Released: 8th November 1999
Writers: Ben Adams / Christian Ingebrigtsen / Mark Read
Peak position: #3
Chart run: 3-9-16-31-38-47-47-44-52-66-75
Having already secured two top ten hits earlier in the year, a1 were back with their third single, just in time for the all-important festive season.
The Christmas chart of 1999 was a significant one. Up for grabs was not just the last #1 of the century, but indeed the millennium. Perhaps more importantly for many pop acts, this was the first since 1996 that the Spice Girls weren’t involved in the race. It presented a more open playing field; that said, a1 were releasing their effort in November, so we’d imagine this was more just about being on the chart – somewhere – by the end of the year, as opposed to being nestled in the #1 spot. This release also set the stage quite nicely for a1’s debut album. Like many of their rivals, the group had adopted the ballad/uptempo double-A side strategy. Paired up were the tender Everytime and the retro-fashioned Ready Or Not. Everytime certainly felt like the “main” song here though; and as well it might be, for it remains the group’s most successful ballad. It also marked a subtle transition for a1, as we started to get a real sense of their musicianship.
Unlike many of their peers, a1 were heavily involved in the creation of their music. However, off the back of songs like Be The First To Believe and Summertime Of Our Lives, that wasn’t necessarily evident. Not because they are bad songs, but just because they were sonically very similar to the music of their pop peers. Therefore, many would presume them to have come from the same songwriting teams as other “manufactured” acts. For many young pop fans, album artwork was for pictures – and occasionally, lyrics – not writing credits (we’re not sure at what age such things become interesting, but it wasn’t in our early teen years). However, Everytime felt a little different; off the back of their first two singles, if a1 had just been handed a gentle wintry ballad to sing, we’re doubtful it would have sounded like this.
Now you’re gone
It’s time for me to carry on
But baby I just can’t go on
Without you by my side
Immediately Everytime sounds like a more considered effort. With its gentle piano introduction, it feels distinctly ‘adult’; the sweeping orchestral accompaniment is mostly unprocessed and doesn’t sound like it’s just come from a mixing desk. There are still some little ‘pop’ flourishes, such as the occasional twinkling sound effect. But it’s mainly the dramatic strings, and dramatic drum beats that guide the song, to such an extent that it almost feels like Everytime has its sights set far beyond the chart and onto the closing credits of a blockbuster movie instead.
Although stylistically Everytime feels a little more mature, it’s still got some massive pop hooks. The chorus is huge, and a much more epic composition than the singles preceding it. There’s a striking ebb and flow that occurs within each line: “Everytime I KISS I feel your LIPS, and everytime I CRY I see your SMILE, and everytime I CLOSE my eyes, I RE-UH-LISE”. Sure, it’s pretty cliched as pop ballads go, but the strength of the song is very much in its delivery. It’s quite easy just to get swept away with the sentiment due to how the melody effortlessly carries you through the song. That said, for all of the theatrical moves that Everytime makes in terms of production, the vocals are comparatively understated. It’s an excellent performance, and you certainly start to get a real sense of the quality in a1’s voices. But there are relatively few significant vocal moments; the transition from middle-eight back to the chorus sounds like it’s going to be a big note…and then isn’t. The only one that comes close is the: “Since I gave your love…A-WA-A-A-A-A-A-A-YEAH” ad-lib before the final chorus. But even that – lovely as it is – doesn’t feel particularly climactic. At least, not in the way we were accustomed to our boyband ballads being. Perhaps this was just another small way in which a1 were subtly fighting against the stereotype.
If Everytime does its best to sound suitably wintry, then the music video tries its hardest to convince you otherwise. It sees the group traversing the desert; it’s beautifully shot and with bright gold and orange aesthetic, certainly stood out among the sea of comparatively muted – although slightly more seasonal – visuals accompanying the other ballads released around this time. With sweeping overhead shots, the video undoubtedly matches the song in scope. It’s not exactly heavy on plot, and at times it almost looks like a1 have signed up to an awkward sightseeing trip where no-one’s quite sure what to do when they reach their destination. Nonetheless, it puts a slightly different spin on the traditional boyband ballad visual. Although, it is somewhat ironic that the styling for the Ready Or Not video (and CD2 of the single release) is precisely what you would have expected from Everytime. So, evidently that image wasn’t quite ready to be abandoned altogether.
Although perhaps not always remembered as such, Everytime / Ready Or Not was the biggest single from a1’s debut album campaign. The single peaked at #3; no doubt helped along by the cheeky strategy of stretching the double-A side across two CDs, with one song (and remixes of the other) on each CD. A few weeks after the single charted, a1’s debut album Here We Come was released. It debuted and peaked at #20, which is a decent performance considering most of the marketing around a1 at that point – aside from Everytime – felt more focused towards short-term success with the singles (it is a quietly decent album, though). In hindsight, what 1999 did for a1 was set them up to make far more significant strides the following year, where they would enjoy more visible success. And a song like Everytime was pivotal in demonstrating there was some serious substance behind the group’s boyband fodder façade.