Bananarama's 10 greatest songs, ranked

30 August 2023, 17:38

Bananarama in 1984
Bananarama in 1984. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

In the vibrant tapestry of 80s pop music, few acts can claim to have left as unforgettable a mark as Bananarama.

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With their infectious melodies, effervescent personalities, and signature harmonies, this iconic girl group skyrocketed to fame, becoming synonymous with the era's carefree spirit and catchy tunes.

From dance floors to radio airwaves, their songs became the soundtrack to a generation, and their influence continues to reverberate through modern pop.

So, slip on your neon leg warmers and join us as we explore the best songs of Bananarama, celebrating the timeless magic that continues to make us dance, sing, and smile.

  1. It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)

    Fun Boy Three - It Ain't What You Do It's The Way That You Do It (Official Music Video)

    Bananarama's song 'It Ain't What You Do' is a pop/new wave cover of a jazz tune from 1939, originally titled ''Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)'. The song was written by Melvin 'Sy' Oliver and James 'Trummy' Young, and recorded by Jimmie Lunceford, Harry James, and Ella Fitzgerald.

    Bananarama collaborated with Fun Boy Three, a ska-influenced band, to record their version of the song in 1982. The title was slightly altered and included on Fun Boy Three's self-titled debut album.

    The collaboration was initiated by Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three, who liked Bananarama's look and their previous single 'Aie a Mwana'.

    The song was a big hit in the UK, reaching number four on the UK Singles Chart. The song has been used in various media, such as commercials for Hewlett-Packard, B&Q, and Chrysler PT Cruiser, as well as the film Youth in Revolt and the TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

    The song is considered a classic example of pop/ska fusion and showcases Bananarama's distinctive vocal style.

  2. Love, Truth and Honesty

    Bananarama - Love, Truth and Honesty (Official Video)

    This pop song was released in 1988 as the lead single from their first greatest hits album.

    The song was written by the three members of the group, Sara Dallin, Keren Woodward, and Jacquie O'Sullivan, along with the famous production team Stock Aitken Waterman. It was the last song Bananarama wrote with them as a trio, as O'Sullivan left the group in 1991.

    The song's lyrics are about a woman who realizes that her lover has been cheating on her and questions the meaning of love, truth, and honesty.

  3. Really Saying Something

    Bananarama & Fun Boy Three - Really Sayin´ Something (Official Video)

    ‘Really Saying Something’ is a new wave cover of a soul song from 1964, originally titled ‘He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin''. The song was written by Norman Whitfield, William 'Mickey' Stevenson, and Edward Holland, Jr, and recorded by the Velvelettes, a Motown girl group. The song was also sampled by Salt-N-Pepa in their 1988 hit 'Push It’.

    Bananarama collaborated again with Fun Boy Three to record their version of the song in 1982. The title was slightly changed and the song was included on Bananarama’s debut album Deep Sea Skiving.

    The song was a big hit in the UK, reaching number four, and also reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the US.

  4. I Want You Back

    Bananarama - I Want You Back (Official Video)

    This catchy dance-pop tune that was released in 1988 as the fourth and final single from their album Wow!.

    The song was co-written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman, who also worked with artists like Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley.

    The song was originally titled 'Reason for Leaving' and had a different chorus that the group members did not like, so they changed it to 'I Want You Back'. The song was recorded twice, once with Siobhan Fahey, who left the group in 1988, and once with Jacquie O'Sullivan, who replaced her.

    The music video for the song features the group performing in various scenarios, including a parody of The Supremes. The song was a hit in the UK, where it peaked at number five on the singles chart.

  5. Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)

    Bananarama - Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) (Official Video)

    'Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye' is a cover version of a 1969 hit by a fictitious band called Steam. The original song was written and recorded by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer, who were members of a doo-wop group from Connecticut. They needed a B-side for one of DeCarlo's singles, so they resurrected an old song from their days as the Glenwoods and added the catchy "na na" chorus.

    Bananarama recorded their version of the song in 1982 for their debut album Deep Sea Skiving. They gave the song a new wave twist and made it more upbeat and energetic. They also changed some of the lyrics, such as replacing "he might be gone for good" with "he's never coming back".

    Bananarama's version peaked at number 5 on the UK Singles Chart.

  6. I Heard a Rumour

    Bananarama - I Heard A Rumour (Official Video)

    'I Heard a Rumour' is a synth-pop song that was released in 1987 as the lead single from their fourth album, Wow! The song was also featured in the comedy film Disorderlies, starring the rap group The Fat Boys.

    The song is about hearing rumours of a lover's infidelity and confronting them with the truth. The song was co-written and produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

    The song has some similarities to Michael Fortunati's 'Give Me Up' and Samantha Fox's 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now', both of which were also produced by SAW.

    The song was a big success in many countries, especially in North America, where it reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the Canadian Singles Chart.

    The music video for the song shows Bananarama dressing up as different movie stars and performing in front of screens that project scenes from various films.

  7. Love in the First Degree

    Bananarama - Love In The First Degree (Official Video)

    Bananarama's song 'Love in the First Degree' is a catchy dance-pop song that expresses the intense and passionate love that the singers feel for their partners.

    The song was released in 1987 as the second single from their fourth album, Wow!, and was co-written and produced by the famous trio Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

    The song was inspired by the Motown sound of the early '60s and the Elvis Presley movie Jailhouse Rock. The lyrics describe a dream in which the singers are on trial for love, and they declare that they are guilty as charged.

    The song was a huge success in Europe and Australia, reaching the top 10 in many countries, but it only peaked at #48 in the US. It was also nominated for Best British Single at the 1988 Brit Awards, where Bananarama performed it with male dancers dressed in black bikini briefs.

    This was one of the last performances with Siobhan Fahey, who left the group shortly after due to creative differences with the producers.

  8. Robert De Niro's Waiting

    Bananarama - Robert De Niro's Waiting (Official Video)

    The song 'Robert De Niro's Waiting' was released in 1984 as the second single from their self-titled album. The song was written by the group members Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward, and the producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain.

    The song namechecks the American actor Robert De Niro, who was one of the group's idols at the time.

    The song is about a girl who is afraid of intimacy and uses her fantasy of Robert De Niro as a way of coping with her fear. She prefers to wait for him rather than face the reality of her situation.

    The song has a dark undertone, as it implies that the girl has been a victim of date rape or sexual assault. This was confirmed by Fahey in a 2017 interview with The Guardian, where she said: "The lyrics were much darker than you'd imagine. 'Robert De Niro's Waiting' is about date rape."

    The song was a commercial success, reaching number three on the UK Singles Chart and becoming one of the group's biggest hits. The song was accompanied by a music video directed by Duncan Gibbins, which shows Bananarama walking around dark streets and being followed by men in suits. The video ends with a twist, as the men turn out to be pizza delivery guys.

  9. Venus

    Bananarama - Venus (Official Video)

    Bananarama's song 'Venus' is a dance-pop remake of a 1969 rock song by the Dutch band Shocking Blue.

    Bananarama had been performing the song live since they formed in 1979, but they wanted to record their own songs first before doing a cover.

    They changed their producers to Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who gave them a more glamorous image. The result was a worldwide hit that reached number one in the US and number 8 in the UK, matching the chart positions of the original version.

    Bananarama also made a colourful and campy music video for the song, featuring them dressed as Greek goddesses and dancing around a temple. The song is one of the few songs to have two different versions reach number one in the US.

  10. Cruel Summer

    Bananarama - Cruel Summer (Official Video)

    'Cruel Summer' is a classic pop hit that captures the feeling of loneliness and despair in a hot city. The song was released in 1983 as a stand-alone single, but later included on their self-titled second album in 1984.

    The song was written by the three members of Bananarama - Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward - and their producers, Steve Jolley and Tony Swain.

    The song became popular in the US after it was featured in the movie The Karate Kid in 1984, where it played during a montage of Daniel LaRusso's struggles in his new town.

    The song reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it Bananarama's first top-10 hit in America. The song also reached number eight in the UK.

    The music video was shot in New York City, where Bananarama had never been before. They used a tavern in Brooklyn as their base camp, where they encountered some dockworkers who offered them cocaine for lunch. Siobhan Fahey said that the video shows their mood before and after taking the drug.

    The song was remixed and re-released in 1989 as 'Cruel Summer '89', with a new jack swing style and updated vocals by Dallin and Woodward. This version reached number 19 in the UK.

    The song was covered by several artists, such as Ace of Base, who had a global hit with it in 1998, reaching number 10 in the US and number eight in the UK.

    Sara Dallin said that the song is a classic because it reminds people of their youth and their summer experiences. She said: "The best summer songs remind you of your youth: what you did in your holidays, how it felt when you first kissed a boy, going away without your parents.".