Sonique’s success has a distinct feelgood factor, one of pop’s lottery-winner stories. A singer and DJ who had been on the circuit for over a decade, her closest tilt at fame before this song was lead vocal on a couple of the later S’Express singles. Was it a case of a singer finally getting the right song? Hindsight says yes – except that “It Feels So Good” had been only a modest hit a couple of years before, slipping quickly out of the Top 30. There was nothing in the singer or song’s pedigree to suggest it would hold the top for three weeks in the most volatile year in UK pop history.
My problem is that it’s hard to say the British public got it more right the second time than the first, when they’d given “It Feels So Good” a sniff and largely turned away. If Sonique did win the lottery, then like many a winner it’s hard to pretend she deserved it more than a thousand others. “It Feels So Good” is the biggest song of the year so far: it’s also one of the least engaging. Not because it lacks quality, exactly: its bubbling dance-pop backing is restrained enough that the chorus feels like a release, and the use of strings makes the track feel tastefully upholstered too. But even in the radio edit, the song’s ideas and its emotional range soon run out, and it falls back again and again on that chorus. Diminishing returns set in, and the initial breakout into euphoria dissipates.
You could point to Sonique’s throaty, sultry voice as a quality – and it’s certainly a strong instrument. In fact, more than anything it’s her voice that explains the record’s appeal. It seems to me that Sonique has a kind of strength the UK public respond to very strongly when it turns up on the X-Factor or the Voice: smoky enough to sound sophisticated (her first single was a cover of “You Put A Spell On Me”) but capable of belting where needed. Throw in Sonique’s sympathetic struggles in the biz and you have the very model of a reality pop show heartwarmer – a year before the format got going. Perhaps that solves the mystery, but it certainly doesn’t make “It Feels So Good” more enticing today.