Tuesday, 4 May 2010

2004 Eamon: F*** It (I Don't Want You Back)/Frankee: F.U.R.B. (F*** You Right Back)

Well I guess if you're going to set a record, you may as well do it properly - 'Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)' holds the record for "the most expletives in a number one song", which in this case means some twenty "fuck"s alone. Now that's not necessarily something to be proud about, but for more sensitive ears there's a 'censored' version, and I think your initial reaction is going to depend on a lot on which version you hear first. For my own part, I heard the 'F*** It' version via the piped music in a clothes shop one weekday lunchtime. Even with the 'F words' masked, there was no doubt whatsoever as to what he was saying and its cheeky audacity caught my ear to the extent that I hung around to try and catch who the artist was. I didn't, and it promptly left my mind; it was only later that I found out that I'd been listening to the then number one single and that there was also an unexpurgated take. Or rather, a version that's exactly the same but with the 'fucks' kept in. And they made a difference.

Whilst the 'F*** It ' version , if not exactly 'humorous' does have the nudge nudge 'did he say that' mock horror of (to use an analogy) the more mainstream work of Pete and Dud. The 'Fuck It' take is pure Derek and Clive, black heart nasty. The shift from the Eamon's scene setting ("I told you, I loved you, now that's all down the drain. You put me through pain, I wanna let you know how I feel" smooth R&B verse (what Eamon charmingly dubs 'Ho wop') into the harsh "F*** all those kisses, they didn't mean jack. F*** you you whore, I don't want you back" chorus is surprise enough in the cleansed version. Uncut, it jars enough in its in your face bitterness to make me wince; I've heard similar in public many times myself and that makes me wince too, but there I always walk away shaking my head. But then once that initial shock is over his 'F*** this' and 'F*** that' repeats the party trick with ever decreasing returns with each cuss diluting the effect until it morphs into a bored mantra of ignorant inarticulation - if, through whatever circumstance, I heard that in public, then I'd probably intervene.

Because while an artist like (for convenient example) Eminem is as liberal enough with his own F bombs of bitterness and anger as the next bitter and angry person, they come clothed in imaginative metaphor or biting wit that, if not softening the blow, makes the profanity a part of the lyric/rhyme and not its sole focal point. With Eamon, that's all you get - an angry song that says 'fuck' a lot and gets dull quickly because of it. Edit out the swearing and it still becomes a bored mantra of ignorant inarticulation over time, albeit one that takes on the mantle of a 'fill in the blanks' novelty that at least makes it bearable to the end, even if it does become a feat of endurance. Ultimately though, 'F*** It (I Don't Want You Back)' reeks of the shock tactic gimmick of self generating controversy that's as stand out noticeable and offensive as spray painting swear words on the floor of a children's playground. Unfortunately, it's just as imaginative too.

'Response' songs in popular music aren't rare*, but this is the first time that the 'answer' to a song has displaced its catalyst at the top of the chart, though given the close proximity of its release and the fact that 'F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)' is essentially the same song with lyrics re-written to give the "whore" s point of view, then the conclusion that this is less an opportunistic cash-in and more a pre-planned publicity stunt are unavoidable. But while Frankee is the yin to Eamon's yang (though not his real life 'ex'), the songs are not equal partners. Whereas Eamon's song can stand alone, Frankee's can't; put simply, 'F.U.R.B.' needs Eamon to bounce off and the song is meaningless without it. Frankee squares up to Eamon's bile, not with a witty retort or smart put-down, but with more bile, albeit of the childishly petulant variety delivered at a crude, unimaginative level ("But I do admit I'm glad I didn't catch your crabs") that would do a ten year old proud. "F*** all those nights I moaned real loud, f*** it, I faked it, aren't you proud?" - all that's missing is Frankee blowing a raspberry at the end. As a song, 'F.U.R.B.' moves me to inertia and, on this evidence, at least, I can see why Eamon was so f***** off with her.

* For example, 'I’ll Save The Last Dance For You' by Damita Jo 'answers' The Drifters' 'Save The Last Dance For Me', 'Sweet Home Alabama' (Lynyrd Skynyrd) 'answers' Neil Young's 'Southern Man' and 'Me and Mr. Jones' (Amy Winehouse) 'answers' Billy Paul's 'Me and Mrs. Jones'. There are numerous others. I guess as far as number ones go, the closest we've got is Susanne Sully answering Phil Oakey's controlling opening verse with a smart 'fuck you' putdown (come on, what's one more) in the second on 'Don't You Want Me', but that's probably stretching it a bit.

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