Charlotte Church – Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That)

Released: 27th February 2006

Writers: Fitzgerald Scott / Gary Smith / Maureen Collin / Kalenna Harper

Peak position: #14

Chart run: 14-20-33-49-73

She may have had the voice of an angel, but Charlotte Church was also famously – and sometimes controversially – outspoken. Yet, with four classical albums (and a greatest hits) under her belt before making the leap to pop music at the age of 19, she was better placed than most to release a single exposing what it was like to be on the other side of the newspaper headlines.

Charlotte Church’s venture into the mainstream market had never been quite so effortless as many expected from someone with her unquestionable talent. One of the frequent criticisms levelled at her first pop album – Tissues and Issues – is that it was frequently less than the sum of its parts. And there is some truth in the fact that it never consistently showcased Charlotte Church’s voice or personality as well as it could – and should – have. However, tucked away at the tail-end of the album campaign was this single. Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) might be dressed up as a pleasant mid-tempo, but it houses a candid attack and doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see it as directed at the media. This was still a time when pop stars rarely answered back; so contrary to the perception that Tissues and Issues didn’t have much substance, here, Charlotte Church has an awful lot to say indeed.

Although she had songwriting credits on more than half of the album, Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) wasn’t among them, which is as surprising as it is faintly disappointing. It takes nothing away from the song, which is such a perfect summation of Charlotte Church’s position within the public eye. But to have her input would have added further clout to the pointed lyrics. Nevertheless, Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) positions itself to construct an alternative perspective on the way celebrities – particularly women – are portrayed in the media: “If I give in to you then it’s what you want me to do, and if I lose my cool then I’m only pleasing you; you know just how to push me, my temperature is rising, blood pressure is building, I’m about to lose control”. In the absence of social media, this was Charlotte Church’s way of telling her truth; or at least a version of it.

And whether they were her words or not, the track neatly acknowledges the expectations of the squeaky-clean and intentionally uncontroversial popstar (“It all started back when people were doing me wrong and, because of my position I would hold my tongue for them”) with the lived reality of that lifestyle: “And you don’t know what I’m going through and, you might think it’s all about you but it’s everything…”. Where Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) strikes a balance is that this is not about blame. It’s not an angry song; it’s an honest and defiant one (“…but I’m not going out like that”) where Charlotte Church acknowledges her flaws but presents a more rounded narrative which points out – quite rightly – that very few people within these scenarios exist merely as observers.

It would have easy – and entirely predictable – for Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) to project its themes into a loud, shouty, two-fingers-up-at-the-press production. But instead, it does the complete opposite; the verses are delivered atop a repeated keyboard note and gentle guitar riffs, which eventually grow in prominence to envelop the chorus. The whole thing feels like a quirky sibling to the other singles from Tissues and Issues. Despite continually threatening to become more involved, the rockier elements always dial back to ensure Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) never loses its sense of individuality. Despite the important message within the lyrics, there’s still a playfulness about the song, which is perhaps best characterised by the light-hearted, jangly outro.

The track also makes good use of Charlotte Church’s voice. It doesn’t necessarily push her any further than the rest of her pop material in terms of range. Indeed, you wouldn’t listen to this song and associate it with the operatic performances that she was famous for. But there is a warmth and maturity to her tone, while the latter parts of the song are peppered with subtle ad-libs as Charlotte Church works her way around the melody. It would always have been a challenge to market an entire album in this style, but Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) nevertheless feels inherently like the most comfortable fit for her voice thus far in the campaign.

One aspect of this single that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition is the music video, which is an absolute triumph. It was directed by Harvey & Carolyn, whose name might not immediately ring any bells. But they also worked on Emma Bunton’s Maybe and – more significantly – Girls Aloud’s Biology, from which some of the visual assets were lifted. Knowing the background, suddenly it all falls into place. Harvey & Carolyn’s style is distinctive, with bold colours and a retro-kitsch aesthetic, which is what we have here. The main gimmick is a jump cut on every single beat of the verses where Charlotte Church retains the same pose but changes outfit and/or accessory. Watching the video in its entirety, it’s clear what a painstaking labour of love it must have been for all involved because the effect is executed with a high degree of precision. It also feels like Harvey & Carolyn truly understand who Charlotte Church is because her wry humour and personality is firmly at the heart of the video. There’s a strong identity here, and once again, it feels like a very natural, cohesive fit.

Despite the seamless way everything is brought together, it wasn’t entirely surprising to see Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) perform modestly in the chart. The track peaked at #14, which – if nothing else – was a slight improvement on her previous single, Even God Can’t Change The Past, which reached #17. It was certainly not the big turnaround that the album needed, and it was never likely to be either. Whatever flaws Tissues and Issues had, the more significant issue was that people were still trying to pigeon-hole Charlotte Church as a pop star, even though her journey to this point had been anything but conventional. Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) wasn’t going to change that perception, even if – in hindsight, at least – it feels absolutely like the right direction for her.

Tissues and Issues was timed conveniently as the last of a five-album deal with Sony BMG, and Charlotte Church parted company with her label after the release of this single. She could have persevered; after all, a top-five album that yielded four top 20 hits was not an outright disaster during a time when homegrown pop acts were few and far between. However, she instead made the astute decision to focus on her Channel 4 chat show. It took a little while for Charlotte Church to return to music, but she released her sixth album, Back To Scratch, in 2010 and followed it with a series of EP’s (titled ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR). More recently, she spent eight weeks dressed as Mushroom on ITV’s The Masked Singer, eventually finishing in second place to Panda (Natalie Imbruglia).

With years of experience handling life in the public eye, Moodswings (To Come At Me Like That) carried more significance than it was given credit for at the time. This is exceptionally coherent as a single, so it’s a shame that the preoccupation was still largely on the style of Charlotte Church’s material, rather than the content.  

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