I’ll tell you what. With robots!
Girls Alouds’ Untouchable stands as one of Out of Control’s finest moments because of how it overcomes the silliness that should mar it. It’s melodramatic to the point where hearing the girls sincerely crying about “beautiful robots dancing alone” should be laughable. The lengthy intro should come off as an indulgent nod to Ibiza chillout compilations. And amidst the over-the-top Euro pop production there are wooshing sounds. Were the song four minutes long, I would discard Untouchable as a tacky, try-hard slice of pop schlock. But it’s not four minutes long.
I’ll admit: on first listen, I was a detractor. I thought the length was ridiculous and that I’d rarely sit through such a saga. Yet despite myself, I do. I sit through the wooshing and the guitars and the melodrama because the song earns it. The slow burn of the song’s intro, the bursts of energy, the exhausted lulls – they’re all worth it and work towards a heartfelt sincerity that keeps the song afloat.
Cut down to under four minutes, the song doesn’t have enough time to stew. It’s not brought slowly to the boil and simmered, it’s flash-fried. It’s coming onto you far too quickly, so instead of a slow build that gradually tugs at you and draws you in until you’re completely entranced, you get a troupe of robots with boomboxes for heads grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you relentlessly. And that’s not what Untouchable is about. These aren’t beautiful robots dancing alone, these are heartless T1000s. Where the album version was a daunting experience that earned its way into your heart and left you with a real Arnie’s thumb ending, the single edit is a terrifying chase through a parking lot that attacks your car with its liquid metal arms.*
It’s a cruel irony that a seven minute song should only sound unrelenting after it’s edited. Single edits can work very well, don’t get me wrong. This just isn’t one of those instances.
And don’t even get me started on Torvill and Dean.
*I might have taken this Terminator metaphor a little too far. If you’d prefer a more highbrow analogy, Popjustice have the Mona Lisa for you.