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Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Following the departure of Keisha Buchanan just weeks before Sweet 7 was originally scheduled for release, the previously all-conquering Sugababes are now in their fourth different incarnation, with Eurovision entrant Jade Ewen stepping in to replace the only member left from the original 2000 lineup. However, their seventh studio album reveals they are now unrecognizable, not only in terms of personnel, but also in terms of their sound and image. After the underperformance of Sugababes' retro-soul-based Catfights and Spotlights, the lowest-selling album of their ten-year career, the trio appears to have hit the panic button in an attempt to keep up with the likes of rivals Girls Aloud and the Saturdays. Whereas their earlier material effortlessly combined commercial radio-friendly pop with cutting-edge influences, Sweet 7 aims straight for the jugular, ignoring any ambitions of originality in favor of churning out the kind of formulaic electro-R&B that has lately become ubiquitous in the upper reaches of the charts. Drafting in hotshot producers Stargate (Beyoncé) and the Smeezingtons (Flo Rida), Sweet 7 is never short of an infectious hook or club-friendly production, but undoubtedly betrays the experimental sensibilities that set them apart from their contemporaries. Lead single "Get Sexy" is a hopelessly misguided stab at Black Eyed Peas-style robotic synth-led R&B that samples Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," a far cry from their Gary Numan/Adina Howard mash-up, featuring cringe-worthy lyrics performed in a stilted manner that appears audibly to emit their undeniable embarrassment. Considering their previous sophisticated image, it's a desperate and calculated re-invention that fails to pull off the risqué and sensual vibe they were obviously aiming for. Elsewhere, power ballad "Crash & Burn" is basically a carbon copy of Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks' "No Air," "Miss Everything" is generic Auto-Tuned fluff featuring rent-a-rapper Sean Kingston, and the aptly named "She's a Mess" is a chaotic attempt at a Clubland trance-pop floor-filler. The one saving grace is "About a Girl," a gloriously sassy uptempo Lady Gaga-esque number that stands up next to the best of their back catalog and suggests that if producer RedOne had been on board for more than one track, the album might have avoided becoming the bland, soulless, and repetitive affair it sadly is. © Jon O'Brien /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Thirteen months before the launch of their sixth studio album, the Sugababes saw monumental success with their fifth release, Change, and its lead single "About You Now." With its glossy electric feel, the powerful impact that "About You Now" had on the charts only further solidified Keisha Buchanan, Heidi Range, and Amelle Berrabah as three of the most formidable personalities in British pop music. Change was the group's most accessible radio-friendly release to date, which is why it seems more odd that their sixth release would be so much the opposite. However, odd doesn't necessarily mean bad, as Catfights and Spotlights, the title of the group's sixth sampling, stands poised to be the group's strongest showing to date. While it was never in doubt that the group was one of the new millennium's most influential girl groups, this time around Buchanan, Range, and Berrabah dive into a new dimension of artistic merit, flashing impeccable songwriting skills and flourishing arrangements thanks to the help of immaculate production, which throws the girl into a retro bodysuit yet never feels stale. After five albums (plus a greatest-hits launch) and ten years in the business, it seemed obvious that the group felt the pressure to hold onto their stake in pop music's ephemeral market, hoping to make that rare transition from being simply a girl pop group to mature divas, something that even the Spice Girls had trouble doing. In fact, it appears that the ladies hoped to do that by taking the overused idea of soulful retro sounds which plagued 2007 and 2008 and using them as a jumping-off point, creating songs like "Girls," which are as refreshing as anything new by any artist these days. However, "Girls" operates as a wonderful testament to the power of the '70s at its best. Show-stopping numbers like "You on a Good Day" and "No Can Do" work as shimmering displays of subtle strength, building on the recurring themes of enticing harmonies and vocal showcasing which are seen as the most dominant traits that the girls are showing off this time around. The album is by far the group's most coherent, mature sampling, and more than a handful of tracks, including "Sunday Rain" and "Unbreakable Heart" seem made with the sole purpose of dominating the adult contemporary chart. Even without fawning over so many other tracks, the number "Every Heart Broken" alone reflects the perfect imperfection that the group boasts. It operates as the group's single most raw and powerful track to date. While the album lacks the most vainglorious electric numbers which seem to dominate the radio waves these days (simply ask the Sugababes/Girls Aloud knock-offs the Saturdays), Catfights and Spotlights is the true reflection of a girl group's transition from shallow pop stardom into full-fledged recording artistry, and this album is the clear sign that these girls have reached tenure to the point where they will operate as wildly successful recording artists at any age, at any time. This album is only the beginning of a whole new chapter of the Sugababes musical lifetime, which should be filled with critical acclaim if the music is anywhere near as good as it is right now. © Matthew Chisling /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

It's amazing what effect a big hit single can have on album sales -- not merely an average-sized number one single, and the Sugababes at this point of their career had six of them (including the charity collaboration with Girls Aloud) -- but a massive radio-friendly number one single that even average listeners can't get out of their heads. Well, having hit the top of the singles chart with "About You Now," the Sugababes unleashed their sixth album, Change, which was the first to feature new member Amelle Berrabah after Mutya Buena departed to pursue a solo career, leaving Keisha Buchanan as the only original remaining member of the group. The omens were not looking great. Change was the first release after the career summary Overloaded: The Singles Collection, and the most recent single, "Follow Me Home," had become their lowest-charting single to date. The Sugababes needn't have worried, however. Following the Comic Relief charity number one with Girls Aloud, "Walk This Way" (a rather messy version of the Aerosmith hit), " About You Now" was released and topped the chart throughout the whole of October 2007. One of the catchiest pop singles of the year, it propelled the album to the top, giving the group a simultaneous number one single and album. With various tracks produced by William Orbit, Dallas Austin, and the U.K.-based production team of Xenomania, the whole album from beginning to end was a slice of sophisticated dance-pop, midtempo songs that Girls Aloud (their greatest rivals for girl band supremacy) wouldn't record, and slushy ballads that the Spice Girls should have been recording for their comeback album. At the end of the day, it really didn't matter whether people thought the album was credible and worthy -- it was pure pop with hummable songs and good melodies. Change was good to listen to and even better to dance to, and one could not ask more of the Sugababes or any other so-called manufactured pop band. © Sharon Mawer /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.