Happy 30th Anniversary to Kim Wilde’s sixth studio album Close, originally released June 1, 1988.
In the spring of 1988, British pop vocalist Kim Wilde released “Hey Mister Heartache” featuring the dynamic Junior Giscombe on back-up. The pop-soul jam was the inaugural single from her then-forthcoming sixth LP, Close. It was also Wilde's sixteenth single overall, the culmination of an eventful seven-year musical span that launched with the instant new wave classic “Kids in America” in 1981. That single's parent album, the RAK Records sponsored Kim Wilde (1981), caught fire critically and commercially. Her next two albums Select (1982) and Catch As Catch Can (1983) plugged Wilde into the synth-pop scene with cogent, artistic returns if mixed commercial results.
Teases and Dares (1984)—Wilde's first album for MCA Records—was a big leap forward for the vocalist. Her previous three sets had been scored and scripted on the whole by her pre-Beatles icon father Marty Wilde and writer/producer brother Ricky Wilde. Two cuts from Teases and Dares, “Fit In” and “Thought It Was Goodbye,” were written completely by Wilde herself.
Now possessing a greater sense of artistic autonomy, Wilde introduced her fifth long player Another Step (1986) to the public. It was her most adventurous and accessible collection at that time. Wilde retained her father and brother's services, but continued to write alone and workshop with different writers and producers too. Comprised of an exciting mix of R&B, AOR and straight-ahead pop, Another Step gained the majority of its exposure through its towering Hi-NRG recasting of The Supremes hit “You Keep Me Hangin' On.” A smash on both sides of the pond, Another Step should have followed suit commercially, instead it—and its other three singles—were only mildly received. It must have been frustrating for Wilde that in spite of an accomplished—and diverse—five-album stretch and fifteen corresponding singles that she had not garnered more mercantile traction. Nevertheless, her creative confidence had centered itself and she knew exactly where she wanted to take her sound next.
Setting the aural compass of Close with Wilde was Tony Swain, one-half of the production duo Swain and (Steve) Jolley. The pair had operated on records for Bananarama, Imagination and Spandau Ballet, but Swain flew solo from Jolley while co-producing Close alongside Wilde's brother Ricky. The appearance of Wilde's sibling and her father ensured that her new album remained a family affair, except she was guiding all of the songwriting for all but two of Close's 10 compositions.
Having kept pace with changing styles and tastes—as Wilde saw fit—on her past efforts, Wilde curated Close to be a perfect pop panoply of all her various tastes. There are uptempos, midtempos and ballads, all of them attired in a composite pop/rock/soul sheen to emphasize the best details of late 1980s songcraft and production.
Take “You Came,” the track strikes a balance between its sparkling hook and its more substantive verses. The same could be said of the genteel “Four Letter Word,” a vocal showcase for Wilde. Both were two of the five singles elected to represent Close, driving the LP to its platinum selling stature in the United Kingdom. Further, “Hey Mister Heartache,” “You Came,” “Never Trust a Stranger,” “Four Letter Word,” and “Love in the Natural Way” brought Wilde's British singles tally up to 20 by 1989. Out of that batch of 20, 17 landed comfortably within the U.K. Top 40 bestowing Wilde with the notable record of being “the most-charted British solo female act of the 1980s.”
Returning to Close's non-singles content, the cinematic drama of “European Soul,” the propulsive synth-thrust of “Stone” and a lush cover of Todd Rundgren's “Lucky Guy,” demonstrate Wilde's keenness to map out an album to be experienced in its entirety.
Presented on June 1, 1988, Close was an “on-the-spot” smash, becoming Wilde's strongest selling platter to date. Observing Wilde's popularity from afar, the late superstar Michael Jackson extended the invitation for Wilde to open as the support act on the European leg of his eventual all-conquering “Bad World Tour.” Wilde obliged and the decision bolstered the already triumphant Close epoch.
Many more records were still to come in Wilde's future, but the legacy of Close is unmatched in her canon. To prove the point, 2013 saw the release of a deluxe two-disc reissue restoring all the era specific remixes, alternates takes and B-sides (“Tell Me Where You Are,” Wotcha Gonna Do”). Close was Kim Wilde at the peak of her power and visibility, evidence that her tenacity and commitment to her own pop skillset were all that she needed to secure her legacy.