In the wake of All Saints' return and Girls Aloud's continued progression as a credible girl group (believe it or not), it seems too "Easy" for Sugababes to seem lost in the mix. Fear not, because this compilation should silence the coldest of musical critics. Sure, Sugababes may seem less bombastic and more laid back...In fact, too laid back, in comparison to the huge personalities displayed in the other leading UK girl groups at the moment (the aformentioned). Well, referencing past Sugababes track "Whatever Makes You Happy," "it's all about the music, not the face." Sure, Sugababes are more savvy on looks than ever these days, but not without being complimented by music that's just as confident, sexy, sassy, and effortless. Sugababes may have been All Saints' successors in cool, edgy pop, but they've crafted a sound all their own in this extremely consistent collection of hits.
A few music critics have said that Sugababes have pretty much upped the game and changed the face of British pop music since their arrival. There would be a unanimous "yes, of course..." to that comment, as nonchalantly-phrased as any oh-so-cool Sugababes single included in this collection. Oh no, "Angels With Dirty Faces" wasn't their first introduction as the alternative to stupid, safe, bubblegum pop. They've had that special "something" since their debut album, "One Touch," a project they made when they were just 15 or 16 (as evidenced by the inclusion of "Overload" and "Run For Cover," two prime singles that showcased how far ahead of the pop game they were at the time - they still are, in fact, on top of their game today). Hate as they may, but Suga-bashers even have to respect how much they've contributed to UK pop: they made it okay for aspiring acts to sound edgy and most importantly, be themselves in the process.
Too much can be said about how great and filler-free this compilation is. In the meantime, let's revisit the magic of their singles, track-by-track:
1. "Freak Like Me" - This monumental single did three big things: it introduced Richard X, a great maverick pop producer that has gone to make better, edgier pop for acts such as Liberty X and Rachel Stevens; it reintroduced the public to Sugababes as UK pop superstars; and it popularized the notion of the potential for pop to be as edgy as it is catchy. The track will forever remain a landmark Sugababes accomplishment, not only because it was their first #1 single in the UK charts, but it crucially put them back in the map during a time when pop needed to be exciting again.
2. "Round Round" - Continuining the pushing of the envelopes of pop, Sugababes released "Round Round," no doubt their best dance-inflected single. Think of a dance track on acid played in a dark, grungy club, while still being damn infectious. It still is. Sugababes have arrived at this point (it shows: this was their 2nd #1 single, and a consecutive #1 hit too, after "Freak Like Me").
3. "Red Dress" - Seems oddly weak following its sonic mother, "Round Round," but still proves how Sugababes can still make fresh-sounding, edgy dance-pop even today. The track also introduces the much-needed husky, sultry vocals of newest member Amelle. It's rocky, it's cocky, but it's still oh-so-cool Sugababes.
4. "In The Middle" - Probably their weakest uptempo single, it settles fine within a collection of solid pop gems. Sounds more Girls Aloud-ish, but Sugababes inject it with their sassy, effortlessness, and attitude to make this electro-dance track theirs.
5. "Stronger" - This track showed to the mass media that Sugababes are just as versatile as they are devastatingly effective in their approach to pop. Taking away the cheesy from the ballad format and making it dark, this great track became a model for Sugababes' trademark ballads: brooding and moody. One of their best recordings yet!
6. "Shape" - One of their weaker ballads, but still a strong single in this collection. It's slick, cool, and sort-of R&B-sounding. It's very calming also. Still a good track though!
7. "Overload" - Their very first single and what a damn first single it is! Besides the fact that they manage to make it sound so damn cool and good despite all the stuff going on in the track, it's hard to fathom the fact that they actually wrote this when they were teenagers (15 and 16 years old!). A classic post-millennial pop masterpiece: God bless the Sugababes!
8. "Good To Be Gone" - A welcome addition to the Sugababes' discography and their 2nd single for this collection, this continues to push their sound towards cool, understated pop. It sounds like Goldfrapp mixed with more alternative/indie elements. As addictive as current single "Easy," but with more nonchalant, icy vocals that can be done by only one other pop act: All Saints (that's saying a lot).
9. "Caught In A Moment" - A very good, trip-hop-ish-sounding ballad about love. It might seem sappy, but it definitely hits the mark: moodiness from the girls, great strings, heavy beats. It's silky smooth, yet it's edgy as a pop ballad. I can't stop associating Sugababes' pop with "edgy" and "credible."
10. "Ugly" - A lighter single with a positive message: a slight change for Sugababes. This shows that they care, sort of. It's still bitchy in its "I-don't-give-a-damn"-isms. More pop/rock affair, but still very catchy.
11. "Easy" - Current single and although not as immediate (especially with the slow-burning, yet funky verses), it's all worth it when the massive bridge/chorus combo makes the song erupt to sonic pop bliss. Sounds like Girls Aloud, but Girls Aloud can never sound this damn cool.
12. "Too Lost In You" - Sappy ballads are faw and few with the Sugas, but when it's time to step up to the plate, they do it well. This track shows how they can make even the most romantic-sounding pop track sound urgent as well as moody. So damn eargasmic!
13. "Run For Cover" - As "Overload" introduced the 'Babes as moody teenagers that were just too damn cool and "don't-give-a-****" for their own good, this brought audiences deeper to their dark world. As pleasing as a walk through the dimly-lit London streets in its uneasy, yet grungy atmosphere, this track encompases just what that feeling of being in the dead of the night is like: a cool, dark wonderland put in an untouchable pop single.
14. "Hole In The Head" - Like a diet version of "Round Round" sprinkled with a bit more acoustic and ska elements, this still remains one of their strongest dance-pop tracks. It's also a great, bitchy "**** U" track as well. Remember, this was a #1 single too: it was the only single ballsy enough to knock off The Black-Eyed Peas and their ubiquitous single, "Where Is The Love?," from their 6-week reign at the top of the singles chart.
15. "Push The Button" - Their biggest single to date (#1 for 3 consecutive weeks!): save the best for last. So uncharacteristically them because of its super happy hardcore backing track, but they're as sassy as ever with this one. Girls Aloud may be doing the whole "stupid-and-random-is-the-new-genius" thing, but Sugababes prove that they can hold their own on a more upbeat track without compromising their integrity and intelligence as sassy, young UK women with this one.
So the verdict? Too damn good for words. Just listen to this. All killer, no filler. If you don't get this, you don't like pop. There may be a surplus of girl groups in the UK right now, but they're all solid, and Sugababes will continue to hold their own as a unique act that is consistent with their solid pop releases. Sugababes shouldn't even be associated as girl group: they should just be a term for any music that's quality and solid. As a reviewer once said, "There isn't anything that Sugababes can't make sexy." I can't put it any better...