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Mysterious Girl: Uncovering The Secrets Behind Peter Andre’s Summer Anthem
Warner Music
In Depth

Mysterious Girl: Uncovering The Secrets Behind Peter Andre’s Summer Anthem

Making a splash by flashing his abs in an exotic lagoon, Peter Andre's pop-reggae hit Mysterious Girl became an international phenomenon.

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As one of the biggest success stories of 1996, Peter Andre’s second single, Mysterious Girl, thrust the hopeful singer into the mainstream and turned him into a pop superstar almost overnight. Born in England but raised in Australia, the 23-year-old Andre flooded the world’s TV screens like a ready-made magazine pin-up with chiselled abs, cavorting around in a tropical waterfall with the body of an Adonis. The song itself was a stroke of reggae-tinged brilliance – a sun-kissed ray of ultra-violet light that burned up the summer pop charts and left listeners as bronzed as Andre’s six-pack. Join us as we uncover the secrets behind Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl…

Listen to the best of Peter Andre here.

The backstory: “I was young and ambitious… Nothing was going to stop me”

Ever since he moved to Australia’s Gold Coast, at the age of nine years old, Peter Andre was raised on a musical diet of Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder, and he dreamt of becoming a pop star. As a teenager, Andre realised that his image would be just as important as his voice, so he hit the gym to work on his physique, and signed up for as many singing competitions as he could. “I was obsessed with being a pop star and I entered every talent contest going,” Andre said in an interview with the Daily Mirror in 1995. “But you can bet your last dollar I lost every one of them.”

Andre’s big moment finally came in 1990, when he appeared on the Australian talent show New Faces, where, watched by a TV audience of two million people, he performed a rendition of Bobby Brown’s 1988 R&B hit Don’t Be Cruel. Record producer Ian “Molly” Meldrum was on the judges’ panel, and he was so taken with Andre that he even offered the 16-year-old singer a recording contract live on air. “I own Melodian Records and I think you’re it!” Meldrum gushed. “You’re going to be a huge star.”

Sure enough, Andre released his self-titled debut album in 1993 and scored a Top 5 hit in Australia with Gimme Little Sign, eventually going on to become the support act for Bobby Brown himself. Within the space of a few years, Andre signed with a new label, Mushroom Records, and he moved back to Britain in a bid to crack the UK charts. “I was young and ambitious and I wanted to make it big,” Andre admitted. “Nothing was going to stop me.”

The recording: “It was written in the way that Shabba ranks did Mr Lover Man”

Now basing himself in West London as he masterminded his next move, Andre headed to Rollover Studios and worked with producer Ollie Jacobs, who had overseen recordings by East 17 and Take That. Together with co-songwriters Glen Goldsmith and Philip Jackson, the pop-infatuated team took inspiration from That Girl, by Maxi Priest, and Oh Carolina, by Shaggy, and set to work on a reggae- and dancehall-influenced track that they instantly knew had hit potential. “The guys I wrote the song with had a song called Mystery Man,” Andre later said. “It was written in the way that Shabba Ranks did that song Mr Lover Man.”

On the urging of Andre’s management team, the song was renamed Mysterious Girl in order to appeal more to the singer’s already-established female fanbase back in Australia. Originally, Andre was asked not just to sing, but to rap – a creative decision spurred on by the popularity of mid-90s hip-hop and reggaeton – but Andre was reticent (“I can’t rap,” he admitted), and so Jamaican rapper Bubbler Ranx was called upon to add a genuine Caribbean flavour to the song (“Girl you are me heart’s desire/And you alone a set me soul on fire”).

Hoping to capitalise on Andre’s success down under, Mysterious Girl was released as a single in Australia on 14 August 1995, and it went to No.8 on the ARIA singles chart and peaked at No.1 in New Zealand. But though it performed well commercially in the Pacific region, Mysterious Girl initially stalled at No.53 in the UK, where the summer holidays were coming to an end. Not one to give up easily, Andre recognised that UK audiences would probably have been more receptive to the song had it been released earlier in the year, so he began to push for it to be re-released in time for the following summer.

The music video: “The six-pack stomach was a marketing ploy. The old saying ‘sex sells’ is true”

Deciding the best thing to do would be to fly out to Thailand to record a new music video, Andre was wise to the fact that his body was his secret weapon. Filming a steamy new promo in a lagoon with director Claudia Castle in early 1996, Andre appeared shirtless and showcased his well-toned abs, larking around in a nearby waterfall and using his gym-bunny physique to his advantage. Andre even reportedly took a proactive role in the video’s creative process, editing the footage himself to amp up the summer “beach body” vibes.

Re-released in the UK on 28 May 1996, Mysterious Girl was picked up by the music TV channel The Box, which put the song’s promo video on heavy rotation. Rocketing back up the charts, the single would peak at No.2 in Andre’s target market, going on to became one of the best-selling hits of the summer. “The six-pack stomach was a marketing ploy,” Andre admitted in an interview with News Of The World. “The old saying ‘sex sells’ is true.” Coasting along to an insatiable pop-reggae groove, Mysterious Girl finally made Andre an international sensation, though he later admitted his body image caused him more problems than he let on.

Speaking on the ITV chat show Loose Women in 2022, Andre recalled that, at the time the video was shot, he was on a strict diet and fitness regime, aiming for zero body fat. “I was doing everything you’re told you’re supposed to do,” he said, “but I was getting sick a lot and getting colds all the time. My brothers would say, ‘What, you’re sick again?’” Though he’d become one of the year’s most recognisable pop stars, Andre had put his body on the line.

The legacy: “You can imagine how proud I was to call my mum”

Shifting over 900,000 copies and staying in the UK Top 40 for 15 weeks, Mysterious Girl was one of the biggest-selling singles of 1996, and it saw Andre receive a hero’s welcome in the country of his birth when he performed the song on Top Of The Pops. “You can imagine how proud I was to call my Mum and tell her that her little boy was making it big back in Britain,” the singer later said. In an interview with The People in 1996, Andre expressed pride that he was able to translate his Australian success to the UK. “I always wanted to succeed here,” he said. “I consider it my home and it’s one of the hardest markets to crack.”

Throughout the late 90s, Andre would go on to score more UK pop hits, such as Flava and I Feel You – both of which reached No.1 in the UK – but it’s Mysterious Girl that remains his signature tune. One of the best summer songs of all time, and a much-cherished favourite at school discos and birthday parties, it would also spark a renaissance in Andre’s commercial fortunes, eight years after its initial chart success. In 2004, Mysterious Girl would finally reach No.1 in the UK after being reissued following Andre’s appearance in the third series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.

Having met the model Katie Price in the jungle, Andre once again become a household name, after the pair married and starred in the reality TV show Katie & Peter. He’d taken a long hiatus from the music business, but Andre was able to re-establish himself as a pop star, releasing the album The Long Road Back. But it’s Mysterious Girl that he feels most proud of. “I am still happy to have been part of a song that is a classic,” Andre said in 2012. “When we were writing Mysterious Girl I knew it was going to be my biggest hit. It was easy.”

the best summer songs of all time.

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