Hello, 80s fans. Johnny Caps here. It's been a long while since I did a Track By Track recap/opinion piece for the 80sxchange, but looking at what year it is made me think of albums celebrating their 35th anniversary this year. One of those albums I want to talk about is by an artist I've talked about before on this site. Having talked about Touch Me and her self-titled second album in previous Track By Track articles for the site, it's now time to talk about Samantha Fox's last 80s album.
I Wanna Have Some Fun celebrates its' 35th anniversary in 2023, and it's another great collection of pop songs to look back on. The album saw her collaborate again with Stock/Aitken/Waterman and Full Force, as well as several new production teams and writers. Put altogether, they created a memorable dance-pop album with songs that still get parties going to this day.
We start off with the album's title track, I Wanna Have Some Fun.
Written by Full Force, the song continues the ideas presented in a previous collaboration with Samantha, Naughty Girls Need Love, Too. Indeed, that song gets a shout-out in I Wanna Have Some Fun, and it makes sense. Both songs are anthems of empowerment in their own unique ways. Whether it's love, fun, or both, these songs say that Samantha is going to get what she's after.
The music video for the song has a great energy to it. I love the dance moves performed by Samantha, Full Force and the backup dancers. There's a great energy to the dancing. There's even the sideways trot whose name I can't recall, but it was performed in this video several years before MC Hammer did it. The motions are fantastic, and they reflect the concept of the song quite well.
Something to note with the video for I Wanna Have Some Fun is that Samantha has multiple costume changes. From a midriff-baring shirt and black panties to torn denim to a black suit, it's clear that Samantha's start as a model continues to serve her well. She's actually walked several catwalks over the years, and she still looks amazing to this day. I would love to see her work some of these outfits in future concert performances. I think she could still do it.
The second song on the album is Love House, written by the Bolland Brothers, Rob and Ferdi.
This song is very unique because it points in the direction that dance music would take in the 90s. For most of the 90s, dance music wouldn't be popular with the public. As a result, dance music was more likely to be heard in out-of-the-way places where a dedicated audience would pay attention to it more than the masses once did. One of those genres was house music, and Love House was a sterling early example of that style.
With the usage of samples and looping, house music was a very cool style. I have mixed feelings about sampling older music, but when samples are utilized well, they can create fascinating new soundscapes. The Bollands did a great job with their samples and looping, and Samantha was the perfect singer for this song. Her musical concepts go in an unusual, but cool, direction with Love House.
The music video for Love House also points in the dark direction that much of 90s pop culture would take. While we do see Samantha in a variety of costumes, equal attention is paid to two strange men, a Lou Costello type and a house proprietor who looks like he's doing experiments on people in his basement. Basically, the Love House promises love, but it's also a rather scary place to be.
The third song on the album is Your House Or My House, written by Jolyon Skinner and Chris Marshall.
This song is interesting in that, although it wasn't written or produced by Stock/Aitken/Waterman, it sounds like it could've been one of their songs. I mean that as a compliment since I find that team to be underrated and deserving of more credit than they usually get. Skinner and Marshall do a fantastic job of channeling the S/A/W sound, and Samantha, as always, gives the song her all.
Some YouTube comments on Your House Or My House have said that the song should've been released as a single, and I agree with that assessment. The energy and the flirtiness of the song could have easily filled up the dancefloors as much as the big hits from this album. It's difficult to tell what directions an album's singles can take, but I could definitely have seen this in the Top 40 of a 1988 or 1989 chart.
The fourth song on the album is another Full Force-written piece, this one called Next To Me.
The song is a rather simple one, based around the lyric "Next to me is the place to be", but simple doesn't have to mean simplistic. The song is basically about sex, and the rhythm of the music reflects that concepts. Several of the samples well-known in late 80s music make themselves known here, and there's also another call-back to an earlier Samantha Fox song when Samantha sings the words "Touch me".
Revisiting the past in new contexts is a constant in hip-hop songs, and also, if you think about it, in articles written, on here and on other websites, about the 80s. We're all on this website because we love the 1980s, but pieces on this site are also written to take a look at the decade from different perspectives, and with the hindsight of several decades passing since the 80s ended.
Samantha Fox is a talent who is very good at revisiting her past and making it seem as timely as today's paper. I think it helps that she looks pretty much the same now as she did in the 80s. The hair is no longer big, and the makeup isn't as flashy (said in a respectful way as I love 80s makeup looks), but Samantha is, for the most part, largely unchanged from the 1980s. Her music, and she is still performing, keeps the hopeful spirit of 80s pop and dance music alive.
Returning to the actual 80s, though, we come to the album's fifth track, Ready For This Love, written by Shelley Peiken.
If a song isn't about sex, it's usually about romance, which often precedes the physical act. Ready For This Love falls into the category of the romance song as Samantha sings about the bloom of true love in a rather innocent way. It's an interesting contrast to songwriter Peiken's later work as she would go on to either write or co-write 90s-defining songs like Meredith Brooks' B*tch and Christina Aguilera's What A Girl Wants.
I do enjoy this song, but as I've mentioned in previous articles, I identify as aromantic, so it's a little difficult to enjoy the song as originally intended. When I say that, I mean that, for me, love takes on many more forms than romance. For me, the love that I'm ready for, and indeed have in my life now, ranges from platonic to brotherly to familial to the support shown to my writing. That's probably not what this song was going for, but it's how I can best relate the material to my own life.
The album's sixth track is Confession, written by Samantha Fox herself alongside Lol Mason and Mark Shreeve.
This song has a Depeche Mode/Pet Shop Boys sound to it, and as both groups are Samantha's contemporaries, her lyrics on this song fit in right alongside them. The mystery in this song is: What is being confessed to? It could be anything from cheating to criminal activity, and I think what this song does is leave you to fill in the blanks. If I ever meet Samantha Fox at Chiller again, I'll have to ask her what the song means.
Perhaps it's an early reference to having to hide her true self for so long before coming out as a lesbian. Imagine being lusted after by people whom you have no compatibility with, but not being able to speak your truth as those same people are making you a star. That could go for any person with a difference, not just a sexual one. For all we know, the difference could be a mental one.
Speaking for myself, in the first few years after I was diagnosed with my autism spectrum disorder, I thought that ASD was something to be ashamed of, so I tried desperately to prove, in various ways, that I was "normal". Over a quarter of a century later, I now understand that "normal" is a meaningless word. Every person is unique, and what some may define as "normal", others may define as "bizarre", and vice versa. Put succinctly, no one is normal, and that's as it should be.
Going back to the album, the seventh track is a cover of Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You, originally written by Ivor Raymonde and Michael Hawker, and retitled here as I Only Wanna Be With You.
I think this song is a successful cover. Before reviewing this song, I listened to Dusty Springfield's original for comparison, and while Dusty was an amazing vocalist, there was something in the instrumentation of her original version that made the song sound a little mournful. Personally, I think it was the string arrangement. Strings can add a lot to a song, but if it's an upbeat track, strings can also take away a lot from a song.
The Stock/Aitken/Waterman arrangement, while having some minor string stabs, reflects the upbeat tone of the lyrics, the idea of a committed relationship. Again, though, as an aromantic man, I can't exactly apply the lyrics to my own life. I have no interest in being with anybody romantically. If I were to sing it, it would be more like, "I Only Want To Be Friends With You".
As to the video, it's a fun piece that has Samantha in various costumes trying to express the lyrics to her love interests in the video. Personally, what really caught me about this video is Samantha's eyes. Samantha has such a knockout body that not enough attention is paid to her eyes, in my opinion. Her eyes sell the song as much as her rendition of the lyrics. Her lover could look into her eyes and lose track of time, and that would work as she only wants to be with her lover. Never underestimate the eyes.
Going to the album's eighth track, we have another Stock/Aitken/Waterman piece, this one entitled You Started Something.
When I listen to the lyrics, I hear a song about someone trying to reason with a loved one to keep their connection going. It's probably supposed to be a love song, but I could apply it to a friendship on the verge of breaking up as well. As a matter of fact, I actually can apply that idea to my own life, and a friend of mine that I had once, and now have again, even though we live in different states and aren't able to physically see each other.
This friend of mine shared my love of the pop culture of the 1980s. We would often spend our weekends and our spending money cruising around the county, looking for stores selling 80s material. Unfortunately, my 20s were an unstable period of time for me, and I ended up gradually driving this friend away after I started screaming at him over a trivial matter in 2004. While our friendship would continue, it wouldn't be in the same way...At least for a time.
This friend ended up moving away, although it took me a while to find out. Many years later, we would reconnect on Facebook, and he would apologize for moving away without telling me. Although we don't talk as much as we used to, that's because he's now a father with a steady job. We are friendly with each other again, though, and the thing that was started has been on again for a few years now.
Returning to Samantha Fox, though, we now come to the album's ninth track, One In A Million.
Written by The Bollands, who also wrote the earlier track Love House, I find the production of this to be a somewhat stark contrast to the earlier song. Don't get me wrong. One In A Million is another fantastic love song with a wonderful vocal by Samantha Fox, but in comparison to Love House, there's a bit of sameness to the production of this track. Again, I don't mean that in a bad way. There's a niche that's filled well by the lyrics.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the production could've used a bit of the Love House touch. I think that house instrumentation, like that on Love House, could really have taken this song to the next level. Working in a few samples and looped beats here and there would've worked well for this song. As it is, it's a standard dance love song, but if you love those songs like I do, it's a good example of one.
We now enter the album's final third with track ten, Walking On Air, written by Mike Bissell.
Another song about the wonderful feeling romantic love can provide, I think this song has a rather interesting lyrical device. A lyric will be sung, and then repeated, but with one of the words switched or removed.
"You realize that true love in my eyes
The meaning that is there
The meaning is there"
"You've been the theme of a million dreams
You've answered every prayer
You've answered my prayers"
If I knew more about music studies, perhaps I might be able to put a name to this idea, but all I can say is that, in service of the song, it works rather well in describing the feelings of new love.
Moving to track 11, we have the song Hot For You, written by Eric Beall.
This is another song that plays differently in light of Samantha Fox's coming out of the closet. The song is written about lusting towards a male, but with a few pronoun changes, I could see Samantha singing this song as a piece about lusting towards another woman. Personally, I would like to hear that revamp, although since I've never been to a Samantha Fox concert, I don't know if she changes the lyrics in that way.
When I interviewed Samantha for RetroJunk in 2012, my first successful phone interview, by the way, she had this to say about changing lyrics when going to certain countries to perform...More specifically, a trip to Malaysia:
"I remember in Malaysia, as far as "Touch Me" was concerned, no problems. I mean, let's face it, that's why we're all here. I remember in Malaysia, one of the songs, it was my opening song, which was from my first album "Touch Me". There's a track on there called "Sex On His Mind" (Editor's note: The song was called "He's Got Sex"), and I opened the song with it, I thought I just wanted to open the whole show with it. There were like 19 songs in the set, and I opened with "Sex On His Mind", and it used to get everybody going, put it that way. I remember by the time we got to Malaysia, the government said to my tour manager, "She can't say the word 'sex' in her performance". I did 3 nights in Kuala Lumpur, and the first song was "Sex On His Mind". I would sing (singing) "Love on his mind", like that. I did the two shows and on the third night, I went "Sex on his mind", and they banned me to perform in Malaysia for 10 years. I made a bit of a mistake there, but that's okay. I can go back now. That was a long time ago."
With that in mind, I wonder if she would change the lyrics to any of her songs for reasons other than where she's performing. It's not uncommon for artists to change lyrics as they get older. For example, when the Beastie Boys would perform songs from Licensed To Ill in their 00s performances, they changed a lot of the cruder lyrics to reflect where they were at that point in their lives. As we progress in our lives, singers, whether professional, amateur or karaoke, perform songs in ways that reflect who we are as we grow older. That's a good thing.
We now come to the twelfth and final track on the album, Out Of Our Hands, written by Lol Mason and Mark Shreeve.
This song ends the album on a serious note. Basically, the fun Samantha wanted to have at the beginning is now over, and we have to consider what's really left at the end. Will the love still be there after the fun parts are over? Was it just a fling, or is there something more to it? It's a rather serious takeaway, I'll grant you, but the lyrics could apply to any relationship, not just a romantic one.
What about when a lifelong friend moves away? What about when relatives distance themselves from each other? What about the events after the death of a loved one? No matter how much work goes into any of it, eventually there comes a point when you have to let things take their natural course. Perhaps said course means you're still on good terms with each other. At other times, the course could lead you to leave each other behind.
The message of the song is that whatever will happen is going to happen. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It's up to you to decide what it will be.
Wrapping it up, Samantha Fox's final 80s album is another great piece of the decade's pop music that I've come to love so much. The lyrics gave me a lot to think about when I wasn't dancing to the beat, and the overall feel, even with the more serious songs like Confession and Out Of Our Hands, is that of a fun time out on the dancefloor. Samantha Fox's 80s run ended in a spectacular way with I Wanna Have Some Fun, and you should track down a copy of the album if you can.
What are your thoughts on the album and its' songs? Feel free to leave a comment below. Be well, my friends, and I'll talk to you soon.