Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1998 third re-issued album Supernatural by British singer Des’ree.
This 11 track album opens with the guitars of her third UK single What’s Your Sign?, we’re soon joined by Des’ree’s soulful vocals. A crisp beat and funky bassline joins in, swiftly followed by strings. This all helps the track build up whilst she sings about astrology, but it feels a little choppy.
The strumming guitars continue with God Only Knows, which again sees underlying strings helping to weave this song together. This song feels warmer, better formed than What’s Your Sign? and perhaps a little more up-beat. The chorus is also catchier, but only just. There’s a slightly haunting/sinister ending of Des’ree singing about thinking, whilst strings swirl around her. Reminds me of a sinister little girl from a horror movie. This was released as the 5th single from the album, but it didn’t chart in the UK.
Up next is lead single Life, celebrated for it’s slightly mundane lyrics and the lyrics about toast – ‘I don’t want to see a ghost, it’s a sight I fear the most, I’d rather have a piece of toast and watch the evening news‘. Listeners of BBC6 Music voted these as the worst pop lyrics ever in 2007. Vocally, Des’ree feels a bit too low-register here, and almost strains to hit those lower notes in the verse. The chorus is pretty benign, but perhaps that was her point – life is just every day. However, the song reached #8 in the UK, giving her biggest hit so far.
Best Days follows this, which feels a little chaotic to start with, but once it gets going, the track is musically quite slick, but oddly Des’ree’s vocals really don’t feel comfortable here – she’s either too shrill-ly high, or so low that you can struggle to hear her. At times she reminds me a bit of Lina here. Having said that, the song is fairly catchy, and so it’s a shame the vocals are off.
Up next is Proud To Be A Dread which is a song about Safari, Salassie, and Leo, and is laden with lyrics set against soft strings, and mellow beats and bass. This track is not particularly memorable… it just plods along.
I’m Kissing You follows, which sees Des’ree show off her more delicate vocals and range, pitched against a piano. After 1m 30s she’s joined by some wonderfully rich strings. This song was released as the lead single in 1997, when it was used as the love theme to hit film Romeo + Juliet (1996). topping the charts overseas, but didn’t chart in the UK until 2012. By 3mins, the song almost feels like it’s switched over to something from Jean-Michel Jarre, with Des’ree suddenly stopping and tinkling piano taking over for a moment. Des’ree returns to carry the song off with seemingly little effort.
The vocal style continues to some degree for Indigo Daisies. Des’ree’s soft soulful vocals are pitched by acoustic guitar, and Anne Dudley expertly commands some sweeping strings. Kudos to this track for including the lyric ‘..she doesn’t have a book to read, the journey takes infinity. She sucks a polo‘. There’s not many other songs involving those refreshing little sweets. The strings, acoustic guitars, the rich vocals and the breathy naming of fragrant flowers does admittedly make this song feel like an indulgent summer time song.
Time is up next, which sees Des’ree joined by pop music’s royalty Rick Nowels (Belinda Carlisle, Sonique, Melanie C etc). Again, this song feels like a stronger, fuller formed song. Sadly, its again not particularly very catchy, and so gets a little lost amongst the other songs on this album.
Some wonderful delicate acoustic guitar opens Down By The River. Des’ree is soon in with some genuinely wonderful vocals, that feel almost a little gospel – but without the choir. It’s simple, and this works very well. Gentle snare rolls, bass, and some strings join in at about 1m 25s, but Des’ree still commands the song with her voice. By 2mins in, the pace picks up and the song really begins to build up its layers.
Darwin Star opens with some tinkling percussion, sounding a little brooding and orchestral. Again, we have some weird lyrics – ‘From a child, he was golden. Now he’s a man whose looks were stolen from some glossy page, promising dreams of pure caviar‘!! Musically, it sounds great, and Des’ree’s vocals sound great here too – particularly towards the end, but the lyrics remain a bit shaky.
The album closes with You Gotta Be – this is synonymous with Des’ree’s name and certainly went towards making her a star – although it has so far been released three times. When it was first released in 1994 (as part of her second album), it reached #20 in the UK. By the time it was released in 1995, it reached #14 in the UK, but got to #10 in 1999. This song remains catchy, and a great piece of pop, but it’s clearly added on here due to its use in the Ford Focus car advert.
The earlier versions of this album, released 4 months before this December 1998 re-issue, saw the final track to be Fire. This song does not appear on this re-issue.
Over all, I think that this albums is a little stunted by some of the more bizarre and wooden lyrics i’ve ever heard. At times, Des’ree’s vocals sound a bit like an embarrassing X Factor contestant singing too high or too low, whilst the bassist, drummer, and keyboard try to work out what the others are doing. Annoyingly, Des’ree doesn’t seem to have been given any backing singers to accompany her – whether this was her own choice or not, including them would really have helped enrich her voice and help lift her and the songs higher.
The end result is that it feels disjoined most of the time, with only a few saviours amongst it – the indulgent Indigo Daisies, the beautifully enchanting Down By The River, and of course the multi-release hit You Gotta Be.
Where is Des’ree now?
Des’ree retired from music in 2003, after being dropped by label Sony. Her final album, Dream Soldier, which was released that year failed to see the commercial success (stumbling at #178 in the UK album chart). The album’s only charting single was It’s Okay, which stalled at #69 on the UK singles chart.
Des’ree returned to the news when she filed a lawsuit against Beyoncé over the latter’s use of the song I’m Kissing You on her 2006 B’Day album without permission to change its title to Still In Love (Kissing You) or to record a video (which she did). Beyoncé just went ahead and did wtf she liked, as you’d expect. Beyoncé later re-issued her album, replacing the track with one called If, and the lawsuit was dismissed. Go Des’ree!
With a brief return to the charts in 2012 with the third and final release of You Gotta Be, she has not released any more music.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 2 / 5
- 1998 UK CHART POSITION: #16
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.