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Stéphanie – Irresistible

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You might think that to be successful in pop you need to be able to carry a tune. But as any backing singer will tell you – probably through gritted teeth – this is absolutely untrue. Often, just a little touch of star quality is all you need, and very very occasionally, you need neither. Which brings us neatly to Stéphanie, better known as Princess Stéphanie of Monaco. She possessed a voice thinner than the toilet paper you get in corner shops that seems like good value but really isn’t, and a stage presence only slightly more imposing than an empty stage. If there was any justice in the world her pop career would never have taken off.

And yet…somehow her debut single Irresistible is a minor masterpiece.

Made in Paris, and released in Europe under the title OuraganIrresistible is probably the best ever example of that very particular languid style of French pop that’s given us so many classics over the years – Ella Elle L’a by France Gall, Marilyn et John by Vanessa Paradis and, er, John by Desireless among them. Stéphanie was the ultimate expression of it – her total lack of interest in what’s going on around her becomes the song’s biggest selling point. She’s singing about a dreadful man – vain, self-absorbed – that she just can’t help but love. “I see right through all his jive ballyhoo / But he’s into my system though I try to resist him / I can’t fight anymore.” In many – any – other hands, this would be an excuse for acrobatic emoting, but Stéphanie sounds utterly brainwashed, utterly bored and somehow utterly brilliant, even while singing a line as hilarious as “jive ballyhoo”. Was this by design or just the best she could do on the day? I don’t know and I honestly don’t care.

Definitely the best song ever performed by someone emerging from a giant peach to essay a few school-disco dance steps while strenuously trying to avoid the camera, Irresistible proved to be entirely resistible to British record buyers, peaking at no.84 in April 1986. But it wasn’t without its fans – when Pet Shop Boys recorded I’m Not Scared with Patsy Kensit in 1987 it was partially as a response to this failed European invasion, with Neil Tennant telling Smash Hits “Chris and I were obsessed at the time by this record Princess Stéphanie had made, Irresistible. We liked that kind of French pop music and we liked the idea of making Patsy a European pop star.” Which totally worked, for a while anyway.

Stéphanie‘s career was short, but burned brightly – Irresistible spent ten weeks at no.1 in France –  but her second album took forever to come out, and by 1991 very few people were interested, I suspect chief among them Stéphanie herself. But – and I’ve only just found this out and my mind has been BLOWN – she was the uncredited ‘Mystery Girl’ on Michael Jackson‘s In the Closet, so she did eventually get that elusive UK hit. Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, I bow to you. And not just because I have to.

Entered chart: 12/04/1986

Chart peak: 84

Weeks on chart: 2

Who could sing this today and have a hit? I’m trying to think of someone who could possibly sound less interested than Stéphanie and I’m coming up short.

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