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In the early 2000s, Javine became a major R&B star in England, where her hip-hop-influenced urban contemporary has drawn comparisons to Aaliyah and Beyoncé Knowles as well as Samantha Mumba. Some of Javine's fans have viewed her commercial success in the U.K. as an example of either sweet revenge or resilience — or both. Before Javine hit big as a solo artist, the London native suffered a surprising defeat on the British talent show Popstars; in 2002, she was among the contestants who competed for a place in what became the female pop quintet Girls Aloud. The program's judges included Geri Halliwell (of Spice Girls fame) and Pete Waterman (of England's hit producing/songwriting team Stock, Aitken & Waterman), and Javine was among the final contestants.
During the competition, Javine became quite popular with viewers — her admirers were certain that she would be selected for the group, but when all was said and done, she wasn't among the five female singers who was chosen. Some viewers cried foul, alleging that the votes were rigged and that Javine — for all her popularity — had the deck stacked against her. But that controversial defeat — fair or unfair — certainly wasn't the end of the world for Javine, who pursued a solo career in 2003 and was approached by several labels in the U.K. She ended up signing with Innocent Records, home of the female dance-pop group Atomic Kitten.
Born Javine Dionne Hylton in London on December 27, 1981, the singer grew up in West London's Ladbroke Grove section (one of the stops on the subway's Hammersmith & City line). Javine's interest in music was greatly encouraged by her mother, who had a large collection of soul and reggae albums. Javine started building a music collection of her own as a preteen, and when she was growing up, her tastes ranged from Aretha Franklin (who she has cited as her favorite vocalist) to Salt-N-Pepa to British singer/rapper Neneh Cherry. At 18, Javine auditioned for the role of Nala in a London production of the play The Lion King; she got the part and played Nala for two years.
After that came Javine's well-publicized participation in the Popstars series — and for those who claim (true or untrue) that she got a raw deal, sweet revenge came in July 2003, when her debut single, "Real Things," entered the British pop charts in the Top Five. Although "Real Things" (a commentary on materialism and the bling-bling trend) wasn't a big hit in the United States, it was huge in the U.K. — and in various interviews, Javine was quoted as saying that not being chosen for Girls Aloud turned out to be a blessing because a solo career had allowed her to move in a more R&B-oriented direction. In November 2003, Innocent released Javine's debut album, Surrender, and the infectious single "Surrender (Your Love)" became another major hit in the U.K. It was also in late 2003 that Javine became an opening act for pop-rapper Nelly on the British leg of his international tour.