Des’ree – Stand On My Own Ground
You know how when you haven’t seen someone for ages and then run into them unexpectedly and ask them where they were and they say “Oh, you know. Life got in the way” and you nod, but secretly think it’s completely meaningless? Well, in Des’ree’s case, it was true. Things were progressing very nicely in terms of pop stardom and then Life got in the way.
Yes, few stories demonstrate the brutality of pop more effectively than the whole “I’d rather have a piece of toast” debacle. Despite the fact that nobody seemed to mind that much at the time (Life was a no.8 UK hit in 1998, no.1 in Italy and the Netherlands and top 10 in Australia), in the years since Des’ree has been paraded through the press in shame, like a pop Cersei Lannister, having committed the apparently unforgivable crime of writing the worst lyric ever. And while it is bad, it was, as Des’ree herself pointed out in 2003 in a Metro interview, not intended to be taken seriously: ‘Oh, have a sense of humour. I’m only having a bit of fun.’
That bit of fun ended up reducing an entire career to a punchline, and Des’ree hasn’t made an album since 2003, the almost entirely un-purchased Dream Soldier. What frustrates me about it all is that there are some brilliant songs in her catalogue that get completely ignored now, all because she rhymed ‘ghost’ with ‘toast’. Many of these can be found on her debut album, Mind Adventures. It’s worth noting that when it came out the perception – my perception, anyway – of Des’ree was that she had a little bit more to say than your average pop star. The album was terrific but it suffered slightly for having the wrong singles chosen, or at least in the wrong order. Feel So High was obviously the smash – but the title track – moody and low-key – wasn’t necessarily the greatest follow up. I’d have gone with Stand On My Own Ground.
Yes, with a title like that you know you’re in for an empowerment anthem – but this one feels honest, personal and real: “Had to realise what I had to do / And that involved fleeing far from you / I don’t wanna seem weak, I don’t wanna seem down / I’m gonna rise up and stand on my own ground.” I’ve always thought that was immensely powerful, all the more so for its simplicity. Of course Des’ree naysayers will be pleased to note that the chorus basically consists of the words ‘dumma’ and ‘dum’ in repetition, but I like that – it’s the sound of someone getting on with things, comforting themselves. The tune is gorgeous and the production uncluttered. Ooh, I get the shivers.
Nearly every pop star has made a bad decision at one time or another. We forgive them. Rod Stewart still had a career after The Motown Song, after all. But for some reason Des’ree was punished far in excess of the severity of her supposed crime. She’s now vanished so effectively that it’s impossible to know whether she decided it wasn’t worth it any more, or just fancied doing something else.
Under ‘personal life’ on her Wikipedia page there are only these two short sentences: ‘In 2007, Des’ree sued Beyoncé for covering I’m Kissing You without her permission. Des’ree is a vegetarian.’ Not much to go on, is it? Where are you Des’ree? I’m missing you.
Entered chart: was not released
Who could sing this today and have a hit? If anyone is still looking after Rebecca Ferguson’s career, I think she could do an amazing version of this.