Both Kylie Minogue and Delta Goodrem would prevail in their respective battles with cancer throughout 2003-2007. Kylie would return from treatment to dominate charts here and in the UK in the second decade of her career, and Delta would pick up where she left off with the mega-hit debut album Innocent Eyes to again dominate the local single charts with another four #1 hits as well as two #1 albums in the period 2004-2007.
She would release her second album Mistaken Identity in 2004, much of it was recorded while she was still convalescing, and at the age of nineteen she took her second album to the top of the charts locally, #7 in NZ and #25 in the UK.
But Mistaken Identity was conceived at a difficult time in Delta’s life, she has subsequently revealed that she felt the production was rushed; written and recorded whilst she was undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and steroid treatment, feeling vulnerable and exposed, burnt out and having lost her hair, as well as dealing with the emotional fallout from her parents’ divorce.
Condition of A Heart was the original title of the album, but her team deemed that it was too dramatic and obsessive about the issues with which she was dealing and opted for something less self-absorbed.
Delta determinedly pursued her carefully curated pathway to success following her recovery from illness, and she would become brand ambassador for Pepsi (Australia), followed by the launch of her “Delta by Annabelle” lingerie range in October of the same year, and predictably the Delta fragrance would not be too far behind.
Delta’s career had been finely calibrated to this point and the production of her albums inevitably required the deployment of an army of songwriters and producers across recording studios in New York, London and Sydney. She insisted on writing credits for most of the songs on her albums and whilst her songs were often musically interesting and engaging, the contribution that she made lyrically lacked sophistication and emotional depth, too often bordering on the banal, and sounding like teen-romance derived, adolescent anthems. Below – L-R Phillipoussis and Goodrem, Tabloid Headlines.
The first single released, the ballad Out of the Blue, was co-written by Goodrem and Guy Chambers, it was inspired by Delta’s then-partner, tennis player Mark Phillipoussis, whose support throughout her period of convalescence was much appreciated. There had been speculation that the pair were about to announce their engagement but to her dismay she became aware that The Scud was being unfaithful to her with Paris Hilton, and they split. But by late 2004 Delta had moved on to former Westlife singer Brian McFadden, a loud, roguish, hard-drinking, party animal, who was already married to Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona and had two daughters. Delta and McFadden would remain close for the next seven years, but have to endure the ire of the British tabloids along the way. Below L-R Delta and Brian, Brian and Kerry’s Wedding, Brian and Kerry.
Out of the Blue was an attempt to create a grand ballad and musically the blend of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, piano, tambourines and percussion resonated with fans, and although the song did veer closely towards the Celine Dion-style of bombastic pop, it charted well, debuting at #1 locally for her sixth chart topper here, #9 in the UK, and top ten in Greece, Ireland and NZ, with global sales in excess of 400,000.
Mistaken Identity involved no less than ten producers, five had worked with her before – Gary Barlow, John Fields, Matthew Gerrard, Eliot Kennedy, and Vince Pizzinga, the songwriters included a trio of Guy Chambers, Richard flack and Steve Power who also produced over half of the songs on the album. This tunesmiths-for-hire approach to recording was exhausting, it was also very expensive, and essentially it diluted the spirit of collaborative experimentation, shared creative input, and sheer sense of fun, of actually creating music organically. Delta seemed overwhelmed by the sheer force of the music-making behemoth around her, and as a consequence her songs began to sound like polished air, awash with synthesizer, reverb and autotune, so depriving her of the point of difference and authenticity that had made her early songs so relatable. Below – Gary Barlow and Delta, Richard Flack and Guy Chambers, and Steve Power
Team Delta’s modus operandi of assembling an army of producers and songwriters to create albums had become increasingly the formula for success since the 90’s when the algorithm-obsessed Swedes at Stockholm’s Cheiron Studios became a world force in popular music. The Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls, Hanson, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Westlife and NSYNC, were all recording songs fresh off a hit assembly line invented by Swedes Deniz Pop, Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Musical software, sampling, and digital compression techniques, replaced actual instruments in the studio, and songs were composed on the basis of proven algorithms about hooks, bass lines, melodies, choruses, and beats. The Swedes quickly realized that they didn’t need an actual “wall of sound” with one hundred musicians, to create classic teen pop symphonies, if you already had the appropriate pro logic tools. The studio was their instrument, and they quickly scooped up an ever-increasing share of songwriting royalties as a result, as did those who comprised Delta’s team of songwriters and producers. As a result performers like Kylie Minogue and particularly Delta Goodrem increasingly became co-writers on their own album tracks, their contributions may have been sincere, heartfelt, and honest, but they were often naive, clumsy, and self-absorbed, and in the case of Delta who was claiming co-writer credits at the age of seventeen and eighteen on almost every album track she released, and who had quit school after Year 11, had limited life experience to bring to the table, and her lyrics were too often adolescent, and devoid of engaging imagery and poetic metaphors. Below L-R Max Martin and the late Denis Pop, Cheiron Studios (Stockholm), and Dr. Luke.
That said, musically this album was a little more adventurous and assured, and some risk-taking was evident with more dramatic vocal peaks and valleys, but lyrically Delta continued to follow a somewhat self-absorbed arc of story-telling reflective of her personal life, which had required her to deal with serious illness at a young age, and to interpret her innermost feelings about her personal relationships, as well as her parent’s estrangement and subsequent divorce. Delta was now clearly aware of her own mortality and the uncertainties that life presented, whether this was coincidental or not, she now tended to move along the song spectrum away from Sarah McLachlan toward Tori Amos, and this would present some problems for her label Sony, who wanted to see a confident, shiny, highly -focused sound and presentation from her, not angsty self-doubts and misgivings about life’s tribulations.