New Manchester trio BLUSH UK have a serious spiritual agenda behind their perky R&B pop as Tony Cummings reports.
As any pop pundit will tell you, in these post Spice Girl times teen pop has got decidedly funkier. Where once the outpourings of boy bands and girl groups were as musically light as eider down, today a large portion of R&B-type groove is needed if you want to catch the attention of today's school kids. Today, thanks to Manchester's pioneering evangelistic ministry The Message (best known of course for their groundbreaking work with The Tribe), there are three new young ladies on the block with a vibey sound guaranteed to connect with the masses currently grooving on the Sugarbabes and Mystique. Step forward Blush UK, three lasses who have clocked up a wealth of experience in their tender years. Probably the best known of the three is Lucy West. Under her maiden name of Lucy Britten she has become an often heard vocalist on UK Christian radio, having sung with Psalmistry, Storm and most recently the dynamic duo V*enna. With the latter Lucy toured the USA and Europe and when the band folded in 2001 Lucy began working as a primary school teacher and volunteer Eden worker in Wythenshawe with her husband, The Tribe's Lindsey West.
Lucy explains how Blush UK came into being: "The Tribe were going in to so many schools and so many schools wanted The Tribe to go in that they were just being inundated with offers and so they said, 'Right, we really need to get another band up and running so we can get all these schools covered.' So that was the original idea for the band, but since then as individuals and together as a band we've had so many words from God, just incredible words about this being unique and this being new and you know he's doing a new, fresh thing through us and 'get excited girls.' So it was more than (just) needing an extra band 'cos there was too much work."
Blush UK's other members are Hope Turner and Lolly Rowse. Lolly grew up in Birmingham attending the same school as Hope. She studied at the Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts for three years and prior to joining Blush was with the team of traveling musical evangelists run by Youth For Christ known as TVB. When challenged Lolly admits to being named Lucy. She says, "It's my fake name yeah, I'm actually called Lucy, but as you can imagine two Lucy's in the band could be very confusing so we went down the 'Lol' line and then we expanded it to 'Lolly' and that's what we've got."
Hope Turner grew up in Birmingham before completing a music degree in Exeter University. From there she went on to live in Sheffield where she became a member of St Thomas Crookes church, singing with the dance pop group Purity (whose "Inner Joy" made it all the way to the heady heights of the Cross Rhythms radio playlist). When asked where their intriguing moniker came from Hope responded, "We blush all the time!" Hope is excited about the doors God is opening in Manchester schools. "I think our aim is to see as many young people as possible across Manchester and across the nation really, and give them an opportunity to hear about the Gospel and to hear just how much Jesus loves them. I think The Tribe have opened up a great platform in Manchester already. So for them to have too many schools to go into is actually amazing, so like Lucy said that's the primary reason why we set up. We just want to present the Gospel to as many people as possible. We've had a couple of schools weeks and they've been amazing. We've totally loved it and we're really excited about the fact that we're going into loads more schools in the new year. It's kind of like that's really where our heart is. We do enjoy doing the office stuff and doing the rehearsals and stuff, but the Lord just moves mightily when we're in schools. We see some amazing stuff and we're looking forward to seeing loads more. We're just really beginning to scratch the surface of the whole thing really."
Blush have recently released their first single through The Message, "You Got Nothing On Me". Lolly did her best to pinpoint the group's style. "It's more a kind of R&B pop sound really, rather than 'poppy'. A lot of our writers are influenced by R&B, which is great 'cos that's my favourite kind of music. It's good to sing what you like! It's edgy R&B, but with a pop influence definitely."
Having already performed at Soul Survivor, Detling and Festival Manchester, not to mention headlining at the Word Of Youth Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, it's clear that there is considerable momentum growing for the talented trio. But whatever their ability to make attention grabbing R&B pop, their spiritual agenda is never far away. As they say in a recent press release, "It's the beginning of an exciting adventure and it is our prayer that much fruit comes from this ministry and that the lives of thousands of young people are changed and challenged as they come into contact with Blush UK."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.