Bananarama, after the release on their first independent album Ultra Violet, spent several five years before releasing a follow-up album. During the interim between 1996 and 2001 the band continued their sporadic club appearances – including a well-received club tour in Australia in 1997, as well as appearances at GAY London and other high profile clubs. They also contributed to the ’80s bands Club Sandwich Tour in 1999 headlined by The Culture Club. During these appearances, they debuted some new songs: a remake of Venus, and Boom in Australia, and Blue Skies on the Club Sandwich Tour. These songs were a part of the collaboration with an assortment of different producers including Brian Higgins.
Conflicts with the producers, however, lead to many of the songs not being released and were only distributed on demo tapes. Serendipity prevailed when Bananarama were introduced to French producer Pascal Caubet, who they worked with to produce the French-only released album, Exotica.
“It was a mutual friend of ours who’d been working on a video with this producer Pascal Caubet and they happened to mention Bananarama and Pascal said he was a big fan and would like to meet us. So we met up and played him all the stuff we’d written over the past five years. And he was really interested in doing this project with us so that’s how that came about.” (Sara, Exotic Night March 2001)
“It was more interesting for us. I think to come and work in France with a French producer because it’s something we haven’t done before. We pretty much have been taking it easy and doing the things as we wanted to do. Because we didn’t feel there was any rush. We were just doing it because we enjoyed doing it, and waiting for the right offer to come up, really. So… we love to come to Paris.” (Keren, Exotic Night March 2001)
The first song that was intended as a single, was Careless Whisper (a remake of the 1980s George Michael classic). The single was issued as a promotional single initially to garner radio and television airplay, through an independent French label M6. Insufficient enthusiasm for the track meant that it was never officially released, but Careless Whisper was used instead to promote the album. A second promotional-only single was also issued – “If“. Both singles featured b-sides drawn from the album including What You Gonna Do which was originating from their 1997 sessions.
The album features seven new songs: If, Starz, What You Gonna Do, Crazy, Sleep, Boom, and Got A Thing For You. Of these, What You Gonna Do, Boom, and Stars were originally from their 1997 and 1999 demo tapes, although both Boom and Sleep were remixed for the album. The remainder of the album was filled with renditions of well-known Bananarama songs – which were remixed, revived and reinterpreted with a more modern sound and construction. In part, the revisiting their back-catalogue, was used as a marketing point to bolster album sales. Bananarama’s biggest hits: Cruel Summer, I Heard A Rumour, Robert De Niro’s Waiting, and Venus were all given an overhaul. Cruel Summer, was given an Ace Of Base inspired calypso feel complete with a new vocal arrangement; I Heard A Rumour was laced with Cher vocoder treatments and a harder bass and beat; Robert De Niro’s Waiting was transformed into a dark, broody and melancholic track; and Venus was tweaked with some additional vocal arrangements and given a modern dance feel.