“Answer? I hardly know ‘er!” – hard not to feel for Eamon having his hit both confirmed as a novelty so immediately and gazumped so effectively. Whether Frankee and Eamon were exes or strangers before their tracks came out hardly matters – they are now linked forever in a union stronger than any marriage, the bond of pub quiz trivia. What is the only answer record to replace its original at Number One? “F.U.R.B.”, come on down.
“Two sides to every story”, Frankee mutters before launching into a track that’s far more vicious than Eamon’s original. She’s summing up the primal appeal of the answer record as a concept – it’s a way for the implied voices of pop songs to speak up and set matters straight. And the way society and the industry were in the heyday of the answer disc, that often meant women getting an opportunity to turn the tables on men: the more pious or self-righteous the man, the more delicious it is to hear that opportunity taken.

That was the promise of the answer record – at its best, it could be a conduit for the unheard, breaking open another song and putting it to a kind of trial by imitation. But that best was rare. Like a newspaper corrections column, the answer record’s right of reply was generally a far smaller deal than the original. With few exceptions, even good answer songs are intriguing footnotes to a classic tune, and plenty are as pointless as an explained joke. A track like Dodie Stevens’ “Yes I’m Lonesome Tonight” did exactly what it promised but it was at least beautifully sung. But there’s no real excuse for the redoubtable Connie Francis’ “Should I Tie A Yellow Ribbon To The Old Oak Tree?” (No, Connie, you should not).

Frankee could have continued this spare-wheel tradition. On paper that is all she does – “F.U.R.B.” is as blatant a cash-in as any 50s or 60s reply song. It infuriated plenty of chart-watchers, including Chris Moyles, a man who knew a thing or two about unnecessary joke records (as proved when he recorded a “F**k It” parody himself). But on record, “F.U.R.B.” does something else. Frankee pushes herself into and through the original song, not just correcting Eamon’s story but rewriting it. Like a crass 00s cousin of the assorted “Roxanne” hip-hop tracks 20 years earlier, “F.U.R.B.” becomes an inextricable part of “F**k It”, the scorned yin to its whinging yang. If you liked – or detested – one, chances were you’d feel the same about the other.

Or would you? “F.U.R.B.”’s success is partly down to its proximity to Eamon, but it’s also, for me, a better track. It’s cheaper and nastier, but in this context those are good things – they mean Frankee lands its blows harder, and those blows are more brutal. Eamon’s song treats his ex as an irrelevance: the specifics of their relationship are so much chaff. But Frankee’s below-the-belt counterpunch is all about the specifics, the particular inadequacies of Eamon’s sexual performance. Very mean given it was likely all invented, but it makes for a much spikier, more direct song.

It’s not just the venom making “F.U.R.B.” feel that way, too. “F**k It” sounds like a new jack R&B tune given a four-letter update. But because it’s cheaper, the production on “F.U.R.B.” accidentally looks forward, not back, its more prominent hi-hats reminding me of 2010s trap records more than anything 90s.

But in the end, the battle was always going to come down to one simple question. Who’s better at swearing? And the way Frankee gobs out the word “fuck” every time she reaches it puts her well ahead, making poor Eamon sound like he’s trying it on for size. Sure, it’s all a put-on, and after seven weeks of this drama you’d be forgiven for wanting them both to F right off – but “F.U.R.B.” enjoys its nastiness so much I can’t help but like it.

Score: 6

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