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5 toe-curling pop duets that subvert the love song formula

Infidelity, spats, breakups and more, these singers aren't afraid to explore the chillier side of love.

By Dave Thompson 

Britpop icon Miki Berenyi of Lush put it best. “Most duets I grew up with were unbearably wet and involved two people gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes, wittering on about Endless Love.” And really, how much of that can you take? Goldmine digs out the five greatest duets in which love isn’t necessarily as great as so many songs say it is.

But, if you listen carefully, maybe it is.

  

5. “Ciao!” by Lush featuring Jarvis Cocker

A disintegrated marriage made in mid-'90s Britpop heaven, “Ciao” was penned by Lush’s Mimi Berenyi, and we agree when she says “Nancy and Lee’s version of ‘Jackson’ is one of my all-time favorite singles.” It made sense, then, for her  to flip the traditional coin as well. “I thought it was so much more passionate and real to have a couple bitching and bantering with each other, yet they still have this spark. Also, the woman gets just as many great lines as the bloke!”

  

4. “If I Had Words” by Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley

If they’d entered this for the Eurovision Song Contest (2022's event is on this weekend, pop fans!), it would have conquered the world. Abba Schmabba, let's hear it for Scott and Yvonne, and a gorgeous slice of irresistible fluff that floats past on such a lilting reggae rhythm that the sun is shining wherever you are.  So singa-singa-singalong, but please. Right at the end, Scott can make some very striking shrieky-screechy noises. You can't, so do not try this at home.

  

3. “Try It” by Champaign

Early '80s soul at its '70s Philly-style peak, Pauli is doing his best to convince Rena to come back to him, and Rena… well, Rena doesn’t really say much of anything, beyond singing a handful of harmonies and giving him a few of those looks that you can actually see just by listening. This wasn't the Illinois septet's greatest hit (that was "How 'Bout Us"}, but once heard, it's hard to forget.

  

2. Open The Door” by Clive and Naomi

Again turning the traditional "I love you and you love me" ethic utterly upside down, '60s ska stars Clive and Naomi stand on either side of a well-bolted door, screaming the odds at one another and threatening all manner of mayhem if they could get their hands on one another. The smart money's on Naomi — she sounds especially vexed.

  

1. “Lucky Stars” by Dean Friedman featuring Denise Marsa

Most couples, when they have a row about one or other’s possible infidelity, try to put it behind themselves as quickly as possible. Dean (sporting the late 1970s' most maudlin 'tache) and Denise put it out on 45. A lot of people will tell you this late night squabble is utter slop, and the saxophone breaks certainly don’t disagree. But Denise drives him into such a corner that her (almost) last words rank among '70s schlock’s most deathless lyrical couplets. Altogether now, “Listen hun, I know you’re dumb….”