Release Date: Jul 96
Chart Position: 2
This is Tunage Maximus, arguably the absolute pinnacle of the movement and another massive raise of the bar. Peter James Andrea enters the arena and with it leaves all females open mouthed in amazement, a few of us guys as well. I can still hear the girls from college with their cheap perms and Benetton bags talking about ‘what a right sort he is’, blokes playing it down but secretly looking in awe at his pristine physique as he splashes around in the waterfall. A few blokes must have turned on the back of this? Not only did he look immaculate, the tune was amazing and when we now look back at everything that made neg good, this has everything and more. Bubbler Ranx also does a nice job as Peter’s wingman, roasting and toasting like a seasoned pro with a number of nice bridges.
I cannot believe that this did not make it to no 1 in the UK that summer, and actually the only place it did make the top spot was New Zealand (I thought they hated Aussies the same as Scots hate the English in that annoying little brother type way?). However looking it in a bit more detail he was up against Mark Morrison and Gina G, which were both massive and enjoyable tracks. Maybe this signified the beginning of the end and it was time for House to stand up and be counted (last night we sat listening to KISSTORY and reminded me of how great late 90’s House was).
Although musically he would never go on to match anything like the type of success he had with this, to label him a one hit wonder would be unfair as he went on to be the darling of celebrity trash. After keeping his nut down for the best part of a decade living it up on the success of this and ‘Flava’ (which was also a decent track if I remember correctly), shooting dingo’s off the back of his uwt, Andre was ready for phase two of his career and what better way to do it than by getting involved in ‘I’m a Celebrity’. Most bushtucker trials look rough, but his challenge of eating out a sweaty Katie Price sans make up or any other basic hygiene feels like the worst one yet. However he didn’t have to go on and marry her, he brought that on himself. Some may say however that the bold move was commercially quite savvy as he made an absolute killing off the back of it and enabled him to be media fair game for the next 10 years or so. It also created the ultimate franchise of Katie and Peter which saw and in depth look at their lives covering all aspects of how they met, how the rutted and how they mutilated each other’s dignity.
Having said all of that though I’m here, as I have been seemingly since the beginning of time, to judge the track and the impact it has had. When I look at it in such simple terms this was an absolute belter! 10/10 from me.
This is the End, beautiful friend, the end.
Well its not, there’s some standard Suggs filler to come next, but that doesn’t really count. Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre is the climax, Neggae’s vinegar strokes. Sure, there were dribbles of Reggae later on in the decade (Sid Owen’s Good Thing a particular highlight) but nothing with the ridiculous frequency of the years 92-96. It seems fitting that we see out the genre with another chart-topper then.
I say a chart topper, but it only got to number two in 1996 upon its first release. June 1996 saw a battle between lad anthem Three Lions riding on the back of England’s strong Euro 96 performance, and the Fugees Killing Me Softly, for me the better pop single. While they fought out a 2-2 draw of number ones throughout June, poor old Mysterious Girl watched on in third place, selling CDs by the wheelbarrow but unable to join in. Finally, after Peter Andre’s success in “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”, a campaign led by Chris Moyles on his radio one Breakfast Show (ugh) enabled the song to take the number one it (probably deserved). As a sidenote, Mysterious girl has now sold a million copies, making it one of only 149 songs to do so in British history and making it far and away the biggest selling single on the Neggae Hot 90.
The song itself is absolutely Neggae by numbers, all echoey drum fills and gentle Hammond stabs and fills. Interestingly on listening closer to it that I EVER DID before I notice some real horn refrains towards the end of the song which are actually quite pleasant. Peter Andre’s vocal delivery is standard faux-Jacko (he always wanted to be him) ; so this is the closest we’ll ever get to hearing Jackon Reggae. Or Jeggae. Actually there are tons of reggae remixes of Jackson’s work all over youtube of varying quality – and this frankly bizarre workout by the Jackson 5 to Marley’s I shot the Sherriff, where the Brothers manage to strip out all the Sufferah sentiment of the oridge and turn it into a Vegas showtune:
On the subject of authenticity, Team Andre pulled off a canny transfer in loaning Bubbla Ranx to deliver some much-needed chat. He does a great job; the lyrics are PG enough for the Mumsnet brigade but delivered inna pretty decent Dancehall stylee. I particularly like the fact that he has harmonized his flow with a counter-melody throughout; so clearly some time has been spent producing this.
At 22, Peter Andre was still a mere slip of a lad – the whole ‘Katie Pwice goes to Amewica!’ hell was thankfully a universe away. And you can sense that in his performance. His appearance too, is sprightly yet gauche. He’s more ripped than Jodie Marsh, but he’s wearing Superdrug hairgel in his curtains and his jeans look like they’re from BlackBushe market. All of which adds to the cottage industry charm of the single; it was released on independent Australian and British record labels. I love the fact the video was shot in Thailand rather than Jamaica, presumably due to financial constraints. Imagine if the Backstreet Boys did a reggae number; you’d have Wyclef featuring, hi-gloss MTV video shot in Montego Bay, Big black booties every 6 seconds. Actually that sounds really good…
I don’t much care for the song as for me it lacks the invention we’ve seen by more credible artists on this blog. I do however care for the time and effort I reckon was spent on it, and for the love the UK public had (and still have for it) for it. It still puts a smile on people’s faces and that can only be a good thing.
Score: There’s no way this is getting anywhere near the likes of CDAP and Shaggy et al so 8/10 for me.
This is big. Whatever you think of it, Mysterious Girl is one of the colossal tracks of the neggae era – one of the highest chart placings, and enduring enough for me to get groans of recognition rather than bemusement when I played it on acoustic guitar at a wedding last year. Whatever you think of it, you can’t deny its place in the neggae story.
But what do I think of it? Well, I don’t know what the other elders are going to say but I think it’s ace. There’s so much to like, from the old-fashioned drumroll at the beginning to the playful keyboards over the outro and everything in between. There’s nothing tough about the arrangement – when you’re backing up Peter Andre, you have to keep it souffle-light – but it’s hugely enjoyable and gives neggae the pure pop crossover that had been lacking. Over the course of the hot 90 we’ve seen neggae mixed with jazz, RnB, hip hop, mod and more, but there hasn’t yet been a convincing attempt at unashamed, uncomplicated pop (sorry Mr Alford). Mysterious Girl puts that emphatically right.
Peter’s vocals, while perhaps not objectively the strongest, are ideal for the song. He carries the tune well and the very chivalrous lyrics mean his attempt at an MJ-like high pitched innocence goes down a lot better than it did on, say, Flava. There’s quite an old-fashioned feel here: talk of tropical smells, sunsets and other traditional wooing and the only physical feature mentioned is her eyes. Also, as attracted as Peter is to his lady, the question of consent is high on the agenda – “move your body close to mine”, so that the choice is hers to make, and “I wanna do to you all the things you want me to” so no unwanted boundary pushing. That’s the way to do it, fellas.
What’s often underplayed is the contribution made by the enigmatic Bubbla Ranx, who I never heard anything else about before or since. It’s surprising, since his verse, and especially his little bits in the intro and before the chorus, are up there with the best rapping in neggae for my money. He nails the gruff-yet-playful tone found in the best of the genre and his lyrics are quite artfully written, continuing the 14th century courtly love vibe by appealing to all five senses in turn – so why did we never get the chance to enjoy any more of his talent?
My theory is that Bubbla Ranx was a pseudonym used by some respected dancehall performer who didn’t want it widely known that he’d been hanging around with Peter Andre. Notice that in the video he’s wearing shades the whole way through and has grown a beard, shame they made him take off the trenchcoat.
Speaking of the video, it’s an encapsulation of everything learnt in three years of neggae video making. Filmed on the lost island of Neglantis, it has all the ingredients you want – sun, sea, formation dancing, townsfolk delighted to be caught on camera, the possibly dodgy girl-in-the-waterfall bits balanced out by gratuitous ab shots all the way through and not just from Peter – Bubbla and the unnamed extra guy bring a strong stomach and nipple game as well. Peter standing in the sea in his jeans. Peter bogling in slow motion. Bubbla dancing with a baby. Beautiful sunset photography. Peter’s curtains. Bubbla’s sarong.
Despite all that, I get the idea that some people might say Mysterious Girl isn’t any good. Possibly because of the stomach thing, I don’t know. Personally I have no objection and if the material is there, singers can do as many situps as they like in their free time – it’s no concern of mine. For me, Mysterious Girl is a great end to the story, a moment of carefree fun to play over the end credits like Build Me Up Buttercup in There’s Something About Mary. Enjoy it.
Score: 9 out of 10
It’s the penultimate review but for me this should have been the last as it sounds the death knell for this golden period. There has been many a cash in throughout the Hot 90 but thanks to oiled up antipodean spunk junkie Peter Andre this is when Neggae truly jumped the shark. Mushroom Records were clearly not content with supplying all the music for ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Neighbours’ (Who can ever forget that classic episode when Ratcat were playing in ‘the city’?) they spotted an a gap in the market and decided to hit the world with some Koala flavoured Neggae, Bonzer!
The production is standard bubblegum Neggae by numbers pap, nothing offensive just very uninspiring. Vocally I’m not really digging Pete’s at RnB style vocals but to give him credit he made the canny move of roping in Bubbler Ranx to add some authenticity to proceedings. Bubbler’s bars are the best thing on this track by a mile; unfortunately for him his involvement in this project killed his career as he was shunned by the rest of the neggae community. He now lives the life of a Hermit in a cave just outside of Kingston with only a Parrot for company, like a Neggae Obi Wan Kenobi. The lyrics to the song outline Andre’s obsession with said mysterious girl and are straying into Barry George territory, more ‘Wolf Creek’ than ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ in the romance stakes.
The first thing that becomes clear from the video is that the ‘Mysterious Girl’ is an ace peanut smuggler. The second thing that strikes you is that this ain’t Jamaica they’re filming in as everyone bar Peter, Bubbler and their mate is of South East Asian origin. The cheapskates couldn’t even be bothered to pretend it was filmed in the homeland of Neggae, it’s clearly a Thai fishing village. The video’s premise is Peter poncing about in some of the worst denim Joe Bloggs committed to production, more often than not sans shirt and shaking his oiled up pecs to the insipid beat. I’m not sure if he was taking his swimming test whilst out there as he’s wearing jeans in the sea an awful lot, I assume he rescued the rubber brick successfully and is joyously celebrating gaining a new badge for his Speedos. There’s a lot of hip thrusting going on below water which gives the impression he’s getting noshed by a barracuda for half of it.
This was basically the end of Neggae for me, with a heavy heart I packed up the ‘toking’ t-shirts and combat trousers and pulled on a pub shirt and trainers to follow the masses into the cult of Britpop. Upon further research I discovered the song was re-released when Pete gained a new found fame for chewing on rancid animal genitalia, but that’s enough about his marriage to Jordan as he also had to do some pretty disgusting things on ‘I’m a celebrity’.
Score: RIP Neggae – 3/10
NEGGAE SCORE: 7.5