Finally secures Amelle's place and puts the ghost of Mutya to rest.
Lucy Davies 2008
Almost a year to the day after the release of lemon sorbet-flavoured Change, the Sugababes release Spotlights And Catfights, despite, in May, stating that the album would be pushed back until 2009 to give them time to write the new material.
But luckily there's no sense of the album being rushed out. The Babes continue to work with producer of every self-respecting pop chick, Mr. Luke (Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Lady Sovereign, Katy Perry…), and lesser known (Robyn) producer Klas Åhlund. They've described it as being more mature; concentrating on their individual vocals, and indeed it bounds out like a Kate Moss Rimmel ad, all metallic, sharp-sure and savvy.
Opener and first single, Girls, is a reworking of Ernie K Doe’s song of Boots' Summer 2008, and they happily stomp their attitudes all over it until you can't remember it being anyone else's. No Can Do is the super stonking bass-heavy follow-up single, playing to the Sugababes' trademark super-energised big goodbye songs, addressing boyfriends that don't quite come up to scratch. In contrast, You On A Good Day is a confusing Charlie's Angels-type shrugging acceptance of a man whose narcissistic personality disorder is hitting them in the wallet.
The track that most begs repeated listening is Side Chick: a light revved-up reminiscence of Rihanna's Umbrella with beautifully flowing harmonies tripping easily, nicely telling the boy to commit or be gone.
The low point of the album is the plodding Hanging on a Star, with Fergie style chanting and a hook almost completely ripped off from Offspring's Pretty Fly For A White Guy.
The trouble with the Sugababes' sound has always been keeping the balance between blending and preserving individuality, and they've managed it here on the whole. That is, apart from the bonus track, About You Now. It's a sad example of what can happen when you have three soloists outdoing each over a piano to mean it the most – the result sounds like girls at the back of the bus, sounding like the Sugababes, and screaming out for an auto-tune.
If only they had quit with Call A Truce, the most beautiful ballad with opening vocals from Amelle: it's a tired appeal for peace which finally secures her place and puts the ghost of Mutya to rest.