I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pop music peaked in the early noughties. Sure, the charts were cluttered with novelty songs and one hit wonders, but when Bob The Builder wasn’t claiming the Christmas number one spot, pop music was thriving. The likes of Girls Aloud, Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, t.A.T.u., Gwen Stefani and Kylie Minogue were injecting a much needed boost into the veins of a pop industry that had too long relied on cheesy kids bops, Britpop and stale boy bands. And right in the middle of this new wave of female pop heroes was Anastacia, the US-import who straddled the UK charts and ruled the airwaves with her husky caterwauling. Here was a woman who stared at you through big, tinted sunglasses, strutted in denim and crop tops and could stop traffic with her voice alone.
The early noughties were good, but times have changed. Over a decade on from her heyday – and with very few artists of her generation still going strong – Anastacia has released her new track ‘Caught In The Middle’.
Much has changed in the years since Anastacia’s last top ten (2004’s ‘Sick And Tired’) but one thing has stayed the same – the voice. That distinctive mezzo-soprano is back, just as big and mighty as you remembered, still as blaring and dominant as it was on ‘I’m Outta Love’.
‘Caught In The Middle’ is a pop song in its purest sense, built on a repetitive, hook-heavy chorus and reliable structure. A Bollywood-esque riff makes for an interesting twist though, repeating over an uptempo string arrangement while Anastacia makes the whole thing pretty much null and void, her voice the best instrument here by far.
But aside from a hummable chorus, ‘Caught In The Middle’ doesn’t offer much to enthuse about. The production feels a little dated, the entire track sounding like a 3rd place Eurovision entry from Azerbaijan, and Anastacia’s voice even sounds slightly diluted at times during the chorus. While the opening few seconds suggest something a little unusual, once the verse kicks in, the track quickly loses its way. It’s an enjoyable listen, though not one that leaves you hungry for more. ‘Caught In The Middle’ also feels a little messy, with too many ideas and sounds crammed into three minutes, as though the producer just wanted to test out every button on his shiny new soundboard.
It’s nice to hear Anastacia’s instantly recognisable voice again, but it’s a pity that ‘Caught In The Middle’ is the catalyst, a track that lacks the bite of her earlier work and pales in comparison to the likes of ‘Left Outside Alone‘. But then again, how many tracks since 2004 have been even half as good as that?