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Melanie Blatt – See Me

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Out of all the reasons for a band splitting up, nothing will ever beat the apocryphal tale that All Saints imploded during a row over a jacket. It remains one of my very favourite pop stories and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all want this to be the reason for our band splitting up? So much more exciting than the standard excuse of musical differences.

True or not, the fact remains that for a band initially marketed rather simplistically as the cargo-pants wearing, edgier alternative to The Spice GirlsAll Saints did in fact release some pretty stellar singles (and before you say anything, I’ll defend Under The Bridge to my dying day). For a band to have not just one, but two absolute pop classics under their belt –  Never Ever and the sublime Pure Shores – is a rarity indeed these days, but despite these undoubted high points their musical legacy sadly remains a rather negligible one.

Whilst most expected principal songwriter Shaznay Lewis to have a decent stab at solo success (and there’s a whole other Into The Popvoid piece waiting to be written right there), first out of the traps with a solo record was Melanie Blatt. She was always the All Saint who fascinated me the most. She nailed her solo vocals at every opportunity she was given, and she was naturally funny and grounded in interviews. In fact, the whole pop treadmill thing seemed to amuse and bore her simultaneously, and I loved her instantly as a result.

What impressed the most was her choice to expand her musical palette with each of her solo releases. And this was none of your try-on-every-genre-for-size, hoping one will fit and score you a hit record, this was genuine experimentation. And initially things were going well, with the gorgeous TwentyFourSeven and Do Me Wrong both hitting the top 20 in 2003 (no.6 and no.18 respectively), only for the record label to unceremoniously scrap the plans for a solo album. An all too familiar tale.

She returned in 2005 with the really rather wonderful See Me, a mid tempo pop-rock song with fist-in-the-air lyrics of empowerment and a killer bass line. What lifts the song to another level though, are her vocals. The barely contained emotion when she sings “so I keep my eyes wide open, keep them OPEN BABY!” at the 0.38 mark, never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. It’s all very thrilling. Written a few years previously, it was a departure from her previous sound and a welcome one at that. The song was then featured (rather oddly it has to be said) during the closing credits of the animated movie Robots. All was looking rosy.

However, the writing was on the wall when See Me never made it onto the Robots soundtrack release itself and peaked at a really rather rubbish number 82 on the UK singles chart. It has always seemed to me the very definition of a truly lost single; hidden at the end of a middling movie with just a rather oddly cobbled together video as a reminder of its greatness (although Mel is great in it). A solo album came to nothing for a second time, as All Saints reunion v.1.0 discussions had begun.

Melanie of course went on to be a panel member on New Zealand’s X-Factor and an older and maybe wiser All Saints have reformed for a second time with, we hope, a no-arguing-over-clothes clause, and a commitment to a new album in the contract.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to happily listen to the lovely See Me and idly wonder what might have been had it been the hit it deserved to be. Let’s hope there are some future solo singles in the pipeline.

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Entered chart: 23/04/2005

Chart peak: 82

Weeks on chart: 1

Who could sing this today and have a hit? Pink is the all too obvious choice – her powerful vocals and attitude would suit it well – but how about Sky Ferreira? With a ballsier production, she could really do the lyrics justice.

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