Natural was an American boy band who were best known for their debut single and signature song "Put Your Arms Around Me". They were very successful in Germany and the Philippines, releasing two albums and nine singles.
The five young men tried to get signed to record label on their own but ended up being turned down by most of the major labels. The originally worked with manager Veit Renn and recorded several songs. However the band eventually frustrated turned to Lou "Big Poppa" Pearlman. Renn was not pleased with this and sued. The outcome of the case is unknown though the band did eventually stay with Pearlman.
How Pearlman found them is unsure; one story claims he saw them rehearsing at Transcon Dance Studios. Another story claims they first had success with the German reality show 24 hours. The show was successful and the band played the main stage at the major music festival Popkomm in 2000. Supposedly after this Lou Pearlman signed them to a production deal. The band was signed under Transcontinental Records and released under that and Sony BMG abroad.
Whichever origin they had Pearlman promptly returned them to Germany for a test run as he prepared their US debut.
Pearlman loved the fact that the guys still had the marketability of his boyband roots, but had the credibility of a real band as they all played instruments. Renn claims he was the one who insisted they learn instruments, spending $75,000 on their training. However certain members such as Horn and Terenzi had been playing since childhood.
Ben Bledsoe was the "All-American Guy" who played bass and was one of the lead vocals, Marc Terenzi was "the flirt" who played guitar as well as being one of the lead vocals. Michael Horn became J Horn, to avoid confusion. He was the "mature one" who played piano and was the final lead vocal (though in subsequent years as he withdrew from the band he was featured less), while Patrick King was the "younger brother" who also played guitar, and Michael Johnson was "the rebel" who played the drums.
The band became known as the "Jack of all trades" in the industry. They weren't afraid to try anything. This started when the band realized that they couldn't promote themselves very easily without having to bring their instruments with them everywhere they went, so they started performing a cappella versions of their music. This method was successful; their first show at the House of Blues in Orlando, FL was completely sold out.
Soon after, they kept building by Ben Bledsoe learning how to beat box and do vocal bass lines with the band in the a cappella setting. Then, after realizing that both Michael Johnson and Patrick King had extensive training in dance, the band added a few up tempo Rock style dance songs to their set. These were only seen on their tours, as it was a way to keep the show changing and more interesting. They would also switch instruments to allow one singer to have more front time for a specific song, such as "What If" and "Why it Hurts" where Marc would play bass and allow Ben to take the front of the stage.
Natural would attempt the US several times in the next few years, though sporadically. Such promotions included several interviews and features in POPstar Magazine, performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2001, performing medley tribute to the BeeGees as part of ABC's 'Disco Ball' in 2003, and at one point a mall tour with Saks Fifth Avenue. Yet they still never charted or had successful radio play outside of Orlando.
The single and the album did quite well, and tours followed around Germany. The band also experienced success in Malaysia and Japan as well as the Philippines. These were the Asian countries where they had the most success, winning several awards (see awards section).
The style they wished to change to was a more mature, acoustic pop/rock with harmonies similar to the style of Lifehouse and The Calling. The band had tried to release "Paradise" as a single, but Pearlman was hesitant about the new sound. Some form of a compromise was reached when Paradise was released as a radio-only single. Rumors of a planned US release followed, however (minus local Orlando airplay in the summer of 2003) nothing ever became of it.
Apparently grudgingly (he tried to release poppy cover "Left 2 Right" to Radio Disney in summer 2004...2 years after the initial Keep It Natural release), Pearlman gave in and made another compromise: the release of the guitar ballad "What If?". The single however (unlike the rest of their second album) was not written by any of the members. Again talk of an American release occurred and actually did happen; however, the single failed to chart. In Germany it reached a little higher then "Runaway" by hitting #34.
Encouraged, their second album It's Only Natural went ahead as planned with all songs but "What If" written by at least one or two of the members (mainly Ben Bledsoe and Marc Terenzi; Patrick King and Michael 'J' Horn only had one writing credit on the 15 track CD). In addition to the writing, the vocals took a change. Keep It Natural had many of the songs splitting verses in the Marc/J/Ben order. The new album (most likely due to participation as Michael 'J' Horn had already intended to move on) featured mainly either Ben Bledsoe or Marc Terenzi on the vocals with the other one taking harmonies or a verse. J didn't even have a solo, and Patrick appeared in just one song. However, Michael's role had severely changed, with him sharing harmonies and occasionally lead vocals (unlike the Keep It Natural era when he was only featured on a bonus track). He would have even had more a role with "Cabdriver" which featured him on lead with Ben.
An up-tempo single in the new rock sound was released, entitled "Let Me Just Fly". This single charted higher then the last 2 at #23 in Germany. With the renewed success a string of other singles ("Cabdriver", etc.) were planned for release; however, the split disrupted them.
Outside of the Marc controversy the members were beginning to grow tired of Pearlman's rules. Not only did he suppress their writing abilities, he forced them to completely lip sync on shows and worse yet on most of the shows on the final tour. The boys who could sing and play instruments weren't allowed to do either just supposed to pretend they were. Michael Johnson later said that they had made the most of it. He couldn't play guitar but in some of the shows he would pretend he could. Most fans however did not get the joke.
Pearlman's other rules were also just as disheartening. For his boy bands, no member was allowed to get a piercing or tattoo, grow facial hair, and worst of all have a public girlfriend. The guys of course didn't always obey, especially Michael Johnson (who once while in the band pierced his lip) and Marc Terenzi.
In June 2004 it was announced that Sarah Connor was pregnant and the couple was engaged. Pearlman didn't like this and wanted Terenzi kicked out and replaced. Terenzi was a founding member, and the other members were not about to fall for it, so they decided to split - except for Patrick King.
The band announced they would go on a final tour in support of their album for the summer of 2004. However, Michael 'J' Horn had previous commitments and decided not to join. Mike Castonguay, the band's musical director and producer, replaced him for the tour.
Before the split had been decided, "3 Miles" and "Cabdriver" (which only appeared on the Japanese release) had been planned as possible singles. A video was even shot for "Cabdriver" (with a 30s theme), though it was never released. The final single officially released was "Why It Hurts" (also a Japanese bonus track). The song had moderate success, and the band finished its tour thus ending the original Natural.
A year and a half passed, and the 'New Natural' had failed to even match the poor success of the later original Natural years (despite claiming all previous successes as their own). Many natives of the Orlando music scene stayed away from shows upon hearing the boy band tinged name. In early 2006 Pearlman's band renamed themselves "Well Worn Zero", and the name "Natural" was retired for the moment.
However once "Well Worn Zero" was dropped by Transcon, Pearlman decided he wasn't done with the "Natural" name. In the July/August 2006 issue of Orlando Style magazine, the 2am girls made the following statement about Pearlman's bands quote: "...and some super cute members of the British boys who are new additions to the rock group, Natural."
It seems there's nothing on the web about the third version of Natural or what plans Pearlman had for them. In early 2007 Pearlman was indicted on several fraud charges. He is currently in custody facing charges, and with his businesses in control of a court-appointed charge it is very unlikely any new incarnations of Natural will come about.
|2002||Keep It Natural|
|2004||It's Only Natural|
|GER||AU||CH||Billboard Hot 100 Singles Sales Charts|
|2001|| "Put Your Arms Around Me" ||RIAA Certified Gold|
|2002||"Let Me Count the Ways"|
|2002||"Will It Ever"|
|2003|| "Runaway" |
|2003|| "Paradise" |
|2003||"What If"||RIAA Certified Gold|
|2004||"Let Me Just Fly"|
|2004||"Just One Last Dance"|
|2004||"Why It Hurts"|