Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sugababes - Change (Island)

Right, let’s first of all address any potential quips relating to the word “change”, which will no doubt be signing off a billion far less significant reviews. So, if the album sucks, nobody likes Change. If the album rules, Change will do you good. Blah, blah, change, blah.

As the fifth studio album of their career, Change has seen the Sugababes manage something that Girls Aloud, All Saints, Eternal and the Spice Girls couldn’t, and yet it’s not surprising. We’ve come to expect artistry, consistency and quality from the Sugababes, and they rarely fail to deliver. NB: that part about the consistency doesn’t apply to the personnel aspect.

Mended By You is a lush, sincere ballad highlighting each unique voice, and more importantly, the heavenly blend of all three in untouchable harmony. Surprise is a girl-power-with-decorum anthem, while Undignified brings the album to a classy close, effortlessly finding a distinctive balance of rawness and opulence.

Yet sadly, nothing on Change comes close to equalling the immediate splendour of About You Now. In fact, that could go some way to explaining the very slight feeling of letdown that Change provides - as lead single, it set the bar way too high.

Each of the Sugababes’ albums has been a mini-masterpiece, yet all have been the bearers of noticeable flaws too. Change is no exception - 3 Spoons of Suga is the club-footed cousin of Red Dress, while Backdown sees the 'Babes each cooing their preference of male over a watery reggae-tinged backing. Stylistically, it’s poor. Content wise, it’s hideous - Heidi trilling through her favourite bits of Dave Berry isn’t something any of us need to hear.

Overall, as an album, it lacks depth to an extent. It feels as though the level of integrity has dipped somewhat, and not necessarily for the departure of Mutya or the arrival of Amelle. In fact, Amelle’s bluesy tones add a new dimension to the Sugababes sound, and provide one of Change’s saving graces. Yet, it somehow feels like there’s nothing that the Sugababes are bringing to the table that they haven’t brought before.

And yet, the Sugababes at their weakest still shine intensely as one of Britain’s greatest pop acts. That’s not to say Change is by any means weak. It’s just a bit more mature, a bit more reigned-in, and slightly slower-paced, thus requiring that extra modicum of patience. But on the whole, it’s once again showcasing the Sugababes as formidable, intelligent artists to be taken very, very seriously.

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