Darren Hayes – Insatiable

Released: 18th March 2002

Writers: Darren Hayes / Walter Afanasieff

Peak position: #8

Chart run: 8-12-12-13-12-12-16-20-25-37-39-44-50-65
Billboard Hot 100 chart run: 81-79-77-82-81-80-96

As the voice of Savage Garden, the launch of Darren Hayes’ solo career appeared – from the outside – to be an arbitrary affair. But his debut single had a lot to prove…and was there ever any doubt that he’d rise to the challenge?

Fittingly, Insatiable was released in the UK precisely a year after Savage Garden’s final single, The Best Thing. On the face of it, this should have been a smooth transition for Darren Hayes. His solo material was never explicitly billed as a continuation of the group’s sound, but there was little impetus to make any significant changes. With their two albums having sold more than 20 million copies, the early plan was indeed for Darren Hayes’ solo career to have retained the same workings as Savage Garden in everything but name. However, the duo’s split was messy. There certainly seemed to be an understanding between them that Savage Garden would not continue beyond their second album because Daniel Jones hated the lifestyle that came with being a popstar (even one who spent most of his time on the periphery). Thus, the answer seemed obvious. Darren Hayes was a natural entertainer, so if Savage Garden disbanded, he could launch a solo career, and the pair could continue working together in a way that gave Daniel Jones back the anonymity he desired. Alas, when Darren Hayes unilaterally announced the split, it signified an unavoidable issue; they were capable of making magic in the studio – and have continued to be exceptionally protective of their legacy – but were on entirely different pages. Thus, as he readied the release of his debut album Spin, suddenly Darren Hayes really was going it alone. However, he had some stability in remaining on the same record label and working with Walter Afanasieff, who had co-produced Savage Garden’s Affirmation album.  

Probably the most considerable risk for Insatiable is that it would sound like a diluted version of the material preceding it. Fortunately, that was never really an option. The reality is that whether Darren Hayes had gone solo or not, something would have had to shift in his sound. Savage Garden’s brand of sweeping movie-soundtrack gloopy balladry arrived at a perfect time to help define – and capitalise on – a style of music that was incredibly popular in the late ‘90s. But the landscape had shifted. And continuing down that route would have been a hard sell outside of Darren Hayes’ pre-existing fanbase.

Insatiable is not a seismic reinvention, and his voice remains – of course – immediately distinctive. But if you heard this song with no idea of what had gone down behind-the-scenes, there is something about it that feels ever so subtly like a separate entity from Affirmation. And that is as much as was required of Insatiable at this point. It’s gently peppered with a Latin-tinged flamenco guitar and boasts an orchestral accompaniment, creating an instant sense of grandeur. There’s still something remarkably cinematic on show here, but it’s now more reminiscent of a classic romance from yesteryear. The lyrics read like poetry: “When moonlight crawls along the street, chasing away the summer heat, footsteps outside somewhere below, the world revolves I’ve let it go”, and you can sense the hallmark of Walter Afanasieff’s early work on songs like My All with Mariah Carey coming through here.

Pleasingly, Insatiable firmly subscribes to the notion that more is more, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The track is a feast of melodrama from the outset, with Darren Hayes puffing and panting over the intro. The all-consuming intensity of his performance is on another level here. The song gently pushes into a realm that was quite explicit by pop music standards at the time: I fall asleep inside of you, there are no words, there’s only truth; breathe in breathe out, there is no sound, we move together up and down”. The red-hot sexiness here is almost claustrophobic given the heightened way in which Insatiable is composed. So superbly effective is the track at conveying a message of deep yearning that you can feel the heat radiating from it.

While the composition is sublime in itself, it never loses sight of putting Darren Hayes firmly in the spotlight. We already knew he had a phenomenal range, but Insatiable does its best to push him further than ever before using his falsetto – usually employed as a soaring finale – as a starting point. This is a towering showcase of the fluidity with which Darren Hayes can switch tones; the control he has over his voice is incredible. It sounded so effortless that it was easy to take for granted, but he is a world-class vocalist. There’s little surprise when Insatiable lurches into a key-change, but the runs and riffs in the aftermath, leading up to the climactic: “My love for you is IN-SATIA-BUH-UH-UH-UL, BAY-BAY” are on another level. An entire album performed in this manner would have been too much of a good thing, but in this case, it’s precisely the right approach. It fits what Insatiable is about and – perhaps more importantly – what it represents, manging to make Savage Garden sound like little more than a gentle warm-up.

The music video for Insatiable is an excellent example of one that draws out the song’s undertones and uses them to create a visual treatment that further defines the track itself. Those classic romantic movie vibes are used as the central concept, with Darren Hayes watching one of them (Insaziabile) and then wandering around the set with a fixation on the leading lady. There’s a definitive attempt to sell a slightly different image here; the visuals are artsy – though never to the point of being pretentious – and Darren Hayes had grown his hair out, giving him a more sophisticated, suave presence. The video is tremendously shot; the flickering of the film reels being projected onto the screen creates some beautiful sequences. The whole thing benefits immeasurably from focusing on Darren Hayes without having to find ways to shoehorn in a second person who didn’t really want to be there.

It’s easy to forget that amid their colossal album sales and recurrent commercial radio airplay, Savage Garden weren’t a huge singles act in the UK. They achieved four top ten hits, but that was never really the focus of their campaigns. In that sense, a #8 peak for Insatiable was very much business-as-usual for Darren Hayes. The track held up exceptionally well – spending the best part of two months hovering in the lower half of the top 20 – and was also generated a considerable deal of airplay. It was further consolidated with the release of the Spin album, which reached #2, matching the highest position Savage Garden had achieved with their debut (Affirmation, meanwhile, never made it higher than #7). Insatiable performed more modestly in America, where it peaked at #77 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Darren Hayes’ only single to chart there, which is still not unimpressive considering it came almost two years after Savage Garden’s final appearance with Crash and Burn.

Although it might seem at this stage that Darren Hayes’ solo career would constantly be framed in the context of his earlier success, that wasn’t the case. He quickly started forging a musical identity that evolved to be a world away from where he began. However, Insatiable was almost inevitably going to be intentionally constructed to seamlessly bridge the gap between Affirmation and Spin. To ignore the presence of Savage Garden looming over this release would be remiss but make no mistake; this is a quality track – and very much a Darren Hayes single – in its own right.

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