Greg White examines how one of the best pop albums of the early 00s – ‘More’, by American artist Vitamin C – got ‘lost in music’
At So So Gay we use this column to remind or inform readers of albums that were over-looked and/or under-rated at the time of their release. Vitamin C’s second and final record, More, really epitomizes the spirit of that endeavor. Released in 2001, this is an album that was ahead of its time, still sounding fresh and current when listened to now.
In 2001, pop music was mostly urban-flavoured, especially in America. Girl groups like Destiny’s Child and All Saints were dominating music charts all over the world. It’s easy to forget that back then, even P!nk and Robyn were singing their successes with strongly R&B-tinged grooves. It wasn’t really until Robyn’s brilliant self-titled release in 2005, that intelligent, emotional, and distinctly pure electro-pop would become cool on an international scale again. Four years before that happened, Vitamin C had already preemptively mastered that brand of music with More.
Her real name is Colleen Fitzpatrick, and she spent most of the 90s as a lead singer in an alternative rock band called Eve’s Plum. Near the end of the decade she left the group and re-branded herself as an orange-haired, smiley pop star named Vitamin C. Her first solo single from her self-titled album was called ‘Smile’, a cheesy and upbeat tune about how simply smiling can perk up a blue demeanour. The song hit the top 20 in North America, and was featured all over the place in commercials and television shows. Critics slammed the song and branded Fitzpatrick a one-hit wonder, listeners were divided by the cheery and fluorescent-haired star.
Vitamin C avoided the one-hit curse with the release of another single, ‘Graduation’. It’s a tune that was played at almost every school, and even university, graduation ceremony that year. Cracking the top ten in several countries, the song would end up being the biggest hit of her career. Unfortunately, once everyone’s graduation caps were hung up, Vitamin C became something worse than a one-hit wonder; a cheesy novelty act, who would never be taken seriously as Vitamin C again.
Wanting to follow-up the success that ‘Graduation’ garnered, Elektra/Warner Music commissioned Fitzpatrick to write and produce a second Vitamin C album. It was clear, at least to her, that she needed to crank up the smarts and sophistication if she wanted to stay relevant or be taken seriously. And that’s exactly what she did on More - a fun, sexy, emotional and unique electro-pop album that’s the perfect definition of the genre.
Co-written and produced with the help of Jimmy Harry (Kylie Minogue, Kelly Clarkson, Madonna), More featured entirely original material, aside from a cover of The Waitress’ ‘I Know What Boys Like’. That track is actually the only miss-step on the entire twelve track album. The record’s first single, ‘The Itch’, is a glitchy and fun mid-tempo number that’s full of sexy double entendres. The song fared reasonably well in Europe, and peaked on the Australian charts at number 6. It failed to make much of an impact in America, dropping from the charts after peaking at 45. The second single, ‘As Long As You’re Loving Me’, is a smooth and sparkling ballad, but failed to chart anywhere except New Zealand. After this, plans for a third single were scrapped and Vitamin C vanished.
The best parts of More are not the singles that bookend the album, or The Waitress’ cover which was supposed to be a third single. The album’s greatest moments are its weirdest. ‘Sex Has Come Between Us’ is a trippy and pulsating number that documents the perils of getting intimate with a good friend. The nostalgic and remorseful ‘That Was Then, This Is Now’ has an 80s feel, and looks back at a regretful separation. The spoken-word middle-eight is a huge highlight of the album: ‘It’s the little things I dream about that no one ever talks about / The little things I think about that no one ever dreams about / The kisses and the promises / The whispers and the plans’. While her début featured lyrics that were a mess of cheesy clichés, on More the lyrics are a huge highlight; funny, confessional, and clever.
Elsewhere on the album, ‘She Talk’s About Love’ is one of the slower numbers. The song plays between Vitamin C’s natural voice and a robotic vocal, about a girl on a quest to find love in a loveless world. ‘Real Life’ is a less complex track, with a fast and swirling chorus, pleading a delusional partner to ‘get off the N64′ and face reality. One of the most amusing songs is ‘Busted’, on which a cheating lover is caught red-handed and called out by Vitamin C’s rapid-fire rapping during the pre-chorus: ‘So you tell me that you want me and I’m hot, uh-huh / That I’m the only good thing that you got, uh-huh / Too bad the you were cheating and got caught, ah-hah / You really don’t deserve another shot, nuh-nuh’.
The commercial failure of More was certainly not due to a lack of quality music. Rolling Stone and AllMusic both rated the album with four stars. Rolling Stone gushed that the record was ‘the perfect album for the pure pop music lover, but without the saccharine’. The album’s downfall was more a result of Fitzpatrick’s strained relationship with her label. Rumour was that after Elektra/Warner initially heard More, they wanted half the songs dropped and replaced with material similar to her older, product-placement ready songs. Fitzpatrick refused, and the album was released with almost no promotion or label support. A video wasn’t even made for the second single, and with that Fitzpatrick parted ways with the label and retired Vitmain C.
The years that followed would see Fitzpatrick writing songs with other artists, ranging from Linkin Park to Enrique Iglesias. In America, she was a judge on a talent competition called Superstar USA. She also branched out into acting, appearing in several movies and television shows such as Sabrina The Teenage Witch and The Brothers Garcia. In March of this year, she landed the job of vice president of music for America’s Nickelodeon network; she now oversees music recording, production, and performances for all of the networks channels.
It’s a shame that this album wasn’t released two or three years ago, as with proper promotion it could have been a huge hit. The record was sonically ahead of its time and, ironically, that was one of its biggest flaws. If this material was freshly written today, Kylie Minogue and Robyn would probably be fighting for a collaboration with Fitzpatrick. More is a reminder that sometimes the best pop out there gets lost in music.