I pretty much enforce a zero tolerance policy on the term ‘guilty pleasure pop’. Quite frankly it shouldn’t exist because if a song – however low-brow it may seem – brings you joy then why should you feel bad about liking it?
Young Divas is probably one of Australia’s worst kept guilty pleasure pop secrets. The short-lived girl group – made up of former Australian Idol contestants – was active between 2006 and 2008. In that short space of time, they launched two fabulous albums of covers that would resonate with any fan of skyscraping diva vocals and camp disco pop tunes.
The original line-up comprised of Paulini, Ricki-Lee, Emily Williams and Kate DeAraugo first came together to record a one-off single ‘This Time I Know It’s For Real‘ – a Donna Summer cover – to coincide with their joint Australian tour, where each girl would showcase their solo material. But that was just the start of pure genius manifested.
The Young Divas project rapidly snowballed to include a quickly-pressed album of covers after ‘This Time…’ soared to #2 on the ARIA charts. However, their debut album’s double platinum sales and Top 5 chart placement wasn’t enough to keep Ricki-Lee, who yearned to further her solo career. (Side bar: she ended up doing quite well – do yourselves a favour and listen to ‘Raining Diamonds’.)
She was replaced by fresh-faced Australian Idol runner-up, Jessica Mauboy, who at that time had not released any original material of her own. It started to look like Young Divas Academy, where 17-year old Mauboy is slotted in as the work experience diva-in-training.
The awesome foursome dropped their second and final album New Attitude in 2007. The album is an unapologetic bash of fluorescent 80s synths, thumping club beats and big vocals.
The girls respectfully revamped classics by The Pointer Sisters, Patti Labelle, Diana Ross and Taylor Dayne – and where they nailed it, the songs sound like the hits written for them.
Young Divas led the project with ‘Turn Me Loose’, a sassy digital disco remake of Loverboy‘s 1981 single. It was probably a strategic move to cover a lesser-known track. You get the impression that Young Divas were slowly trying to distance themselves from being brazenly marked as a covers group with a catalogue of karaoke numbers. The single even featured a rent-a-rapper for added relevance in a post-Beyoncé featuring Jay Z world.
The bulk of New Attitude is an energetic and retro-glam affair, streaked with fluorescent synths you would expect on Prince‘s productions for Sheila E. and Vanity 6. The album isn’t expansive in its approach to 80s dance pop pastiche; there really could have been more styles on the table. There is a brief throwback to Americanised dance/hip-hop hybrid in ‘Got To Be Real’, which recaptures the feel of Kylie Minogue‘s ‘Step Back in Time’, with its male vocal samples.
True to the Divas’ calling, New Attitude keeps a strong focus on vocal harmonies and allowing each singer space to shine on different tracks. However, the best moments are when they all share equal billing like they do on the heel-breaking anthems ‘New Attitude’ and ‘Tell It To My Heart’.
Having said that, the album’s most memorable moment is probably on the Divas’ most vocally-restraint track: ‘I Can’t Wait’. The Stevie Nicks single is reimagined as a wistful, summery dance ballad with Kate DeAraugo‘s light raspy vocals taking lead.
We need not settle the argument with an arm wrestle, I will concede that New Attitude‘s sugary production can come off as cloying on the ears. But there is pure joy and conviction in the Young Divas‘ delivery that gives these well-worn party records a fresh varnish, even if the album is only ever played at Hens Nights.
Standout tracks: ‘New Attitude’, ‘Tell It To My Heart’, ‘I Can’t Wait’ and ‘Love Will Lead You Back’.