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You know how annoying it is when you’re at a karaoke bar, and some group of three or more girls gets up on stage together and sings all the lyrics in unison? Granted, I seem to find this more annoying than your average karaoke audience member, but what may be acceptable – or at least tolerable – on a drunken weekend evening certainly ought not to be encouraged in actual recorded music. However, an analogous form of music-making was not only allowed but celebrated in the form of British girl group Bananarama, whose name sounds totally different if you actually say it with an English accent.
Unlike previous female trios in pop, who generally divide the vocal duties between a lead singer, who takes the melody, and two backup girls, who provide harmony and rhythm, Bananarama’s three singers all sing the same thing at the same time, which is either a stroke of genius or…not. The group’s individual members are only a touch more differentiated than their vocals (let’s see, there’s the brunette, the blonde and the other blonde) and astonishingly free of charisma. Even when they cover a funky tune like “Venus,” they suck all the funk out of it, leaving only a hard candy shell.
The above may make it sound like I don’t appreciate Bananarama’s colorless, insubstantial output, but spin “Cruel Summer” at a dance party and I will be the first one on the floor. Even lighter tunes like “Shy Boy” and “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” can hypnotize the listener, much like the effect Barney has on toddlers. Perhaps the greatest insight on Bananarama’s essence was provided by British comedy team French and Saunders, who spoofed the group by reinventing them as “Lalanininunu.” It’s utter nonsense that seems never to end.