I’ve always revered the relationship that music has with memory – the way a certain track, or set of tracks, can signpost specific time periods, states of mind, relationships. It’s like, the opening seconds of a song hold the power to immediately transport you into a vivid, nostalgic fever dream.
Holly Valance’s studio album Footprints has that effect on me, promptly hurling me back to a time of Juicy Couture, denim-on-denim-on-denim and weekends binge-watching Rage as a 6-year-old boy who simply adored pop in all its many facets. So damn 2002.
“Kiss Kiss”, the lead single, was a cover of Stella Soleil’s 2001 track of the same name, which, in turn, was a cover of Turkish singer Tarkan’s 1997 tune “Şımarık”. Although Valance’s pop cover was arguably the most radical diversion from the original, that melody, present in all the various iterations, remained the most compelling element of the song.
It spent a sole week at #1, sandwiched between Eminem’s 5-week reign atop the ARIA charts with “Without Me” (which is a feat in itself, I reckon).
Footprints was eventually released in September 2002. Tracks like “Connect”, “Down Boy” retained the futuristic style first introduced by “Kiss Kiss”, all reminiscent of that explorative, techno pop prevalent on the ARIA charts since ’01 (think Scandal’us‘ “Me, Myself & I” and Kylie Minogue‘s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”).
In fact, that nostalgic futurism (contradictory, I know, but Dua Lipa catches my drift) trickled throughout the entire of body of work, and it’s this welcomed contradiction that makes some of the more underrated tracks on the album (“Whoop” & “All in the Mind”) so listenable in 2020.
Yes, all tracks followed conventional pop procedures, but there was something so fresh about the album’s sound, particularly in the Australian music industry at the time.
Even the more subdued, soft pop tracks (à la “Cocktails and Parties” and “Send My Best”) offer some easy listening. And I don’t mean easy in a negative connotation. It’s digestible, sonically – what you hear is what you get, the listener doesn’t have to do any of the work. And sometimes that’s the joy of pop – palatable, feel-good music.
Footprints reached #9 over on the UK charts, selling over 100,000 copies and getting certified Gold. Although it only reached #15 on the charts Down Under, all 3 of the leading singles – “Kiss Kiss”, followed by “Down Boy” and “Naughty Girl” – reached the top 3 on the singles charts. She did that.
To listen to Footprints in 2020 is to experience pure early-2000s pop in all its glory. Is it a life-changing body of work? Probably not. But does it inject me with nostalgic endorphins in a way that only 2002 Australian pop could? For sure. And every time I revisit tracks like “Kiss Kiss” and “Down Boy” – sometimes at intervals that span years – do I immediately smirk and think, ‘yep, this was the shit’? Absolutely.
It’s a visceral reaction, jam-packed with a whole heap of memories.