Bananarama – “Masquerade”
In January 1982, female trio Bananarama finally scored their first UK chart hit with the Fun Boy Three and their joint cover of “It Ain’t What You Do…”. Nobody could have guessed or predicted that forty years on, they would still be going. In slightly reduced form, original members Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward have been performing and recording as a duo since 1992 and in their Ruby jubilee year, release their twelfth studio album under the Bananarama name, “Masquerade”. The follow up to 2019’s “In Stereo” has been a joint venture between the ladies and their now regular producer, Ian Masterson, with input from Sara’s daughter Alice.
The album kicks off with a cover of Alice’s own song, “Favourite“, which Bananarama released as the opening teaser track earlier in 2022. The song sets up the style and maturity of “Masquerade” as a deep synth-pop driven odyssey that harks back to the early 80’s and Bananarama’s heritage but with production and style that makes the 80’s sound like today and as if it had never happened. “Favourite” also reinforces just how these two ladies, of an age, keep their vocal chords in tip top condition offering both sublime and the high-note Bananarama vocals we have all become accustomed to over the years, and offering a different perspective on Alice’s dark ballad, which now becomes a pulsing pop-dance number.
“Stay Wild” continues this theme with a very Erasure/Pet Shop Boys feel to it. This album is much deeper than “In Stereo”. “Stay Wild” features angelic vocals from the duo amid a very dreamy production. Pre-teaser track “Velvet Lies” comes next, a very slinky and slower-paced tune featuring the same vocal reproduction as in “Favourite” and a pumping soundtrack. This would make a really great single proper with a heady video to match. “Masquerade”, the first single proper is up next, floating and as enigmatic as we have come to know since its release a month ago. “You can be who you want to be” state the ladies. Poignant words to the world! From the very first second, “Running In The Night” really hooks you with its synth heavy chords. This is a standout with even one listen! This is Bananarama at their absolute best. C’mon Sara and Keren, make this the next single…
You realise that half way through “Masquerade”, there is no let up in the beat and the outright joy of pop music that spans five decades and “Bad Love” continues this theme. Another powerful and empowering tune with a superb backing track filled with Balearic beats and Summer sunshine, and if you needed no reason to go back indoors then “Let’s Go Outside” will keep you buzzing at the beach or poolside. Bananarama return to a second helping of daughter Alice with “Brand New” with another pulsing dance floor filler with “Brand New”. Perhaps this is a statement of the ‘brand new’ Bananarama. A new sound and style that feels different but in the grand scheme of things, is and has always been what we have come to expect of these two. “Brand New” is light and airy and as fresh as fresh can be. A new debut single from a group that’s been around longer than any other female music partnership has. Perfection we call it.
More Balearic sounds and beats with “Need A Little More Time”, although this is uber chill time. Shimmering and glistening unlike any other Bananarama song that has gone before. Have we really come this far? Gorgeous to the extreme, “Need A Little More Time” is lush and enveloping. Supreme. “Forever Young” is a very apt song for Bananarama. Reaching out to that amazing forty year anniversary. Reflecting but also looking to the now and the future, whatever that may bring, “Forever Young” is a deep synth, slow moving number that uses its sound to remind you that Bananarama have come this far and they are still here, writing and recording superb songs like this, proving to no one that they are only here because of their own sheer talent. Magnifique. And so “Masquerade” draws to a close in fine style with yet more pounding beats with “Waiting For The Sun To Shine”. There really has been no let up with this album. No ballads, just pure, power pop, with a new twist. A new feel. Retro-Modern.
“Waiting For The Sun To Shine” is another outstanding track that deserves a video and single release. Repetitive lyrics that make you want to move and dance freely, outside, with others to its infectiousness. Strong and commanding, “Waiting For The Sun To Shine” is a perfect swansong for Sara and Keren on this latest journey with the most enduring female music act of all time. Viva Bananarama! “Masquerade” is more than a worthy addition to a forty year discography that began with “Deep Sea Skiving”, has taken in “Wow”, “Pop Life” and more recently, “In Stereo”. Relaxed and with nothing to prove, “Masquerade” is a statement of two ladies at the very peak of their songwriting abilities.
A statement of majesty and a statement to the world that only Bananarama can make an album like this, so many years after their arrival, having been ridiculed and written off almost from the start, but together, they have just done it their own way, continued to do it and boy do they do it here. If you love music that spans multiple generations, sounds and styles, then this is for you. If you have never considered a full Bananarama studio album, then this is the one. Truly deserving of being a huge hit in its own right. Top marks to you Sara and Keren. Stay forever young! Love always X
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