2022 sees legendary pop band Bananarama celebrate 40 sensational years of releasing music, chalking up an astonishing 30 chart hits and 30 million record sales. To mark this momentous occasion the band will release brand new album ‘Masquerade’.
The album is released on 22nd July in a limited edition run of blue and red vinyl as well as cassette, CD and digital formats, and is available for pre-order now here.
To mark the album’s announcement a new song ‘Favourite’ is released today as a treat for fans.
The track was written by Sara’s daughter, singer songwriter Alice Dallin-Walker (Alice D), and Oscar Scheller, and originally appeared on Alice’s 2018 album ‘Narcissus’. Alice also collaborated with Dallin on several other tracks on the album.
“It’s just a brilliant pop song,” Keren says. “We’ve done a different take on it but with Alice on backing vocals because we couldn’t not use her ad libs, they’re just too good.”
Bananarama have always had a way with a remake – in 1986, their Hi-NRG reimagining of Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’ topped the US charts – but Woodward says it was especially gratifying to cover a song that “is just so personal to us”.
Stream and download ‘Favourite’ here.
Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward are marking 40 years of Bananarama in the best possible way: with an excellent new album, ‘Masquerade’, and a string of exciting live shows with more surprises throughout the next year.
”When we started out, we could never have envisaged that we would be doing this for 40 years,” Dallin says. “I remember in the early days, I was 26 at the time, and someone in an interview said we were pushing 30 and we were getting a bit old to make music. Women in the music industry were seen as having a shelf life.”
Bananarama have proved this interviewer wrong in quite a spectacular way: if they do have a shelf life, it’s one that is nowhere near over. ‘Masquerade’ is their 12th studio album; they’ve racked up 30 UK chart hits and topped the US charts, and built a reputation as a rousing live act who delight crowds everywhere from Glastonbury to Manchester Pride and the Singapore Grand Prix. They’re already booked and busy this summer with festival shows at Kenwood House, Kew The Music, Rewind Scotland, 80s Party in the Park – at the Queen’s Sandringham estate, no less – and loads more.
“We still get so many incredible opportunities and feel so lucky to be doing this,” Dallin says.
Masquerade sees the duo reunite with producer Ian Masterson, with whom they also worked on 2019’s In Stereo – their highest-charting album since the late ’80s – and 2009’s Viva, home to the thumping club hit ‘Love Comes’. They originally conceived this latest project as an EP, but when the pandemic wiped out their live schedule in 2020, they carried on writing and Masquerade grew into a sleek and cohesive 11-track album.
“I love writing songs it’s probably my favourite part. Shutting myself away and coming up with ideas and then telling a story in less than 4 minutes, it really is quite an art”, says Dallin.
“Arranging the music, vocals and harmonies really is our forte,” Woodward adds.
The result is a tremendously entertaining electro-dance album that sounds both fresh and quintessentially Bananarama. Its title track and lead single is a pulsing slice of club pop with a hint of Pet Shop Boys in its musical DNA and lyrics that tap into our growing awareness of identity.
“When I was in lockdown, there were a lot of conversations happening to do with inclusivity, diversity and gender and racial equality,” Dallin explains. “And that kind of led to this idea of ‘masquerade’: how you present yourself in different ways depending on the situation, but really, you just want people to live how they want to live. It’s a song we’re really very proud of.”
At times, the album is both wistful and anthemic. “Stay wild, stay wild and free – you are evergreen,” they sing on the shimmering ‘Stay Wild’. Other highlights like ‘Bad Love’ and ‘Let’s Go Outside’ have a cheeky glint in their eye. The latter has a brilliant bridge with a perfectly timed pause: “I’ve got a feeling in my soul that you and me are gonna be something a little more… than friends.”
Bananarama have always kept things personal. Published in October 2020, their joint autobiography, ‘Really Saying Something: Sara & Keren – Our Bananarama Story’ reminds us that this group is built on a lifelong friendship. It also tracks Dallin and Woodward’s remarkable journey from schoolgirl punks – famously, in the early 80s they lived for a time above what used to be the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal space in Soho – to global success with era-defining hits including ‘Cruel Summer’, ‘Shy Boy’, ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’, ‘Love in the First Degree’ and ‘I Heard a Rumour’. It’s no exaggeration to call Bananarama one of the great organic success stories in British pop.
They’re also one of the most enduring. When fellow co-founding member Siobhan Fahey left the group in early1988, Dallin and Woodward recruited old friend Jacquie O’Sullivan and embarked on their first ever world tour. Since 1991, they have operated as a rock-solid duo, scoring further hits including ‘Movin’ On’, ’Look on the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)’ and ‘Move in My Direction’. In 2017 Dallin and Woodward asked Fahey to join them for ‘The Original Line Up Tour’. It was a triumph and this jubilant, brief reunion was made even more poignant by the fact that Fahey had never performed live with Bananarama in the ’80s. Back then, when the music industry was still driven by massive physical record sales, touring wasn’t seen as quite such a high priority.
Forty years after they released their debut single ‘Aie a Mwana’, Dallin and Woodward’s friendship still underpins everything that Bananarama do and above all, makes it fun.
“From the age of 18 or 19, to be able to travel the world and write and perform music, it really has been incredible,” Dallin says. “Yes, there’s a lot of hard work involved and certain things we’d rather not have to do, but we have achieved so much and we’ve had some hilarious moments along the way. And they never seem to stop!”
Woodward says their band members always know when they have arrived at the airport “because they can hear the laughter coming”. And long may it continue: as Masquerade shows, Bananarama’s creative flame is burning brighter than ever.