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Bananarama on Four Decades Together & Whether They’d Ever Call It Quits

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Bananarama were of a mind to follow their last album, 2019’s In Stereo, with an EP. Then the pandemic hit, and the result for the British duo is their 12th studio album, Masquerade, out now on SYNK/BFD/The Orchard.

“We didn’t plan on making an album,” Keren Woodward, who formed the group in 1980 with Sara Dallin and Siobhan Fahey (who left in 1988), tells Billboard via Zoom from her home in England. “We had thought it was the 40th anniversary and we’d do some new tracks for maybe an EP or maybe something else. Then it was lockdown.”

During the first British lockdown, Woodward and Dallin finished Really Saying Something: Sara & Keren — Our Bananarama Story, a 2020 memoir titled after their hit 1982 cover of the Velvelettes’ Motown single. “Then it was the second lockdown,” Woodward recalls, “so we started looking at some songs, and once we were allowed to sort of bubble up (with others) we ended up doing a full album.”

The 11-track Masquerade was produced by Ian Masterson, who helmed In Stereo and its predecessors, 2012’s Now or Never and 2009’s Viva, as well as parts of 2005’s Drama. The first musical steps were provided by Dallin and her daughter Alice Dallin-Walker, aka Alice D, who were quarantining together at the start of the pandemic.

“We get backing tracks sent to us, and they’re quite basic,” Dallin remembers. “I had about 14 so I picked out a couple of songs and Alice happened to be there at the time, so she just started humming things and we just ended up writing together. I’m a big fan of her songwriting; she has amazing lyrics and melodies she comes up with, so it seemed quite natural to write a couple of songs with her. It was like quick-firing at each other, not a labored thing.”

The collaboration also struck Woodward. “I think having a bit of new input made it more exciting,” she says “We got extra family involvement. ‘Forever Young’ was one of the early ones they sent me; I was in Cornwall and I must say I shed a tear ’cause it was about us, what we’d been through. It was very sweet.”

That new input hasn’t changed the heart of what we’ve come to know and love about Bananarama’s music for the past four decades. “We love electropop,” Dallin says. “We love dance music, so we try and combine it all on one album. I think because we did the album in a short space of time it hangs together really well. (In Stereo) was a bit disparate in that it was a collection of songs we’d done over a period of time, and this one was very concentrated, and I think that makes it a better album.”

Masquerade is the latest part of the Bananarama story that began at the London College of Fashion, where Dallin and Fahey were studying while Woodward was working at the BBC. Dallin and Woodward were befriended by former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, who gave them a place to live above his band’s former rehearsal room. Taking the group name from Roxy Music’s 1973 single “Pyjamarama,” Bananarama had a club hit with its first single, “Aie a Mwana,” in 1981 before signing with Decca Records. In 1982, they scored top 5 U.K. hits with “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)” and “Really Saying Something,” both collaborations with Fun Boy Three.

After that lift-off the trio unleashed eight more U.K. top 10 hits, sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and established a Guinness World Record for the most chart entries overall by an all-female group. Bananarama has also notched 11 Billboard Hot 100 singles, reaching the top 10 in 1984 with “Cruel Summer,” 1986’s chart-topping remake of Shocking Blue’s “Venus” and 1987’s “I Heard a Rumour.” “Cruel Summer” has “a life of its own,” according to Dallin, boosted by its inclusion in the 1984 film The Karate Kid and a 1998 cover by Ace of Base. Most recently, Lorde has been performing “Cruel Summer” during her Solar Power World Tour.

“All those dreams you’ve had, all that life you’ve lived — obviously 40 years spells it out to you,” Dallin notes. “It’s been a really long career together, and (we’ve) also been friends since we were kids, so there’s a certain nostalgic quality to some of the (Masquerade) songs, but it’s still really exciting to be doing what we do. We realized when we wrote the book and discussed all those things we’d done, that’s actually quite an achievement, really — particularly for females.”

Fahey, meanwhile, was part of a 2017-18 reunion tour in the U.K., with five shows in North America, but has not been on board since. “It was only ever going to be a tour,” Woodward says. “It was a brilliant thing to do, but we’re very different people now, and we lead very different lives. I’m not sure musically we’d be in tune with each other. And also Sara and I have been a duo for 30 years, and it just works for us. It’s how we want it to be.”

Stoked from seeing recent British concerts by the Rolling Stones and Duran Duran, Dallin and Woodward have some events lined up around Masquerade‘s release, including festival dates in the U.K. and Ireland, along with a wealth of TV appearances to promote the album. Nothing is planned for the U.S. yet, but Dallin affirms that “we would love to come that way,” though Woodward notes that post-COVID skittishness, as well as increased travel and production expenses, have tabled any international plans for the moment.

There have been some overtures about turning the Really Saying Something book into a biopic — “three or four offers” according to Dallin — but none have come to fruition. “They pick out certain things from it and we’re like, ‘We don’t really want to focus on that bit, or that bit,’” she explains. “It’s really hard to let somebody else tell your story without being hands-on.” “I think especially with a drama,” Woodward adds. “They’ll sensationalize bits you don’t want and they’ll have artistic license, and I don’t think we want to give people that. I’m quite a private person, too; Instagram and, ‘Here I am, eating dinner.’ I just find it all so weird.”

A film could still happen, but Masquerade will be the duo’s focus for the moment according to both Dallin and Woodward. Another album isn’t in their crosshairs yet; “We don’t really make plans like that, anyway,” Woodward notes, though Dallin says Masterson has sent them more tracks for song ideas. They don’t see any end in sight for Bananarama, however.

“For me, why would you stop if you love doing what you do?” Woodward says. “Why would you think, ‘Oh, I’m a certain age and I should stop now.’ If you’ve still got the joy of doing it, I don’t think you could possibly put a date on when you should finish up, as long as people want to hear what you’re doing.”

“I don’t think either of us would’ve thought we’d be doing it for 40 years,” Dallin adds. “And obviously we’ve accumulated a body of work over 40 years. People still want to see it and still want to listen to it — so long may it last.”



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Inside Garth Brooks’ Epic Celebration of the End of His 3-Year Tour With Wife Trisha Yearwood (Exclusive)

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Popping bottles and toasting with the closest people in his life! Garth Brooks is celebrating the end of his three-year world tour with champagne and festivities!

ET’s Rachel Smith was exclusively with Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the epic afterparty following his final stop on the North American leg of his Garth Brooks Stadium Tour!

Amid the revelry, Brooks spoke with Smith about the tour wrapping up and said that he truly doubts he’ll be headlining a tour of this magnitude in the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think we’ll ever do a stadium tour again, ever. It’s just too much on the crew,” Brooks shared. “These guys haven’t been home in six months.”

However, Brooks celebrated the fact that his road crew is “finally gonna get to go home and see their families.”

That being said, Brooks admitted that retirement from live performing isn’t in the cards, and when it comes to tours, “It’s never the last one.”

Yearwood, meanwhile, shared that the champagne wrap party celebration was somewhat “bittersweet” by nature, “Because you enjoy every second along the way.”

“The last show is always the special one. This is something that, even though some of us will work together again, it’ll never be like this exact moment,” she added.

While the three-year tour is nearly done, Brooks still has more than enough on his plate, including the release of his new book, The Anthology, Part II: The Next Five Years.

Additionally, Brooks is set to narrate a 10-part documentary series, National Parks, for NatGeo, and the country crooner reflected on his workload, sharing, “It’s gonna be fun! Here’s the deal, man, if you wake up you got a job to do.”

That also means he has no interest in ever giving up on his music. “I think hopefully I’ll die with my guitar on,” Brooks shared.

“I just want to be wherever that woman is, and I’ll be happy.” Brooks said, referring to Yearwood. “But if I’m gonna get to play music, then I’m a lucky, lucky man.”

Brooks’ The Anthology, Part II: The Next Five Years is available for purchase exclusively on talkshoplive.

The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour comes to a final close in September with shows in Ireland on Sept. 9-11 and 16 and 17.

 

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Eminem Challenges Beyonce for U.K. Albums Chart Title

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Shady’s back, and he wants another U.K. No. 1.

Eminem could get what he wants with Curtain Call 2 (via Interscope), which dropped last Friday (Aug. 5) and is well-placed for a run to the chart summit.

Based on midweek sales and streaming data, Curtain Call 2 is the U.K.’s No. 2 album, less than 100 combined units behind the leader, Beyonce’s Renaissance (Columbia/Parkwood Entertainment), the Official Charts Company reports.

Curtain Call 2 is the sequel to Em’s 2005 career retrospective Curtain Call: The Hits, which remains in the Top 20 after 512 weeks on the chart, a stretch that has included five weeks at No. 1.

With Curtain Call 2, the Detroit hip-hop star can extend on his record ten U.K. No. 1 albums to his name, all consecutive, dating back to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP. No other act in U.K. chart history has ruled the chart with as many album titles in a row.

Meanwhile, Beyonce’s Renaissance leads the Official Chart Update, and is on track for a second week at No. 1, while Calvin Harris is chasing a fifth Top 5 album, with Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 (Columbia), opening at No. 5 on the chart blast.

ABBA’s Gold: Greatest Hits (Polydor) is on the rise following news of a 30th anniversary edition. Gold is slated for the reissue treatment Sept. 23 in several new formats, including special 2LP picture disc. The Swedish superstars’ hits compilation has lived on the chart for a record 1,057 weeks.

Further down the list, metal group Dub War could bag their first U.K. Top 20 with Westgate Under Fire (Earache), their third studio album. It’s new at No. 12 on the midweek chart.

Finally, Neil Young and Promise of the Real is set to start at No. 14 with Noise & Flowers (Reprise), recorded during their 2019 European tour, while U.S. ska outfit The Interrupters could impact the chart for the first time with In the Wild (Hellcat), their fourth studio album. It’s new at No. 17 on the chart update.

The Official U.K. Albums Chart is published late Friday.



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Iggy Azalea Says She’s Making Music Again: ‘I’m Coming Back. Cry About It’

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Iggy Azalea’s last release, 2021’s “The End of an Era,” marked the Australian rapper’s final bow — or so we thought. On Monday morning, Azalea seemingly retracted that sentiment.

“A year ago I was willing to walk away from music because I was tired of the negative energy it attracted,” she tweeted. “But what I’ve learned is that even when I’m minding my business, y’all gonna be negative and nosey. So if I can’t have peace, neither can you. I’m coming back. Cry about it.”

A little over a year ago, Azalea told audiences that “End of an Era” would be her final album so she could take “a few years to focus on other creative projects and things I’m feeling passionate and inspired by beyond music.” She also added that she was looking forward to sharing “different sides” to her in the future.

In an August 2021 interview on the Zach Sang show, Azalea explained that “End of an Era” was the final album she had to deliver as a part of a distribution deal with her label, Bad Dreams Records (Empire). “That was two albums, contractually. I don’t have anybody that I need to make happy.” She also added that she would possibly get another deal in “three to four years” but also expressed — pretty definitively — that “End of an Era” would be her final studio album release.

She also mentioned her decision to stop releasing music came because of the increased assumptions made about her lyricism in relation to her real-life relationships. It remains unclear whether Azalea has plans to seek another distribution deal or plans to release a full studio album again.



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