Released: 29th December 2003
Writers: Klas Baggstrom / Liz Winstanley / Roger Olsson
Peak position: #3
Chart run: 3-7-14-20-33-39-49-59
Whatever accusations one may throw at Victoria Beckham with regard to her solo career, one could never say that she didn’t try.
She was in a somewhat unique position compared to the other Spice Girls. Her debut album – and all the releases from it – had peaked in the top ten, something that few of her bandmates could claim (ok, fair enough, there were only two singles released from Victoria Beckham, but still). However, as the decade progressed, there also emerged a sense of apathy from the general public towards the Spice Girls. A curse for some, maybe. But for Victoria Beckham, that might have been a blessing, since there was never a sense of disinterest in her pop career. Instead, her every move was scrutinised by the tabloids, preoccupied with a desired to see her fail.
The true story behind Victoria Beckham’s second album(s) after she was signed (or sub-licensed) to Telstar Records remains something of a mystery. What we know for sure is that two exist: Come Together was an urban-pop album, while Open Your Eyes leaned more heavily on dance-pop. The commonly accepted narrative at the time suggested Victoria Beckham recorded Open Your Eyes at the label’s behest but disliked the result, and instead recruited hip-hop producer Damon Dash to record Come Together. Conveniently, these events tied into the press portrayal of Victoria Beckham as being a “difficult” artist.
However, a more recent reading presents the situation slightly differently in that it was Come Together which arrived first, recorded not as an act of rebellion but simply as a product of the musical direction Victoria Beckham wished to pursue. Telstar – sensing that an urban-pop album would be a hard sell – pushed for Open Your Eyes to be recorded as a contingency. Either way, there was certainly a sense of discord behind-the-scenes. All of which culminated in This Groove / Let Your Head Go, or – in other words – one of the most high-profile pop music compromises ever seen. A double-A side that lifted one track from each project and quite brazenly threw both at the wall in an attempt to see which one would stick.
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that Let Your Head Go was a product of the dance-pop sessions. And one of the reasons why the latter perspective on what was occurring behind-the-scenes makes a bit more sense is that the song is the absolute epitome of a record label SOS circa-2003 to hastily source a dance-pop track. Let Your Head Go is a total pop rush, which zips along at such a pace that it’s all over before your brain has even started to process what is happening. Although This Groove was the track pitched as a change of direction; it’s this which is quite unlike anything Victoria Beckham had recorded as a solo artist before. Here we have a degree of freneticism that is more comparable to the Spice Girls’ most frantic efforts than anything on Victoria Beckham.
One of the main benefits of going down this route is that Let Your Head Go can distort and filter Victoria Beckham’s voice while playing to the conventions of the genre. Indeed, here we have a much brasher production that is never quite so imaginative and creatively layered as her debut album. Mainly because it doesn’t need to be; there’s absolutely nothing subtle about the electronic shrieking that accompanies each utterance of: “Let your head go”. The track never pretends to be something that it isn’t; early ‘00s dance-pop hasn’t aged awfully well at all, but even in 2003 Let Your Head Go felt knowingly disposable and that works in its favour. The track is one step ahead of any accusation that it sounds a bit naff; it fully embraces the conventions of the genre and runs with them. Lyrically, the song is as deep as a puddle: “And when it feels so good, I can almost lose my mind, and when it feels so good, ooh it makes me crazy, every time”. And yet – quite ironically – there is almost more truth in these lyrics than, say, Not Such An Innocent Girl where Victoria Beckham inhabited the character of a pop star, rather than herself.
Let Your Head Go becomes almost hypnotic in its delivery. Dismiss any thoughts of this being a piece of forgettable pop fluff, for it’ll reverberate around your head far longer than it has any right to. And although it’s easily one of Victoria Beckham’s least nuanced songs as a production, there are still elements of shade, like the slightly dark: “Cause tonight the beat’s gonna get ya” during the chorus. However – perhaps because of the role that Let Your Head Go is fulfilling within the single package – the song never veers far from the beaten track of the frothy pop-dance genre.
Easily the best part of the package here – and what ties everything together – is the music video. And that’s no reflection on the song, but the video treatment is excellent. It’s essentially Victoria Beckham parodying almost every aspect of her life with an exaggerated comedy that is reminiscent of Absolutely Fabulous. From being haunted by the little black dress that defined her early Posh Spice persona, to sending up her relationship with the paparazzi by taking increasingly desperate steps to get their attention after fearing they’ve lost interest in her. Victoria Beckham had a natural penchant for comedy – as evidenced by her turn in Spiceworld: The Movie – but it often flew under the radar. Here, she shows not just a huge degree of self-awareness but also a remarkable willingness to cut close to the bone; the inclusion of her sprawled across a throne while sporting a crown drawing immediate parallels with her wedding. Yet Victoria Beckham feels in control at all times; she’s in on the joke, and nowhere is that more evident that the closing shot of her flicking two fingers up to the camera. And there is a sense that she had the last laugh with this video, not least because it’s implied that she’s desperate to be awarded an OBE, and although it would take another 14 years, that nightmare need haunt Victoria Beckham no more.
One notable aspect surrounding the promotion of This Groove / Let Your Head Go was that it became tied to the re-launch of Top Of The Pops. The show had been experiencing a gradual decrease in viewership, but figures had sunk to such lows by 2003 that a revamp was deemed necessary. It was the last chance for the show to save itself and we all knew it, even if it hadn’t been stated in so many words. The relaunch featured Victoria Beckham announcing that she would be promoting her new single in a few weeks and viewers could vote for which of the two songs they wanted to see her perform. It felt like a sign of desperation from TOTP; for it was a show that acts had aspired to appear on for decades. Yet this felt like an acknowledgement of a shift in the pop music dynamic, where TOTP now had considerably less star power than the acts appearing on it. Indeed, such was the prominence with which the show publicised Victoria Beckham’s single (she would appear no less than three separate times to perform This Groove), even the staunchest fans of the show would admit that it had lost the essence of what it once was. Particularly when, after going through the rigmarole of introducing the vote – which Let Your Head Go didn’t win – Victoria Beckham popped up to perform the track two weeks after This Groove anyway.
This Groove / Let Your Head Go debuted at #3 in the UK; in the context of Victoria Beckham’s solo career, it was an improvement on the #6 peak of the two previous singles. But anything less than #1 was going to be seen as a failure, such was the cemented position of her critics. Admittedly, the TOTP promotional blitz didn’t do the campaign any favours; the relaunch was widely panned and the success of the single (four weeks in the top 20) probably didn’t warrant the amount of exposure given to it. Whether she would ever have been able to overcome the growing chasm with Telstar Records label over the direction of the album is anybody’s guess, but in the end, it was a battle no-one needed to fight when the label folded in 2004.
And at that point, Victoria Beckham called it a day with her solo career. Realistically, she was still a big enough name to have signed another deal had she wanted to. But she would always be fighting a (mistaken) perception and with her interests elsewhere, it was a convenient out that allowed her to save face and walk away from the music industry with a 100% strike rate of top ten singles.