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Music / Atomic Kitten

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Atomic Kitten, dubbed "The Kittens" by their fans, were an English Girl Group that formed towards the end of the 90s. The band were devised by Andy Mccluskey (of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark fame) as an obvious attempt to cash in on the growing Girl Group craze. They had three members to start off with - Natasha Hamilton, Liz McClarnon and Kerry Katona. Initially Heidi Range was set to be in the band in Natasha's place but left due to artistic differences and later joined the Sugababes. Katona also left the group in 2000 to focus on raising her children. She was replaced by Jenny Frost, who stayed with the group until the split.

The Kittens were initially only mildly successful, their first album "Right Now" and their first four singles doing poorly. The label was considering dropping them but their manager convinced them to allow the girls to release one last song. This song was "Whole Again" (which was later covered in 2003 as slow rock version by Busted) and became their first number 1 single. They were much more successful in Europe, Asia and Australia but didn't quite make it in America. They stayed together until 2004 when they had a mutual split but they have reformed several times for one-off appearances. Kerry Katona reunited with the group in 2012 for The Big Reunion - ironically replacing Jenny due to her own pregnancy this time. Michelle Heaton of Liberty X filled in for Liz during a 2016 tour. In 2017 Katona left the group for a second time leaving the group as duo - until mid-2021 when Frost reunited with the group.

Liz and Jenny appear as themselves in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager. Their single "See Ya" can be heard in Bring It On, their cover of "The Tide is High (Get the Feeling)" is prominently featured in The Lizzie McGuire Movie and their very first single "Right Now" appears in Aquamarine.

This girl group provides examples of:

  • Action Mom: Natasha filmed the video for "The Tide Is High" and performed several concerts while she was eight months pregnant.
  • All There in the Manual: Apparently the back-story behind the video for "It's OK" was that the girls all split up with their boyfriends and decided to take an impromptu holiday.
  • Amazon Brigade: They took up kick-boxing as a way of keeping fit for their Greatest Hits Tour.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • During the Ladies Night era, Natasha was unable to commit to a lot of the group's requirements. So Liz took lead vocals on a lot more songs - notably "If You Come To Me". The album version of "Someone Like Me" likewise just had her singing the whole thing.
    • A lot of album tracks just had Natasha singing all the solos, but the single versions would give them to Jenny and Liz. Notably "The Last Goodbye", "Cradle 2005" and "Love Doesn't Have To Hurt".
  • Bare Midriffs Are Feminine: All the girls wore midriff-baring clothes from time to time, though Liz less often than the others.
    • Kerry and Natasha in the "Right Now" video; the former just wearing a midriff bearing set of t-shirts, while the latter has a blouse with the bottom buttons undone to achieve this.
    • "Eternal Flame" again features Natasha in a midriff-baring tube top, and Jenny in one with straps - while Liz is just in a tank top that covers hers.
    • And completing the set, "You Are" has Jenny and Natasha in black versions of what they wore in "Eternal Flame". Liz once again is more covered up.
  • Beach Episode: The video for "It's OK", which was filmed in South Africa.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The initial lineup with blonde Kerry, brunette Liz and redhead Natasha. Jenny then replaced Kerry to keep the line-up at first. Then subverted with the Feels So Good era - as all three Kittens became blonde, leading to jokes about them all looking the same. Natasha then dyed her hair black to get a downplayed version of the trope.
  • Break-Up Song:
    • Implied with "The Last Goodbye". More explicit with "See Ya."
    • "It's OK" is a more positive version of this one. It's more about moving on with one's life than whining about how the ex sucks.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Liz suffered from depression during her time in the group.
  • The Cameo: Liz and Jenny appeared as themselves in the mockumentary Mike Bassett: England Manager singing the theme song for the World Cup.
  • Clip Show: The video for "Right Now 2004" is one, though unusually for this kind of music video it doesn't feature past music videos but rather concerts, personal footage and public appearances. "Cradle 2005" is also made up of clips from the original "Cradle" and American "Whole Again" videos, shots from a concert in Belfast and clips from Jenny and Liz's trip to Africa.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender:
    • Technically for "The Tide Is High" which is originally sung by the male group The Paragons. But of course the version everyone remembers is Blondie's, which had already done this.
    • "Ladies Night" is from a female perspective, when it had been sung from a male's in Kool & the Gang's version.
  • Cover Version: A few.
    • "Eternal Flame" (originally by The Bangles)
    • "The Tide Is High" (originally by The Paragons)
    • "Ladies' Night" (originally by Kool & The Gang)
    • "The Loco-Motion" (originally by Little Eva)
    • They've also performed a cover of "Dancing in the Street" at some concerts.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first three singles are very at odds with their later image. Sexually suggestive lyrics, aggressively upbeat songs and an overall sound that was very 90s and bubblegum. With the success of "Whole Again" they tweaked their image to become less Spice Girls and more mellow overall.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: The "Feels So Good" album is the one to feature all three Kittens as blondes. It's the most Sweet Dreams Fuel of the albums.
  • Fanservice:
    • "It's OK" is a holiday themed video that opens with a gratuitous shot of all three Kittens coming out of the sea in bikinis. They're in skimpy holiday wear for the rest of the video.
    • "If You Come To Me" has scenes of the girls nude with animations of clouds and butterflies on their skin.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the video for "Love Doesn't Have To Hurt" there is a very quick shot of one of the Kittens watching a TV where another (Liz probably) can be seen climbing out of a pool.
  • Girl Next Door: Liz, the shortest of the girls was always the most innocently portrayed with this image in mind.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Liz had an image as The Cutie but is an avid supporter of Everton FC.
  • Greatest Hits Album
  • Hotter and Sexier: The Ladies Night album artwork featured more sensual pictures of the girls, and the videos for "If You Come To Me" and "Ladies Night" had a lot more Fanservice than normal.
  • Hufflepuff House: Ironically, although Natasha was pushed as the lead singer early on, she was the one most likely to miss public events or gigs. Jenny and Liz were usually always there, whereas they have said that Natasha's commitments slipped when she became a mother for the first time.
  • Important Haircut:
    • Natasha dyed her hair black after giving birth to her first son, and cut it short right before the Greatest Hits Tour.
    • Jenny cut her hair into a bob towards the end of Feels So Good because she feared she looked too similar to Liz. When Natasha cut her hair short (see above), Jenny hurriedly got extensions put in again to distinguish herself.
  • In Da Club:
    • "Be With You"'s music video is in a club with a 70s theme.
    • "Ladies Night" likewise takes place in the 'Kitten Club'.
  • Intercourse with You: "I Want Your Love".
  • Leg Focus: Jenny in the video for "If You Come To Me" is seen stretching her legs out against a reflected surface.
  • Lesser Star: When she was in the group, Kerry rarely took lead vocals and only sang hooks, harmonies and a couple of verses. This was averted when Jenny joined, as she and Liz were given equal prominence in comparison to Natasha.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "It's OK" and "Whole Again". Also "Always Be My Baby" from the Ladies Night album.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jenny seemed to take on this role more than the other two. Notably on their Greatest Hits Tour, the baby doll dresses the girls wore. Liz and Natasha's had lots of layers while Jenny's was almost completely see-through.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Only everyone else called them Liz and Natasha. The Kittens themselves called them "Lil" and "Tash".
  • Oop North: All four Kittens were from Liverpool, and the video for "The Last Goodbye" was filmed there.
  • Plenty of Blondes: All three girls were blonde as of the "Eternal Flame" cover until "Be With You".
  • Progressively Prettier: Right Now had the girls as very casual and a little tomboyish. Feels So Good added a little more Fanservice. By Ladies' Night there was a lot more sex appeal.
  • Rearrange the Song: Most of the original Right Now tracks from Japan were rearranged and re-recorded from their original versions to sound updated for 2000 and 2001; barring three Japan-exclusive tracks that sounded like they came from the earlier 1990s.
    • "Whole Again" went through several different revisions before settling on its final form. The Japanese release of Right Now had a barebone demo of the song with Kerry speaking all the verses and Natasha and Liz singing the chorus. The second version kept Kerry's middle-8 section while introducing a slightly amended chord progression for the verses with Natasha and Liz singing them; this version was only performed live once before being drastically reworked into the third version with a tightened rhythm section and a heavy gospel influence, including the choir. After this version was put on the album and released as a single; Kerry left, which meant new replacement Jenny was brought in to re-record Kerry's middle-8 for the fourth version which was then sent to radio and TV.
  • Remade for the Export: Inverted with Right Now, which was actually released first in Japan before being released in in the UK some months later. With the Japan release being heavily bubblegum-oriented, the first UK release took out two of the three Japanese bubblegum artifacts and introduced three new lighter and funk-oriented songs, while re-recording and remixing "I Want Your Love", "Cradle" and "Whole Again". Then for the second re-release after Kerry's departure and Jenny's introduction, the three new tracks from 2000 were kept, three new midtempo tracks were recorded with the new line-up, the final Japanese-exclusive song was deleted, and Jenny's voice was added to many of the tracks Kerry had a solo part in.
  • Retool: "Whole Again" gave the girls more success than their previous singles so they gave themselves a Girliness Upgrade and shifted away from power ballads and disco dance music towards softer Sweet Dreams Fuel style songs.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • The video for "It's OK" was filmed in South Africa and features lots of shots of the coast, beaches and scenery. There are scenes with the Kittens driving around in a car taking in all the sights.
    • "The Last Goodbye" was filmed in Liverpool and many landmarks of the city are highlighted in the video.
  • '70s Hair: Liz sports a big curly afro for the "Be With You" video.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Subverted. The "If You Come To Me" video has a section with the Kittens in the rain so viewers might expect them to get wet but it doesn't affect their outfits.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Jenny Frost, the tallest of the girls.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: The image presented the second line-up as this. Liz was the Child - as the youngest and cutest member. Natasha the lead singer was the Wife. Jenny as the tall Ms. Fanservice was the Seductress.
  • Token Wholesome:
    • In comparison to their fellow girl groups at the time, they were the least Stripperiffic. The girls were always dressed modestly enough and even when they wore revealing outfits in their videos, they weren't that exposed. Though they certainly blurred the line with the video for "If You Come To Me".
    • Liz likewise was usually portrayed a little more modestly than the others in the first two albums. She went Hotter and Sexier for the Ladies Night period.
  • Title Track: All their albums. Right Now, Feels So Good and Ladies Night were all album tracks. Feels So Good was the only one not released as a single.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Given how tiny and cute Liz is, you'd be surprised that she has the thickest Liverpool accent out of all Kittens combined.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "See Ya" has some pretty weird lyrics - "Well there's a great big ocean out there boy and you're not my favourite dish/Because you can see me sinking like I told you so/I need a new direction/But you won't let me go"