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Lost in the ’80s: Kim Wilde, “Select”

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I have a soft spot in my heart for Ms. Wilde. After all, she was the very first artist to be featured on Lost in the ’80s back in … what was it — more than four years ago? Yikes. I maintain that “Kids in America” is one of the top-five new-wave songs of all time, and while Kim never really reached the heights of her 1981 self-titled debut again (artistically, at least — she did top the charts here in the U.S. in ’87 with the limp Stock/Aiken/Waterman-lite remake of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”), it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Kim’s second album, Select (1982), was pretty much in the same vein as her debut, with her brother Ricky and father, Marty, handling all of the songwriting and production (both had had brief success as singers in the UK in earlier decades). In the liner notes for the album’s recent rerelease (thank you once again, Cherry Pop Records!), Ricky recalls being inspired enough by Ultravox’s success to move away from the more guitar-oriented sound of Kim’s debut to the colder, programmable-synth soundscapes of Select.

The Ultravox influence was readily apparent on Select‘s first single, “Cambodia” (download), a downbeat, atmospheric song about an air force pilot who goes missing during a top-secret mission. Not exactly the stuff number-one singles are made of, but it topped the charts in several European countries, including France and Sweden. And my my, a lot of Kim’s videos tended to feature her rolling around in bed, fully clothed …

Things got even more depressing on the album’s follow-up single, “View From a Bridge” (download), with its lyric about a young girl’s suicide. While it was another big European smash, it failed to do anything for Wilde stateside, as the kids in America weren’t quite ready to take the leap, as it were.

While I don’t think it would have fared any better as a single here, I do quite love Select‘s opener, “Ego” (download), which really piles on the drum machines and Ultravox-y sequencers. Also, the fun chorus and kiss-off lyric might have connected better with U.S. ears than “Cambodia” and “View From a Bridge” had Select not died a quick death in the States, as did the first phase of Kim’s career on this side of the pond — EMI America dropped her after Select.

Her third album, Catch as Catch Can (1983), wasn’t even released here, and it took a new deal with MCA and that Supremes remake to finally really break Kim in America. Was it as substantial as her early work? That’s debatable, but it was fun nonetheless. Cherry Pop has rereleased Wilde’s first three albums in expanded editions with plenty of B-sides and bonuses, and all three are worth the import prices.

Neither single charted.

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