Single Review: The Collective – ‘Teardrop’

“Labrinth’s breezy production immediately torpedoes the sensitive emotion the original had”


Digital Release: November 13, 2011

Physical Release: November 14, 2011

The BBC Children In Need single has always been a fascinating spectacle. Whether you’ve supported it, watched awestricken from the sidelines and mocked it’s unsteady chart position, or spoken out of how ridiculous the song choice is, it’s never not turned a couple of heads. From the hopelessly ambitious (Patsy Palmer and Sid Owen) to the downright bizarre (Shane Richie) and to the completely unrelated and not-a-little-bit opportunist (‘Love You More’), it’s never failed to please in terms of how laughable some songs are. Of course, the combined forces of some of the UK’s most popular urban acts sounds like a recipe for success and at least a half-hearted bid at bringing some desperately-needed credibility to the scheme. Or at least it would were it not for Gary Barlow, who seems to have the Midas touch when he’s with Take That. Anything he exerts his efforts on outside that small box reeks with a hypocritical air of someone getting far too presumptuous of their own talents.

This year we’re being persuaded to “show our support” by buying Gary Barlow’s latest musical endeavour: the assembly of ‘The Collective’ featuring Tulisa, Rizzle Kicks, Wretch 32, Tinchy Stryder, Mz Bratt, Dot Rotten, Ms. Dynamite, Chipmunk, Ed Sheeran and Labrinth. You’d not be slandered for thinking that, somewhere in that group – perhaps in the twee little guitar melodies of Ed Sheeran or in the board-room formality and sensibility of Gary Barlow – there’d be some essence of talent brought to the table.

Instead of that pleasant thought, what we have essentially been blessed with is an ensemble of charisma-void drones, stripping the original ‘Teardrop’ of it’s heart and “gentle emotion” and repackaging it as a vacuum-wrapped, lifeless remnant of it’s former glory. The only notion you get from listening to the collaborative efforts of these rather cheaply-assembled, stone-faced artists slaughtering Massive Attack is that of “Why this song?”. 

And why indeed. Even with this big cast, ‘Teardrop’ never even manages to get off the ground – quite probably it’s because it’s weighed down by a sludgy beat with all the genteel softness of a sledgehammer. It never once feels much like, indeed, a collective: it rather more obviously appears as some anonymous nobodies taking turns to talk monotonously over a melodically barren composition until Tulisa’s chorus comes around. Lyrics-wise, the song digs up clichés that only ever seem to appear in a charity singles for children (lack of education, disrupted families, etc.) instantly branding it with a time-stamp and an expiry date. In place of the frail harpsichord refrain and gently-constructed loops, the tuneless whirr and fizzing of Labrinth’s breezy production immediately torpedoes the sensitive emotion the original had.

If we really are to “show out support” for Children In Need via the senseless reconstruction of ‘Teardrop’, then it’s best to donate via those handy little red buttons during the actual ceremony, rather than the obviously quite bitter trade that’s taking place here. A more harrowing thought though, is what Gary Barlow’s belief of what it means to be a cutting edge popstar in today’s industry is; that someone who could make a song out of the Yellow Pages directory opts to let this slide by with nothing but a nonchalantly pompous air only makes his effort to hastily rescue his dignity ever since the moment it began to nose-dive when he signed on to The X Factor that little bit more futile, and ultimately very humorous.

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