. The album was released in June in Europe, and was only available in the UK on import – for most of Europe this was not a re-issue of the album, it was their album debut.
In late July 2001, America’s biggest girlband, Destiny’s Child, released a single from their #1 album “Survivor” – an R’n’B party track with a catchy hook and sing-a-long lyrics – “Bootylicious.” It was a surefire #1 – or was it? In the same week, Atomic Kitten finally released their follow-up to “Whole Again” – a cover of the Bangles hit “Eternal Flame.” This was also remixed from the original European album version, and held Destiny’s Child from the top spot. “Eternal Flame” stayed at #1 for 2 weeks. The re-recorded “Right Now” album was then released and went straight to #1 in the UK. Atomic Kitten were now the biggest girl group in Europe.
With their second album, “Feels So Good,” the Kittens’ infectious mix of bubblegum pop with smooth R’n’B ballads, was continued and matured with the girls writing more of the material themselves. The first single to be taken from it (“It’s OK!”) featured a catchy Irish sounding melody, and the second single – their revamped version of the Blondie classic (which was actually a cover in itself!) “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)” mixed their bubblegum pop days of past, with the now-traditional Atomic Kitten balladry and their usual soulful vocals. Around the promotion of the single and the album, Tash went on a break to give birth to her son Josh – she worked right up until the last minute, even recording a “CD:UK” performance of “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)” – and returned in October 2002, performing with Liz and Jenny at the Disney Channel Kids Awards. “The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)” was #1 in the UK for 3 weeks, preceding “Feels So Good” entering at #1 giving them a #1 album and single in the same week. It was also the track that launched them in America, featuring on “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” soundtrack. American critics loved Atomic Kitten’s debut mix of tracks from “Right Now” and “Feels So Good” and the album began to establish them in the hardest market in the world.
Their next UK single, “The Last Goodbye” and the previously unreleased non-album track, “Be With You,” was released in November 2002, and hit #2. Both songs were released independently in most European countries, and “Be With You” was so successful, the album was re-released with it on. Their fourth and final UK single from the album, “Love Doesn’t Have To Hurt,” was written by The Bangles especially for the Kittens and hit #4 despite being taken from a mega selling album.
For their third official outing, Atomic Kitten chose to write a lot more – Lil’ had always been involved writing a track on “Right Now” and B-sides for the released singles, and Jen and Tash had written some of the tracks on “Feels So Good.” The album, entitled “Ladies Night,” does not stray from Kitten territory, it just makes a gradual progression, with the first single being “If You Come To Me.”