Before her breakthrough as a pop star in 1986, London-born Samantha Fox gained notoriety throughout England as a teenaged topless model for The Sun’s “Page 3” feature. Although she cut her first single concurrently, it wasn’t until she shifted her focus solely to music that she achieved chart success. Over a five-year period, she released four albums and 15 singles on Jive Records which resulted in multiple number-one, top-five, and top-10 entries across Europe and the U.S.
Cherry Pop’s new two-CD/two-DVD set, Play It Again, Sam: The Fox Box, contains a total of 41 audio tracks and 30 video segments chronicling this prime period of Samantha’s career—and beyond. Stateside children of the ‘80s might be surprised to find the range of her catalog (both stylistically and chronologically) outside of her signature hits from the latter part of the decade: “Touch Me (I Want Your Body),” “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too),” and “I Wanna Have Some Fun.” Whether it be the feel-good, Stock-Aitken-Waterman-produced anthem “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now,” the Full Force-helmed pop/hip-house hybrid “(Hurt Me! Hurt Me!) But the Pants Stay On,” or the effervescent Euro-dance cover of Tatjana’s “Santa Maria,” the releases included on disc one alone are testament to a catalog rife with strongly shaped arrangements, affluent melodies, and memorable lyrics.
Fox’s vocal execution consistently displays an engaging parity of assertiveness and vulnerability, emanating a driving sass on the 1986 rocker “Do Ya Do Ya (Wanna Please Me)” and a soft melancholy on the bouncy, reggae-tinged pop ditty, “Another Woman (Too Many People).”
Disc two of The Fox Box, entitled “Rarities & Remixes,” further demonstrates her keen sense of interpretation in a number of contexts, such as a coquettishly sultry adaptation of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” and an understated delivery on the recently recorded club groove, “It’s You.” Devout fans will also be pleased with the inclusion of hard-to-find gems such as 2008’s “Midnight Lover” (a Greece-only release which cleverly blends techno, Latin, and folk ingredients) and a vibrant trance version of Sarah Brightman’s “A Question of Honour” (which was previously available only on a Japan Christmas compilation).
Meanwhile, the DVDs in the set pack 23 of Fox’s music videos spanning from 1983 to 2010, as well as four alternate takes, two behind-the-scenes features, and three extensive interviews from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Upon viewing the videos as a whole, both Fox’s natural sex appeal and her chameleon-like performance qualities become apparent. Highlights are found in the high energy, kinetically spirited “Hold on Tight”; the cheeky and colorful “I Only Wanna Be with You” (a rendition of Dusty Springfield’s 1964 hit); and 1997’s “The Reason Is You (One on One),” an action-themed clip with a slyly dramatic storyline set against the techno-pop number’s romantic theme.
Through her commercial peak and postmillennial vids, what’s refreshing is the sensual appeal conveyed by Fox without resorting to strip-downs or shocking antics. Furthermore, her physique and makeup is far more palatable than the overly adorned, stick-figure approach so often succumbed to by attractive female artists in video.
The contents of Play It Again, Sam are tied together nicely with a 30-page booklet bearing a pleasing array of photos, a historical essay, and personal commentary by Fox on the tracks and their accompanying videos. Listening back to the songs from her first four albums, it’s clear why Fox’s hit-making streak varied so greatly in different parts of the world. Not one to fancy binding herself to a specific sound, Fox thrived on a healthy mixture of rockers, sweet-toothed pop confections, and edgy hybrids of urban-contemporary arrangements and club beats.
In the chart-segregated realm of the late 1980s, this eclecticism wasn’t welcomed across the board by programmers and DJs. Thus, some of her biggest hits in the U.K. disappeared with nary a trace in the States, while some of her highest charters in the U.S. of A. didn’t fare as well in Europe. But over two decades on, the musical versatility shines through as a point of distinction for Samantha Fox, who was ahead of pop contemporaries such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue in her exploration of multiple genres.