The new series of Britain’s Got Talent is back in full-swing, and that means the loveable Alesha Dixon is back on our screens. She’s known more as a TV personality nowadays, which is a shame because she was a pretty good popstar. She could sing well enough, proved on Strictly she could dance and her rapping was usually the highlight of a Mis-Teeq song. She never really had any major smashes, or anything you could label a classic, but digging into her back catalogue I’ve discovered Alesha has got some pretty darn good songs under her belt, with much more personality (her and her songs) than what you hear on pop radio today. I say some because I tried to make it a top 10, but of her solo and group singles, I’d only consider 8 of them good enough to be featured. Which is at least 5 more than a lot of people on her popstar ‘level’ have. Let’s get on with the (Alesha) show.
All I Want (2001)
Mis-Teeq were kind of like the UK’s answer to Destiny’s Child, with some added garage. Which makes Alesha kind of like the UK’s answer to Beyonce, with the added… uh talent show judging. This song/video is pure early noughties with the dance moves and terrifically cheesy falling through the mirror effects.
UK peak: 2. Best part: Enter!
Alesha’s first collaboration with production team Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys) who, as you all should know, I love. This song was meant to launch Alesha’s debut album ‘Fired Up’, sadly the commerical failure of this and previous single ‘Lipstick’ meant the album only got released in Japan. It’s easy to see why this wasn’t a hit – despite its bouncy ska like production, its a pretty weird track. Apart from the chorus, nothing is repeated or follows the same melody. There’s a bit where people genuinely just go ‘ho ho ho ho ho-ho, ha ha ha ha ha ha-ha’. The single version awkwardly slams straight into the harder, rappier ‘K-Gee Heat Remix’ near the end which is, quite frankly, terrible. The album version carries on with the ska beat and lyrical genius/nonsense but that wasn’t the version released as a single, hence the lower position. A curious oddity, but an infectious one.
UK peak: 45. Best part: Sitting up by my window, WATCHing the summer rain
Can’t Get It Back (2003)
From a song with a terrible single version to one with a much better single version. The Ignorants Radio Edit lifts this R&B jam with oh so 2003 guitar strummy goodness. The chorus is fantastic and Alesha adds another great rap to her collection. There’s not much I can say about it. It’s like a the little sister to the Sugababes ‘Hole in the Head’. I also really like how they begin verse by actually saying (or singing) “verse 1” and do the same for verse two. It’s like how Mark Owen literally did the “x minutes left to go” when it was x minutes left of the song. Cray cray.
UK peak: 8. Best part: the chorus
You’d have thought a song written by Emeli Sandé and produced by Naughty Boy would be an instant smash, especially as this was when Alesha was a judge on Strictly Come Dancing (remember that?). This track peaked outside the Top 40, which isn’t as bad as the album, ‘The Entertainer’ which hit the lofty heights of number 84. At least it was released in Britain I guess… poor Alesha. Anyway, you’ll notice that the song sounds a LOT like Robyn‘s fantastic ‘Dancing On My Own’ which is obviously a good thing. Maybe not in the originality stakes but if you’re going to copy, copy from the best. The lyrics are about turning up the radio; not to have a dance to some generic EDM but to block out the emotions from a bad (possibly abusive) relationship.
UK peak: 46. Best part: He can’t break my heart if I can’t hear a word
Let’s Get Excited (2009)
This song treads the line between amazing and annoying. Just listen to that beat. You’re either going to love it or despise it. Unlike the similarly Marmite-y ‘Drummer Boy’ I love this song. The production doesn’t ever slow down, insisting that you get up and dance, and it helps the verses are just as upbeat as the chorus. There’s a namecheck for Madonna and a reference to ‘Get Into The Groove’ if you’re into that sort of thing. And in the video, Alesha gets soaking wet from a giant hose, if you’re into that sort of thing.
UK peak: 13. Best part: I’m a detective I’m all over you
Breathe Slow (2008)
Artistic black and white video time! Alesha was at her commercial peak with her 2008 album ‘The Alesha Show’ and this song is her most successful. It was around for absolutely ages, you remember it, I remember it, your Nan probably remembers it. Not much to say here: a solid ballad, strong video and the biggest triumph for a woman who had been through a rocky divorce and career low just over a year before release.
UK peak: 3. Best part: I’m running out of patience ’cause I can’t believe what the hell I’m hearing (hearing)
The Boy Does Nothing (2008)
A mambo record about berating a man for not doing the washing up? So very kitsch. So very Xenomania. The crazy genius production team decided to work with Alesha again to come up with this corker of a comeback single. It fitted right in with the throwback sounds all the best British female stars were doing in ’08 whilst still having its own thing going on. The whole thing is so upbeat and fun to dance to, the chorus takes off, there are two (!) fantastic middle eights and its ends with the repeating chant of “if the man can dance, he’s get a second chance”. It’s just FUN all the way through. Oh, and it has Florrie on drums. I quite like her.
UK peak: 5. Best part: All of it. If I had to pick: I wanna see ya shake ya HIPS and learn
Before we get to number one actually, I’d like to give some honourable mentions to songs from ‘The Alesha Show’ (and its Encore edition) that Alesha did with Xenomania that weren’t singles. The stuff they created together is pretty overlooked by Xeno fans, which is a shame because there are some fantastic tunes I shall now list:
Play Me: more of an assault than a song, set in the key of awesome. Amazing with headphones in, really gets your heart pumping.
Don’t Ever Let Me Go: a relaxed, accoustic guitar with a hint of synth thrown in before the end. Repetitive chorus but it works with the whole ‘lazy summer afternoon’ feel I get from the song.
I’m Thru: the theme tune for the campest James Bond movie ever made. Another really fun song, made better by the use of the word “shebang”
Mystery: one of those annoying ‘hidden’ songs people occasionally. Best described as ‘hyperactive’, take that as you will. The second verse descends into actual gibberish before a fantastic rapid fire ‘no-no/so-so/polo’ rhyme bit. And the ‘this is the jump off, we wanna see you jump off’ is probably originally from another song Xenomania made but decided to cut and paste into here (as they often do, ie: Biology) and its probably the best bit of the whole album.
The Light: should’ve been the single for the Encore release instead of that naff Gary Barlow penned ballad. A piano and squiggly synth lead slowie, with wistful vocals and an uplifting chorus. Really should’ve been a single.
Was there ever any doubt? Everything about this song is so effortless. It rhymes “simulation” with “conversation” which is pretty epic in itself. The slick sound comes from production team
Xen Stargate, famous for their work with Ne-Yo, Rihanna and Beyonce. All the girls have their moment to shine, with Alesha herself adding some dirty rhymes before the chorus as well as the “that’s why you know should be scared of us” hook. One of the best girlband anthems of the noughties, a decade not at all short on them.
UK peak: 2. Best bit: WOO WOO WOO WOO
So there you have it; a quick whistle-stop tour through the back catalogue of an entertainer (see what I did there?) who never reached the upper echelons of stardom, but has had a better music career than you’ve probably given her credit for. Think about that next time you’re watching Britain’s Got Talent.
ENTAH! (or, exit)