Friday, January 26, 2007

SUGABABES Compendium

The holiday season gave me a chance to reflect on the past year as we come upon a new one. Or at least it should have, but my mind refuses to remember most of the preceding year. This especially hurts when I try and fail to put together a year-end best singles/albums/blah list. I remember nothing.

One thing I do know is that coming towards the end of the year, I've been listening to a lot of the Sugababes. I've been making a little playlist for myself because they've put out excellent singles.


Almost as if sensing this, the 'Babes record company have put out a singles compilation called "Overloaded" (buy) (named after their first single "Overload". While today's overwhelming need for record companies to capitalize on their artists with quick comps is a but irritating (frikkin Semisonic has a compilation!?) it still allows for good singles comps. as long as an artist or group actually puts out good singles. and the Sugababes are one of those groups.

While its not all the singles, or even all their best songs, its a damn solid slice of good pop.

I am now going to assume you have little to no exposure to the Sugababes aside from me putting on "Hole in the Head" at a party.

Since I am not British nor am I absolutely obsessed with the 'babes, I cannot fully comment on the history and impact of the singles. I will tell you what little I know and direct attention to some of their best stuff utilizing everyone's favorite medium... YOUTUBE videos!!! yay!

My descriptions are also there more or less as filler. just listen to the songs, enjoy the videos. i wasn't totally hooked until "Freak Like Me" and "Hole in the Head" so who knows.


The Sugababes were introduced to me back in 2000-1, when i used to read the NME's site regularly and they and all the British music rags were all losin their juice to their debut single 'Overload' and album One Touch. They were all mad over their maturity implied in song despite their age (around 16) and the fact that they co-wrote their songs.

At this time, the Sugababes were Keisha Buchanan, Mutya Buena (one of my favorite names ever), and Siobhan Donaghy (another of my favorite names). They were then as they are now, a melange of ethnicities. Keisha's black, Mutya's Filipino/Irish, Siobhan's... really white, i don't know. Keisha and Mutya were childhood friends singing together as the Sugababies.

I had no patience to wait for their videos to fully download from the UK sites (which were ridiculously slow back then) so I gave up interest. What little I saw or heard (or heard hyped from the UK rags) hinted at an organic soulful pop. With the girls doing their best looking cool and hip, as you will see in their video "Overload".

ONE TOUCH (2000/1)

By the time they released One Touch in this country, it was in typical style for American record companies releasing UK music. It was completely late, there was no promotion done, and the record was buried. I had a chance to pick it up but didn't. That record sold about 1000 copies in this country to this date according to Billboard. A shame. Also a shame I didn't know then what I know now and just picked up the damn thing. It was cheap and you can't find it in stores now. Anyway.

Here's the video for "Overload". Its a lot of Siobhan, so get it while you can because the dynamic changes quickly after this album. In any case, they all look so cute and young with higher vocal registers and its sorta refreshing to see them before they vamp it up afterward.


and yeah, i'm not as big a fan of the other One Touch singles: "Run for Cover" "Soul Sound" "New Year". They're alright. I put their vids at the end of this post.


After the album's singles had rolled out, I kept them in the back of my mind. I had a good feeling. (A similar feeling was had after Basement Jaxx's Remedy album with singles like "Red Alert", and BAM, they came back with "Romeo", so I was feelin pretty good).

In this meantime, Siobhan left the group due to what seems to be a falling out of personalities or styles or whatever. She's put together a solo career and it sounds good, we'll see how she does when her latest hits in 2007.

Siobhan was replaced by Heidi Range of pop group, Atomic Kitten. and the melange of race was intact. However, the pure pop to soul ratio starts to heavily favor pop afterward.



This feeling was pretty quickly rewarded in 2002 with the single "Freak Like Me". In those rollicking days of the mash-up, this was a Richard X (a fine pop producer) track mashing up the music to Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" with the lyrics to Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me". Apparently the blooping at the beginning is from Frogger. In any case, the track is a smash and was a UK #1 single. it is wicked.

The follow-up to this was "Round Round", which was produced by one of the best modern pop production team: Xenomania. For some reason I didnt dig this originally. I have no idea why. I love the -plink-s that come with the beat, the subdued wall of sound. The chorus is instant-catchy. The easy flow of the song makes me think of it as a sequel to "Overload". call me crazy. what i also like is that they use parts of the song in which a verse would be sung and use it as an slightly long lead-in to chorus! SCHLINK!PLINK-PLINK-PLINK. uh yah. Also is the great pop effect of all the stuff in the video stopping with the song when Heidi sings her slow verse:


If yr not a fan of the slower songs, then skip on ahead, but "Stronger" is definitely strong. One of those break-up empowerment ballads.

It was part of a double-A-side with title track "Angels With Dirty Faces" used in the Powerpuff Girls Movie. Here is a sadly lifeless video of it in the Powerpuff's world:


THREE (2003)

The first single off of Three was "Hole in the Head", a Xenomania production. This is one of my favorite pop songs of all time. (As some of you know/saw) it was in Dublin where I first heard the track in a pub, got real excited, had a feeling it was a new Sugababes track, and bam, rewarded by info from the DJ. Its an island-pop track, makes you want to dance and has this absolutely wicked hyperactive bass line with an equally mad guitar riff playing very subtly in the mix with it. The only thing on this track that even comes close to disappointing is its two 'ass' references. Not because i'm offended by the word "ass", its that both refs make no sense and this is a trend in many modern 'Babes tracks. Even so, the song still makes me insanely happy to this day.


The second single "Too Lost in You" is a bit of a shocker for me because of how much i like it. Its written by evil songwriter Diane Warren, who wrote shit for Celine Deon and "don't want to miss a thing" for aerosmith. An awful woman. However, the 'babes continue on their streak of respectable ballads in their repertoire. Its sung with strength, good harmonizing, and it doesn't put you to sleep. The part where Mutya sings "fell too far this tiiiime" before the first chorus with the low throaty voice is all you really need. It was used in the movie Love, Actually. The video reflects none of this and it is weirdly eroticized.

(here is the version of the video that is not just the Love Actually tie-in)


The third single "In the Middle" is just a pure fun moment. The song has no meaning with references to "drunken elevators" "speaking all in code" "acting out of character is everything we know". Still with its rockin horn effects and tempo it catches you. Its nonsense chorus will stay with you forever, i catch myself saying it quietly all the time:

"I'm caught up in the middle
Jump into the riddle
I'm fallin just a little tonight (uh uh)
Cuz everybody's making trouble
Someone's burst their bubble
But we'll be getting by alright (uh uh uh)"


Fourth: "Caught in a Moment". ballad. at the bottom.



So we're in the home stretch. First single is "Push the Button" produced by Dallas Austin. Its almost an exercise in great pop. Steady build, bridge ascending to chorus (seemingly descended from Sheena Easton's "Morning Train", chorus absolute sing-along. electro flourishes. unfortunate are the horrendous lyrics. its basically about them wanting a nice guy and wanting to him to get with "it". there is another annoying ass reference. but still, it is a pop gem:


The next single "Ugly" is at the bottom. "Ugly" is a sister song to Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" as a piece of empowerment "if i'm ugly then so are you".


Then came some bad news. My favorite, Mutya Buena left. I really dug her and her voice. at least in video even her facial expressions had such coolness and swagger. She was then replaced by Amelle Berrabah, who had been making the rounds of the UK pop scene's minor league before bursting through here. Her voice is even throatier than Mutya's, which i'm still getting used to, but I hope it works out. Plus, she is of Moroccan descent and the group's skin-tone rainbow still shines on. They re-recorded "Red Dress" and "Follow Me Home" and re-released the album with her on the cover.

However, this also means that Keisha is the only original member of the group left. Which is a little sad considering Sugababes originally consisted of teenagers who were friends.

The third single which was re-recorded with Amelle's vocals (plus her video debut) is "Red Dress". Yet another pop monster. Great horns that take over in the middle. I dunno if its me, but Amelle's "coolah"s at the beginning are insane.


Fourth: "Follow Me Home" re-recorded with Amelle. at the bottom.



Bringing us to now. There are two new songs on the collection.

The first single is "Easy". It is the very synthesis of the 'babes. Horrendous, innuendo-laden lyrics that are awesome with how horrendous they are and the chorus is so DAMN CATCHY. For the verses, its almost like they were having an innuendo contest and trying to outdo each other. I just have to quote with remarks in [brackets]:

Engine's running high baby, can you come and check it?
Got such a pretty kitty, boy I know you want to pet it
[i love cats!]

The weather's nice and wet just south of the border
[humidity is hot]
I can cook up anything that you have to order
[ehhh... doesn't follow up]

Hey Mr Postman, where's the mail for my mailbox?
[OHHHH SHIIIIIIIIIT, i dont even know what that means]
I wanted sex on the beach and I don't mean on the rocks
[and you lost 20 points]

Heidi (2nd attempt):
It's your serve baby but the ball's in my court,
[tennis is also hot..]
I've got a landing strip clear for you at the airport
[ding! we have a winner!]

but again, the chorus rocks. it heals all wounds and forgets all comedy. Then the verses fade away into chorus chorus territory and the music swells with middle eastern influence.

In the video the girls are stuck in a world that consists wholly of a women's bathroom in a pvc club and sexual aggression.


i will end it here. i love the 'Babes. May they continue to pop.

Though the next single is a team-up with Girls Aloud for Comic Relief 2007 and is a cover of "Walk This Way" with each group playing the role of Aerosmith and Run DMC.


Here's some extra vids. they're goodies:

"Follow Me Home" - Taller in More Ways (2005)

"Ugly" - Taller in More Ways (2005)

"Shape" w/ Sting - Three (2003)

"Caught in a Moment" - Three (2003)

"Run For Cover" - One Touch (2001)

"New Year" - One Touch (2001)

"Soul Sound" - One Touch (2001)


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