The Sugababes Discography Rate


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I honestly came into this rate thinking that I'd never particularly had a view on the Mutya vs. Amelle thing (the only member I've specifically stanned for since the beginning is Keisha). However, I've realised that there are several 1.0 and 2.0 songs where Mutya is pretty integral to what I like about the song - the richness of the lower harmony on the chorus to Million Different Ways, the warmth of the opening verse of Follow Me Home - whereas for me Amelle's sweet spot appears to be the bops (like her verses on Side Chick, Easy and About You Now - but then there's also that amazing live version of Don't Let Go by 3.0 which makes me think she's a massive R&B fan as well). [EDIT: This would explain the level of sass Amelle pulls off in the opening verse of Back Down.]

Keisha, of course, is just queen of everything.
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The thing that stands One Touch apart from most other albums in this rate, and various albums released back in 2000. It doesn't sound overtly dated or of that time, in fact a lot of songs have grown more and more as the years roll on...

They were fifteen (I believe?) years old when that album came out and the maturity in the lyrics and vocals still to this day, blows my mind. At fifteen, I was barely getting to school on time - they were performing on TOTP and jumping out of toilet windows!
Keisha, of course, is just queen of everything.

Except Middle 8s

Like a light into my life, I never thought that it would feel so bright

The change was obvious, so miscellaneous

You ain't gotta make it hard if it's easy

“Follow Me Home” is a bit of an enigma for me. I would instinctually classify it as a second tier Sugaballad. Yet if you asked me to find fault with it, it’s actually rather difficult to do. It’s a gorgeous song. Following the Sugaballad formula of Mutya on first verse and chorus lead vocal duties, a tight Heidi middle eight and an explosion of Keishalibs at the end, all bakced up by stirring harmonies and classical production. Lyrically, it’s fairly standard, and if you didn’t know its backstory – that it was written by Mutya for and about her newborn daughter and by Keisha about a close friend in their respective verses – you wouldn’t particularly be able to guess. This fact makes the vocals, and especially Mutya’s, rather pivotal, because once again, she sells it to the heavens and back. You can completely believe that the sentiment of wanting to protect your child embedded in the song so subtly.

Its second tier sentiment comes then purely by way of comparison; it just doesn’t feel as good as Sugaballads in a similar mould like “Stronger” or “Conversation’s Over” or “Caught In A Moment” or even (one step down) “2 Hearts”. Perhaps it’s the production which has a standard classical palette and doesn’t have the very subtle trip-hop/electronica leanings that elevate those top tier Sugaballads. But again, that doesn’t impair the song much. Perhaps it’s the fact that the song could have been more specific about the intended subject matter; yet, keeping its interpretations open is a totally valid songwriting choice, and the song shouldn’t suffer by way of a hypothetical. Because of this, its placement in the rate also seems somewhat perplexing. Obviously loved enough to sneak into the Top 20, but somehow feeling very out of place in it as well.

More concete reasons that it may leave a sour taste with some is its ill-fated release as a single, where everything went wrong. First, it was rerecorded following Mutya’s departure with Amelle in the lineup for the Taller rerelease. Try as she might, Amelle, still finding her place in the band, just cannot measure up to Mutya’s faultless performance. Wheareas Mutya’s voice contains the control and tonal maginitude to emote the song’s emotional content, Amelle’s less expressive and controlled voice leads to what sounds like a polished karaoke performance (which, in many ways, it is). Then, single-ing a song that was very personal to a departed member by rerecording it with a new member who was ostensibly chosen to directly replace that member seems … at the very least, sketchy and insensitive. What tips it further into somewhat offensive territory is the completely inappropriate video it received. On its own, it’s actually rather interesting, and clearly well made (with some lovely bloom-filled shots), visualising a narrative of women stuck in/forced into(?) prostitution by a series of elderly Russian men, and them escaping their fate at the end, with the band members posing in hotel rooms and lobbies as stand-ins (though the video misses a trick by having the escape enacted by the band members and not the actors as well). Pairing all that with this song, however, just seems … bizzare and entirely tone-deaf. It’s no surprise then that Mutya was reportedly greatly angered and hurt by the whole thing, and rightly so. It was a violation of creative license in a terrible way. And all of that was for nought as the song charted at a paltry #32.

But outside of all this, the emotional hook I have for “Follow Me Home” is in how it really poignantly (and in retrospect of course) foreshadows Mutya’s departure. The song’s missive as a signal to her daughter inversely implies her desire to walk another path, this time by herself. This, of course, makes the song’s single release that much more painful, but in a perverse way, completely validates her decision.

Solenciennes (9) has all the tea, “Mutya version, of course, because her version is emotional, gorgeous and I interpreted it to be a touching tribute to her new born baby girl. It’s a beautiful song and Keisha’s ad libs are fantastic. When Amelle re-recorded this, and when they subsequently released it as the final single off the album, it had to then take on the meaning of a generic love song… which would have been fine, if the music video had gently nudged the audience into following that narrative, but instead it was a bizarre escort services to Russian military themed video that didn’t really make a lot of sense and seemed tasteless considering the fans’ previous attachment to the song as a tribute to Mutya’s daughter. It was all a bit insensitive and the fuckery around its release somewhat tarnishes it, but the song itself is great and should have remained an album track in the wake of Mutya’s departure.” cryctall (9) gives it to Mutya on points, “Mutya's voice is wonderfull, isn't it. She shines here too. Amelle's version is better on choruses, you can hear more harmonies, but overall Mutya's version is more emotional, more real (no pun intended). uno (9) is very emphatic, “This was the first and only time where I felt Mutya and Amelle's vocals on a rerecorded track made a huge difference in the outcome. Amelle didn't come close to Mutya's delivery. If this rate took place a few years ago, this would've absolutely been my 11, but it has since faded a bit for me.”

stopthestatic (10) also declares that “I love the Mutya version of this song a lot. Fun to sing along to, and some of the lines, although they may be reminiscent of generic Tumblr-image motivation quotes, are really quite nice.” Also scrolling through endless photos of meadows and beaches is P'NutButter (9.5) who claims that the “Mutya version is incredible, Amelle's is not”. Deborux (10) is very insistent, “let me make clear this 10 is for the Mutya version. I usually like Keisha’s adlibs but they’re not needed here. This is Mutya’s song.” Mootyah! Mootyah! Here’s Mutya’s Bulgarian pawn broker kal (10) to further defend her, “I’ve erased the Amelle version (and single release) from my mind because it was a horrible mistake never meant to be committed. A beautiful song with a beautiful message behind it.”

Runawaywithme (7) keeps on melting, “I really love the Mutya version of this, I love her smooth and husky opening tones and her opening verse inspired by her daughter is quite moving for me and I think she really suits soulful R&B songs like this. I like the background vocals in the chorus on this one and I think the harmonies are really tight. The song makes me feel quite warm and fuzzy inside, even though it is a little cheesy. It really reminds me of Christmas and winter so it makes me happy as I associate happy memories and stuff with that season. Again I probably overscored it a little but I’m feeling all sentimental now so that might have got in the way.” Epic Chocolat (7) gives it a brief glance, “Good in passing, nothing arresting.” Constantino (6) is doomed to never ever get an All Saints reference right, “This is a bit too ‘All Saints album track’ for my taste, it’s sweet tho.” PCDPG (7) goes into Muts’ psyche, “This song has a lot of meaning for Mutya, however it’s not one of their best ballads. Along with a horrible music video.”

Chanex (10) is unfussed about hew is scalping ha, “Mutya or Amelle it doesn't matter, this song wrenches my cold, withered heart out of its socket every time. The playground noises at the beginning are super important but nothing tops Keisha sowing her seeds... as you grow she will protect you YAAAH EEEEH YAAAAHHHH....” tylerc904 (6.5) is also thirsty for Keisha’s seed, “Keisha's adlibs are the only things I really like about this song.” DJHazey (8) also relaxes his jaw, “Nice chill track that comes as a welcome break after the loud bangers that start the album. The last set of choruses with Keisha ad-libbing in the background is truly a special moment too.” acl (8.5) lines up for them sweet, sweet Keishalibs, “This has grown on me over the years. I feel it’s a bit cabaret like “Sometimes” but I like the sentiment. I listen to it for Keisha’s add libs which are some of her finest.”

HRH (8) likes them both, “Amelle's isn't bad but why is she singing about Mutya's daughter?!?!?!?” Sprockrooster (8) is on the money, “One of their weakest ballad-singles, but still quite great.” My amnesiac queen VivaForever (8) says “I never remember this one, but it's really good.” Cruel mistress Mina (7) finds joy in despair, “Sweet, made hilarious by the Mutya appropriation that this song was based on her baby (and the fact that she left before this was released).” Frosty Canadian queen ohnostalgia (7) opines that “I feel like I've heard this song from them five times now. It's nice, but not Top Twenty nice.”

Ironheade (7.5) plots it at the ¾ mark on the Sugaballad scale, “Diminishing returns for the third iteration of the "Stronger"/"Caught in a Moment" formula, it would seem. Unlike its big sisters, it sounds weirdly bare for all its dramatics, with the big swooping soundtrack strings sounding good but lacking much of anything to support them, and the drums sounding a bit too lightweight. It does have a nice devotional sentiment to it, and it still works as a solid effort on the vocal front, with Mutya in particular proving that she still has a real gift for songs like this. But it pitches a bit too firmly towards "epic" for comfort, and gets points knocked off because it really doesn't quite get there. (PS. Sorry Amelle, but the Mutya version smokes yours, Part the Second.)” On a similar wavelength is mrdonut (5) who fears for ha life, “This might get me killed around here but I’ve never loved this song, it just feels like a (much) weaker re-tread of ‘Stronger’”. Robinho#1 (7) also finds it coming up short, “Initially described as the album’s “Stronger”… but that was an overstatement. Nowhere near the 2002 hit.”

CasuallyCrazed (6) has other Sugaballad comparisons, “I liked this song a lot more when it was called “Caught in a Moment” and don’t understand why was chosen as a single when they had songs like “Ace Reject” and “Bruised” sitting there for the picking... Mutya’s clearly phoning it in with that vocal so the Amelle version is surprisingly the definitive one.” Count Shockbox (10) in the same leaky boat, “Amelle version is best”.

Meanwhile “Follow Me Home” provides Blayke (10) with the perfect opportunity for indulging his two favourite pastimes, stanning Mutya and dragging Amelle, "This is Mutya’s finest moment on Taller. The fact that this song was written as a dedication to her then infant child was absolutely beautiful. Mutya shows so much growth on this song and Keisha and Heidi really complement Mutya on this Mutya dominant song. Keisha’s verse and Heidi’s middle-8 are both stunning and I think this is one 2.0’s best moments. It would have been an amazing single had Mutya stayed, probably emulating the success of ‘Too Lost In You’. Now in regards to Amelle’s version (which I would give a 0) [insert: i_am_disgusted.gif]. What a load of shit. Amelle can’t sing the song and better yet they release “Mutya’s song for her daughter” as a single and make the video about Russian whores?! [Ed: Oprah_tilt_head.gif] What a complete catastrophe. No wonder this song bombed on the charts.” Tell that to Filler (9) who curses the sky and the charts, “Restrained, subtle, haunting, elegant, and far too good for your bloody charts anyway you fuckin bastards.” Yep.

The wonderful londonrain (10) both breaks down the song and why the song breaks him down so magnificently, “This is one of those songs that really works for me emotionally – and was a real contender for my 11 as a result. The use of the strings in particular adds some interesting drama and elevates it beyond just another ballad, and Mutya and Keisha sound brilliant on the album version. In particular, it was a nice touch to have the strings crescendo at the end of the choruses instead of dying away, and even though the leads in the chorus are basically in unison, there are subtle vocal effects and flourishes throughout the song which really add depth and texture to the song without simply just being third-above or third-below harmonies following the tune (unusually for them, as the third-above/third-below technique is much more typical of the big Sugababes ballads like “Too Lost In You” and “Stronger”). The use of Mutya's voice on the opening lines works so well because she sounds so warm and I instantly get the protective feel of the lyrics before we've even got to the pre-chorus. (Presumably the fact that this song is so personal to Mutya had a lot to do with it, but her vocal performance is so emotionally connected and communicative here.) This is a big part of why “Follow Me Home” is my go-to Sugababes song for pure emotional impact, because it's like a comforting blanket when I'm feeling low (as opposed to simply being a song of despair). The "I won't walk away / I'll stand by your side / I'm here for you" bit really resonates in a way that a lot of by-the-numbers inspirational songs don't, and by the time Keisha's "FOLLOW ME HOME!" ad libs start in the final choruses I'm totally wrapped up in the message.

Amelle probably shouldn't have bothered to rerecord this as she doesn't quite match Mutya's texture here, but her version is still good (if not as stellar as the 2.0 version). The single release was unnecessary and badly timed (who releases a song like this in the UK with a snowy winter video in June?!) and didn't do justice to how brilliant this song is. 3.0 should have gone for “Now You're Gone” as the single instead and left this as the highly personal, magnificent album track that it was.”

Finally, we have our 11 from JamesJupiter, “I can’t imagine too many people will be giving their 11 to “Follow Me Home”, and I have a feeling that it probably won’t even make the top 30, but I adore it. From Heidi’s middle-8, which is one of her greatest, to the hypnotic beat and the sweeping strings and to top it all off, Keisha absolutely destroying everything and everyone with her ad-libs, I think it is one of their finest moments and their most underrated single. I also love the video – sorry, Mutya!”

It’s actually nearly impossible to find the video for this online’ Mutya clearly had Keisha’s lawyers pull it off the web. Here’s a link to it on a rather random site.

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