When we were all sheltering in place, my imagination shrank as soundly as my lockdown zone. I white-boarded boring activities. Made journal entries for the first time in decades, with hand-scrawled emoji faces at the top of each page: Sad. Flat. Just existing.


Holiday Sidewinder had no place, so she got exotically creative. Having just started writing her third album, The Last Resort, in London, she found herself locked out of both Europe’s Schengen Area and the United States, since both her visas has expired. But in every cumulonimbus there’s a silver lining. Holiday wound up marooned in Cyprus, specifically Paphos. The little city is named after the son of Pygmalion and an ivory statue, which had been brought to life by Aphrodite, the goddess of love. 


And so, these entities came to populate The Last Resort, an apocalyptic slice of escapism shaped by Holiday’s recent heartaches and the surrealism of the whole situation. On the shimmering surface it’s pop perfection. Circling beneath is an existential crisis.

Given her stateless state, Holiday
could only leave her hotel with police permission, so she befriended other guests, like the widowed octogenarian who liked to suntan in the grounds. The owner would bring them fresh figs.

As purgatories go, it was something Holiday could work with. She decided to imagine herself to be in a dystopian resort – let’s call it ‘Delusions’ – and treat lockdown like a wobbly vacation, like a Duran Duran video where the tape is warping. She made juices, listened to pop-reggae (the only thing that didn’t give her anxiety) and dreamt about the stunning blue lagoons and vistas just out of reach.


This fantasty-land may look like paradise, but everything is crumbling. Yacht girls teeter on Valium, men are mirages, and conspiracy cults proliferate in the hills. Each drama duly becomes a song.


‘Ripe’ screen-shots the negging of loser exes who send messages from their futon beds (“He said I'm like a chain store fruit / Picked and frozen / No sweetness in the juice”). Don’t they know that Holiday has always been the “whatever” girl, dancing to the beat of her own drum machine?

‘Escape & Retreat’ was written as Trump was being inaugurated, but it just as surely reflects Holiday’s blind faith in her own relationship (“With my head in the clouds, my heart in my mouth / I keep blinking and drinking the Kool-Aid”). ‘Venus Beach’ is named for the grand hotel near the Tombs of the King. ‘Adonis’ has harmonies so woozy they must be heavily sedated.

Holiday worked remotely with her frequent sidekick, Ben Mark, a British guitarist and producer who has written for Take That. A pop legacy is imprinted on this record, with Prince, David Lee Roth and Sade all making phantom cameos – and there’s a real-life duet with 80s icon Kim Wilde on ‘Cliffhanger’. Innocent teases are peppered throughout – is that a snippet of ‘I Feel the Earth Move’? A flash of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’? A rumble of Beach Boys percussion? A sneaky Beatles chord progression? 


It is if you want it to be. 


Once released from her hotel confinement, Holiday performed a concert on Aphrodite Rock, and then headed to Thailand, where she wrote ‘So Paradise’ after spotting a grammatically gorgeous sign in Koh Samui. Cleansing closing banger ‘Crystal Bay’, named after the beach resort, ought to launch a thousand choreographed TikTok dances.


In the run up to The Last Resort’s release, Holiday is globe-trotting once more with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but the fantasy is to one day tour her album in resort towns. St Lucia is calling! I’ll be there, going incognito, clutching my mojito. Maybe with Carlito.


Jenny Valentish was a hard-nosed gig-a-night girl as a young music journalist/publicist in the 1990s, but has since softened into a lazy lover of unabashed retro pop. She is the former editor of Triple J magazine, a regular writer for The Guardian, and the author of four books, including music industry romp Cherry Bomb and mea-culpa memoir Woman of Substances. 



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