Thursday, 25 March 2010

2002 Sugababes: Round Round

Second number one on the trot for Sugababes and it's one that makes me wish I was more of a musicologist than I am; I'm sure a music theorist could explain what the shifts of key, pitch and tempo are actually 'doing' in terms of composition or harmonic structure, but the best my layman's view can do is say that 'Round Round' does to pop what convex funhouse mirrors do to reflections. There's a strange, skewed aura to it that reminds of the house Gene Hackman's Sheriff is building in Clint Eastwood's 1992 'Unforgiven' - "You know, he don't have a straight angle in that whole god-damned porch, or the whole house for that matter. He is the worst damn carpenter". 'Round Round' is much the same.

Yes the "Round, round baby round, round, spend the night on" chorus provides a constant homebase for the song to return to, but around that touchstone flies a shifting palette of sound that wrong foots every chance it gets. One minute it's glitterball disco, the next it's "Run away now, if you stop me then I'll hit the ground" R&B funk before shifting into power ballad mode at 2:33 ("Does it hurt, when you see how I've done without you"). Which makes it sound like it must be the worst damn shambles imaginable, but it's not. The people behind 'Round Round' are master carpenters skilled at their trade and the discord as whole has the dreamy, hypnotic quality of a German Expressionist film, shot in pastel, where even though you don't quite know what's going on, there's more than enough thread of a plot to fill in the gaps punched by the weirdness. 'Round Round' takes a few listens to reveal all its secrets and harmonies, but there's a depth here that belies any preconceptions about what a song by three pretty girls called 'Sugababes' should be 'about' that's as involving as its welcome, particularly in this current climate of incessant, bland drizzle.

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