Sunday, 21 March 2010

2002 Sugababes: Freak Like Me

Out of all the girl/boy bands we have met, are meeting and are going to meet during this and the last decade, a Sugababes 'Best Of' is the one compilation from any of them that I'd most like to find in my Christmas stocking. Why? Well because I admire their consistency; as a band they manage to surprise with almost every release by pulling rabbits out of a hat I'd long thought was empty. Which is strange really, considering the 'Babes' themselves have been a moveable feast with more line-up changes than Spinal Tap have had drummers, but that adds ammunition to my assertion that a 'good' pop song will always out regardless of who's fronting it; sometimes it's the people behind the scenes who are the most important.

'Freak Like Me' is a Richard X production that, while not quite a 'mash-up', is nevertheless a mutant hybrid that splices fistfuls of DNA from Tubeway Army's 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' to Adina Howard's 1994 hit 'Freak Like Me'.* The result, on paper at least, should have been a stone cold headshot to the R&B sass of Howard, but not a bit of it - this 'Freak Like Me' is three minutes of wired and jittery, alien urban electronica where Numan's once cold slabs of synthesiser stomp are tweaked until they throb with the sensual slow burn to the metronomic rhythm of an imaginary soft red light switching on and fading off, while the girls themselves pull off the attitude of sexy disinterest that's always so damn attractive. Making Numan sexy and danceable has to be a work of some kind of genius, but even if you're not prepared to go quite that far, it's hard to deny that 'Freak Like Me' is earcatching and arresting. Particularly amongst the indifferent company it's keeping.

* X originally created a mash-up of the two songs under his 'Girls On Top' alias called "We Don't Give a Damn About Our Friends". Sugababes were drafted in to provide the vocals when Howard refused permission for hers to be used for a commercial release.

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