Devotees of the authentic might expect a love duet between real lovers to be particularly intense, or sincere, or believable. They are no doubt disappointed by “I Got You Babe”, where both singers sound like they’re in a radio play or running an awards show: step to the mic, deep breath, a-ha!. Sonny in particular is ridiculous – his “I guess that’s so” is solid mahogany and his wide-eyed grab at ‘romantic’ on “I got flowers…” a noble but total failure. When he tries gamely to match Cher’s natural dynamics in the coda, I sympathise, wincing.
None of this makes “I Got You Babe” anything other than a fine record. One of the things that makes bubblegum pop so infuriating for its enemies is that almost any flaw is forgiveable, even charming once the hooks have got you. This is also what makes it tough to write in detail about, of course. People complain – justifiably – that “but it’s great pop” is a rhetorical get-out-of-jail card, and sometimes all I can muster is a rueful “yup”. Sonny’s stagey shenanigans might detonate a more considered record, but this one shrugs them off. Maybe it’s the trumpet line, or the music-box keyboards, or Cher’s voice – or maybe it’s just that even Sonny can’t block the surge of goodwill as the song crescendoes to its last chorus, but as the curtain falls I find myself clapping.