[10] Sugababes, ‘Freak Like Me’

Freak Like Me

A cover of a mash-up. Of all the lazy, half-arsed singles… Good though innit? Sugababes were flunking hard after the diminishing chart positions of a host of sterling singles from their debut, then Siobhan Donaghy’s “I’m just popping out for a bit” act and the final indignity of having to co-opt a failed Atomic Kitten – but 80s geek Richard X slouched in to rescue them, and how. ‘Freak Like Me’ wrings some sexiness from the sullen minxes and its pummelling production keeps it young, fresh and new.

Junior says:
“I know this song so I don’t have to say anything about it.” I’m getting the feeling Jukebox Junior is reaching a natural hiatus. Perhaps in nine songs’ time. On the upside, Junior confessed to being a bit of a fan of the Sugababes’ career-changer.

Best bit: The second wiggly Star Trekky sound effect leading to full-force bass blast.

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[15] Annie, ‘Chewing Gum’

Annie

This is a “nice” song, so says Junior. She might not peg it as all that nice if she knew the dirt behind the lyric – yet AGAIN; what’s with all the naughty female soloists this week? – but it’s just as easy to engage with its surface gloss.

Annie from Norway is a darling of the blogosphere, and that’s pretty much where her darlingness ends. It’s a low down tawdry old shame that these pop scholar artists don’t actually appeal to the pop kids, whether they’re mixing it with Richard X or Xenomania or whoever, and gorgeous albums like Annie’s debut gather dust in the racks. Her second’s suffered an even worse fate, its release postponed endlessly until the label finds a hit – any hit – to give it a launchpad. ‘Chewing Gum’, with its hugely irritating hooks and synthy marvellousness, should’ve been one of those gold dust hits – that it wasn’t is YOUR FAULT.

Oh no:

[9] Tubeway Army, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’

Hear that? Those are new gods marching over the pop scene to Prokofievian synth chords, punkbots on rollerblades gliding to a lipsticked new world order. You get the drift. Gary Numan may well have been a figure of fun – a slightly freakish, unsettling one, yeah – but what the hell did that matter to him when he was splicing Kraftwerk and Bowie templates to take his android aria to the top of the charts?

This sounds like the future, and it’s a lonely, terrifying one. In Numan’s high concept, “friends” are automatons, here to leaven the solitude and provide for, well, other needs. “Mine broke down,” he croaks and the flimsy tissue of solace rips apart around it. But the synth cycle transcends its forbidding tones and raises the song to epic status, delivering Queen-like rock in pure electronica. It’s stunning and still dominant even as Adina Howard, Richard X and Sugababes hijack it for their own saucy needs.

Back here in 2008, Junior performed all sorts of unlikely twists and turns to the music. It would’ve put my back out, but then, I’m not three. As we left the house 10 minutes later, she said “It’s cold outside.” Whoa.