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Is Jamelia's "Beware of Dog" the next "S.O.S."?

"When we first started out, it became like an art-kid thing, and scenesters were coming. We were playing the most ghetto music we had, and they were just going crazy to it. But eventually it filled up with [black] kids from the neighborhood, and they were into the '80s music as much as they were into the [hip-hop] club music. I mean, Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' was a big hit around the world, you know? It was a big hit in the black community, too. There were songs that just kinda got in, that you wouldn’t expect."

-- Diplo on Hollertronix, September 2004

Don’t get us wrong, we love Rihanna’s “S.O.S.” because first and foremost because it’s a good song – it fits broadly and over-obviously into the category of good song the Donnas learned to write from Darin Raffaelli: “A good song sounds like another good song” – but also because of what it represents: as a mainstream club track that turns white music into black music, it’s the first example of the Hollertronix sensibility working not just as underground novelty but as straight-faced Top-40 smash.

It isn’t as if someone hadn't turned this trick back in the ’80s – think Purple Rain, for starters – but "S.O.S." really suggests why electroclash never caught on. What people wanted wasn’t a bloodless re-creation of ersatz-audio robot music. What they wanted was someone who could infuse winsome synthpop with something more soulful and human. So now that a loose formula has been established, you knew there’d be a sequel. We’re a little surprised it took this long, but that sequel has arrived.

Jamelia is a British R&B singer without an American following, but she has a new album coming, and after the label lays the groundwork with her current single, "Something ABout You," they’re scheduled to release “Beware of Dog,” which is based heavily on Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” Which means it should show up just as radio programmers are retiring “S.O.S.” once and for all. Jamelia isn’t a particularly ambitious singer, and she smartly goes about her business as if she were singing over any other lightweight soul hook and not the gothkid national anthem. Late in the game she sneaks in a passing reference to the original’s refrain, but that “Reach out and touch me” feels more like a passing in-joke, as if her producer was counting on at least three quarters of the audience to treat it as simply another song warning would-be girlfriends against yet another man who can’t be trusted. The question is really whether or not Depeche Mode can pass for R&B the way Soft Cell did. If it does, you won't be able to avoid this song for the next five months. If not, well . . .

Impress your friends and drop this before people realize it isn't a mashup.

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