[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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[16] Siobhan Donaghy, ‘So You Say’

One of an unending line of “new Kate Bush”es – Tori Amos, Bat For Lashes, erm, Patrick Wolf, Florence + The Machine, Marina and the bloody Diamonds, for all I know – Siobhan Donaghy fits the bill with a pop music that’s free, experimental, ostensibly commercial (albeit without the essential hits) and miles away from her unhappy work with Sugababes. ‘So You Say’ is forensically beautiful in every detail, and for that it’s quite remarkable.

Junior says: “It’s very quiet,” before the huge chorus swells forth, demonstrating a rather flowery take on the Pixies’ quiet-loud-quiet ethos. “I like the singing.”

Best bit: The da-da-ing and doo-doo-ing of the dizzily drifting middle section.

[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.

[15] Groove Armada, ‘Song 4 Mutya’

Groove Armada, ‘Song 4 Mutya’

Even the irredeemably naff can be saved by the right muse – and po-faced bundle of pop aggression Mutya Buena must be the right muse for anyone. Up until this point, Groove Armada had only shown a facility for grindingly predictable beats, rubbish gimmicks, chill-out mogadon and anaemic tunes, but Mutya awoke some deep-buried wit and invention, and a great dance-pop hit was born.
 
Splashy, fizzing synths (think DeBarge, think Chaka Khan, think Scritti Politti’s ‘Wood Beez’ and all that) give the music its zip and Mutya’s Catherine-Tate-a-like Jafaican drawl (“Ah feel fine. What about you? I betcha been crayin’, I betcha been goin’ around town layin’”, if you catch my drift) gives it attitood, while the Armada boys themselves (I picture them as a dull Adam and Joe) provide a glorious, catchy chorus to cement the song’s place in the year’s Top 20. Just a touch more bass would’ve put it even higher.
 
“Is that who has replaced me? What a diss!” had the conspiracy theorists rubbing their hands at a perceived smack at Amelle Berrabah, the beleaguered new Sugababe, but it was just a scorned ex-girlfriend type of thing. Probably. Anyway, the biggest “diss” came from Junior, who turned the CD player off after a few bars. At the second attempt she offered some headbanging to the chunky beats, but the moment had passed.

[1] Neneh Cherry, ‘Buffalo Stance’

Gigolo. Huh. Sucker.

La Cherry burst on to the scene, all pregnant earth mother horsing around on Top Of The Pops. She was bold, beautiful and the hippest thing since sliced Furious Five. She invented Massive Attack, Sugababes and Betty Boo. She called the unborn girl Tyson, a green light to idiot Beckhams everywhere, and made Bomb The Bass rock the place. Yeah, you’ll remember I explicitly referenced this song right back at No.20. You should’ve known.

Difficult to call, this. I mean, does everyone realise it’s a stone cold genre-busting phat classic? It’s a cool pop record with a surprise around every corner and faultless cred, erm, credentials. Neneh annoyed the pants off people, sure, but that’s what comes of being an outré risqué locomotive.

As for Junior, it shut her up. She was bellowing along the South Circular after Catford, so her mum shoved in the Cherry and it silenced her in seconds. Awe. Or. Or it was so loud, Junior’s mum couldn’t hear the young lady anymore. Either way, result.

[6] Sugababes, ‘Push The Button’

It sounds like a million other songs, I’m certain, but I can’t place a single one. The Christmas party hangover can’t help here, although I think the infectiousness of the song dismisses most comparisons. And I wouldn’t want to devalue it in any way, lest I incur the wrath of Mutya. You wouldn’t mess. No wonder the addressee in the lyric is a touch nervous about making a move. 

Junior gives it a muted reaction, perhaps because she sees enough music TV to get Sugababes fatigue. She’s no longer prudish about seeing once-sensible young misses writhing about in their smalls in lifts. It’s a shame to become so jaded at such a tender age.

Keisha, Heidi and Princess Mutya find this pop lark a breeze. Cracking singles are turned out every year, and they maintain some sort of “cred” with as little effort. Bravo. And even if the tune itself doesn’t float your boat, they’ll reel us all in with “my sexy ass has got him in the new dimension”. It means nothing, sounds great, and it’s a sweet line for mum and dad to sing to their baby daughter. Right?

Right.