|Also known as||Automatic Kitten|
|Past members||Kerry Katona|
Atomic Kitten are a British pop girl group formed in Liverpool in 1998 whose current members are Natasha Hamilton and Liz McClarnon. The group was founded by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) members Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw, who served as principal songwriters during Atomic Kitten's early years. The group's debut album Right Now was released in October 2000 and charted at number 39 in the United Kingdom. After five top ten singles, original member Kerry Katona quit – four weeks before "Whole Again" reached number one in the UK Singles Chart – and was replaced by former Precious singer Jenny Frost. "Whole Again" became the group's most successful single, staying at number one for four weeks in the UK and six weeks in Germany, and reaching number one in many other territories; in Britain, it was the 13th best-selling single of the 2000s. The group re-released their debut album, with some tracks re-recorded with Frost's vocals: it peaked at number one in the UK and was certified double platinum after selling over 600,000 copies.
Between 2002 and 2004, the group released a further two studio albums, Feels So Good (which also went double platinum in the UK) and Ladies Night, and a greatest hits album before announcing a break following their 2004 tour. To date the group have had three UK number-one singles: "Whole Again", the fourth-best-selling song of all time by a girl group in the UK; "Eternal Flame", a song originally recorded by The Bangles; and "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", a song originally recorded by The Paragons. They have sold over 10 million records worldwide.
After making sporadic appearances in 2006 and 2008, it was announced that McClarnon, Hamilton, and Katona would reunite for the ITV2 series The Big Reunion, alongside five other pop groups of their time: B*Witched, Five, Liberty X, Honeyz and 911. Frost was unable to take part in the comeback because of her pregnancy, but Hamilton has since said that Frost would be welcomed back if she wanted to rejoin the group in the future. Katona left the group for a second time in December 2017 leaving the group as a duo.
1998–2001: Formation, Right Now and Katona's first departure
Atomic Kitten was first conceived in 1998 by British musician Andy McCluskey, best known as the frontman of new wave group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk suggested he create a new band as a vehicle for his songs following the 1996 dissolution of OMD, who were rendered "totally out of fashion" by the prevalence of Britpop. McCluskey founded Atomic Kitten alongside fellow OMD member Stuart Kershaw, and the pair would serve as principal songwriters on the group's studio recordings in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The lineup initially featured Liz McClarnon, Kerry Katona, and Heidi Range, but did not have a name. In her autobiography Too Much, Too Young: My Story of Love, Survival and Celebrity, Katona mentions that they pondered names such as Exit and Honeyheads, before settling on Automatic Kitten, which was the title of a fashion label owned by a clothing designer called Mary Lamb. When Katona went home to tell her mother all about the band, her mother's friend "Bob the Leg" was there. He was unable to pronounce "Automatic Kitten" and kept saying "Atomic Kitten". Katona liked the name and told her bandmates about it—they all felt the same way and the name stuck. Range later quit because of artistic differences and was replaced by Natasha Hamilton. Range went on to have success with another girl band, the Sugababes.
The group's debut single, "Right Now", was released in late-November 1999 and reached number ten on the UK Singles Chart. Their second single, "See Ya" followed in March 2000 and was an even bigger success, reaching number six. Following this initial success, Atomic Kitten performed an Asian tour and scored their first number-one hit there with "Cradle". In 2000 they also recorded a cover of "The Locomotion" for the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The album, also titled Right Now, was first released in Japan on 16 March 2000 and subsequently released in the United Kingdom on 23 October 2000 following the release of two further singles, "I Want Your Love" and "Follow Me", with a slightly modified track list. The album's Japanese edition included a rare remix of "Cradle", an early version of "I Want Your Love" titled "All The Right Things", the original version of "Whole Again", which has only Kerry Katona speaking all the verses in the song, while Natasha Hamilton and Liz McClarnon sing the chorus, and a remix of "Right Now". In Europe, the album was unsuccessful upon its first release, peaking at number 39 on the UK Albums Chart. There were no initial plans to focus on the global market and Atomic Kitten's label, Innocent Records, was even considering dropping them because of their limited success. However, the record company was persuaded to let the group release one more single from the album. That single, "Whole Again", became their first number-one hit in the United Kingdom and stayed at the top for four consecutive weeks. Due to this success, "Whole Again" was released globally, and reached number one in 18 other countries, including 6 weeks in Germany and New Zealand. The song and video for "Whole Again" originally featured Kerry Katona (her vocals were also in "Hippy" and "Get Real"), but several days before the single's release, she left because of her pregnancy. Former Precious singer Jenny Frost replaced her in the line-up and the single's music video was re-shot; a US video for "Whole Again" was also released. The Katona-Frost switch led to the decision to partially re-record and re-release the Right Now album which then went to number one in the UK in August 2001, and was certified double Platinum. The album also reached the Top 10 in several European countries, including Germany and Denmark. Atomic Kitten's first album was repackaged with 3 brand-new tracks: "Eternal Flame", "Tomorrow & Tonight", and "You Are", and includes vocals from Jenny Frost in "Right Now", "Whole Again", and a remixed version of "Bye Now".
Their next single, "Eternal Flame", a cover of The Bangles' 1989 hit, became their second number-one single in the UK and New Zealand and is featured in the film The Parole Officer and the So Far So Good DVD. It became their biggest single in France—peaking at number two—and eventually went Gold. In late 2001, the band announced they would be releasing a final single from the repackaged album, "You Are". A video was recorded and promo singles were sent out to radio, but the single was ultimately shelved, never getting a full commercial release. That same year, "Right Now" was featured in Konami's hit arcade videogame, Dance Dance Revolution 5th MIX.
2002–2003: New lineup, Feels So Good and international breakthrough
Following the success of Right Now, a new album, Feels So Good, was recorded. The songwriting and production agreement with Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw was an increasing source of tension within the group, and the pair departed during the recording of the album. McCluskey spoke of dissension between himself and the record company, whose "formula" demanded "'Whole Again', 'Whole Again' and more fucking 'Whole Again'"; he was essentially dismissed and legally prohibited from contacting the band, before exiting the "very dirty" business of "manufactured pop". Released tracks from Feels So Good were "It's OK", "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", "The Last Goodbye","Love Doesn't Have to Hurt", and "Be With You". The unreleased single was "Feels So Good" sung by Kylie Minogue and Atomic Kitten. "The Last Goodbye" was the 3rd single from their second studio album, Feels So Good and "Be With You" was from their third album, Ladies Night.
The first single, "It's OK", peaked at number three in the United Kingdom. The next single was "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", a remake of the 1967 song by The Paragons that Blondie covered in 1980, which gave the group their third number-one single in the UK and New Zealand. In April 2002 Hamilton announced that she was pregnant but opted to continue with the promotion before going on maternity leave, which included the scheduled 2002 tour, the "Tide is High (Get the Feeling)" video, and a "Feels So Good" medley at Party in the Park. The band sponsored a team in the British Touring Car Championship.
During January and February 2003, Atomic Kitten toured Southeast Asia, visiting Singapore, Thailand, and Korea. Hamilton, who had given birth to her son Josh on 24 August 2002, brought him on the tour.
2003–2004: Ladies Night, Greatest Hits and split
In April 2003, the album Atomic Kitten was released in the United States, which consisted of tracks from their first two albums. The album was unsuccessful, although "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)" appeared on the soundtrack for the Disney Channel Original Movie The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Following this, the group opted to focus solely on the European, Oceanian, South African and Asian markets. Before recording their third album, Kool & the Gang approached the group about a collaboration for their album of duets, The Hits: Reloaded. Kool & the Gang wanted to record an updated version of their hit "Ladies Night" and were looking for a girl group to sing the lyrics. Atomic Kitten liked the idea and inquired whether they could use it for their next album which was subsequently named Ladies Night in honour of this collaboration.
Atomic Kitten spent late 2002 and early 2003 in the studio recording their third and most recent studio album. Up until the recording of Ladies Night, the group mainly relied on songwriters, though they had occasionally co-written songs featured on their albums. While recording Ladies Night, they decided to be directly involved in the creation of eight of the fifteen songs. Ladies Night was released on 10 November 2003 and peaked at number five in the UK album chart. It was certified Platinum for sales in excess of 300,000 copies. The album released the group including "Be With You", "Ladies Night" and "If You Come To Me" (which peaked at number three on the UK top 40). A deluxe edition of their third album was released with extra tracks including remixes of Be With You, Ladies Night and Someone Like Me. In early 2004, a tour to support the Ladies Night album and the upcoming release of their Greatest Hits album was planned. Shortly before the tour kicked off, the group announced they would be taking an extended break after the completion of the tour. After the group's 2012 reunion, it was revealed during The Big Reunion that Hamilton had decided to quit the group under the pressure of being a new mum and touring, which later led to the band splitting because they didn't want to replace Hamilton.
In March 2004, Atomic Kitten released the double A-side single Someone like Me/"Right Now 2004", and embarked on their Greatest Hits Tour as a "goodbye" to their fans. The tour's final concert was released on DVD under the title The Greatest Hits Live at Wembley Arena on 19 April 2004.
2005–2008: Occasional one-off appearances
Atomic Kitten reunited around Valentine's Day of 2005 and released the charity single "Cradle", a new version of the original song from their album Right Now which was a number-one hit in Asia back in 2000. "Cradle 2005" peaked at number ten, selling 35,000 copies worldwide, with proceeds going to World Vision. In 2005, Atomic Kitten were featured on the soundtrack of Disney's Mulan II with the song "(I Wanna Be) Like Other Girls". They also performed together in Kraków on 28 August at the Coca-Cola SoundWave Festival.
In 2006, they released a cover version of The Farm song "All Together Now". It became a charity single for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was released only in German-speaking countries. It peaked inside the German Top 20. The group reunited in December 2006 for The Nokia New Year's Eve Music Festival, performing in Hong Kong on 31 December 2006.
They once again reunited to perform at The Number One Project at the Liverpool Echo Arena on 19 January 2008, which celebrated Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture and the fact that Liverpudlian artists have had a collective 56 UK number-one singles. Also to mark the event, in the same month the group released a cover of "Anyone Who Had a Heart", which peaked at number 78 on the UK Singles Chart.
2012–2013: Return and The Big Reunion
In March 2012, Hamilton confirmed that the group were reuniting for a summer tour. She also stated that the group were in talks to star in their own reality television show regarding the comeback, following on the success of the 2011 Steps reunion and reality show. Hamilton stated that she hoped Katona, who quit the band in 2001, would join her, McClarnon and Frost on stage for a performance. The reunion was later dismissed by all members due to the tension between Katona and Frost. However, on 18 October 2012, it was announced that the 1999 line-up of Atomic Kitten (McClarnon, Katona and Hamilton) would reunite for an ITV2 series, The Big Reunion, along with five other pop groups of their time: 911, Honeyz, B*Witched, Five and Liberty X. Frost had been involved in the early meetings to reform the group, but decided to focus on her pregnancy and was not involved in the reunion.
The groups in The Big Reunion, including Atomic Kitten, were originally supposed to perform a one-off comeback concert at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. Atomic Kitten's setlist for the Hammersmith Apollo concert consisted of "Right Now", "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", and "Whole Again". It was confirmed on 11 February that due to high ticket demands and the popularity of the series, a UK arena tour would take place from 3 to 14 May 2013. Two more dates were later added for 16 and 17 May, taking the tour total to 14 shows.
Due to the massive success of The Big Reunion, it was announced that the reunited groups would also be going on a "Christmas party tour" in December 2013. In December 2013, Atomic Kitten recorded their first new material in ten years when, along with the other groups from the show, they recorded a Christmas charity single for Text Santa, a cover of Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". The song peaked at number 13 in the UK.
2013–present: Touring and Katona’s second departure
On 17 February 2013, Atomic Kitten made an appearance on The Alan Titchmarsh Show in which Katona announced that the group had signed a deal to release their own perfume fragrance. Hamilton later added that they would be releasing new material, saying: "We've already been in the studio, we want to write some more music, so it's all very exciting." On 14 March, Hamilton confirmed yet again that the group would release new material, saying "There is definitely going to be a single and there will be an album, hopefully". Also speaking about their fragrance deal, she added: 'We have got a perfume deal - we are going to be releasing our own Atomic Kitten fragrance. "Right Now", "The Tide Is High" and "Whole Again" are taken from The Big Reunion Album. It's going to be three different smells to represent the three of us. Fans will get the three in one packet. We went to the company's offices and created our fragrances.' At the Health Lottery champagne tea at Claridge's in London, Hamilton spoke of a potential comeback single: "We actually recorded our new single last night. We've literally just done it. I got out of the studio at 11pm and I couldn't stop singing the song. I couldn't get to sleep - I was in bed, singing! It's modern so we've progressed. That's all I can say right now. If there's a single, there's definitely going to be an album."
Following the announcement of Katona's pregnancy, the group confirmed that they were unsure of the group's future, or if any new material would be released. McClarnon announced on 6 April that Atomic Kitten would be touring with East 17 and All Saints and others in November 2014. The next week it was announced that unforeseen circumstances had cancelled the tour.
In November 2014, Katona said the group would release a new album in 2015, which would go back to their original "cheesy pop sound" and tour it "around the world". The group's planned '15: The Greatest Hits' tour was cancelled in mid-May 2015 with no announcement as to why. In November 2015, the group released a compilation album entitled Whole Again - The Best of Atomic Kitten.
In August 2016, Liberty X's Michelle Heaton confirmed on Loose Women that she was joining Atomic Kitten as a temporary member, stepping in for McClarnon in international gigs as McClarnon has a debilitating fear of flying. It was also confirmed that McClarnon is still a member of the band.
On 12 November 2016, Katona, Hamilton and McClarnon performed at the Pigs Nose Inn, a small live music venue in South Devon known for attracting high-profile acts. Atomic Kitten chose to perform a prelude to their tour in 2017. Atomic Kitten toured Australia and New Zealand alongside B*Witched, S Club 3, East 17 and Liberty X in February 2017 with Heaton filling in for McClarnon.
In November 2017, Katona stated on her social media accounts that she was no longer a part of the group. Despite rumours of a feud between Katona and Hamilton, no official confirmation as to why Katona left the group was ever announced. Hamilton and McClarnon have continued to perform as a duo since mid-2018.
In June 2020, Hamilton, McClarnon, Frost reformed for an online interview as part of "Life Stories - The Interview Series" hosting by therapist Lisa Johnson and Hamilton, herself. The band discussed their time together and the impact being in a girlband had on their individual mental health.
Awards and nominations
|2000||Smash Hits Poll Winners Party||Themselves||Best British Band||Nominated|
|Best New Band||Won|
|2001||The Record of the Year||"Whole Again"||Record of the Year||Nominated|
|Smash Hits Poll Winners Party||Best Single||Won|
|Top of the Pops Awards||Best Single||Nominated|
|Themselves||Best Pop Act||Nominated|
|TMF Awards||Best Pop International||Won|
|VIVA Comet Awards||Best International Newcomer||Nominated|
|MTV EMA||Best Pop||Nominated|
|2002||Best UK & Ireland Act||Nominated|
|TMF Awards||Best Pop International||Won|
|Top of the Pops Awards||Best Pop Act||Nominated|
|Smash Hits Poll Winners Party||Best Band on Planet Pop||Nominated|
|Best UK Band||Nominated|
|Ivor Novello Awards||"Whole Again"||Most Performed Work||Nominated|
|International Hit of the Year||Nominated|
|ECHO Awards||Best International Song||Nominated|
|APRA Music Awards||Most Performed Foreign Work||Nominated|
|Brit Awards||Best British Single||Nominated|
|The Record of the Year||"The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)"||Record of the Year||Nominated|
|2003||Brit Awards||Best British Single||Nominated|
|Radio Disney Music Awards||Best Song||Nominated|
|Best Song to Watch Your Dad Sing||Nominated|
|NME Awards||Worst Band||Nominated|
|Silver Clef Award||Artist of the Year||Won|
|NRJ Music Awards||International Duo/Group of the Year||Nominated|
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