Released: 8th September 2003
Writers: Lisa Scott-Lee / Paul Newton / Daniel Sherman / Phillip Dyson / Peter Day
Peak position: #11
Chart run: 11-29-48-68
Having risen from the ashes of the now-disbanded Steps to score a top ten hit in 2003, Lisa Scott-Lee returned to assert her status as a bona fide solo star. However, what transpired was an unfortunate case of record label politics that instead sent her fledgeling career into a complete tailspin.
The commercial dance route was a sensible one for Lisa Scott-Lee in some respects. It was evident how much she loved being a pop star, and her solo spots during Steps concerts were consistent highlights as far as the individual performances went. But the sands were shifting for pop music; nowhere had that been more evident than the uphill battle faced by H & Claire during their short stint as a duet. Dance isn’t an easy genre to master, but it had a consistent presence in the charts in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s – something of a haven for an act like Lisa Scott-Lee, who had seen the whole foundation on which her career was based (bubblegum pop) vanish almost overnight. And as a short-term measure, it paid off: Lately had peaked at #6 and drawn a reasonably clear line in the sand. But dance albums are a hard sell – and like it or not, Lisa Scott-Lee was going to have to sell an album at some point. And in the build-up to the release of Too Far Gone, that’s where things started to go awry.
Where’s the love, where’s the love, where’s the love
That you were always giving
I don’t know, I don’t know
If it was ever there in the beginning
The record label took the unorthodox approach of offering Lisa’s fans the opportunity to pick the second single, based upon a collection of low-quality clips. Admittedly, Too Far Gone was our immediate and obvious standout and we were delighted when it was picked as the official second single. But handing over the reins to the fans is risky – at best it gives a sense of ownership and involvement to all those involved, but at worst it indicates a lack of strategy on the label’s behalf. And a solid plan is precisely what Lisa Scott-Lee needed if she was going to generate a hit album. Appealing to the fans is essential – but the second single also needed to reach beyond that if it was going to be a hit. And you could probably reason that the core fanbase was going to buy whatever song was picked anyway.
That’s not to say that Too Far Gone was a bad song – quite the contrary. It’s a poppier effort than Lately though – and much of that is down to the production. The track swaps pounding club beats for a breezier, brisker finish. Indeed, it’s almost exhaustingly frantic – and therein lies the problem with letting the fans have their way. As a pop song Too Far Gone is an absolute rush. It’s a giddy explosion of juddering beats and nagging hooks. As a dance song you’d have to be at peak fitness to dance along to it (that’s not to say we haven’t tried after a few alcopops) – which sort of defeats the point. Regardless of its intended audience, let not the song’s lightweight appearance fool you – because contained within are some incredibly catchy and well-crafted hooks – like the: “Oh-oh, Oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh” refrain that anchors the track. The tail-end of the chorus: “I’ve been STRONG, I’ve moved ON…ON and on, ON and on” will also reverberate around your head long after the song has ended. However, the real beauty of Too Far Gone is the way the track gradually builds and then absolutely goes off for the final chorus where those two main hooked are combined, with one layered on top of the other (consistently one of the best things that can happen in a pop song). It’s a fist-pumping moment of triumph for Lisa Scott-Lee as the track thunders to an elating conclusion.
However, there is one aspect of the song that remains shrouded in a certain degree of ambiguity – and that’s what it’s actually about. From her first post-Steps interview, Lisa had always maintained a neutral stance on the split – despite admitting that she was closer to Lee and Faye. But in her quest for a hit, Too Far Gone was a missed opportunity to tackle the palaver head-on. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the song wasn’t written with H & Claire’s departure in mind, but there’s no escaping the fact that loaded lyrics such as: “You left me with no explanation” and: “Give it up, give it up, give it up, you know your time is over” were going to raise eyebrows. The stakes were high for Too Far Gone, and this was a chance for Lisa Scott-Lee to own the narrative, so it’s a shame – though nonetheless admirable – that she instead chose to turn the other cheek.
The music video for this single is a pleasant affair – although if we’re harsh, there’s nothing in Too Far Gone’s visual that hasn’t been seen countless times before. And that’s a bit of a shame because Lisa Scott-Lee was capable of a little more than just performing choreography with a troupe of backing dancers. The aesthetic quality is high, and there are neat jump cuts which see multiple takes of the choreography (performed in different outfits) seamlessly edited together. There are some fierce moments – the hair flicking at the end is an absolute win. But it feels in places like the video has its priorities wrong. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than the closing shot, where the camera shot pans up Lisa’s leg and then promptly fades to black when it reaches her bum. Dance videos routinely objectify women – and now is not the time to debate the morals of that. But in this context, it feels like entirely the wrong angle when thinking about Too Far Gone as further establishing Lisa Scott-Lee’s identity as a solo artist. Despite our damning indictment, we wouldn’t mind the video reappearing on YouTube at some point (hint, hint).
Too Far Gone peaked at the #11 in the UK – and that’s when things got messy. It’s an awkward chart position at the best of times, but in this case, it seemed to send the whole campaign into meltdown. We would concede that the performance of Too Far Gone may well have given the record label cause to re-think their plan of launching Lisa’s album at this point. Sure enough, the release date came – and passed – with no sign of Unleashed. Now, the sensible – and rational – approach would have been to quietly push the release date back and try another single in the quieter January period. There was a complicating factor though – six-track album samplers had already been sent out and inevitably made their way onto the internet. This left Lisa Scot-Lee in a position where Unleashed was in release schedule purgatory, but half of it was out in the public domain anyway. Perhaps sensing that the project was beyond salvage at this point – or at least needing a lot of damage control – Mercury Records instead dropped Lisa Scott-Lee. Overreaction, much?
You would hardly believe that all of this was caused by the #11 peak of a dance-pop song – and perhaps a slight naivety as to where album samplers might end up in the age of the internet and file-sharing. It’s a shame that Too Far Gone got a bit lost amid the chaos because it is a terrific little effort that deserves to be recognised as more than the song that sent Lisa Scott-Lee’s career off the rails. It’s not all bad news though – Unleashed did eventually see the light of day some years later. Don’t worry; we’re Totally (Scott-Lee) going to go into that, at some point.