Atomic Kitten are an English pop girl group formed in Liverpool in 1998 whose current members are Liz McClarnon, Natasha Hamilton, and Kerry Katona. The band was founded by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) frontman Andy McCluskey, who served as a principal songwriter during their early years. Sugababes singer Heidi Range was included in the original line-up but was replaced by Hamilton. The group's debut album Right Now was released in October 2000 and peaked at number 39 in the UK. After four top ten singles, Katona quit the group and was replaced by former Precious singer Jenny Frost. "Whole Again" (recorded before Katona left), their next single, became their most successful single when it topped the UK singles chart and became the 13th best-selling single of the 2000s. The group re-released their debut album, with some tracks re-recorded with Frost's vocals. The album hit number one in the UK with the album going double platinum after selling over 600,000 copies in the UK.
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; "Eternal Flame", a song originally recorded by The Bangles; and "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", a song originally recorded by The Paragons and by Blondie. The group split up in 2004 after selling 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, along with 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 confirmed that Frost would be welcomed back if she wanted to rejoin the group in the future.
1998–2001: Formation, Right Now and Katona's departure
Atomic Kitten was first conceived in 1998 by British musician Andy McCluskey, whose globally successful new wave group, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), had disbanded two years before and would remain inactive until 2006. McCluskey explained on BBC Breakfast in 2010: "I left the music industry kicking and screaming in terms of performing, because at the height of indie rock and Britpop, [OMD] were totally out of fashion. I was conceited enough to think I could still write songs, and [founded Atomic Kitten]." He has stated that Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk suggested he create a new band as a vehicle for his songs following the dissolution of OMD. McCluskey, also a Merseyside resident, served as a principal songwriter on Atomic Kitten's studio recordings in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The original lineup featured Liz McClarnon, Kerry Katona, and Heidi Range, but Range quit because of artistic difference and moved on to the Sugababes; meanwhile, she was replaced in Atomic Kitten by Natasha Hamilton.
The group's debut single, "Right Now", was released in late-November 1999 and reached #10 on the UK Singles Chart. Their second single, "See Ya" followed in March 2000 and was an even bigger success, reaching #6. Following this initial success, Atomic Kitten performed an Asian tour and scored their first #1 hit there with "Cradle". 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. In 2000 they also recorded a cover of "The Locomotion" for the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The album was unsuccessful upon its first release, peaking at #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 #1 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 #1 in 18 other countries, including 6 weeks in Germany and New Zealand and 27 weeks at number one in the Republic of Moldova. The song and video for "Whole Again" originally featured Kerry Katona, Katona's vocals were also in "Hippy", "Get Real", "Strangers", and "Turn Me On", 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. Their fourth single was "Follow Me". The Katona-Frost switch led to the decision to partially re-record and re-release the Right Now album which then went to #1 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.
Their next single, "Eternal Flame", a cover of The Bangles' 1989 hit, became their second #1 single in the UK and New Zealand and is featured in the film The Parole Officer and the So Far So Good DVD. Atomic Kitten's first album was repackaged with 3 brand-new tracks: "Eternal Flame", "You Are", and "Tomorrow & Tonight" and includes vocals from Jenny Frost in "Whole Again". It became their biggest single in France—peaking at #2--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. A Japanese edition of "Right Now" including a rare remix of "Cradle" and "Bye Now", a Japanese 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 all the Kittens sing the chorus, and a remix of "Right Now".
2002–03: Third line-up, 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 was an increasing source of tension within the group, and McCluskey departed halfway through the recording of the album. Released tracks from the studio album 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 #3 in the United Kingdom. The next single was "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", a remake of the 1965 song by The Paragons that Blondie covered in 1980, which gave the group their third #1 single in the UK and New Zealand. In April 2002 Hamilton announced that she was pregnant but opted to continue with the scheduled 2002 tour, appear in the "Tide is High (Get the Feeling)" video, and appear at Party in the Park before going on maternity leave. the single "(I Wanna Be Like) Other Girls" was from the Disney movie Mulan II. There was also a Feels So Good Medley live at Party in the Park including "Be With You", "The Tide Is High (Get The Feeling)", It's OK", "Feels So Good", "The Moment You Leave Me", "Walking on the Water", and "The Last Goodbye".
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.
In 2002 the band sponsored a team in the British Touring Car Championship.
2003–04: Ladies Night, Hamilton's departure 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, Odyssey. 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. Released tracks were "Be with You", "If You Come to Me", "Ladies Night" and the final single released was "Someone like Me". Unreleased tracks such as "I Won't Be There", "Always Be My Baby" etc.
Their first single of the album, excluding "Be with You", was "If You Come to Me". It peaked at number three on the UK top 40. Atomic Kitten spent late 2002 and early 2003 in the studio recording their third and final 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". A deluxe edition of her 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 that 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.
2004–12: Occasional one-off appearances and solo projects
In January 2004, Hamilton announced she wanted to take a hiatus from the group and devote more time to her young son. Atomic Kitten released the double A-side single Someone like Me/"Right Now 2004" as a "goodbye" to their fans, but were reunited on Valentine's Day 2005 to release the charity single "Cradle 2005", 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". In 2005, 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, the same month the group released a cover of "Anyone Who Had a Heart", which peaked at number 78 on the UK Singles Chart.
Although a reunion was due to surface after reuniting in 2008, it never materialised and the girls continued with solo projects: Hamilton gave birth to her third son Alfie in June 2010, Frost presented the first four series of Snog Marry Avoid?, and McClarnon presented Hotter Than My Daughter and also appeared at the Liverpool Empire in December 2012 alongside Coleen Nolan in Cinderella.
2012–13: The Big Reunion of original line-up and touring
In March 2012, Hamilton confirmed that the group were reuniting for a summer tour, and that they would love to perform at the Diamond Jubilee Concert. 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 fight between Katona and Frost. However, on 18 October 2012, it was announced that the original line-up of Atomic Kitten (McClarnon, Katona and Hamilton) would reunite for an ITV2 series along with five other pop groups of their time – 911, Honeyz, B*Witched, Five and Liberty X. Frost was not involved because she was expecting twins, whom she gave birth to in January 2013.
On 20 November, the girls were spotted leaving a recording studio together. The Daily Mail reported that they were seen filming their reformation for The Big Reunion. In an interview with the Radio Times on 29 January, the group confirmed that they would continue their reunion beyond the one-off performance with Katona saying "It's been so much fun so far, why wouldn't we continue it?". We came into this knowing we'd have a bit of a laugh, but not that it would be this much fun, so why would we stop when it's been so good? Watch this space...". They also confirmed that Frost had been involved in early meetings to reform the group but decided to focus on her pregnancy. The group later confirmed that the setlist would consist of "Right Now", "See Ya", "I Want Your Love", "Whole Again", "It's OK", "Be with You" and "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)". On 1 February 2013, the group were interviewed on This Morning discussing the reformation. The bands were originally only supposed to perform a one-off concert at London's Hammersmith Apollo on 26 February 2013, but when the entire show sold out in under five minutes shortly after the premiere of the first episode on 31 January 2013, rumours circulated that the show may become a full arena tour around the UK. On 11 February, it was confirmed that, due to high ticket demands and the popularity of The Big Reunion, a UK arena tour would be taking place from 3–14 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 bands 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 Greatest Hits
On 17 February 2013, Atomic Kitten made an appearance on The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Katona announced that the group have 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.' On 27 March, Hamilton tweeted "I'm off the studio to vocal @AtomicKOfficial potential come-back single!! Could today get anymore freakin' exciting!" At the champagne tea at Claridge's in London, she said: "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.
The group revealed on ITV's Lorraine that they plan to put on their own headlining tour in 2015 as a thank you to the fans. In November 2014, Katona revealed 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.
- Note: those in bold are current members.