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The road to hell gets paved with charitable intentions and confused sexual metaphors.
The British girl groups Sugababes and Girls Aloud have been responsible for many of this decade’s best pop tracks–both groups’ best moments combined irresistible hooks with aesthetics that anticipated coming pop trends, instead of Xeroxing them. Even the Sugababes’ penchant for swapping members didn’t tarnish their shine until the very end of the decade. So when the news broke that the two groups would be collaborating on the well-worn Aerosmith classic “Walk This Way” in an effort to raise money for the British charity Comic Relief, expectations were somewhat high. Would their coming together finally put to rest the endless poptimist arguments about which girl group reigned supreme? Would Keisha Buchanan strap on a guitar for the occasion? And most importantly, would the combined powers of ‘Babes Aloud transform the Toxic Twins’ 1975 chestnut about sexual awakening into a piece of transcendently high-gloss, gender-bending pop?
Perhaps if the track had been produced by the British pop production team Xenomania, which was responsible for many of both groups’ aforelinked triumphs, we wouldn’t have to deal with the thorny situation of placing two of the decade’s most enjoyable bands in the upper reaches of a countdown of its worst moments. Because what happened instead was a shrieking three-minute trainwreck, with the eight singers audibly elbowing each other out of the way on the verses, and the choruses consisting of little more than all of them shouting “Walk This Wa—aaayyyy!” at once. Dallas Austin–who, it should be noted, was behind the board for some great Sugababes tracks–apparently took the “comic” in the benefiting charity’s name seriously, using Joe Perry’s all-too-familiar guitar riff as the linchpin for turning all of his studio’s settings up to “crazy” before letting the ladies loose. “Walk This Way” might work as a setup to the video, which is a faithful (if Adidas-free) recreation of the 1986 clip that brought together Aerosmith and Run-DMC, but on its own it’s absolutely dire, full of incoherent yelliness and endless repetition of That Riff.
It didn’t help that the track had to be lyrically toned down so that it would achieve Radio One readiness–the line about a cheerleader being a “young bleeder” was PG-13’d into her becoming a mere “pleaser,” to cite one example. While pretty much every lyrical reference to ladies and girls was found and replaced so that the singers would be seen as firmly heterosexual, the opening couplets still consist of the collected singers getting a fatherly lecture on the life-altering experience that is giving a woman head. Did the lyricist responsible for cleaning up Perry and Tyler’s raunch really do so while thinking that the phrase “down on the muffin” meant that you had to serve your conquest breakfast the morning after–or was this merely a clumsy attempt at extending the song’s beneficiaries to all those women out there who have had to deal with orally averse men? Can someone please get L7 on the line to render a verdict here?