Released: 19th November 2001
Writers: Jon Riva / Victoria Horn
Peak position: #3
Chart run: 3-5-10-17-20-19-19-24-32-42-46-45-56-67-64
Dannii Minogue was no stranger to success (or, should that be $uce$$?), but there had always been a degree of inconsistency to any momentum built during previous album campaigns. In 2001 though, she meant business, and Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) put her intentions beyond any doubt.
Although this single was belatedly tagged onto the start of the Neon Nights campaign, back in 2001, it was very much a standalone release that started life for Riva as an instrumental dance track called Stringer. Thanks to the earlier success of songs like Toca’s Miracle, as soon as it started to pick up a significant amount of club airplay, attention turned to releasing Stringer commercially. Sure enough, it was licensed to London Records and adapted into a vocal version helmed by Dannii Minogue (at the behest of Pete Tong) with a new title of Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer). Despite the track’s origins, it wasn’t exactly a drastic reinvention. If anything, it was a timely evolution on her previous album Girl, which had firmly planted Dannii Minogue within dance-pop territory. The immediate shift in sound was from trance into a slightly harder, darker sound.
Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) is incredibly distinctive. At the time, even if the back story to the song felt familiar, the end result did not. The track has more in common with the latter half of the ‘00s than the earlier part when it was released; this is moody – almost oppressive – sounding pop music. It’s deliciously dark, to an extent that wasn’t even properly acknowledged at the time. The Stringer instrumental is the very definition of light and shade. It switches from an almost uncomfortably intense throbbing electro-banger during the verses to a breezy rush of fuzzy euphoria in the chorus. It’s an utterly fascinating composition to provide the backdrop to a Dannii Minogue comeback single.
In that respect, it’s important to note that this doesn’t sound like an instrumental that just had a vocal track slapped over it. Dannii Minogue’s performance, on the whole, feels like one that understands the appeal – and complexity – of Stringer and thus seeks to complement it rather than distract from it. There’s an almost ethereal, silky quality to her lower register during the verses. The pre-choruses are also filtered so that the vocals and the instrumental track almost become one and the same. The distorted, layered repetition of: “Who do you love?” also creates a moment where Who Do You Love? (Stringer) feels utterly transcendent.
Of course, the challenge with any song that starts life as an instrumental dance track is how best to condense it down into a commercial pop release. In that regard, the single does a very good job, considering the original edit of Stringer ran just shy of six-and-a-half minutes. There are only a small number of elements that feel slightly undercooked; most notable is the way the track builds towards a fuzzy breakdown just before the final chorus. In the original, it’s a little more pronounced, whereas in Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) it winds up a bit something-and-nothing. Fans of the instrumental might also feel short-changed that it never really gets a chance to shine since there are vocals at almost every turn. That said, hardcore enthusiasts of Stringer would, presumably, stick with the original, while fans of Dannii Minogue were probably less inclined to yearn for a version of the track that removed her vocals from it. To cover all bases, though, the Extended Vocal Version acts as something of a halfway house between the two.
The music video for Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) is a curious beast. Considering the background of the single and the fact that Dannii Minogue was on the comeback trail, the budget probably wasn’t huge. Yet, what could have been – and indeed appears at times to be – a generic dance video is rather inventive. There are some bizarre moments, including a blink-and-you-miss-it sapphic tease where, across a sequence of jump cuts, Dannii Minogue dances opposite herself. Then, after the pair exchange seductive looks, they reach out to each other and lean in for a kiss. It’s obscured by a convenient flash of white light, so there’s never a need to process Dannii Minogue kissing herself. All the same, it’s an odd thing to even play as a suggestive tease. Other shots are thankfully less troubling, like those of her dancing in front of a huge projection of her face. Indeed, the whole concept and black/purple colour scheme are consistent with commercial dance compilations from the ‘00s. The video takes one final unexpected turn at the end, where Dannii Minogue is now dressed in white and lounging inside a gigantic flower-cloud hybrid. There’s no real reason, which is a sentiment that could probably be applied to the majority of the video.
Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) was a huge hit for Dannii Minogue (and Riva). It became her highest-peaking single at the time when it debuted at #3 in the UK, and hung around for an impressively long time as well, spending the same amount of time in the Top 75 (15 weeks) as her last three singles combined. The track also charted strongly throughout Europe and Australia, which made Dannii Minogue a commercially viable consideration once more. A deal with London Records beckoned, and so began work on what would become Neon Nights. The album was still well over a year away at this point, but Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) would eventually appear on it, and with good reason. This single helped lay the groundwork for new material to be recorded and thus deserves to be considered as part of the campaign, even if ostensibly so.
In hindsight, Who Do You Love Now? (Stringer) was deceptively forward-thinking. The track has aged incredibly well and, indeed, probably makes far more sense now than it did at the time.