Single Review: Sam Sparro – ‘I Wish I Never Met You’

“Sparro’s standalone honesty is a hard dish to swallow and an even harder one to stomach”

2 STARS

Digital Release: June 17, 2012

Physical Release: N/A

The last we – and anyone, really – heard of Sam Sparro was way back when, in the middle of 2008, the luminescent monochrome hue of ‘Black & Gold’ was taking global charts by storm. He looked set to progress to better things if he kept the quality of the material up. Unfortunately for him however, ‘21st Century Life’ slipped by completely unnoticed, and Sparro, at the tender chart age of just twenty-four weeks – an impressive run for any début single – was all too easily dropped by public interest and branded the One Hit Wonder label. Four years have passed since his UK chart début, and to say ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ is anything like ‘Black & Gold’ would be plain wrong. Whereas his breakthrough hit was a song about undying devotion with an ostensibly contrived metaphor, we’re convinced the gold sheen tarnished in the intervening four years and the recipient of his emotion is far less deserving than we once thought. There’s none of the minimalist synth melodies, the phase-shifting or the pulsating bass-lines, and there isn’t any of the razor-sharp precision that made ‘Black & Gold’ feel like a song quietly confident of it’s own excellence.

‘Black & Gold’ triggered the eve of a more electronically-charged UK Top 40, and even now it’s sparkling concoction of white neon and dark bass tones feels years ahead of our charts’ time, but something led Sparro away from that sound and in it’s place is a modern pop/jazz-lite production which, whilst some would say better accommodates Sparro’s distinctive vocals, could eventually lead into draining the very interest out of it. ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ starts off swaggering under a reserved exterior; stylish, suave, and suitably supporting of Sparro’s voice before he triumphantly declares a wish to completely erase a past lover from his memory for the chorus. His lyrics certainly talk the talk of a scorned lover, but rationality is abandoned as he makes a beeline for self-destructive virulence, sometimes bubbling over from black mawkishness to outright disdain – “You had me feeling like a crackhead/I squeeze you out just like a blackhead”, but his delivery and the music don’t quite hold their own ground, let alone carry the weight of the lyrics. His voice resorts to a softly-crooned (albeit monotone) whine in the chorus and a sharper, harsher quality for the verses. It feels weak and blasé, failing to match Sparro’s temporary passion. The rattle of synthesised drums and the wheeze of backing singer-assisted piano refrains are pleasant enough to listen to that they could fall into ‘easy-listening’, but with such a powerful singer at the helm the result is that either Sparro sticks out too much and exhibit’s a nigh-on embarrassing enthusiasm not felt by his listeners, or the music doesn’t stick out enough and has pretty much the same feeling we do when listening to him.

It seems that a lot of what suffers ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ was what made ‘Black & Gold’ so brilliant. Both songs feel pedantically precise and manufactured, but the way both genres accommodate this harshly clinical vibe varies indefinitely. ‘Black & Gold’s cold aloofness married with it comfortably to produce an aural spectacle, whereas ‘I Wish I Never Met You’s clumsily augmented passion collides with it and tries to pretend that’s what was meant to happen all along with it’s musically reserved demeanour. But with such a lead weight of emotion piled into the song’s lyrics and no sufficient support for them, the song begins to meander on forgettably. ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ feels barbed and spiked at the contrast of musical and lyrical intention, like both are fighting each other off and the music simply subordinates, but Sparro’s standalone honesty is a hard dish to swallow and an even harder one to stomach.

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