After taking a 6 year hiatus to pursue acting, which included playing a corpse on CSI and a Russian stripper on Prison Break, Holly Valance is busily planning her return to the music scene. The former Neighbours star recently revealed that she's working on songs with Frankmusik for her third album and I couldn't be any more excited. Holly always stood out from the other pop zombies. For better or worse, usually the latter, she spoke her mind and refused to play by the rules. This is a woman who basically killed her own career by calling the British public "bitter and twisted" (during a UK promotional tour no less!) and was told off by a Judge for excessive publicity whoring. The amusing list of anecdotes goes on but there's one I can't help but mention - the tragic case of the Holly Van!
Whenever I think about Holly, my mind instantly races to a Christina Aguilera concert in December 2003. It was Christina's first visit to Australia and a huge crowd was starting to build outside the Entertainment Centre. Just as we were getting ready to go inside, someone started playing "State Of Mind" at near deafening volume. I half expected to find a demented fan with a boombox but was surprised to discover the music coming from a van covered in Holly Valance posters, which had just pulled up outside the venue. Using a vehicle to promote an artist is hardly out of the ordinary (Flo Rida's record company recently hired a tank to drive around Sydney blasting songs from his latest album) but actually crashing another diva's concert has to be a first! Naturally, I was drawn to the Holly Van like a rat to the Pied Piper and struck up a conversation with one of the promoters who was trying to give away merchandise to disinterested Christina fans. I think I got a couple of posters but the most fabulous gift was a model replica of the van itself - pictured above on my computer. It remains one of my favourite pieces of music memorabilia, perfectly summing up the sad desperation of Holly Valance circa 2003.
The depressing thing is that Holly really had no reason to be sad or desperate. I personally thought her debut album was a hideous trainwreck but I've been singing the praises of "State Of Mind" to anyone who will listen for years. In my opinion, it's one of the great pop albums of the noughties, right up there with "Neon Nights" and "Fever". "State Of Mind" was also a hugely influential album, not that anyone will admit it. Holly was the first commercial pop star to mix electro into her pop - years before Lady GaGa and Robyn got around to it. In fact, it's quite startling how fresh the album still sounds. The magnificent lead single wouldn't be out of place on radio today, while the stunning video (below) is still a million times hotter than anything Britney has ever come up with. That Ramones singlet is THE SEX!
The rest of "State Of Mind" is just as impressive. Jeff and Mark Taylor (Metro) contribute the dark and brooding "Desire", which was originally slated as the second single before the project was scrapped. Kylie's favourite collaborator, Steve Anderson, delivers the goods on "Hypnotic" and "Curious" but really strikes gold on the incredibly fierce "Roll Over". I'm not surprised that Holly has a writing credit on the track. It's got her mouthy attitude stamped all over it. Chris and Drew Peters (Electric Six) are the biggest surprise. I can't believe these guys haven't been snapped up by every pop tart on the block. They contribute the sublime "Everything I Hate" and fiery "Tongue Tied" as well as my favourite song on the entire album - the gorgeous "Ricochets", which displays a softness and subtlety that I would have thought beyond Holly.
With any luck, "State Of Mind" will be re-visited and re-evaluated by pop fans if her comeback is a success. I just hope the Holly Van stays locked in the garage!