The Sugababes Discography Rate

It’s such a … powerful feeling knowing exactly when each voter’s meltdowns will occur.

You will find I may have a stronger reaction to one of my 10s being done wrong as opposed to my 11 as I have made peace with it not winning but if ... or ... leave before top 20!


The lyrics to Sound of Goodbye affect me every time. The devastating loss I felt (and still feel) when my last relationship disintegrated, and the all consuming guilt and pain I felt (and still feel) ending the 2 relationship prior to that. It manages to speak to me from both sides of a love that has died and has in it’s own special and melancholy way helped me recognise and feel emotions that I instinctively bury. Few songs really get to me, but this one manages it, and I love it and the Sugababes for that.

My first real loss from this beautiful rate.
I can't even bother with the fucking teasing



Score: 8.005
My babies: 10/10 x 22 (@JuanJose, @Consideration, @DoggySwami, @Robinho#1, @HRH, @Solenciennes, @tylerc904, @P'NutButter, @Voodoo, @Deborux, @lalaclairi_, @theincredibleflipper, @CasuallyCrazed, @ssa, @Runawaywithme, @scottdisick94, @Mr.Arroz, @chanex, @acl, @Blayke)
The lowest: 3/10 x 1 (@Lucas)
My score: 10/10

There’s a point where, in the depths of depression, true despair, we turn to self-pity. It’s a reflexive coping mechanism – it just feels easier to look down on yourself, to probe the recesses of your burdens. In the context of relationships, self-pity just as easily becomes a wall, blocking further progression or exploration of issues, personalities, the relationship itself. Of course this may be justified; the other person’s failings, their transgressions – the injustice of it all. They just become more things to scaffold your self-pity with, yet more reasons to wallow. It is in many ways a form of narcissism and a reminder of the ways despair centres you – my sadness is what matters – in the most unsightly ways.

“Promises” is all of this captured with the most succinct modesty. From the very first, “It's okay, to go and make mistakes”, mistakes that are yours as much as theirs; theirs for promising you love, and yours for believing them; “I was in the wrong, but it doesn't really matter.” And then, “It's okay, to break your promises, you're moving on anyway” – a dejected plea to leave your to own devices, to suffer in silence. It might all seem passive aggressive, inviting pity, even a reversal of the broken promise, were it not for the flashes of darkness the song throws up.

“I hate the way, it makes me feel inside” where the ‘it’ later becomes ‘you’, connotes possibly the slow realisation that the suffering comes from the relationship and specifically the other person. It hints, ever so subtly, at something other than ordinary heartbreak. But the song hides it well, under poignant imagery like “Don't whisper in my ear, You gotta learn to say goodbye”. As if the narrator is not wanting to dwell on it much, to dismiss those tendrils of potential horror as quickly as the relationship itself.

Aiding all of this, where unease is instinctively disregarded, is the production, cuttingly minimal, and reliant on a pong-like synth. It establishes a fluttering, back-and-forth tempo that serves a wider purpose in supporting both the song’s similarly lilting chorus, and more broadly, its theme of an uncertain conversation on the doorstep. This austerity is maintained through the song as it never kicks up for the choruses, allowing the rest of the song’s soundscape to be built on the vocals.

And those vocals. One Touch as a whole is a showcase for the beautiful, still growing prowess of these three women, but “Promises” might be as close as a single song comes to demonstrating all three of their individual and collective strengths. Mutya leading off, anchoring the song with her lower (and to be lower still) register and subtly controlled up-and-down cadence (the delivery of “it’s okay to break your promises you’re” is masterful). Siobhán following on in the second with that by-the-window observational tone which sounds seconds away from cracking. Keisha, the honeyed glue binding it all together, adding a richness that is intermittently visible. And the harmonies, layered in subtly at each step in the verses, then all three coming together on the choruses, where the harmonies serve as the extra binding on the chorus. It builds ever so subtly, punctuated by a guttural, almost slurred middle eight from Mutya, to that final chorus where so much happens. Siobhan’s “yeah, yeah” line running through and Keisha and Mutya repeating the chorus staggeredly, each of them criss-crossing and gliding past each other. They do that thing 1.0 perfected where each of them melts into the others’ voices so that they are no longer distinct, but the ad libs from all three scattered along the way are little jolts of their individuality popping up. It’s a stunning showcase of their vocal prowess that entirely warrants the chorus flowing on and on. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve tried to count how many repeats of the chorus there are because halfway through, I just get lost in it and want it to go on forever.

“Promises” is pivotal to One Touch, forming the crucial middle part of its concluding quarter. It’s hard for me to not see the sequence of “New Year” – “Promises” – “Run For Cover” as the slow unravelling of the same relationship. “Promises” ramps up the darker suggestions in “New Year” (e.g. “Traumatised, I'm so scared to feel”) ever so slightly but stops just short of the onslaught oncoming in “Run For Cover” where it all comes loose in a vortex of despair. It is as if the relationship the narrator was uncertain and wary of in “New Year” has come to a head, and she’s ending it pre-emptively here, before the full emotional consequences of it come to hit her as telegraphed in “Run For Cover”. If you needed more proof on what a triumph of sequencing this is, just consider how tightly the lyrics foreshadow and make allusions across all three. Just as an example, the “I only came to say goodbye, now you finally see” of “New Year” flows onto “You gotta learn to say goodbye” in Promises, whose own “I was in the wrong, but it doesn't really matter” presages “Run For Cover”’s “It doesn't really matter Sometimes we run for cover”. “Promises” is a crucial anchor of this narrative, which is why I cannot dismiss it at all as a slight effort when compared to the ‘fuller’ compositions on either side. Oh, and it bears repeating, over and over: they were fifteen when they wrote this.

I’ll hand it to sweet tylerc904 (10) who worms his way back in by declaring this “By far my favorite album cut from One Touch. Those harmonies just wash over you and the repeated chorus at the end never feels like enough.” “Nadine Coyle's favourite Sugababes track,” quips P'NutButter (10). Nadine wishes she had two other competent vocalists who could harmonise with her like this.

“A good song and it still sounds fresh today,” warrants a … 6 from PCDPG? What is this garbage, mawma? Also on the comment/score mismatch train to nowhere is mrdonut (7) who “Really [likes] the minimal production on this, allowing the voices to come to the fore.” Remorque (6.5) betrays me deeply, “The production on this one is kinda minimal and to me also the low-point of the song, but the girls’ warm voices on that chorus make up for a lot. It’s just a bit ‘meh’ as a whole…” Well your face is meh as a whole!

On top of the steaming trash pile, it’s VivaForever (5) who chunders vomit and bile all over my rate, “Their vocals are lots better on this one than most of the album, but the song is less interesting. Bah” Yes, I suppose it really is less interesting than something like “Get Sexy” or “Freedom” to which she gave a 10s. roux (5) also offers me pure trash, “I haven't seen MKS live so I probably am indeed going to underscore this.” Well I haven’t either, so what’s the excuse for your atrocious taste, honeyboo? Beelzebub’s janitor Filler (5) dares to shade this something dirty, “There's something a bit peculiar about this production, like it's playing backwards or something. Look I'm not really into this album so I'll take glimmers of interest where I can get them.”

Ironheade (8.5) conveniently ignores about 10 pages of “Ace Reject” stanning on this thread alone but otherwise werks, “Everyone hyping this up as the best Sugababes album track… eh, I dunno about that. Still pretty great, though. The arpeggiated synth bass transitions far more smoothly into the icy organ bedrock of the song far more effectively than I ever thought it would, and the percussive rainfall in the background creates a slightly sad, isolated space. It's simple, but it damn well works. Not to mention, Mutya lets loose on the middle 8 in a way I've rarely heard her attempt since, and the way the girls come together as one in the chorus of the song is truly a sight to behold. Strong hook, as well, the melodies sleek and polished but with a pleasing organic feel. I guess it's just in the shadow of… “Run For Cover”’. Which, of course, is the point.

kal (9) thinks “This starts as abruptly as “Real Thing” but it's actually a nice change of pace after “New Year” hits one's heart with ten thousand bricks. The chorus is a bit too repetitive which is the only reason I'm not giving it a 10. The flow in the verses is insane!” londonrain (9) recovers from a bout of tastelessness to return in near-full form, “I really like the harmonies on this one (even if they are rather simple), as well as the background instrumentation on this.” Constantino (9) is always one for purity, “This is gonna get eaten up in this rate but I happen to adore the restraint, lightness and air of purity this song has. The vocal melody is STUNNING.”

How can the silence scream so loud, and “How can three voices sound the same? Answer me Sway!” questions Robinho#1 (10). I can always rely on Runawaywithme (10) for some sweet stream of consciousness, “I love the chilled out vibe of this song so much and the melancholy chorus is such a great moment, It just does things to me. The final minute is just pure bliss and it really reminds of me of summer, this is almost like a younger sassier sister to the excellent “Flatline”. The soft way in which the girls sing this really adds a haunting edge for me and I really like how they all have their moments even harmonising and you can pick out all the different tones and qualities of each one of their voices on this song.”

Chanex goes through a journey, “Hot damn! Definitely my big re-discovery from One Touch, maybe of the whole rate? That icy beat! You're movin on anyway! Gagging! That perfect chorus. And reminding me of “Run For Cover” with the "it doesn't really matter" moment? Almost perfect but gotta save those 10s for the canon. (Update: kept playing it over and over and had to accept this is a total 10)”. You’re welcome, boo.

acl (10) is This is definitely elevated thanks to the MKS gig 100 years ago. It’s a tiny little bit nursery rhymey but the the layering of the vocals and the harmonies ARE Sugababes.” Solenciennes (10) also brags about going to the MKS gig, “this track is one of the stand outs from One Touch, probably should have been a single over “New Year”/”Soul Sound”. The way the harmonies are layered is fantastic and the moody vibe to the song encapsulates 1.0’s image perfectly. Also, this was such a delight to hear open the MKS tour and I fully got my life. I’ll also never not hear “all the lies and bitches are backdated”, so there’s that.” Same! Blayke (10) as always, gets distracted by shiny things, “Let us all admit. The Sacred Three tour made this song relevant even more so than it did before. I actually wish they recorded that, even at that small length. I would listen to that 10x more than this version. I think this would have been a great single. I’m loving the demo-ish quality of the song too. Keisha finally shows herself to me in this song. She shines. That seems to be a key buzz word for me on this. SHINES.”

Deborux (10) is dreaming on a cloud, “the production is definitely of its time but this is one of their most underrated songs and the harmonies and layered vocals towards the end are heavenly.” theincredibleflipper (10) has nearly the highest praise for this, “almost got the 11. I love how easy it is but at the same time so complex. The last chorus with all the things going on at the same time vocally is just special.” Yas. CasuallyCrazed (10) spills the tea, “This song proves that 1.0 served the smoothest blended harmonies of any incarnation... In fact, listening through One Touch in full is making me yearn for a full blown 2016 rerecording from MKS.” Or even a 2017 one, please. Finally, lalaclairi_ (10) concurs that “1.0's vocals and harmonies were already amazing; this song is so special.” By gods, yes.

It is, of course, a travesty that this is going out now (especially given some mediocre songs remaining). But I won’t dwell on it too much because … it doesn’t really matter. It’s not even the placing or the scores that sting, but the (relatively) low regard for this, because “Promises” is my favourite/second favourite Sugababes album track and something very firmly in my personal Top 5/10. It's one of those songs that I associate most strongly with the band, reflexively and without hesitation, every time.

I’m not quite sure when this became so important to me. Perhaps it was in hearing it performed by these three women thirteen years after its release (and after they had lived a whole other life), when it was used in hugely inspired fashion to open their shows. In darkness, just those three gorgeous voices, now grown to maturity, hanging in the air and electrifying it (I mean, when the harmonies on “I hate the way” are layered on, Jesus Christ). Perhaps it was when I realised that One Touch was a singular experience, meant to be consumed (when one could find strength) as a whole, which made listening through the last quarter especially harrowing and powerful. Or perhaps it was just finding myself in periods of prolonged despair, when all its intricacies become ever clearer, and realising that those details could be expressed so accurately through music in this way. Where listening to a song when you are feeling exactly what it describes makes the experience an exercise in out-of-body perspective – not necessarily helping the situation but perhaps making it sharper, leading either to increased resolve or further loneliness, or, as was often the case, both. And through that process, where the song itself becomes a timestamp of that experience.

And “Promises” is just that. don't whisper in my ear

About a minute in,

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Promises was one of my lowest scores left, so I'm not too bothered about that. I've just never been able to connect with it - and the album - on a deeper level, but that's more to do with when I discovered the album rather than its actual quality.
Actually, you're not wrong, except you've been way harsher on the middling album tracks.

I grade (er, rate) on a curve. My default score is a 6 or 7 for songs that are sonically pleasing but not standouts; my overall rate average is a 6.1. I gave out 3 0s (all eliminated) and 12 10s total (including my 11); of which, you heathens have wrongly eliminated 5.

29 songs with an 8+ average, though? That's pretty awesome for a PJ rate.