A Love Letter To The Young Divas, The Daggiest Girl Group Of All Time
While their impact wasn’t necessarily powerful or noteworthy, you can’t deny that they certainly existed.
The early ’00s were a simpler time. Social media wasn’t really a thing, Toys ‘R’ Us was still alive and thriving, and Donald Trump was nothing more than a racist asshole with a lot of money, as opposed to being a racist asshole with a lot of money who is now the President.
But, in Australia, the early 00’s were about nothing more than Australian Idol, and it gave us plenty of household names that dominated Video Hits and the ARIA stage. So you can imagine Australia’s excitement in 2006, when we learned that four of the show’s most talented alum were joining forces to form a girl group.
The Young Divas had an original line-up of season one’s Paulini Curuenavuli, season two’s Ricki-Lee Coulter, and season three’s respective winner and runner-up, Kate DeAraugo and Emily Williams. All four women had absolute powerhouse vocals and star potential. In particular, both Paulini and Ricki-Lee had decent odds to win the title of Australian Idol in their respective seasons.
But the entire premise of the group was completely ridiculous, which is part of what made it just so wonderful. First of all, this was well ahead of shows like X-Factor where individual contestants would be placed into a group (à la One Direction or Fifth Harmony). Seeing these household names come together in this way was practically unheard of in Australia, and it was actually a complete accident.
The group weren’t even meant to be an actual group — they released their now iconic cover of ‘This Time I Know It’s For Real’ as a way for the record label to promote all four of their solo careers, and launch a national co-tour. But then things sort of stuck. For whatever reason, Australia absolutely frothed this slightly modernised version of an old classic so Sony BMG rode that cart into the wheels well and truly fell off.
What A Feeling
Unlike other manufactured girl groups of today like Fifth Harmony or Little Mix, Young Divas didn’t have the super sexy, upper echelon celebrity thing going for them. In fact, so much of their appeal lay in the fact that they were just regular women. They weren’t overly polished, they didn’t necessarily have a typically ‘sexy’ look about them, and they could barely do any sort of dance beyond a two-step and a hip bop. They were kind of like your slightly drunk aunt giving karaoke a red hot crack with her three mates, except they could all sing really, really well.
This was during a time where ex-TV stars were dominating the charts — Delta Goodrem, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Bec Cartwright and even Stephanie McIntosh all came from soaps before they took on the ARIAs. You put those four women in a police lineup and the untrained eye would probably struggle to tell them apart. Young Divas gave us a point of difference from the charts but it was still something we were familiar with, even if they were a bit daggy.
Thank you, Young Divas, for teaching all of us that it’s possible to be completely daggy in front of millions of people and get paid a decent amount of money for it — the ultimate Australian dream.
From early on it was clear that Ricki-Lee was the star, and before long she chucked a Geri, leaving the group in 2007. Luckily for Sony, there was no shortage of pop ready Idol alum to find her replacement, and Jessica Mauboy was that lucky new member.
With the new member came a New Attitude — which was also the title of their second album (all covers as well) and a more edgy persona. Their standard of edgy was about as hardcore as Rihanna in 2005, but the change was nice regardless. They even remixed their cover of ‘Turn Me Loose’ with the help of NZ rapper Savage, who somehow always found his way into these sorts of tracks in the early ’00s. The video for the song even featured some slightly more complex choreography — now think your drunk aunty and her mates at a wedding.
To the surprise of literally no-one, Mauboy was the easy standout as the other three felt relegated to back up singers. There can only be one Beyoncé, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be plenty of Michelle’s. The group disbanded in 2008, and haven’t played an RSL since.
While their impact wasn’t incredibly powerful or noteworthy, you can’t deny that they certainly existed. They were four women chasing the same thing and truly didn’t care what they looked like chasing it.
They might not be recognisable as a girl group by today’s standards, but they could bloody sing. So thank you, Young Divas, for teaching all of us that it’s possible to be completely daggy in front of millions of people and get paid a decent amount of money for it — the ultimate Australian dream.
Jackson Langford is a freelance music and culture writer from Newcastle. He tweets at @jacksonlangford.