The intro to this is a masterclass: the strings and piano curling around the bass and drums in what amounts to a trailer for the song, teasing its hooks for you. It’s a suitably flirty intro for a duet, so it’s a shame the performers don’t really catch fire. Or the performer – Kiki Dee doesn’t do much wrong (though it’s annoying how her lines sometimes just trail off), it’s just unfortunate that she’s partnered with the fearful pop heffalump that is Elton John.
When the Demis Roussos thread turned into a discussion of “whose voices don’t you like?” I had to bite my tongue, as Elton is close to the top of any list I’d make. It’s not that his badness is in-your-face, it’s more that his steady effortful hollering wears me down. I also blame him for popularising that huffing mid-Atlantic style British pop stars keep falling back on – if you want a moment in “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” which sums up my dislike it’s the way he sings “honey” as “uh huh-neh”. He’s an ordinary singer who strains for power and connection but never quite makes it, at least on his famous stuff (though I’ve checked out a few recommended album cuts and still found the voice a problem).
As a writer, of course, he had plenty of moments, and disco seemed to particularly suit him, so musically “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is dandy – all those feinting, jabbing string and guitar parts mirroring what ought to be a playful display of chemistry and affection. Enough of that gets through to make it a good Elton John single, and a record I want to like, but my problem with Elton is just too big a barrier.