Sometimes a single lyric can make a song work for me.
“She’s just a few degrees shy of the cool” is such a beautiful turn of phrase. Those 9 words more efficiently and evocatively convey the song’s meaning than the verses, which are terribly overwritten.
And yet the song works because the arrangement* puts space around that lyric so you really feel what it’s communicating. The song lets you sit with that image of this girl in your head long enough to recognize her – and emphathize.
And also the song builds in a way that never obscures the sheer power of those 9 words. It begins to come alive on the second verse once the instrumentation kicks in. And then after the bridge, the song creates a nice sense of urgency – care about this girl! – by, wisely, giving Oritsé, the group’s strongest vocalist**, the opportunity to let loose with some beautiful vocalizing, letting JB do some nice falsetto work with those 9 words, and then, stacking Marvin’s final vamp and the backgrounds.
It’s actually quite breathtaking.
*This song is apparently a re-recorded, re-arranged version of an original song the guys wrote years ago when they were called UFO. The song was sort of a fan favorite and I guess that’s why it was re-recorded for their latest album, Jukebox. Cool video of them practicing a rough version in 2008.
**JLS is still somewhat stubbornly faceless as a group. And this song doesn’t totally change that, but it is another example of how effective the group can be with good material that producers shape by arranging the vocals in a way that really makes great use of each vocalist. They really need this kind of thing more consistently.