Highest: 10/10 x 12 (@CorgiCorgiCorgi, @Terminus, @Aester, @Jam, @ssa, @acl @Solenciennes, @Voodoo, @Island, @marie_05, @LE0Night, @Runawaywithme)
Lowest: 0/10 x 1 (@Blayke)
My score: 8/10
So, if something had to go from Catfights, this definitely should not be it when there are worse songs (e.g. “You On A Good Day”) waiting in the wings. But we’re getting to the business end of things, and expect the twinges to become stings.
This is such a layered, gorgeously constructed showstopper. Part of Catfights’ remit was to do a girlband album in the Motown+Philly Soul style, but update that sound to be contemporary as well. The obvious directions in such a project are to go down the bombastic route, which the album does to a more or less satisfying degree with its singles. More important, however, are what composes the body with the midtempos and the ballads. “Sunday Rain” is a damn fine example of just how right they got the whole project. It’s a sultry, slinking brass number that capitalises on the retro sound without relying on it completely, with a watertight narrative and soaring vocals.
The song feints listeners by beginning with a piano, harmonies and strings before introducing that strutting instrumental which goes onto hold the song together. The verses are brilliant, showcasing the vocal heights 3.0 had ascended to; Amelle’s raspy tone perfect for the distress of the narrative, and Keisha’s rather forceful one signifying the taking of control. When the adlibs start to crackle in the background of the latter verse, the song just starts to come alive. The chorus has this great back and forth quality which the lyrics emphasise with the tale of a relationship resigned to perpetual mutual hurt. Even a purely instrumental middle-eight doesn’t detract from the song, as it’s used to build up the strings to their utmost to lead into a final chorus which is a flurry of strings and Keishalibs exploding everywhere.The really satisfying flavour of the songwriting is in painting the fatalism of being stuck in a resigned way within a doomed but unending relationship.
The whole effect is wholly cinematic. Such a blustering, wind-in-the-face-as-strangers-hustle-past-you vision brought to life. Perfect fodder not only for Bond films, but your run of the mill haute romantic dramas.
mrdonut (7.5) confirms for all of us that it is “indeed perfect for playing on a rainy Sunday.”PCDPG (7) thinks they are listening but it appears they haven’t heard, “A bit over the top in sounding retro. It tries to hard to sound classic.” P'NutButter (8) decided that this was a good point to develop a hearing impairment, “Brilliant but the melody is kinda stunted due to the poor vocals.” Sis, it’s like one of their best vocal performances? Chanex (8) finally nails it, “How did I ever forget about this Winehousian heartbreaker? Well to be honest I probably won't be listening to it often but it's undeniably worthy of an 8 right?” Yes hunny! Filler (8) relays everyone’s collective surprise at Catfights’ stellar quality, “Every random track here is operating on a far grander scale than the album sandwiched between Change and Sweet 7 deserves. You're doing alright when a song like this could probably be considered filler.” Yep, I mean, you toss out the few pieces of fluff and disregard the clear opuses and there’s still a substantial 7-8 track body in between that is just good.
Like when Rory followed up sweet, beautiful Jess (oh my lord, so beautiful) with white trash Logan in Gilmore Girls, londonrain (5.5) disappoints me deeply by settling for mediocrity, sputtering “I see where this is going but it leaves me a bit cold.” DJHazey (5) once again recoils from anything remotely complex, “It just kind of ends up raining on the parade. Beautifully executed, just not really what I'm looking for.” Honey they can’t give you Disney basic bops everyday, mkay?
And here we have sweet, messy Blayke (0) whose has one of his inexplicable hate swings, “I am going to get slaughtered by the PJ queens for this. I absolutely hate this song. It has been dead to me since 2008. When it comes on shuffle, no matter what I’m doing, I skip the song. No thank you. I conveniently know the words though.” If Blayke had given this the average score for it (7.5~) it would have gone up by one to #41; anything higher and it would have leapt into the Top 40, sigh.
Meanwhile, CasuallyCrazed (6.5) wants more D-R-A-M-A, “Written as a massive torch anthem, but none of them are quite camp or dramatic enough to pull it off. Keisha comes closest with those growling ad-libs.” Honestly, I find Keisha the least camp out of them on this. Constantino (9) meanwhile finds them plenty campy enough to pull out the lighter, “YAS! C’mon melodrama! Give me that string section that I love, girls! *Detox lighter gif*
Ironheade (9) busts out his stan card and removes several bull clips from his wig for good measure, “Going from Motown to Philly, are we? Turns out, the Babes are even BETTER at that! It gets off to a bold start with its smoky saloon strings and spacious 6/8 rhythm, stark horns punctuating the mix with a warning of danger, the perfect backdrop for the girls' burnt-out deliveries (a trick that Amelle takes full advantage of). Then it explodes into the awesome chorus. Big and brassy and dramatic and WONDERFUL, Keisha at her absolute vocal best leading from the front with aplomb, and the searing yet distant electric guitars adding a real tension and poignancy to the arrangement. I love the way the strings are allowed to carry the instrumental melody for the extended bridge and let things breathe. You know what? This might be the best retro-moment from a girl group ever. Yeah. Better than “The Promise”.” Actually the best retro-moment from a girl group ever would be this little number, but I'll let you be cute.
Some of you felt that this could’ve been a Bond theme, which, I can’t disagree with. Mod-in-training Solenciennes (10) deems it the “The Bond song that never was. The cooing at the beginning and the atmospheric scene setting by Amelle seguing into Heidi are particular highlights for me. They would have really deserved something as major as a film soundtrack with this album I think, it always felt quite cinematic to me and while I don’t think this would have worked as a single off its own merits, it would have probably worked as a soundtrack accompaniment.” kal (9) is also here for this in widescreen, “Another highly cinematic, dramatic ballad. This is 3.0’s Bond theme that never was.” Rewind to just one elimination ago when kal was claiming “Like The Weather” was the Sugababes’ Bond theme that never was. So what is the truth?
Runawaywithme (10) makes a bit of a left-field comparison but makes it werk, “This is like “Ace Reject” 2.0 and for me is just as much as draw dropping, drop everything, gloriously overdramatic moment, whereas “Reject” had a great slow minimal production that made it work this one turns up the massive motown drama and I just live for it, the whole dark cinematic all or nothing moment of this song just sweeps me up and I just love everything about it, the tears, bad boys, dysfunctional relesonships and crashing drums are everything I love, just yes.” acl (10) has seen the light, “See 'Unbreakable Heart' (> "Amelle sounds heartfelt and Keisha serves VOCALS all over this that can scalp ANYONE. If I had a few 11s I could easily throw one at this cause the vocals and production are just so fucking epic. That this was never performed live is a travesty."] + some on form excellent Heidi. Vocally the best 3.0 ever sounded.” Finally ssa (10) claims that “I want my Sugababes mellow and wintery”. They’re quite good like that, huh?
I feel like I'm too hard on 'Ugly'. It's a good tune and the sentiment is there but the cheesiness and clunkiness just make it downfall for me.
The chorus kind of ruins the song.
Why is 'Ugly' connecting with me so much today. *cries*
I plan to induce regret-filled sad-bopping in each of you by the end of this rate.Why am I getting teary-eyed now?
P.S. Taller in More Ways and Change are basically interchangeable for me - I think Change in certain places has aged much better than the former, where Mutya's vocals, alone, even when subtracting her relative hollow appearance, elevate the material to another level without doubt. Either way, it was sad to see how the near-imperial phase of TIMW was in many ways decimated by Mtuya's departure, and was only really given and allowed one last, tragic uttering with "About You Now", a fine single, a great pop track... but an outlier in their back catalogue that really does nothing to identify their strengths and the unique personality that they once offered the music world.
Which leaves Catfights - a brilliant attempt to reverse the damage resulting from the loss of Mutya, which created a new narrative for how these three "Sugababes" could function away from the M-K-H model - but which was coupled with an unfortunate failure to reanimate the charts - an outcome that really portended the end and put all to rest, despite a hugely appropriate directional change.
I guess it's weird that I discovered the girls in 2007 with a radio rip of "About You Now", leading me to read up on the past lineups and drama before Change, only to see the very same group dissolve less than three/four years later. MKS has certainly given me something to hold onto, both with 1.0 and their newer work, and hopefully, more in 2017, but it's crazy to sit back and see that I've spent basically a decade with the music and inner industry workings of this group of talented women... when all I thought I was doing was downloading an album of 12 seemingly random M4A's that I might have very well hated and deleted from my hard drive.
....but here I am, a decade happier and hopefully wiser, with a mind and world view guided by the music that they've given me. I often do get emotional with music, but here, it's even more justified. The Sugababes have been one of the mainstays in my life this last decade, becoming my most listened artist EVER; helping me navigate situations that I didn't realize that I needed them for. It's been a wild ride, and it's what makes MKS's journey more heartbreaking. For so long, I've "needed" their brand of pop, and to see it held captive by legal bullshit has been a heartache. I hope things clear up as much as possible because at this point, not getting more would be purely criminal - but even more, just completely a punch to the gut.
Wishing them the best but also wishing that I could be more concise (kii). Much love to each and every woman that's given her all to all that constitutes "Sugababes". I needed you in ways that you may never ever get to know.
I don't know how this one made it into the top 40. As you can tell from my rating, though, I'm certainly not bitter that it did.