There are great moments in pop, and then there are great moments in pop, and then there is this one that is definitely up there as one of the greatest moments of its era for me, the way that something terrific unexpectedly happened. There are several elements to this story. In 2002, there was a genre that suddenly appeared on the scene, and it was even more exciting than electroclash, if you can believe such a thing is possible.
This was bootlegs, where the vocal from one song was added to the instrumental of another, and some of the combinations were perfect examples of something that shouldn’t really work, but somehow it does, leading to some startling results (this wasn’t an entirely new idea though, “You Got The Love” by The Source is an early and successful example of this).
Some of the best examples that I heard were “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera and “Hard To Explain” by The Strokes, “Romeo” by Basement Jaxx and “The Magnificent Seven” by The Clash, and this one. The best of all of them for me was “Freak Like Me” by Adina Howard and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” by Tubeway Away. The buzz when I first heard this, rather late at night on Kiss, was remarkable, it was so innovative.
I was already familiar with “Freak Like Me” from the UK Garage cover by Tru Faith & Dub Conspiracy that was a hit in 2000. This version was credited to the rather mysterious Girls On Top and retitled “We Don’t Give A Damn About Our Friends”. There were hopes that this could be released as a single, but it seemed rather unlikely. Then there’s the other part to this.
This is a female pop trio whose first member to leave was called Siobhan, it is, of course… Sugababes! Who did you think I meant? They had their first hit single in 2000, but I didn’t take too much notice of them at first, considering them to be another run-of-the-mill girl group on the overcrowded scene. By 2001, Siobhan had left, and they were dropped by their label, it seemed that their moment had passed and they were a duo left wondering what could’ve been.
Then Heidi joined, and they were invited to rerecord the vocal part of “Freak Like Me” to help an official release and to relaunch their career, with what would be the first single from their second album. This was released in May 2002, and well, would you believe it, this only went on to become the first of their six chart-toppers and they never looked back! That turned out to be a smart career move.
Sugababes would remain high-profile pop stars for many years to come. Gary Numan from Tubeway Away congratulated them on their success too. I suppose this is a moment up there with “Love Like This” for a “wouldn’t it be great if this was a chart-topping single” and then unexpectedly achieving that (thanks to Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful”). Maybe the record buying public do sometimes have good taste, this is definitely one of the best songs of the whole 2000s decade.