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“Just Like Everybody Else” by Pure Intruders: Silky-Smooth Sophisti-Pop Throwback

PI

Listening to Pure Intruders’ “Just Like Everybody Else” is like time-traveling back to the heyday of mid-Eighties UK sophisti-pop. All the great things about Sade’s “Smooth Operator” – jazzy chords, smooth danceability and an inviting vocal – are on full display in this song. But the lyrics take it to another level, reminding us that relationships are works-in-progress – fluid, dynamic and ever-changing.

It would be tempting to describe this song as “chill” or “hypnotically danceable,” but it’s much more than that. Lead vocalist/lyricist Madeline Julia Smith explores a lot of subtle emotions here. First, there’s a reference to lowered expectations in the age of Covid:

How do you get used to feeling good at being just okay?

Then the song goes deeper, examining a relationship that’s essentially solid yet has ample room for improvement.

I couldn’t talk about it on the way home,

though I know you listen

Sometimes you have me tied and twisted all wrong.

Smith’s lyrics reveal the secret behind all successful relationships: the willingness to keep growing and learning:

It’s a new direction,

Not aiming for perfection

We’re in this together, we’re just climbing up the ladder

Musically, this trio clicks from the get-go, even though Smith and Brandon Suarez (keys, percussion, production) live in Chicago and Jonathan Noel (guitar, bass) lives in Atlanta. Suarez’s floaty synths and swelling keyboard work are reminiscent of many overlooked Seventies disco gems – the ones that often didn’t make it to radio because they were subtler than “Disco Inferno.” The percussion is smooth and seductive. It’s a song that would draw attention in almost any setting: coffee house, dance floor, you name it.

While “Just Like Everybody Else” is miles away from Taylor Swift musically, Smith’s evocative vocals and lyrical gifts are very Swift-like. For starters, Smith (like Swift) can bring a lot of subtle emotion to a song. In an era when many pop divas hit the obligatory American Idol high notes and trills, Smith’s singing on “Just Like Everybody Else” is gently inviting. You get the feeling that (duh!) she’s actually singing to her lover – a gift that Mariah Carey once had but lost, if you re-listen to her early sophisti-pop hit “Can’t Let Go.”

Because Smith’s vocal is so delicately beguiling, the listener actually ponders what she’s singing about. Early in the song, there’s the be-true-to-yourself message:

Everybody wants something

I’m not looking for it in a crowd

Throughout the song, there’s a reaffirmation of the singer’s determination to make the relationship work:

If you need my affection

You have to come up and get it

It’s not easy listening,

Tell me what you really think

Ultimately, “Just Like Everybody Else” creates a reverie that’s impossible to ignore. It gives you all the dreamy, danceable elements of “Smooth Operator” with a whole lot more: a picture of a real relationship that’s steadily growing stronger over time. This is the kind of pure intrusion that can really brighten your day.

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