2022 sees legendary pop band, Bananarama celebrate 40 sensational years of making music, chalking up an astonishing 30 chart hits and 30 million record sales. To mark this momentous occasion the band release their brand new album, Masquerade.
Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward are marking 40 years of Bananarama in the best possible way, with the excellent new album Masquerade and a string of exciting live shows with more surprises throughout the next year.
For the past three decades, Bananarama have been one of pop’s most influential and revered groups. Their hit-packed career happened because they were the mold-breakers. Sometimes reminders of pop genius come in the slightest of touches, the subtlest of triggers.
One of the most successful female groups of all time, the they have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, enjoying chart-topping hits all around the world. With such ubiquitous songs as “Venus,” “Cruel Summer” and “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting,” Bananarama is listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records for achieving the world’s highest number of chart entries by an all-female group.
”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, 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.
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 full-length album.
The result is a tremendously entertaining electro-dance album that sounds both fresh and quintessentially Bananarama. The 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. 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 early 1988, 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,” “Preacher Man,” “Only Your Love,” “Look On The Floor (Hypnotic Tango)” and “Move In My Direction.”
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.