Bananarama Hasn’t Heard Taylor Swift’s ‘Cruel Summer’ – But They Want Her to Cover Their Hit of the Same Name

“I remember having a conversation when we were teenagers,” Bananarama’s Keren Woodward tells Billboard, “thinking that I probably wouldn’t be doing (Bananarama) when I was 25. It seemed so far away. I couldn’t imagine.”

Fast forward four decades to now. Not only is the British group (which debuted as a trio but has continued as a duo since 1991) still active, but they are releasing Glorious: The Ultimate Collection on Friday (March 8). The collection spans era-defining chart hits, fan favorites and two new songs, “Feel the Love” and “Supernova,” both of which deftly capture the runaway-train ebullience of the band’s ‘80s hits. “I don’t really see that because you get to a certain age or a certain point you should stop,” Woodward says, “(As long as) you like what you’re doing and other people are enjoying it too.”

Speaking to the duo over Zoom, it’s clear that the comfortable chemistry between Woodward and Dallin is a huge part of why they’ve been together for more than 40 years. “It’s so monumental to have been around for decades, making music and writing our own songs,” Dallin says with a touch of pride and incredulousness. “Keren and I realized how much we’d achieved, particularly as women in this industry, when we wrote our book a couple of years ago, Really Saying Something. When you sit down and retrace everything from the age of 18… when we pieced it all together, we felt a certain satisfaction that we had achieved quite a lot.”

Comparing the industry now to what it was like in the ‘80s, Dallin believes that “women are getting a little bit more of a bite… but still not enough. It’s shifting slowly, the sands, but there’s still a long way to go.”

The industry’s overdue crawl toward gender parity has been reflected in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s recent induction classes, which were once quite testosterone-heavy (fully shutting out women as recently as 2016) but have begun to welcome more women into the Hall’s ranks each year. When asked about the idea of Bananarama in the Rock Hall, Woodward perks up: “I wouldn’t turn it down!” “I think it needs more females,” Dallin adds. “I had just heard that Cher is only just being [nominated]. It’s like, really?

As pop hitmakers who helped carve out space for female artists to sustain lifelong careers in the music business, both are delighted to see how many women are dominating the scene these days. Even so, the duo hasn’t heard the most recently reigning Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 from probably the biggest artist on the planet – which is perhaps surprising, given that the song, “Cruel Summer,” shares a title with one of their own beloved hits.

“I haven’t heard it, I’m afraid,” Dallin says of Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer,” to which Woodward drily intones, “I would have preferred her recording mine, because then I could have made some of her money.” Of their own “Cruel Summer,” Woodward recalls the “massive, welcome shock” of learning it reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1984. “Knowing that we’d cracked the top 10 in the Billboard charts was definitely a moment,” she remembers.

For up-and-coming women in the music industry, the duo has some specific, sage advice. “It’s such a hard business and even the most talented people just don’t get through,” Dallin says. “I would say for females, always be chaperoned. Always have somebody with you, never go to the studios on your own. Never go and meet people who say they’re going to do things for you – just always take someone with you.”

“We were very lucky because we always had each other. We’ve always got each other’s backs,” Woodward says.

While they believe social media has helped some artists circumvent the traditional industry gatekeepers, they’re also quick to note that it’s a double-edged sword. “I don’t know how it would have been for me if somebody could comment on literally everything I wore and everything I said,” Dallin muses. For her part, Woodward knows how it would have been if there had been social media when she was an 18-year-old pop star: bad. “I think appearance-wise, when it gets really personal, I think it might have destroyed me, reading the amount of bitchy, negative comments.”

But Bananarama has spun gold out of staying strong in the face of adversity. A perfect example is the band’s 1986 Hot 100 No. 1, a pounding dance cover of Shocking Blue’s “Venus.” “We’d heard a song with a Hi-NRG beat and we’d just found Stock Aitken and Waterman, the producers, and we asked them to do a Hi-NRG version of ‘Venus,’” Dallin recalls of the recording’s genesis. “Nobody wanted to do (it), not the record company or Stock Aitken and Waterman. So we when did it, on our insistence, and it became No. 1, it was fantastic.”

Even though the group’s biggest Hot 100 hit was a cover, Bananarama has by and large written most of its own material over its 40-year career – which is part of what keeps them going. “It’s the joy of scribbling something down in your kitchen, and then the next minute, you’re singing it at Glastonbury or Kew Gardens – you’re suddenly singing it to thousands of people,” says Dallin ahead of the group’s anniversary shows at the London Palladium.

“We’re not doing it just because it’s the only thing we’ve done,” Woodward declares. “We’re genuinely doing because we love it. I mean, when we when we do shows, it’s extraordinary how much fun we have with a live audience.”

“To still be able to do that, I feel very lucky,” Dallin says. “I think there’s an authenticity to us we’ve never lost,” Woodward opines. “A lot of it has to do with us being friends for so long and keeping each other grounded. It all goes towards making us a complete band and having that joy. I wouldn’t necessarily want to do it for this long if it was just me on my own. That’s part of the joy.”

Powered by Billboard.

Related Articles

Back to top button