The first album with the new girl, but is she as good as Mutya?
Tom Young 2007-10-08
Change is certainly something the Sugababes are familiar with. The girl group, famed for their squad rotation policy, have regularly shifted musical tack in the nine years since their formation and it’s served them well. In 2006’s Overload, they possess one of the more abundant and rewarding greatest hits compilations of recent times. But it was time to change again.
The focus, of course, is the studio album debut of Amelle Berrabah. Berrabah was passed the poisoned chalice previously belonging to Mutya Buena and has been given nowhere to hide.
“About You Now” fires a fierce opening shot. The work of Kelly Clarkson looms in the background on a track that Berrabah opens and dominates. It’s one of their strongest tunes to date, and no surprise that it’s responsible for producer Cathy Dennis’ sixth UK number one.
Followed by the disco friendly “Never Gonna Dance Again”, it immediately feels like the girls have struck gold again. More nuggets follow in the shape of the sassy Girls Aloud-alike “My Love Is Pink” and the ridiculously titled but ridiculously catchy "3 Spoons Of Suga" – with a simple rocky edge that gives the rich textured voices of Amelle and the sole surviving original member Keisha Buchanan plenty of room in which to excel.
Yet the variety of the tracks proves the album’s undoing. The reggae tilted "Back Down" makes a tired plea for men to satisfy any number of criteria; “Denial” stumbles awkwardly amidst a hook pilfered from Gossip’s “Standing In The Way Of Control” and the slower-paced “Change” and “Mended By You” only flirt with credibility thanks to the girls’ irrepressible and watertight harmonies, lead admirably by Berrabah.
Every track possesses classic Sugababe appeal, but it never quite makes the sum of its parts. In a slickly sweet product, the dirt of “Freak Like Me” and the everlasting resonance of “Overload” are missing. While the group do justice to tracks that would now prove a bridge too far for the likes of All Saints, Girls Aloud and Spice Girls, this latest change is going to take time to work through.