Like disco and Philly soul before it, UK garage mixed upfront celebration with flashes of heartbreak, only lightly concealed. The carrier for 2-step’s bittersweet accents was often its string or harpsichord lines, set as counterpoint to the carefree lyrics. Sometimes songs were more open about their anomie: “I’m tired of love / And scared of no love” sighs the unhappy singer on Y Tribe’s beautiful “Enough Is Enough”. The opportunity was always there for a garage track which slipped further into the emotional dark, which took the skittering beats of 2-step not as champagne pops but as the prickly heat of nervous desire. Daniel Bedingfield took it.
Bedingfield is another early 00s star who racked up more hits than most remember: we’ll be seeing him twice more. But he’s an intriguingly awkward case – “Gotta Get Through This” promises something more agonised than the run of droopy-eared ballads that came later. The backing – his own bedroom production at heart, buffed up across many remixes – is angular, stabs of keyboard bouncing around Bedingfield’s pinched vocals, pushing them into contorted spaces. The plot of the song is a bait and switch – what starts as missing somebody (“Just another day and then I’ll hold you tight”) turns into unrequited fantasy: “I pretend that you’re already mine…”
He just can’t get you out of his head – but where Kylie makes obsession delicious, Bedingfield endures it as fever, a sickness forcing hopeless moans out from his wracked frame – “God…God…gotta help me get through this”. “God” could as easily be “Gone”. Or “Gollum”. And that’s my ultimate issue with the single, the thing that stops it at intriguing, not great. Bedingfield is just too pitiful, too abject, in his writhing need. My empathy for his plight – I’ve been there, after all; who hasn’t? – shifts gradually towards discomfort, even repulsion. That very mix of emotions – which you could also find at the emo end of rock – made him an initially interesting prospect. Follow up single “James Dean (I Wanna Know)” went even further into self-torturing spite. But Bedingfield, as we’ll find out, had other, more commercial skills. So “Gotta Get Through This” feels like a one-hit wonder even though it isn’t: an experiment in fusing the propulsion of dance music with infatuation’s gross trauma.