(Angels With Dirty Faces, 2002)
Although not the highest entry in this chart that could be described as "mainstream" (despite notionally indie or more "authentic" roots, it's a bit of a stretch to describe Muse, Snow Patrol, Mark Ronson or Kings Of Leon as anything else), Sugababes do operate much more at the manufactured end of the pop spectrum, to the extent that some might be surprised to find them this high. And yet you shouldn't be. Modern day pop is produced by an army of very accomplished back room men and women, and it's insulting to think them incapable of something genuinely affecting. To some extent it's a percentages game, given the volume of product; I wouldn't expect to find that all Sugababes tracks are this good (although, to be fair, I haven't checked). But many of the people working in this field have real pedigree; we'll meet a few of them further down the chart.
In fact, unlike some comparable artists, Sugababes do co-write their songs - or, at least, they have a credit on this. I'm sure they've had their troubled times, like the rest of us, and perhaps that contributes to the feeling of reality. What I like about this hymn to female empowerment is its sense of grim determination. Rather than promote a cheery, senseless - and more obviously commercial - optimism, the song explicitly acknowledges that, if you're looking for a happy ending, your current situation is probably less than perfect. The slow, measured beat, the doleful strings and the (relative) lack of vocal histrionics, along with the dense close harmonies behind an unusually horizontal melody (it rarely moves outside of a single octave) all give a real sense of purpose. The whole thing is beautifully atmospheric and I feel like an empowered woman just singing along with it.
I think the video that shows the girls walking away from their situation capture the overall sense of the song very well. Although the bit where all the male customers applaud the stripper who puts her clothes back on and walks out of the club doesn't strike me as particularly realistic. And obviously it was very important to show the 'babes by the pool in their bikinis. And if I was to be really picky, I might say that the whole thing sounds a little too in debt to Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy but that would be carping.
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