11
Mar 15

SONIQUE – “It Feels So Good”

Popular41 comments • 4,846 views

#861, 3rd June 2000

sonique 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.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Billy Hicks on 12 Mar 2015 #

    What the hell happened here? An extremely average, mediocre “dance” track – in quotes because it’s essentially a pop song with some acidy squelches plonked over the top already ten years out of date – that the British public randomly went nuts for. I still to this day have no idea what people were thinking and how this was somehow more deserving than S Club 7’s ‘Reach’, surely the presumed #1 that week looking at the release schedule and one that instead was kept at #2.

    The one, one bit I quite like is the “And that’s what takes me hiiiiighhhh!”, which feels like it’s building up to a pop-trance stomper of a chorus, but it never happens. And it sold hundreds of thousands. I don’t understand.

    2, for that one line.

  2. 2
    mapman132 on 12 Mar 2015 #

    This song’s second life may have come about due to its success in the US where it peaked at #8. At least I remember it being around for a couple months on American radio before I unexpectedly saw it appear atop the UK chart. I’ll echo the two comments thus far: it’s really kind of mediocre for the first 3-week UK topper of the year.

    On a personal note, I notice its 3 week(ends) at #1 correspond exactly to the 16 days of my first cross-America road trip via the famed Route 66. Doesn’t make me like it more though. 5/10.

  3. 3
    JLucas on 12 Mar 2015 #

    As I recall, it was the unexpected, slow-burn success of It Feels So Good in America that prompted the UK re-release. I think UK singers having hits in the USA were enough of a rarity around this time that it was novel enough for Radio 1 and co to really get on board with it.

    I really like Sonique’s delivery here. The actual tune is quite minimal – basic even – and I think a more full-pelt dance diva delivery might have exposed the cracks. But she rides its bubbling rhythm with a smoky, laid-back drawl – even the high note feels more like a post-coital sigh than a shriek of ecstasy. Definitely a case of right singer/right song/right set of circumstances for me, even though I agree it’s not an obvious chart-topper at all.

    Sonique is in the dubious company of Best British Female BRIT award winners which in the 90s was almost a byword for one-album wonder status (Des’ree, Shola Ama, Dina Carroll). Sky was a solid #2 hit with similar production but a more typically dramatic vocal – I really liked it.

    After that was her cover of ‘I Put A Spell On You’, which was an interesting take and – I believe – her original breakout hit on the dance scene. I bought the album at the time, but couldn’t hum a single album track today. Her second album was three years in the making and was dead on arrival thanks to a rather half-hearted lead single (Can’t Make Up My Mind: #17 in May 2003). The follow-up ‘Alive’ was much stronger, but the writing was on the wall by that point and it limped in at #70.

    I presume she went back to DJ-ing after that as she seemed to more or less vanish, although Wikipedia reveals she did release two further albums in 2006 and 2011.

    A likeable 7 for this.

  4. 4
    Inanimate Carbon God on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I guess this’ll suffer the “Tony Di Bart effect” – great hook, the (string) backing really gives it a certain something, but few seem prepared to call it an “anthem” or (God forbid) a “banger” because of the singer’s apparent ordinariness.

  5. 5
    Chelovek na lune on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Kind of dull, and a track that has aged extremely, and to me surprisingly, badly. A vaguely sci-fi feel in parts that hints on an expansive openness, but it never quite delivers what it promises (a musical demonstration of feeling so good, for one thing) and never gets out of middle gear. (I think I preferred “Sky” at the time, even though it was a patent rehash of the same formula to score a second big hit- but listening again, nah, that’s nothing special, either. 5

  6. 6
    flahr on 12 Mar 2015 #

    B-b-but I thought the Clean Bunny #1 was in 2014 [5]

  7. 7
    Phil on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Like Billy Hicks @1 I was waiting for the big chorus that the actual chorus is so clearly setting up for… and waiting, and waiting. I did like the “but it was all a dream” drop-out at the end of the video, but it’s too little, too late – DJs would have faded it out already.

    Curious about the OP’s ‘capable of belting where needed’ – I hear no belting here, more’s the pity. What I do hear – and it’s very X Factor – is a lot of Mariah Careyesque melismatic doodling, particularly in the second verse. I think that is one of the boxes this single ticked with the GBP – “she can really sing!”.

  8. 8
    wichitalineman on 12 Mar 2015 #

    It’ll be interesting to see how this sounds in another five years, because 15 years distance is doing IFSG no favours at at all.

    Its success didn’t seem like a mystery to me at the time: the chorus melody is catchy, it has a slight “sci fi” feel as already mentioned, and if we’re talking “classy” 2000 pop then I think it dumps on the mumsy Rise.

    It had perceived subtlety in 2000, but that subtle production now comes over as flat as a pancake. In 2015 we’ve become accustomed to ebbs and flows, build-ups and “bangers” (when did that first become common parlance?), so naturally we expect It Feels So Good to go to places which wouldn’t have seemed obvious fifteen years ago.

    The chorus is still terrific though, so I couldn’t go lower than 5.

  9. 9
    lmm on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Dance was never really my scene so maybe I should leave it to those who were. But for me this was dull at the time and it’s dull now.

  10. 10
    thefatgit on 12 Mar 2015 #

    No, I like this. I guess the Total Request Live effect might have contributed to R1’s iron-willed playlisters, giving Sonique another shot. She’s not trance and she’s not UKG, so in the context of 2000, her pop is not part of an established scene, so that may attract outliers. I dunno, I seem to respond to the chorus and the little acid flourishes in a positive way. I’m reminded of Yazz and the Plastic Population, with their euphoric TOWIU from well over a decade before, but not for riding in on the coat-tails of acid house, but for its relentless optimism. Sonique is like an older and wiser Yazz who has taken a fair few knocks during the intervening decade, but still knows how to hold on to the things that make her happy. Even the video suggests that the club diva fantasy is an escape from the harsh realities of a dead-end job. People were living this dream not too long ago, but somehow it had become twisted into a soulless commercial monster. If Sonique chimes with anyone here, it’s those warehouse ravers who grew up and joined the rat race. It’s that particular group of people that Sonique is communicating with here. (7)

  11. 11
    wichitalineman on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Good call, TFG.

  12. 12
    AMZ1981 on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Not only did this become the only three week runner during the full year (2000’s other three weeker is the Christmas number one and lingered into the New Year but we’ll get to that in time) but it’s worth noting that Reach held down the runner up spot for all those three weeks on its way to becoming S Club 7’s most enduring song. The last time the top two had remained static for three weeks was almost two years previously (Three Lions 98 and Fat Les’ Vindaloo) and I think it might be a while before we see it again.

    The trio of number three hits during this time would all have made interesting discussion points; Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life (a big comeback at the time and their last hit before they became a fan base concern* as far as the singles chart goes, Stephen Gately’s New Beginning (the start of a short and misfiring solo career) and long forgotten media personality Richard Blackwood with Mama Who Da Man.

    I think the reason It Feels So Good took off so strongly is that she covered all bases. It could be played in a club and also more conventional discos while having enough appeal for rock fans; it had a lyric and a chorus and thus could be sung in karaoke while teenage musicians possibly picked out the chords for acoustic open mic nights. It is strange that fifteen years on it has dated a lot worse than the `instant` chart toppers around it.

    I much prefer Sky and there is something ironic in the fact that it’s not bunnied. We’ll get to the reason for that irony eventually. In the meantime Sonique and S Club 7 may have brought some welcome stability to the chart but they proved to be the calm before the storm. Brace yourself – here we go.

    * still sell out stadiums though and are worth the money – I’ve been twice

  13. 13
    Alfred on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I should note that this song became an American top ten after Miami’s own Power 96 played the hell out of it in late fall ’99 and well into the new year. The tune was inescapable in South Florida.

  14. 14
    lockedintheattic on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Sonique did more than just a couple of singles with S’Express – for their second album ‘Intercourse’ Mark Moore turned it into more of a proper group with Sonique doing lead vocals on almost every track (and her face features as prominently on the cover as his). I loved Find Time To Be Yourself (the first single off the album) at the time – and the album has a particular place in my heart as it was the record my first boyfriend put on the first time I went round to his house.

    After S’Express disbanded she went on to become a DJ – and became particularly famous within the club scene for singing live vocals over the top of the tracks she was playing. This was unique enough at the time to get her noticed and presumably helped get the record deal.

    I think because her style didn’t quite fit with the trance & UKG dominating the dance scene here that she didn’t take off straight away – but she was perfectly placed to do well in the states which was in the midst of its late 90s ‘Electronica’ boom, the first time European-style dance music was taking off over there.

    Based on my fond memories of her time with S’Express I was super-excited about IFSG – and like everyone here I was massively disappointed it never turned into the banger that it sounds like its going to. Shame. [5]

  15. 15
    punctum on 12 Mar 2015 #

    With 42 different number ones, the Popular 2000 list was always going to be something of a qualitative lottery; for every bold thrust into the future there is an equivalent anti-gravitational force pulling things back almost to ’75-6 levels, and the factor which did most to drag everything back to that particular drought was not dully obedient boy bands but the inescapable anti-phenomenon of bland Eurodance/Techno/Trance. Listening to the misleadingly-named “It Feels So Good” makes me wonder just how much pompous old AoR was being smuggled back into the charts under the guise of danceable newness, and how a song whose tagline is “and that’s what takes me high” could make me feel anything but. The days of Livin’ Joy and Black Box could sometimes seem as remote as those of Glenn Miller.

    The artist normally known as Sonia Clarke was that rarest of phenomena, the female DJ/producer turned singer, but Annie From Norway she was not; she’d worked with William Orbit (as Bass-O-Matic) and S’Express in the past but neither influence appears to permeate the puffed-up dreariness of “It Feels So Good” with its Titanic synth strings, its not very danceable beats, Sonique’s own strained vocal and the least imaginative use of Autotune (in the chorus) imaginable. And yet it was 2000’s third best-selling single (“Pure Shores” came in second and the top seller is yet to be reached), played to death on AoR stations who wouldn’t go near Oxide & Neutrino with a 20,000-foot blowtorch – and there’s the answer; make-do-and-mend fake plastic pop…it sounds new from two unknowing rooms away but its old rope when examined close up would be hard pressed to support even one shirt, let alone a whole weekly wash.

  16. 16
    Matthew H on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I agree entirely, Tom. The thing I could never get past was the final line of the chorus – “It’s you I’m always thinking of/Ooooh baby” – which she clearly couldn’t hit with any ease so strangled her vocal cords to get it out. I found it excessively irritating.

  17. 17
    katstevens on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Would much rather listen to Ultra Naté, but I loved Sonique’s practical clobber in the first half of the video: bovver boots and tracky top. Then she gets to the club and it all goes metallic boob tube central (nb I may have contemporaneously owned a sparkly dark blue top with straps so thin it was indistinguishable from a boob tube).

  18. 18
    Inanimate Carbon God on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I remember a rather mean quip from a friend of a friend who said Sonique “looked like Andi Peters.”

    Surely he’s not bunnied in any way? I think it was around this time he became the Kim Jong-Un of TOTP.

  19. 19
    Inanimate Carbon God on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I remember a rather mean quip from a friend of a friend who said Sonique “looked like Andi Peters.”

    Surely he’s not bunnied in any way? I think it was around this time he became the Kim Jong-Un of TOTP. To paraphrase Third World, now he ran the Beeb, what was he gonna do with it?

  20. 20
    weej on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I was trying to remember how this went and was utterly stumped. I remember not being able to stand ‘Sky’ (though it was a favourite of my sister’s) but “It Feels So Good” just didn’t ring any bells, and reading the review and comments above offered little in the way of encouragement. Then as soon as I found it on youtube it was all “oh, THIS one” and a flood of warm memories came back. Is it up to me to present the case for Sonique? Not something I expected half an hour ago.
    Firstly, yes, I can understand not being enthused by the verses, they are just sort of making time for the chorus – but with a chorus like that there’s no need for extra fireworks. It’s a combination of the backing vocals, the low-frequency trance beat bubbling up underneath, and Sonique’s vocal gliding over the top. Actually there’s even something there in the verses – the backing may consist of sets of synth sounds we’ve all heard before, but here they seem to be specially honed to work together. It never sounds cheap, never draws your attention too much, and by all rights it should.
    It also really doesn’t need to build up to anything – a song written to conjure a state of magical ecstacy doesn’t need that, if there were extra drama it would break the spell. I can totally appreciate why this went to #1 and why it stayed there – it’s a perfect mix of pleasant background sound and the rewards of repeated listens. I might even give it an 8.

    Edit: TFG at #10 nails it better than I could

  21. 21
    Ricardo on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Her TOTP appearance defies any notion of trainwreck! :o

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXGMCbNsgLI

    And yes, that IS Richard Blackwood presenting at the very beginning. Talk about two early 00’s relics!

  22. 22
    ace inhibitor on 12 Mar 2015 #

    completely passed me by at the time. Listening now, it sounds like it was written to be a slower song and would have been more effective that way. A thought compounded by the similarly speeded version of I Put a Spell On You being the 2nd song on the album, after this

  23. 23
    lonepilgrim on 12 Mar 2015 #

    I felt pretty positive watching the video and realised that I remembered the ‘that’s what makes me high’ hook but soon found my attention wandering. It’s pleasant enough but feels undeveloped compared to what others were producing. Perhaps with a better production team Sonique may have gone on to do better stuff.

  24. 24
    Edward Still on 12 Mar 2015 #

    The song under discussion here really does nothing unfortunately, as MOR as dance music could get. If you told me this was A-listed on Radio 2 I wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

    However that number 2 is for me one of my most important musical experiences. “Reach” and S Club to me represent the opporunity at 17 to shake off the dull dreary indie clothes of the 90s and fully embrace wonderful, joyous pop for what it can be. By this point I was in the lower 6th, and the whole atmosphere of college compared to school was a wonderfully liberating thing. I suddenly had friends, freedom and an interest in what I was being asked to learn. A massive part of this new me was embracing the music I enjoyed rather than the music I was peer pressured into liking at Britpop Secondary. “Reach” was the moment the pendulum swung, and though I have no desire to hear it for the millionth time it will always be a 10 to me, and my current choice to be lowered into the grave to as well.

  25. 25
    leveret2 on 12 Mar 2015 #

    Having totally forgotten that this even existed, I actually found it a pleasant surprise. Nicely understated, with a strong chorus hook and vocal performance. It simmers rather than boils, but none the worse for it. I’d give it 7.

    I was slightly surprised to learn that ‘Reach’ was co-written by Cathy Dennis. I can’t in all honesty say it’s my favourite of hers.

  26. 26
    Billy Hicks on 13 Mar 2015 #

    Best ‘Reach’ memory – a friend’s 24th (that’s 24th) birthday party in September 2011 saw the random appearance of a bouncy castle in their garden, as a sort of ironic throwback to childhood as we all trudged through our twenties.

    A series of fully grown early twenties adults, bouncing on the castle singing this chorus followed.

  27. 27
    The Clapton Pond Regeneration Project on 13 Mar 2015 #

    My friend’s dad is the only person I know who likes this. Works on the oil rigs, cattle farmer, never asked for a present in his life. Doesn’t own any records. No discernible hobbies apart from the farm, so every Christmas and birthday the family just get him something with a picture of a cow on it. Until the day he asked: “could you get me the Sonique album for Christmas?”

  28. 28
    Tom on 13 Mar 2015 #

    I’m pretty glad “Reach” didn’t make it, because I’d be hard pressed to stretch even to a 6 and slating it for being perky Fauxtown gubbins would have felt like kicking a puppy: Edward at #24 is right that it was a big pop moment for many.

  29. 29
    Edward Still on 13 Mar 2015 #

    Yeah I had definitely liked a lot of pop songs before but always with the provisio “I don’t like this sort of thing but….”.

    Reach, more than any other song allowed me to drop the asterisk which is why it retains my permanent allegiance.

  30. 30
    Tommy Mack on 13 Mar 2015 #

    I enjoyed Reach at the time. Actually I enjoyed most of S Club 7. With all the mordant dadrock/sadrock carrion clogging up the airwaves, it was hard to hate on something for being perky even if it was a bit cheap and cheerful. EDIT: Seems to be what others are saying too…

  31. 31
    23 Daves on 13 Mar 2015 #

    This is so strange. “It Feels So Good” sounds completely and utterly different to my memory of it – I remember it as being subtle but vibrant, and having much more depth to it… but when I went back to listen just now, it’s a horribly reedy, cheap sounding record. It’s rare that I pull out the criticism “This has dated badly”, because it’s a bit glib and I’m not always sure what it means by itself – but the production really, really doesn’t work for me now. It also sounds much faster than I remember it. Was there a different mix doing the rounds on the radio I might have been hearing instead?

    Anyway… I’m stunned at how much my opinion of this one has changed. It was something I was looking forward to revisiting. But it clearly does nothing for me these days.

  32. 32
    Inanimate Carbon God on 13 Mar 2015 #

    David Gray, Gabrielle, Chicane featuring Bryan Adams and if I’m being a bit harsh, now this.. I’ve been very kind in recent threads to the safe, the middle-of-the-road, Middle England kind of pop.

    That’s set to change soon. In the second half of 2000, just like the charts, my world was to be thrown into chaos and though I hadn’t quite burned all my bridges, I’d set fire to all the fences I had left to sit on. And like some of the forthcoming charts, there were to be all kinds of alarm bells ringing and wake-up calls if I was going to make it into the future. The 6-7-6-7-6 days are over… hold onto your hats!

  33. 33
    anto on 14 Mar 2015 #

    I really can’t understand all the disdain being heaped on this track. It sounds to me like an adept updating of the kind of tune Ann Peebles might have sung 30 years earlier.

  34. 34
    Chinny Reckon on 15 Mar 2015 #

    @31-

    The original mix had a straight 4/4 house beat and sounded very similar to her cover of ‘I put a spell on you’. There was also the ‘Sonique breakbeat mix’ which had, as the name suggests, a breakbeat. Both of these mixes had corresponding radio edits and airplay was split- I believe the original radio edit got the majority of play on the initial UK release with the breakbeat radio edit getting the majority when it made number one.

  35. 35
    Paulito on 17 Mar 2015 #

    …which begs the question: which version was Tom reviewing? This uncertainty has arisen before and is liable to do so again. Tom, could I ‘umbly suggest that in future such cases you post a link, for the avoidance of confusion? I’m assuming that your review is of the “official”/”A-side” mix, but I dunno which one that was.

  36. 36
    Tom on 17 Mar 2015 #

    Not a bad idea – where there’s doubt I generally do a bit of Spotify research and try and find a version where the video and radio edit seem to agree. Oddly enough with Sonique the track was exactly as I remembered so I guess I only heard one version!

  37. 37
    lockedintheattic on 17 Mar 2015 #

    I think most people only heard the breakbeat mix (the one from the rerelease that hit number one) – just had a listen to the original mix (that only went to 24) and I didn’t recognise it at all

  38. 38
    Chinny Reckon on 28 Mar 2015 #

    @36- You have to be careful in that regard though Tom, I would not be surprised if many sources incorrectly label the ‘Breakbeat mix’ as the Original mix, or incorrectly assume they are one and the same.

  39. 39
    ciaran on 24 Apr 2015 #

    Is that Limahl in the first few seconds of the video?!

    I’m amazed that this has 8 million views on Youtube given the utter blandness of it. More than anything it shows given the rapid turnover of number 1’s at the start of the millennium that anything can pass by and get to the summit.Hard to imagine it being a number 1 at any other time bar 1999 or this. Like the generic dance music cliches of the early 90s rolled into one. 4 is spot on.

  40. 40
    Steve Mannion on 24 Apr 2015 #

    You think this is BLANDance? Wait til we get to the 2010s… (apart from the quite good ones)

  41. 41
    Gareth Parker on 24 May 2021 #

    I rather like the floaty quality to this single. 7/10 for me.

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