I've been a fan of the Sugababes since the beginning; over the past ten years they've been responsible for some of the best British pop around. However, the band has been struggling to find its early form ever since Mutya left in late 2005, and now Keisha is gone too. Whatever the rights and wrongs of her departure, it's the music that really matters and I had hoped that this latest personnel reshuffle might have reinvigorated the group. Unfortunately it appears the band has completely lost everything that made it special. New member Jade has a good voice, there's no question, but it's too close to Heidi's lower range and the heavy use of autotune makes the vocals even more indistinct. Without Keisha's soulful tones the band no longer has its trademark blend of three different yet complimentary voices. However, it's the poor quality of the material that really hurts this album.
There is absolutely no sign of the feisty personality that once defined the Sugababes; instead there's a selection of generic American club tunes like Wait For You and She's A Mess which could be anyone, coupled with banal lyrics which boil down to "we're really sexy" and "we wanna party", tackily throwing in a few designer names like every US r'n'b act seems to do now - where are the strong independant women who sang female anthems like Stronger, Hole In The Head, Round Round, etc.? I'm all for artists evolving their sound, but this is a huge step backwards, not forwards. The simple fact is this kind of material doesn't suit the group at all; the whole thing is uncomfortable and unconvincing, especially Amelle's dreadful cor-blimey-guv rapping (She's A Mess is a particularly cringemaking example). Wear My Kiss is pretty catchy, and Crash 'n' Burn is about the best of a bad bunch of ballads, but nothing here is even fit to clean the boots of the group's previous best.
No doubt the die-hards will dismiss these comments as 'pro-Keisha bias', but the truth is that even if she hadn't left, this would still be a very poor album. A huge disappointment and a sad day for British pop.
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