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Catfights and Spotlights

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Album Review

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.


Formed: 1998 in England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Multi-ethnic U.K. trio Sugababes jumped aboard the teen pop bandwagon prior to the new millennium and exuded their own sassy demeanor without the frivolity of most mainstream acts. Siobhan Donaghy, Keisha Buchanan, and Mutya Buena were barely in their teens when they formed in 1998, sharing a liking of garage, hip-hop, and dance music. Initially, Sugababes were three friends who enjoyed singing along to the radio. Buchanan and Buena had been pals since primary school, and a chance meeting with Donaghy...
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Catfights and Spotlights, Sugababes
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