Appleton – Everything’s Eventual (2003, Polydor Records)
The pleasure pop music fans take in imposing an air of redundancy upon certain girl group members is inexplicable. One could look at the vitriol levelled at Michelle Williams after her appearance at Beyoncé’s Super Bowl half time show as an extreme example, but if anything, Williams should feel flattered by the GIF’s and memes that followed (not to mention the ensuing interest in www.poormichelle.com, an electronic shrine to her supposed inadequacies) as such affectionate cyber-bullying can be considered a virtue in comparison to the price those labeled The Other One usually suffer: complete and utter indifference on the part of their audience. Now, it’s safe to assume that during their All Saints heyday (we’ll say ’97 – 01) Natalie and Nicole Appleton suffered no such fate – at least in terms of tabloid interest. But as members of their BRIT award-winning pop group, they were spare parts. At this stage I feel I should point out that I adore the discography that All Saints have behind them. They enjoyed an incredibly strong run of singles; thanks in no small part to Shaznay Lewis’ distinctive songwriting, all velveteen vocals and sass served at artic temperatures. But upon listening to the Appleton sister’s debut album Everything’s Eventual, I am left only to imagine what the pair could have brought to the table had they only been given the chance.
It would seem it was Natalie who spearheaded the record’s conception, resulting in an album that is seemingly tailor-made to show off her versatility as a vocalist. She sports a gloomy but compelling lower register, and while “Waiting For Your Love” and “5am” exhibit an enjoyable predilection for belting, it’s songs such as “Fantasy” and “Ring-A-Ding-Ding” that exploit a deliciously unhinged quality to her delivery – particularly when she’s joined by the more modestly talented Nicole on the latters explosive denouement.
Everything’s Eventual is a remarkably strong album, although I must admit that “Ring-A-Ding-Ding” is easily the best track on offer. After an unsettling opening, thick strings soar over a creeping beat as the Appleton sisters confront a runaway lover. The cool, dignified tone that carries throughout the track and its multiple choruses eventually gives way to a powerful final stretch, in which an earlier line (“I think it’s great that you left me the last to know / And it will come back to haunt you ‘cause you let me go”) is repeated over a furious backdrop of strings and percussion like an affirmation. At over six minutes in length, it is a perfect centrepiece for the album, and although nothing else on the record comes close to its ballsy brilliance, there are still some gems to follow.
The albums two UK Top 5 singles, feisty pop-rock come-on “Fantasy” and MOR ballad “Don’t Worry”, have held up quite well, and while their managements decision to release “Everything Eventually” (UK #38) was clearly the result of Melanie Blatt’s experimentation with voodoo, it’s gentle, bouncy electro works well in the context of the album. “M.W.A (Mystic Wisdom of the Ancients)” is a jittery throwback to the duos time in All Saints, with trippy vocal effects and a pseudo-hip-hop leaning. Nicole proves herself to be a capable songwriter on slinky stomper “All Grown Up”, while Natalie’s solo torch song “5am” is surprisingly touching, her wistful vocal complimented by a last-minute surge to the production reminiscent of Zero 7’s “Home”.
This is not the album the Appleton’s were supposed to make. Indeed, what makes Everything’s Eventual so enjoyable is the sheer sense of surprise that comes with it. UK bonus track “Blow My Mind”, with its weak vocals and comparatively vapid production, is closer to my previous expectations of the kind of record they would release, and even this can be easily removed to make way for adorable album closer “Anyone”.
Everything’s Eventual is worth not only a listen, but your consideration of just how much better the All Saints canon could have been had the potential shown here been exploited.