Review – The Singles Collection 1981-1993

Kim Wilde: she preened, she pouted, she even made records.

This hits compilation comes eight years after The Very Best of Kim Wilde – eight years in which the blonde pop chanteuse has made the trip up to the Top of the Pops studio with somewhat diminishing frequency. Inevitably, then, the album is a tad back-loaded at the front end (all the 80s synth smashes) and looking a little light up at the front end (a cover of If I can’t have you, jiggered about with in Stock Aitken Waterman tradition, and In my life, which is pleasant enough, Madonna-style, club-lite dance music). Even so, it’s a warranted tribute to one of British pop’s most successful solo artists. Lest we forget, it took Kim only two years to top the sales record of her father, the ’50s pop idol Marty Wilde.
The album starts, as Wilde did in 1981, with Kids in America, a piece of bright, chewy bubblegum which has signally failed to lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight. The voice still sounds like it couldn’t give a damn about much, the synths still go whoosh and nothing Wilde has done since works on the hackles in quite the same way.
That’s not to write off all that has followed. Another Step (Closer ot you), her mid-80’s duet with Junior Giscombe, was a surprising step for her at the time, but one which paid off and continues to make for a poignant vocal blend. It came not long after an early dip in Wilde’s fortunes, which she had got herself out of by applying that old career failsafe: when in doubt, push the Motown button. A spangly and thrusting cover of The Supremes’ You keep me hangin’ on delivered her to the top end of the charts again and this too retains a considerable fizz – unlike Chequered Love, which may have seemed the best piece of consciously anodyne synth pop since Blondie at the time, but which now sounds decidedly like someone left the top off the bottle.
It’s hard to pick out a definite direction here – unless to note Wilde’s evolution from cheery girl-up-the-street to something more specifically bedroom-oriented. But then, one is not working with the complete picture here. Wilde-spotters will lament the decision to exclude the starmongous Ferry Aid rendition of Let it be, on which she gave it some sterling back-ups. Cruelly absent too, is Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, a novelty Yuletide television prankster, Mel Smith. This attitude to history is either suspiciously Stalinist or mercifully tasteful, depending on your point of view. **