Released: 28th October 1996
Writers: Gina G / Bill Colbourne
Peak position: #6
Chart run: 6-10-19-25-33-42-50-53-42-44-64
Although it didn’t romp to Eurovision victory, Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit was a breakout hit from the contest, topping the UK chart and even making it to #12 in America. Now, with the dust having settled, Gina G returned for a little bit more. But trouble was brewing behind the scenes.
How you follow-up a track like Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit? That was the unenviable question being asked of Gina G in 1996, and the smart money would have been for her to work with Steve Rodway – aka Motiv8 – once again. Taking I Belong To You at face value, you’d even presume that’s precisely what had happened because this is a very logical second single. It’s sonically similar without going quite so far as to be a beat-for-beat re-tread. And with good reason, because this was not, in fact, the work of Motiv8, but another producer: Metro. It wasn’t apparent at the time, but as innocuous a change as this seemed soon spiralled into a huge problem.
The lawsuit that ended up consuming Gina G’s career is a complicated one, patched together from various accounts. Essentially, it amounts to a dispute over royalties from Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit and a licensing agreement signed with Steve Rodway’s production company – FX Music – before the track became an uber-hit. According to Gina G, she approached Steve Rodway to mix the song and signed a contract without reading the small print, tying her into a multi-album contract which covered ‘all territories and the universe’ (no, really). Most significantly, she could only work with other producers if Steve Rodway agreed. He inevitably tells a different story, saying that he was handed a half-finished Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit and asked by Warner Records to work his magic on it. After Eurovision, he expected to continue working with Gina G as per their agreement, only to discover that she had other ideas. Motiv8 went on to produce five tracks on the Fresh! album, but Steve Rodway found himself sidelined during the campaign in favour of Metro. All of the four songs they contributed were subsequently released as singles.
That’s where the relationship really started to break down. Warner didn’t pay royalties directly to Gina G. They instead went to FX Music. However, she and Simon Tauber (the co-writer of Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit) failed to receive a penny, the two filed a lawsuit against Steve Rodway. He was eventually ordered to pay up…except by that point, FX Music had gone into liquidation; there was no money left to be had. Meanwhile, Gina G was still tied into a contract with Steve Rodway, and things hit an impasse: she didn’t want to continue working with him, and he didn’t want her to work with anyone else. So, what did happen to those royalties? Steve Rodway maintains they simply didn’t exist. Instead, he claims the money was re-invested in Gina G’s album by Warner, who failed to recoup what was spent. It’s not hard to believe that there might be some truth to this. Billboard advertising, magazine features and that infamous David LaChapelle album cover would not have come cheaply.
Although I Belong To You was not the sole cause – or indeed the culmination – of the rift, it most certainly represents a turning point. Which all seems faintly ironic considering the type of song we’re dealing with here. This is as giddying a slice of Eurodance as you could possibly hope for. The way the intro builds with sparkly, stabbing synths, joined by a booming beat and then an ascending drum kick before launching into a full-on hi-NRG anthem, is a moment of pop perfection. You can just imagine how this would go off on the dancefloor were it ever to get a look in over Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit. Which, regrettably – though somewhat inevitably – it doesn’t.
Exercising a bit more control over I Belong To You – this time with a co-writing credit – Gina G demonstrates that she was firmly switched on to what people expected (and wanted) of her at this point, even if she didn’t want to pigeonhole herself with one producer. The track zips along with euphoric vigour and lyrics that feel just the right side of familiar: “If I had wings, I could fly, like a sweet song, that makes you cry, like a river to the sea, I hear you calling out to me”. It’s an incredibly satisfying listen, with the use of emphasis on each line (“And there’s no one gonna take AWAY, the joy you give me every DAY, that’s no LIE, you’re the reason WHY”) creating an almost hypnotic rhythm.
The song’s most triumphant moment comes at the middle-eight, where the production dials back just for a moment. Gina G purrs: “Let me be your lover for eternity, baby can’t you see, we are good together…” before the beat starts winding up again and her voice is echoed and filtered through the instrumental: “No one’s gonna break us apart, you know I gave you my heart boy…boy…boy…boy…boy”. It’s just so good. And of course, it goes without saying that the chorus: “I belong to you, you belong to me, naturally, so naturally…baby” effortlessly establishes itself as another irresistible earworm. Sure, in many ways, this isn’t dissimilar to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit. However, there’s just that extra edge of confidence to indulge in the moment this time around.
The pinnacle of this entire package is the accompanying music video for I Belong To You, which features a concept we don’t see enough of in pop music, quite frankly. Gina G is portrayed as a genie trapped inside a bottle, which is being rather aggressively polished by a man styled as a stereotypical ‘90s dweeb: he’s wearing glasses, a sleeveless jumper-shirt-tie combination, has gelled down hair and tissue paper stuck to his shaving cuts. As much as it’s a cliché – and probably quite an offensive one at that – he plays the part so well, looking suitably perplexed as Genie G appears to him in the bottle gyrating away to the song. The special effects are modest, so the camera angles, perspective and scale are all over the place, but that just adds to the charm.
Of course, once Genie G is released from her lamp, her first job is to give the man a makeover, which she does with a snap of her fingers. Then two backing dancers are summoned, and they perform a unique belly-dancing routine with elements of rave thrown in before she leads the man back to her lamp. Is the video so-bad-its-good, or is it actually just great? Who can honestly say. Either way, you will not be able to take your eyes off I Belong To You for a second. And that, surely, is the whole point.
Despite coming off the back of a massive hit, the odds were stacked against I Belong To You. Not since Bucks Fizz in 1981 had any act followed up their Eurovision entry with a further top ten single. There is every chance that this could have been – unjustly – written off as Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit-but-not-quite-as-good. Happily, Gina G bucked the trend, and I Belong To You peaked at #6, eventually selling a total of 160,000 copies. As much as the legacy of the song is as one that exists almost solely in the shadow of its predecessor, this was nonetheless very successful in its own right.
There was now no doubt whatsoever that Gina G had something, and the old adage of Eurovision being a lucrative platform for artists was once again translating into something meaningful.