While the 2001 film version of Josie and the Pussycats was a box office disappointment, it has gone on to become a cult classic in the 20 years since it was released. It also had a beloved soundtrack that sold more than a half a million copies and earned a Gold record. So it’s maybe surprising that Kay Hanley, the singer of Letters to Cleo who provided the singing voice of Josie McCoy, has not had many opportunities to actually perform those songs live. The most notable exception was a 2017 show that coincided with the vinyl release of the soundtrack.
Last week, though, Letter to Cleo went back on the road. Appearing in Boston with opening act Charly Bliss, they played the Paradise Rock Club on back to back nights. And Eva Hendricks, the lead performer for Charly Bliss, joined the band for a pair of Josie and the Pussycats songs during the Letters to Cleo curtain call.
(The second and third songs featured above — “Three Small Words” and “Pretend to be Nice” — are the Josie songs, while the first might be familiar to fans of 10 Things I Hate About You.)
Charly Bliss famously once performed a special Halloween concert where they played the whole Josie soundtrack front to back, and Hendricks recently wrote the foreword for a book about the movie.
Josie and the Pussycats has had quite a year. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the film has been on the receiving end of a lot of glowing thinkpieces, a Universal Pictures Twitter takeover, and not one but two different anniversary product lines from major specialty retailers. The movie, which stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, and Tara Reid as the titular band, along with villains Parker Posey and Alan Cumming, was a box office disappointment at the time of its release, but has since gone on to inspire a passionate fan base, including Hendricks, and CinemaSins co-creator Jeremy Scott. A Blu-ray was finally released earlier this month.
Josie and the Pussycats, based on Archie Comics characters created by the legendary Dan DeCarlo, was released in April 2001 from directors Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, whose other projects include the coming-of-age comedy Can’t Hardly Wait and the zany slacker comedies Mary + Jane and Liza on Demand. The movie was a biting satire of consumer culture and the turn-of-the-century music industry, wrapped with glitter and glamour that was supposed to make it more palatable to audiences, but instead seemingly turned off many critics, who associated it with other “dumb” movies of the day like Spice World and Coyote Ugly.
The boy band featured in the movie — DuJour, played by Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Donald Faison, and Alexander Martin — even got an appearance on Robot Chicken this year, just weeks after the flurry of 20th anniversary activity brought the movie back into the headlines.
Matthew Libatique, who has been working with superstar director Darren Aranofsky since Pi and who has since been the cinematographer on movies like Iron Man and Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. The latter, with its bright colors and loud soundtrack, may owe a little of its DNA to Josie, although Libatique has said that he tries to approach each new project without looking back.