British girl group Little Mix has come on board to support the British biennial charity event, Sport Relief.
The acapella opening, with the spelling of ‘W-O-R-D’ and unnecessary stuttering of lyrics, is disorientating for listeners, as there is no beat to keep time. The overly processed, soulless harmonies throughout Word Up pale against spectacular vocal productions on similar electro-pop-rock tracks like Queen of the Night (with Whitney Houston’s signature stacked harmonies) and En Vogue’s explosive Free Your Mind.
When the drums kick in, it is clear that the Little Mix cover has sucked all the funk, groove and personality out of the quirky original. Listeners are battered by a cowbell that’s a bad rip-off of Janet Jackson’s Black Cat (another hard-hitting pop-rock track with great harmonies). The bridge even tries to mimic Prince’s When Doves Cry by removing the bass, whilst also throwing in some autotune and oversinging. W-T-F?
The pointless acapella reappears before the final chorus, ruining the flow and nailing the final nail in the coffin of this lifeless single. If this vocals-only section is intended to show off Little Mix’s singing and emotional power, then it has failed miserably.
Phrases that give away the song’s American origins like ‘word up’ and ‘you’re your brother, your sister and your mama too’ also sound awkward, as none of the vocalists have the soul to pull it off.
Overall, the decision to cover Word Up is wrong on so many levels. The fact that it is a charity track does not redeem its clunky production, lack of soul and average vocal performances.