Hooks ‘N’ You: Kelly Osbourne, “Shut Up”/”Sleeping in the Nothing”

Written by Hooks 'N' You, Music, Popdose Interviews

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Given that the Osbourne family became the toast of MTV in 2002, thanks to their then-groundbreaking reality series, “The Osbournes,” it came as no real surprise when it was announced that Ozzy’s youngest daughter, Kelly, would be releasing an album of her own. It was entitled Shut Up, and it was dismissed by…well, just about everyone, really.

It’s really not as bad an album as you want it to be, though, particularly given that you know full well that she only scored her recording contract because of her dad and her family’s TV show. But, man, having her cover Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” defines the concept of “a little too on-the-nose,” you know what I mean? Once Sony made her do that, there was never any chance in Hell that she was going to be taken seriously by critics as a recording artist.

Indeed, Sony quickly proved that it had little interest in promoting the record beyond its novelty value. After “Papa Don’t Preach,” the label lazily released the title track as the next single, which was only a so-so song; as a result, any attempt to push “Come Dig Me Out,” the third and arguably best of the album’s three singles, was rebuffed by radio, which is a shame.

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If you dare to go back and check it out, you’ll find that there are a couple of punk-pop songs which sparkle with a little Joan Jett flair, and if we’re making comparisons to other female artists of Miss Osbourne’s era, it would not be untoward to suggest that they hold up as well as anything by, say, Avril Lavigne. Two of my favorite examples from the album: “Right Here” and “On the Run.” No, her voice as strong as Miz Lavigne’s, but, frankly, the songs rock enough that I don’t really care.

If you’re not buying into my praise of Shut Up, I won’t hold it against you. After all, even the woman who recorded the album is dismissive of it. I managed to talk to Kelly Osbourne for a few fleeting moments when I was at the Fox party during the January TCA tour, and when I asked her if there were any songs on her debut that she remembered fondly, her response was immediate.

“No,” she said. “The lesson learned there was that you shouldn’t just take the money and run. I have no regrets, but I just don’t like that record.”

When it comes to the album that followed Shut Up, however, her opinions are decidedly more favorable.

Kelly Osbourne’s star might’ve been sinking in the States, but in 2004, she surprised everyone…including herself…by pulling a UK #1 hit out of her bag with a lyrically-revised cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” which she performed as a duet with dear old Dad. As a result, Sanctuary Records decided to reissue Shut Up with several bonus tracks – including the new single, naturally – and give it a shiny and totally unsurprising new title: Changes.

Once again, America yawned…but that didn’t stop Kelly from entering the studio once more, and this time she had the songwriting power of Linda Perry in her corner. You know Ms. Perry, right? She might be responsible for one of the most loathsome pieces of music ever to hit the airwaves – I speak, of course, of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” – but by the time she teamed up with Miss Osbourne, she had long since proven herself as someone that a female singer would want in their corner, working with Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, and even the aforementioned Joan Jett.

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It’s clear that Perry had a plan when she approached Kelly Osbourne with the songs that would eventually become the album entitled Sleeping in the Nothing, and that was to go completely and totally retro. This record is all about the ’80s, with one band’s influence particularly evident: Berlin.

“I love Terri Nunn,” admitted Kelly, when I made the point of comparison.

Now, while it’s nice that she openly conceded this to be true, but when you listen to songs like “Redlight” and “Secret Lover,” it’s not like she could’ve denied it, anyway. (I’d guess that Ms. Nunn was probably torn between pride at her influence and greed at wondering if the similarity was worth suing over.) No, I was far more impressed that Kelly admitted that she wasn’t surprised that it was a hard sell to get my friends and acquaintances to believe that Sleeping in the Nothing was actually a really fun record.

“I think that album was just a bit ahead of its time,” she said. “It was released at a time that people didn’t like me very much, so whatever I did, people didn’t want to hear. If it had anybody else’s name besides Kelly Osbourne on it, I think it would’ve been a number-one selling album. It was just that people didn’t like me.”

You know, you want to tell her that she’s completely and totally wrong, but…you can’t. Not really. But with that said, at least one group dared to embrace the record: the dance club divas, who took the album’s first single, “One Word,” to the top of the US Dance charts. Here’s the Chris Cox Club Remix of the song for your enjoyment…and, of course, let us not forget the video:

Again, though, whatever your opinion of Kelly Osbourne may be, I have to say that the album just isn’t as bad as you want it to be. In fact, in the case of Sleeping in the Nothing, it’s actually quite good, just as long as you view it as what it is: Osbourne’s knowing attempt to find herself a spot within the new wave revival that was going on in 2005.

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The above songs will readily fit into any ’80s playlist without the average listener questioning their authenticity, and the same can be said of several other synth-heavy tracks on the record, including “I Can’t Wait” and “Entropy.” Granted, it’ll probably grate on the nerves of the folks who actually lived through the ’80s the first time that the album contains a song called “Suburbia”…and it isn’t a cover of the Pet Shop Boys song of the same name. (Too bad. That actually would’ve been a great idea.) And maybe single young females will appreciate the anti-date-rape rocker “Don’t Touch Me While I’m Sleeping” more than I do, but while the sentiment is clearly a solid one, the song itself just doesn’t do anything for me. Still, when Sleeping in the Nothing works, it does so well enough to make you disappointed that Kelly Osbourne can’t seem to escape her reality-show reputation…and given how awful her family’s upcoming Fox series (“Osbournes: Reloaded”) looks, this is a particular shame.

Fortunately, Osbourne assured me that she hasn’t given up her recording career. She claims to be returning to the studio at some point in the not-too-distant future. Will the third time be the charm for her success as a recording artist? Probably not. But I’ve enjoyed her first two albums enough to be willing to check out Record #3 and see what she’s come up with…whenever it emerges.