Busted – You Said No

Released: 21st April 2003

Writers: James Bourne / Mattie Jay / Charlie Simpson / Steve Robson / John McLaughlin

Peak position: #1

Chart run: 1-4-9-14-19-25-33-41-55-65

With successive singles from their debut album, Busted had been inching ever closer to the #1 spot, so they weren’t about to crash and burn with You Said No.

After storming into the charts at #3 with their debut single, What I Go To School ForBusted – James Bourne, Matt Willis (or Mattie Jay, as he was known at the time) and Charlie Simpson – went one better with the follow-up. Year 3000 reached #2 in early 2003, propelling the group’s self-titled debut album into the top ten. By this point, it already seemed a #1 hit was only a matter of time, and not merely because a quirky record – the first act to have their first three singles debut in ascending order – beckoned. Busted’s launch coincided with the broader arrival of teen pop-rock to the mainstream (What I Go To School For was released the week before Avril Lavigne’s Complicated). The group didn’t just ride the wave of that; in the UK, they were instrumental in driving it at a time when Pop Idol had a firm grip on the industry. Busted never positioned themselves as the antithesis to the TV talent show phenomenon – indeed, they shared many of the same promotional platforms – but the authenticity and realness they exuded undoubtedly resonated with their fans.

With momentum firmly behind Busted, You Said No was chosen as their third single. That wasn’t the original title, though. The song is listed as Crash and Burn on early editions of the Busted album. However, it was renamed following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster several months earlier (the craft disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board). The group hadn’t yet released any music in America; nonetheless, it made sense to err on the side of caution and avoid any risk of being labelled insensitive. Thus, the name was changed when the track was chosen as Busted’s next single and also amended on subsequent pressings of the album.

Not that You Said No has anything to do with space travel or flying (though the group would cover both subjects on future singles Thunderbirds Are Go and Air Hostess).  Instead, it’s a tale of teen rejection. Busted spend the first verse plucking up the courage to ask a girl out: “You’re so fit, and you know it, and I only dream of you, ‘cos my life’s such a bitch, but you can change it”; their punctuated bluntness is given an endearingly self-deprecating edge in the pre-chorus: “Maybe you need somebody just like me, don’t turn me down, ‘cos I’ve got no car and I’ve got no money”. The group often positioned themselves as the underdogs on their debut album (which includes a song called Loser Kid); that was part of the appeal and something You Said No very much trades on.

Thus, things don’t turn out exactly how Busted hoped, which fuels a quintessentially early ‘00s pop-rock chorus: “I asked you to dance at the disco, but you said no, the whole world was watching and laughing, on the day that I crashed and burned…at your feet” in all the best ways. It’s filled with slick, rousing guitar riffs (perfect for the group’s signature jump in their air) and phrased to encourage a vigorous, fist-pumping singalong with the raspily shouted “BUT YOU SAID NO”. The lyrics are wholly relatable to the kind of situation Busted’s predominantly teen audience might find themselves in, right down to hyperbole in conveying the perceived scale of the humiliation.

You Said No doesn’t stop there, as things continue to worsen for the group during the second verse: “Since the day that you dissed me, I’m feeling so pathetic, ‘cos the guys, well they’ve ditched me, and it’s all because of…”. However, Busted didn’t portray themselves as perennial failures. Like many pop-rock acts who emerged in the early ‘00s, they helped foster a sense of people who felt like outsiders having a voice and a place in the mainstream so that it became harder to define who ‘belonged’ where. Therefore, You Said No delivers a cheekily smug twist: “…You and your friends are laughing at me now, if you think that I’m nothing, ask your sister what you’re missing” to give the track a bittersweet pay-off.

Though the chorus doesn’t evolve with the narrative in the same way as a similarly-themed track like Sk8er Boi, Busted nonetheless come out on top. The thumping middle eight: “Maybe you think that you’re too good for me, tonight when you get home you’re gonna see…I know…I’ve got…something better than you, baby” gleefully makes that point, and it culminates with a dizzying: “Na na, na-na, na na, na-na, na na, na-na, na na, na-na” refrain (which, at one point, starts to sound like robotic barking…) that builds You Said No back to a climactic finale. The track is, in many respects, the essence of Busted in a nutshell. It zips along with a running time of well under three minutes. And while there isn’t the same quirkiness of Year 3000 or the adolescent fantasy of What I Go To School For, many of the group’s musical traits are very much showcased.

Visually, You Said No uses the urban sports culture that existed in close proximity to pop-rock – particularly with regard to fashion – as a basis for the music video. In it, Busted are BMXers (Charlie “Psycho” Simpson, Matt “Mad Dog” Jay and James “Chopper” Bourne) facing off in a competition against “The Bandits”. Sequences of the group and their rivals launching into the air from half-pipes match the song’s energy. It’s further complemented by dynamic graphics appearing in the background as the group execute tricks (“Sic Move! 360° Spin”). Busted’s irreverent humour is rarely far from the surface; there’s a spoof of the iconic bike shot from ET (complete with Matt Willis shrouded in a blanket while pointing a glowing finger) and Charlie Simpson crashing through the concrete floor Looney Tunes-style at the end.

Much like the song itself, the visuals for You Said No succinctly showcase what Busted do well. Their tongue-in-cheek personalities are mischievously brattish yet immensely likeable nonetheless, while the group’s stage presence – they perform throughout in a bowl ramp to a frenzied crowd – is commanding. Busted’s identity had been pretty clear since their debut, but there’s a sense of everything being further refined here as the most optimal version of the group.

The formatting of You Said No – two CDs and a cassette – was a standard way to maximise sales. However, each one contained a unique version of the track with a different member of the group on lead vocals (and featured more prominently on the accompanying artwork). The intention was, of course, to encourage repeat purchases of a song otherwise unchanged from the one many fans already owned on the Busted album. Yet, as marketing gimmicks go, this one did, at least, offer something unique. And it undoubtedly helped Busted claim that chart record when You Said No debuted at #1 with sales of 40,500 copies. The track spent 10 weeks in the top 75 and ended 2003 as the 59th biggest-selling single of the year (103,000). Their debut album also returned to the top 10 for a further eight weeks. Although You Said No sold less overall than the preceding singles – despite peaking higher – diminishing returns were always likely to be a factor, considering Busted had already performed well (and would continue to do so).

However, what’s become apparent in the digital era is how much You Said No appeared to reach #1 in the slipstream of What I Go To School For and Year 3000. While both certainly felt better known at the time, streaming has put them significantly ahead, far more than physical sales did. Year 3000 is by far Busted’s biggest hit — a million-seller, in fact — with What I Go To School For behind it on around 500,000 combined sales. You Said No, meanwhile, has slipped behind all of the group’s ‘00s singles bar 3AM (which was a double-A side, in any case). That seems a rather unjust legacy. Perhaps it reflects You Said No and the events the track recounts sounding so congruous with the ‘00s pop-rock zeitgeist. There isn’t quite the same uniquely distinctive Busted lens through which their other material was composed.

Yet, even so, You Said No reaching #1 was an important and symbolic moment for Busted and pop-rock in general. Seeing how their performances on shows like Top Of The Pops and CD:UK galvanised the crowd, there was the sense that this wasn’t just a hit single. It was an irrefutable statement that a palpable, organic shift was sweeping through – and now starting to dominate – the charts.

Post Author: cantstopthepop