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Monday, May 10, 2004
  Jamelia 'thank you'

This might be my favourite song of the year so far. I've always loved Jamelia. 'Money,' her single from a few years ago, was a classic. She's always given good interviews, and just come across as an all round lovely person really. Then she disappeared - to have a baby, I think? - and people assumed that was that. Another 1-hit brit r'n'b star.

And then!
She came back!
With an insanely catchy, sugary smash hit!
'Superstar' was so good, it didn’t seem overplayed even when it was, clearly, by definition, overplayed! What a nice story Jamelia's career was turning out to be. Couldn't happen to a nicer etc.

And then!
'Thank You' came out. I remember first hearing it on a Saturday morning when I was still in bed. I often get very emotional listening to the radio first thing in the morning, before I've woken up properly. Probably some Freudian leaving-the-womb trauma thing, er, haha. Anyway, I was ripe for a good cry, and 'Thank You' wrecked me. For these reasons
1) partly, I'm sure, because I was already pre-disposed to like Jamelia, and I just found the whole Jamelia-story at this point so heartwarming
2) the story of the song is of course very moving in its own right
3) but above all it's the conceit of the song. The general 'what doesn't kill me makes me stronger' attitude in breakup songs is of course as old as r'n'b itself, and this is the argument my housemate used to try and prove that 'Thank You' is a v.cliched, instead of a v.great, song. He's so wrong of course. This is why:
a) the lack of anger. This is some basic school bully pyshcology: the more you react, the more power you give them. Jamelia is angry, defiant, righteous actually, but she sings it like a love song. That's gotta hurt. Actually I've seen her perform this live and she does put a bit more lip-curling snarl into the delivery, but mostly she swoons and sighs her way through, until the killer blow, the whispered 'thank you' at the end (following the heartbreaking 'you could have had it all, babe..' lines) pierces like ice and is 100000x more effective than amplified rage or spite would have been.
b) In the lyrics Jamelia beats up on herself for letting this guy get away with treating her so badly - she was too young, too forgiving, too tender. What pushes this song from merely great to astonishing classic for me is that *these are the very qualities* she gives the song - she exacts her revenge by using the virtues that this person had made her think were weaknesses. 'Thank You' is impossibly tender, it sounds like a wide open bruised heart. The uncertain, faltering rhythm and Jamelia's disjointed vocal phrasing give the whole thing an air of ambiguity and nervousness that perfectly suits the soft-voiced defiance.
c) so this story is acted out in real time, as we're listening, and becomes a beautiful act of self-fulfilling narrative. We hear Jamelia describing her past self, even as it becomes apparent from the song that she is still the same person: it's just that, in the course of writing/performing the song, the qualities that were taken advantage of have become the instruments of a devastating emotional revenge.

Love it love it love it. It's such a quiet song, but it's so exhilarating and powerful, I'm amazed the world doesn't stop each time it comes on the radio. 
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