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I5: The International Five That Time Forgot

Born in 1986, this '80s baby and '90s kid remembers the colorful and naughty side of millennial youth.

i5-the-international-five-that-time-forgot

Who Was the Y2K Pop Group i5?

They made a splash opening for Britney Spears. They had songs written by the same people writing Billboard Top 100 hits for Brandy, Christina Aguilera and 98°. They were on stage for Nickelodeon's tour for All That, a kids and tweens version of NBC's Saturday Night Live which still retains a loyal following. They performed on The Jenny Jones Show at the peak of the show's popularity. And yet by the time anyone began to put "Distracted" on their wish list for new songs for Hit Clips key-chains and mini players, they vanished from the public eye.

As millennials start getting nostalgic for music from their tween and teen years, girl groups such as i5 are getting a second chance via YouTube and Spotify.

How Did This Girl Group Start?

How they originated seems to be somewhat disputed. While Wikipedia insists that Giant Records didn't start to audition potential singers or plan out the band's image until 2000, an MTV interview with the band from July 10, 2000 states that what we know to be i5 today originally sprung from an earlier, unnamed girl group with at least one or two alternative members, and that i5 was actually together for more than two years by the time their first single dropped—meaning they likely started around 1997 or 1998. Each of the band members had auditioned separately, not knowing who they would be paired with.

What Does i5, or "International Five," Mean?

What is clear is that i5 stood for "International Five" stemming from the fact that all of the band's former and current members up to this point came from all over the globe.

Who Was in the Group?

  • Andi with blue hair came from England.
  • Christina with blonde hair came from the United States (specifically Florida).
  • Tal with red hair came from Israel.
  • Gaby with long, black hair came from Mexico.
  • Kate with short, black hair came from the Philippines.

What Made This Group Unique?

In a refreshing twist for this era of pop music, the band members—Gen X-ers then ranging in age from 21 to 23—actually had a say in which songs they would record. While dozens of songs were written for them, the five did their best to avoid songs where they would appear to be victims or overtly submissive.

This was a progressive take on the genre when you consider the fact that one of the songs still popular at that time was Britney Spears's 1998 single "...Baby One More Time"—in which the singer sings from the perspective of a girl whose entire world revolves around whether or not she can resume a seemingly toxic romance. The lyrics to this song made only more unsettling when you learn of how little control Spears actually had over her own career even this early in her life.

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What Are i5's Songs? (A Track-by-Track Analysis of Their Self-Titled Album)

On September 12, 2000, Giant Records released i5's self-titled album, featuring 12 songs the band had felt the most comfortable with singing.

"Ladidi Ladida"

"Ladidi Ladida" is not aging too well. The lyrics could be considered sexual harassment in that it's pushing the listener to make a move even if it appears as though the listener is uncomfortable.

"Distracted"

"Distracted" was the band's first non-movie single. The song is about wanting physical intimacy, and its honest lyrics about sexuality didn't get it too much daytime airplay. In today's world, however, it's seen as more sex positive.

"Cinderella"

"Cinderella" is likely the band's most popular song. Since its debut, it's been covered by Play, S.H.E., Tata Young and The Cheetah Girls and is one of the most empowering songs for young girls. The song encourages girls to be their own "Prince Charming" and not "sit around" waiting to be rescued.

"First Kiss"

"First Kiss" was featured in the movie Center Stage and is sung from the perspective of a girl dreaming of her first kiss with her beloved. It's a sweet song that invokes the innocence of adolescence.

"If I Ever See Heaven Again"

"If I Ever See Heaven Again" is a somber, post-breakup track where the singer laments the end of a relationship, but respects her ex's boundaries and hopes for a future reconciliation. The fact that she wants to give her ex space is rather profound and respectful when you consider other pop breakup songs of the era.

"Scream Shout"

"Scream Shout" is similar to Spice Girls' 1997 hit "Spice Up Your Life" in sound, lyrics and tone. It's a party song with a slight Latin influence.

"The Recipe"

"The Recipe" comes across as a wish list song highlighting traits the singer would find desirable in a mate.

"Can I Get a Witness"

"Can I Get a Witness" is one of the strongest songs on the album. A song about wanting to be with a specific someone, the lyrics are not as desperate for love as other pop songs like it, but rather a mild frustration permeates where the singer is trying very hard to get across to the other person how she feels.

"The Last Thing I Need"

"The Last Thing I Need" is a song similar in concept to Erykah Badu's 1997 hit "Next Lifetime" in which the singer is already living with someone, but has feelings for someone else.

"Sweet N' Sassy"

"Sweet N' Sassy" is a song where the singer talks about how she is both kind and cruel, depending on her mood or how she is treated.

"Best Friend"

"Best Friend" is an upbeat, fast-paced track about falling in love with your lifelong best friend after finding out they already have a crush on you.

"That's What Love Will Do (They Say)"

"That's What Love Will Do (They Say)" is a song about a girl in a problematic, maybe even toxic situation. The person she is with makes her angry, and yet she also wants to stay in this relationship.

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What Happened to i5?

Sadly, this bubble burst before anyone could enjoy the flavor.

Despite a summer of tours, televised appearances and hard work for i5, the band quickly found that their record label had failed to properly publicize their debut album. Radio stations were not made aware of their single "Distracted" on time and no music videos were produced.

Making things worse, Giant Records became absorbed into Warner Bros. Records, and the giant conglomerate did not offer i5 a new contract, nor did they honor the original contracts they had signed with Giant Records.

A year later, the group could not find a new record label. They disbanded, while a new girl group of tween and teen millennials then ages 11 to 14 from Sweden known as Play covered "Cinderella" and recorded a music video for it while on tour. It was such a smash that another millennial group, The Cheetah Girls, covered it for Disney a year later in 2002.

While i5's time in the sun was relatively short, their original audience never forgot them. Small fan pages and blogs still exist for the band, and a brand new generation of pop music lovers is finding them on Spotify and YouTube.

i5 wanted to stand out from other girl groups and sing from a sex-positive, strong-willed and honest position. If today's streaming has anything to say about it, they're getting that wish long after the new millennium began.

As the lyric in "First Kiss" goes: Good things come to those who have to wait.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Koriander Bullard

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