“Who” is, for my money, the best Sugababes B-side. It is a total and pure RACKET, in the best possible way. First, there’s the impossible to ignore production, led by that angry-racoon-on-a-corrugated-iron-roof synthline, which catches you from the start and refuses to let go. The grimy, bassline then merges in, like a malfunctioning dehumidifier, providing the perfect foundation to a song pulsating with barely contained anger. It’s the grimiest track on their whole discography, and instantly creates this dark, breathless, industrial atmosphere. It’s also the deepest Xeonmania have gone down the R&B/UK grime line, and the contrast it provides with their later, blindingly glossy pop productions is striking.
If you can handle the production, the song closes the deal emphatically with the lyrics. It’s a fuck-off-to-fuckboys anthem, and in a catalogue glittered with many, perhaps the finest instance thereof. All the variations of fuckboyism are detailed in startlingly succinct format, from the dishonesty (“you’re creeping, sneaking, cheating, on me”); to the pressuring for sex (“But it's you talking dirty when I'm trying to sleep”; to the insincerity (“And it's you, said you love me after just one week”); to the irritation (“Tell me who's always calling on my telephone”); to the obliqueness (“Now it's you tryin’ to tell me we should take things slow”). The fake shows of affection just to string you along and use you at their convenience, and ignore you after that. To all that, the song sticks two fingers up, signalling intent to move on with imperious, sneering nonchalance. In that regard, the real coup is the post-chorus, which turns the pleas of the scornful lover who has finally realised the game might be up – which incidentally on another song might be the tearful begging of the song’s narrator herself – into a taunting, menacing chant.
Vocally, Mutya absolutely owns it, upping the ante on her ice queen status. Her lower register on the verses, the rapid-fire of the bridge and the edge-of-full-throated chorus show fantastic range. Speaking of, Heidi also turns up for a great second verse, and MC Quiche returns for another spit-fire middle eight. At this point, 2.0 were operating as a supremely well-oiled machine of confident, dismissive glaring down the hallway; it bears repeating that the gears were turning this immaculately, on a B-side.
This is, of course, first on the list of no-brainers for inclusion on Three. It would have wonderfully complemented “Hole In The Head” (whose B-side this was, alongside "This Ain't A Party Thing") and “Buster”, two cuts on the album which tread similar terrain, by tightening up the lyrical coherence of the former (even though the fallacies on “Hole In The Head” are totally deliberate) and upping the production stakes on the latter. As I keep banging on, Three eschews a lot of the more interestingly produced or written affairs from the era, but this is the whole package. Its exclusion, and disappointing placement in this rate, is particularly galling.
“WHAT A RACKET,” ululates an approving Filler (9). CasuallyCrazed (9) provides some wisdom: “Has Mutya ever been so hyped up and sassy? If this had a proper radio version with some instrumentation besides that solitary air conditioner, it could have been a hit single for them.” “They should have bigged this up more as a duet with The Streets,” suggests P'NutButter (9). tylerc904 (9) stans entirely accurately: “The production works so well on this. It's almost industrial and mechanical while Mutya runs through that chorus with her typical effortlessness.” Solenciennes (9) bops while recalling his flop childhood: “this song is a treat. I don’t think I’d rate it that highly if it was actually on the album, though it certainly meets the criteria of experimental and weird that this album thrives on. The backing track reminds me of the Timesplitters franchise, I can’t remember what specifically but I feel like there were some robot characters that made noises like the backing track. Anyway, it’s quirky and I like that they had so much range in this third album, they showed a lot of versatility.” "This is a fucking banger, innit?" quizzes Remorque (9), "I just love the industrial feel the production provokes here. (Something they kinda failed at with "Nasty Ghetto"…) Mutya fucking BRINGS it with tons of attitude and ad-lib-game on point, Heidi being the vixen we all know she could be and Keisha showing us why sometimes she’s the true Kween of middle 8’s."
“I love how experimental they went with some of the B-sides. This one is clearly example and probably leave soon and I am not always in the mood for it. But when I am, it goes HARD!” stiffens Sprockrooster (7). Ironheade (7) is nearly on ha way to a madman destination, “Is that a train horn? Anyway, woo boy, that proto-dubsteppy bassline is really rather cool, and the blasts of groaning robot noise in the background are seriously audacious, in the way of a prime Neptunes production. Mutya comes through with a more forceful vocal than she tends to around this time, which helps out an otherwise standard chorus, and I do like Keisha's pleading self-harmonies in the post-chorus. The vocal melody tends to meander a bit and the song gets slightly grating after a while, hence some points being deducted, but it's still fairly interesting as far as B-sides go.”
I’ve collected the tasteless in one paragraph for all y’all's convenience. “(In)distinctly average,” says mrdonut (5), describing their commentary. Let’s lump PCDPG (4.5) in the same camp: “Really bad.” Chanex (3) pollutes my rate with “thanks for elevating it to a 3 Heidi. Yikes. Such a needless cacophony.” “Feels very *loud* to me. Not my favourite,” laments stopthestatic (5.3). Mina provides her standard answer to all the songs she hasn’t bothered listening to (4): “Boring”. DJHazey (6) is trying to get the dodge out: “The minute those weird noises started up I knew I was in for...something. Not bad, but I'm not coming back anytime soon!” londonrain (6.5) cries that “The actual singing is fine, but I can't deal with the ghastly instrumentation on this – it sounds like somebody accidentally chose the wrong sound effect on a '90s synthesiser.” Well it sounds like somebody accidentally chose the wrong song to listen to, teebs. VivaForever (5.5) decides to punish the song for her questionable music purchasing decisions: “This was the first Sugababes song I heard because I found the “Hole In The Head” 12” in the $1 bin at a record store and picked it up because I'd heard of them, but some of the grooves were melted on the A-side, so it wasn't playable. It was not the greatest introduction.”
Making a slightly better introduction to the rate is LE0Night (7): “the tune is fantastic but the production is... questionable”. Constantino (8) is appreciative: “Even if the production is awfully dated in 2016, I appreciate the fact that it’s at least an uptempo…” acl (7.5) A good B side, but a bit samey and noisy as fuck. If the vocal weren’t so drowned out it would get more.” Turn up the dial with Runawaywithme (8) who is bopping grimily and correctly: “This is such a bop, it really has a great sassy edge and I love its garage-y dirt beat, the girls all sound great and it has a good melody, I really think it would be a good addition to the album and it could replace some of the filler on the album. Keisha’s rap verse is ridiculous but absolutely brilliant and just proves even more that this sassy bop should be chucked on the album somewhere.”
kal (10) once again turns up for his stationery wholesaler: “This is FIRE and Mutya absolutely owns it.” Robinho#1 (10) notes that “This was another wasted occasion for the second line up. And I highly suspected that they (mainly the originals) weren’t a fan of Xenomania. Love the distorted production.” Blayke (10) spills the tea: “The attitude on this song complements ‘Hole in the Head’ so much and to hear them side by side, it’s as if some guy pissed off the Sugababes and the songs are his final warning of life. Mutya’s entire delivery is iconic in this song especially the “I think you lost it those times before your brain got small. You claim you love me, tease me, need me, hold me, please me. Get off I’m moving on coz I’m tryna take control”. It was nice to hear Heidi seep out some no-nonsense attitude and the resurgence of MC Kiki. I wish this song were on the album.” Enter left berserkerboi (10): "Wonderful experimental sound, the weird stop-start rhythm against their vocals (especially Heidi's as hers is the softest and most melodious, thus creating a mesmerising juxtaposition) Let’s close things with HRH (10) who whispers loudly: “UNDERRATED.” Indeed.
Who is bloody brilliant. I just loved when 2.0 revved their engines and came out fighting, this song is practically vigilante justice for anyone ever wronged by an indecisive, manipulative fuckboy. I looooove the music, it's so jarring yet striking, unexpected yet a perfect fit for them... They really must have been on fire when they were recording tracks for Three, the quality of the B sides is stellar, some really inspired songwriting across the board. Mutya is a treasure.
The Audio Bullys worked on Who too didn't they? You can definitely hear their influence. One thing I loved about the Sugababes is that they didn't just stick to one sound or producer and experimented with lots of different ones, which is evident here. Really great track.
Now that we’ve removed most of the filler from Catfights, there are few obvious targets. In a comparative setting like a rate then, something has to go, and it’s time for this to be cut. I’m rather fond of this one. It has this schmaltzy, lounge-y vibe, but with a rather sinister edge to it; charting the onset of the dark night after the glitzy evening festivities earlier in the album. The verses are really great, and Amelle gives a superb this pained siren slumped on the chaise lounge, playing idly with her ball gown impression. The chorus in comparison is slightly weak, in that the melody seems to be a bit confused and overly reliant on the harmonised “beWARE!”, though Keisha sounds especially muscular (from the second chorus in particular). The middle eight is somewhat deflating, though the chorus steps in quickly and the whole song ends without overstaying its welcome. Like most of the album, “Beware” is something fresh after quite a while in the Babes’ catalogue. The sultry, menacing atmosphere it succinctly conjures points to the authoritative confidence the band had acquired in its third wind.
Let’s start with a screech of “Too short!” from P'NutButter (9.5). Ironheade (8) also wants moah, “Under three minutes?! Boo! I want more of this. It had the potential to sound a bit silly with its slightly overdramatic noir edge, but the girls, Amelle especially, have a real edge of knife-wielding cool in their deliveries - they do manage to sell the lyric and sound legitimately dangerous. Keisha really gets into it on the chorus, a perfect partner for the huge cymbal crashes and psycho-string stabs, and the big threatening rumble of the horns just below the surface really does induce an odd sense of unease. There's a lot of fire and muscle in this small package as it is, but get this intensity to work over four minutes, and then we're talking.” Our favourite Bulgarian kal (8) approves: “This is very, very good! A nice contrast to the saccharine-laden Change album. tylerc904 (8) notes the buried-deep shade in the track’s formation, “Keisha delivering the chorus is brilliant considering her reputation and Amelle's eventual falling out.”
Filler (8) is one of a few to bring up the song’s obvious Bond-esque qualities: “I wish they'd done a Bond theme. Mind, if whoever's in charge of all that had the bad timing to hire them after hearing this, we'd have ended up with Miss Everything playing over the Skyfall credits” I would’ve paid to watch that teebs. Similarly, Lost In Japan. (7) goes 2/2: “Bond theme that never was. Phuck a Sam Smith.” Similarly, but negatively, PCDPG (7) opines “Too James Bond sounding and for me one of the two true fillers on this album.” Meanwhile, stopthestatic (7.9) sees other influences: “Nice little track. Feels a bit Amy Winehouse-inspired.” Runawaywithme (8) also heads for the hills with the references: “This really reminds me of “born to die” era Lana and I’m not sure why but I think it’s a good thing.” That reminds me, I need to make my way through Honeymoon and finish the Alt Pop Gworls rate.
DJHazey (7) is slightly grasping: “I don't think I could ever call this one a favourite, but they tried a slightly different sound here and I appreciate it.” Solenciennes (7.5) still can’t shake the memory of ha disastrous Halloween night out: “it wouldn’t be a Sugababes album without some kind of spooky Halloween-esque track on it, would it? It suffers the same problem as Every Heart Broken that it follows a very specific lyrical theme that borders on cheesy, but not quite to the same severe extreme as the previous track. I have absolutely no idea what Heidi’s singing on verse/bridge thing, sounds like gibberish. The ominous “I recommend that you cross the street” harmony is a highlight.”
Blayke (0) has one of his abrupt mood swings: “Another song I’m going to get slaughtered for. It’s RUBBISH. I have deleted this one. Bye girl!” Mina (4) keeps flogging her long dead horse: “Unremarkable.” “Considering the title, I feel a bad-ass guitar-led bop would’ve worked a lot better,” muses Constantino (6). “Love some of those smoky vocals,” lights up mrdonut (6.5)
londonrain (6) is Good use of Amelle's voice, but nothing particularly exceptional.” Robinho#1 (9) is also on the Amelle Express: “Kudos to Amelle as this was one of the highlights on the album. Yeah, the lyrics are simple but its way above some of the shit the second line up delivered with Xenomania.” acl (9) similarly finds that “Amelle brings breezy darkness and Keisha is effortlessly sinister and threatening. It’s a weird song but it works.” Jam (10) also loves “the dark elements of this.” Finalement, Chanex (9) gets a bitsy tew enthusiastic: “OK I am giving effing a 9 but it's because I watched this performance and they were so into it and sound so amazing, YES HEIDI TOO and I fell in love with the kiki they had on the last "I recommend that you cross the street" / ugh I know it's really an 8 sorry bout it hehe! xoxo" Said rather excellent performance linked below, xoxo!