n 2004, a young, upcoming actress is going to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar thanks to her role in Anastacia: The Movie. She may even win, because she’ll have the script to work with. The life story of Anastacia Newkirk is a story of Crohn’s disease, breast cancer, and, up until 2004, some very successful but not very good songs (“I’m Outta Love” excluded) wherein she sang like a man. In 2004, she may still sound like a man, but those songs are a lot better.

Firstly, wipe “Toxic” from your memory, because when it comes to the actual pop tune of the year, in terms of both “popularity” and “being any good in a populist manner”, “Left Outside Alone” trounces any manner of Britney-based airline vocodering. In essence, it’s the “Toy Story 2” to “Bring Me To Life”’s “Toy Story”: it’s not a sequel, it’s just “you know how you liked this last time? Well, we’ve discovered some new tricks over the past few years to add to it”. Whereas Amy Lee and chums were simply happy with their Lilith Fair/Vans Warped fusion, “Left Outside Alone” starts off as if we’re being sang to by the Holy Ghost (assuming Kate Bush is the Father and Tori Amos is the Son), over, yes, those exact same chords that oversaw “Daredevil” and four weeks at the top of the UK chart last year. Then Anastacia switches style back to her normal voice… calling it normal seems a fallacy. Those who seek to place her in the Madonna/Rick Astley “I thought they were black when I heard them on the radio!” camp must lead a life when the only persons of colour they know are transvestites. Yes, she does sing like a man, but a man who’s really good at singing.

It’s not just nu-nu-metal that her writing team of Ballard and Austin were listening to in the 03 though. Also making a bizarre appearance is the current craze for Bollywood/bhangra/just generally Asian malarkey. However, this isn’t a hip-hop album, so she can’t just throw down some random Indian guy singing as a hook and then go “Yo, whatever he said then I’m that”… except she does. “Sick and Tired” is the kind of music you’d expect Berlin to be making if they were around nowadays, and then, what the hook gon’ be, it gon’ be some guy in his 60s who sounds like he’s talking in tongues. The Dismemberment Plan tried this exact same thing on their remixes album, except nobody bought that and lots of people bought this, so Anastacia wins.

As with Stacie Orrico’s eponymous album of last year, when you’ve recorded two of the year’s best singles, it seems churlish to complain about filler. So “Heavy On My Heart” sounds like “Falling Into You” era Celine Dion, complete with bad classical guitar and worse lyrics, whereas “I Do”… you know the female version of Alvin and the Chipmunks? Remove Alvin and the Chipmunks from that equation and replace them with Lostprophets.

“Pretty Little Dum Dum” has a quick stab at feminism with those “clever” lyrics that those of us living in a post-P!nk paradigm have to endure (“He says that you’re the one one / But that’s 11 in his eyes”. Do. You. See?), and “Sexy Single”, whilst not being as bad as Natasha Bedingfield’s clarion call for relationship free agency, also won’t be following it up the charts.

Even so, all this is irrelevant. In “Left Outside Alone” and “Sick And Tired”, Anastacia has created two genuinely interesting, genuinely experimental, and genuinely good singles, and got them both heard near constantly on local radio. This whilst battling cancer, Crohn’s disease and god knows what else. Basically, you’re dealing with Warren Zevon’s “The Wind”, except she lives. Everyone likes a Hollywood ending.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-09-23

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