The Sugababes Discography Rate

The song tries to counter that with the chorus which telegraphs a kind of hope. Of trying to ignore the despair and situate yourself within the universe, the worlds within worlds that rotate. And to seal that, the song’s most heartbreaking line: if this universe is really shrinking, we'll be together in time. When faced with that crushing despair which leaves you desolate and tiny, all you have is hope, isn’t it? It’s almost a blind hope, no other foundation to base it on apart from sheer force of will. I’m not religious, or particularly spiritual, but I can totally understand how people build entire worldviews on hope itself. “Maya” itself is too wise, too demure, to do that world-building (and potentially complicate and tarnish the picture in the process) beyond a few suggestions – it simply rests on that first impulsive instinct alone: we’ll be together in time.
I know this is a bit late but thank you for your heartfelt review. I really enjoyed reading that.
This song is also very dear to my heart, although I haven't yet experienced a loss as close. But the sentiment it conveys very much resonates with me.

I always wondered about that line though: "If this universe is really shrinking, we'll be together in time."
You say it stands for hope. But I don't get it a very basic, factual level. Because as we know / think we know, the universe is actually expanding. So does this line deliberately get it wrong just so there's some hope left, or what?
Listening to New Year a few times again today and I must say - I wish I gave pretty much all the songs from One Touch a 10 now - 8 was not enough for this or Promises. Truce also deserved more than the 8 I gave it... *cries in a pillow*
My Sugadarlings, thank you so very much for the kind words, and your patience as always. I think I'm ready to (slowly) get going again.

But first, some housekeeping!
I've been reading through this rate a little bit and it's convinced me to officially dive into them. I've been meaning to do it for a while but I kept putting it off. Ready to be sléd.

My morbid fascination with Sweet 7 also contributes to this dddd.
My impact! I hope the catching up is going well. Since you have no time constraints, I think a chronological procession would work nicely. You can find wanky intellectualisations of everything here, should you so require.
But, yeah. "Freak Like Me". Time for my own contribution to the Sugababes Rate Confessionals.

Gary Numan has been something of a hero to me for a long time. I was an awkward teenager struggling with autism, and he was the only celebrity on the autistic spectrum that I was aware of. Consequently, I imprinted on him like a baby duckling. I'm no longer quite the rabid stan I once was, particularly after I found out how inconsistent so much of his post-1984 work is; nevertheless, his first two or three albums remain pretty much flawless.

But it was always more than the music, particularly when it came to "Are 'Friends' Electric?". Combined with the cold and eerie tones of late-70's synthesizers, Numan meditates on the possibility of making friends through computer circuits - that maybe it's all just a big lie, maybe they're all just robots, maybe there's no way of truly connecting to anybody else. "No, I don't think it meant anything to you". This was a tough period of my life, mid teenage years. At a time when I was grappling with and trying to understand my diagnosis, the song really caught a nerve with regards to the difficulties of forming proper relationships and relating to other people, taking to the Internet for solace when speaking in real life seemed such an insurmountable difficulty, and the collapse of a longtime friendship - things that remain quite hard to this day, if I'm being honest. So, when I hear that heavy lift from a song that is very personal to me... only for it to not be that, and in fact be completely turned on its head subject-matter wise? Yeah, I'm not sure I like it.

And yes, I am aware that that's a dumb reason to dislike something. And I don't dislike "Freak Like Me", I really don't. It's a very strong piece of work and a great mashup. But I just can't warm to it. Sorry.
Goddamit, you're going to make that "Freak Like Me" writeup (coming ... soon) very difficult!
I know this is a bit late but thank you for your heartfelt review. I really enjoyed reading that.
This song is also very dear to my heart, although I haven't yet experienced a loss as close. But the sentiment it conveys very much resonates with me.

I always wondered about that line though: "If this universe is really shrinking, we'll be together in time."
You say it stands for hope. But I don't get it a very basic, factual level. Because as we know / think we know, the universe is actually expanding. So does this line deliberately get it wrong just so there's some hope left, or what?
I think it just makes a hypothetical, perhaps for the sake of poetic convenience (the idea of being together in time wouldn't make sense if the universe was really expanding), or just a blind belief in that idea for the sake of hope itself, as you said. The beauty of the song is that it never collapses regardless of your knowledge and position on quantum physics.
A sentient record skip.
I love you.
Lemme make up for the delay by breaking the elimination word count record, again.

You were like a power of nature, telepathic beautiful creature

Will you stop, or will you just keep going, please don't say no, no, no, no

'Cos it's about the music, not the face



Whatever Makes You Happy
Score: 8.571
Highest: 10/10 x 26 (@Reboot, @xtophermorrison, @theincredibleflipper, @Terminus, @Russron, @VivaForever, @kal, @P'NutButter, @Voodoo, @Robert, @Lucas, @Island, @DoggySwami, @Shockbox, @Robinho#1, @2014, @AllSixSugababes, @berserkboi, @scottdisick94, @chanex, @Zar-Unity, @Jam, @acl, @Blayke, @BeingBoring)
Lowest: 5.5/10 x 1 (@Uno)
My score: 10/10

Among the many surprises on Three is the fact that the most poppy song on the album is Keisha’s solo track. Moreover, it’s a perfect pop song.

“Whatever Makes You Happy” is perfect first because of the production. There’s the fantastic, bubbling guitar riff that introduces the song. That then leads to the amazing drumline+harmonised vocal that runs through the track. The instrumental samples 80s new wave dance-funk duo Sly Fox’s “Let’s Go All The Way”, grabbing its reverbed synth and looping it through the song with ingenuity. It all provides an amazing setup that is instantly grabbing and powers the song effortlessly.

“Whatever Makes You Happy” is perfect, next, because of the vocals. It is a declaration of Keisha’s arrival. The all consuming vocal accomplishment of the song doesn’t seem so surprising now, given what Keisha went onto do over four more albums. However, it’s important to remember that back then she was not as recognised, somewhat under the shadow of Siobhán and Mutya on One Touch, and only slowly coming into her own on Angels. She has been, on either side of the song (in 1.0 and 2.0/3.0), the vocal glue of the band in a lot of ways. In practically any other girlband she would be the sole standout vocally, but in the Sugababes, her supreme proficiency has often had to share main billing with, or cede it to, the more distinctive tones of Mutya, and to a lesser degree, of Amelle. She has provided as much if not more value to the band through her invisible labour – the modest verses, the warm and rich tone, the honey-glazing of the harmonies – as she has through the more obvious tics of the high notes and the adlibs. “Whatever Makes You Happy” pulls all those curtains away, leaving just Keisha centre-stage, and she just … delivers, like always.

It took little time for Keisha to develop into a fully fledged vocalist, and this is an emphatic showcase to demonstrate that she reached that point by just her third album. Over the years, her voice has gotten richer and defter in some respects, but the full blast on here is proof enough that she had covered the bases of being able to impress, and then some, very early on. She goes from near talk-singing rapid-fire delivery to full on diva conquerage, her tone rising with ease from matter-of-fact hurried voicemail to full-throated scream across the street. (Mutya and Heidi lend some nice support with background vocals, noticeable especially in the “Happy, Crazy, Baby” bits in the second and later choruses.) It’s all done with this unfussed finesse; there’s no bombastic high note here, or a machine-gun volley of ad-libs, but you never feel the absence of that. And through it all, she demonstrates her innate ability to emote – there’s such an unbridled anger here, and a righteousness that bubbles away underneath. The emotive aspect of Keisha’s delivery is often most obvious in the ballads – through a colossal, earth-shaking high note or a flurry of window-shattering ad-libs – but this is proof that she’s able to be so convincingly evocative even on faster pop bangers.

That emotion becomes all the more stirring when considering the song’s content, which is ultimately what tips “Whatever Makes You Happy” over from great to superb, and crystallises its perfectness. On the surface, it’s a shot across the bow to a demanding lover, a rejoinder that the narrator will prioritise their own happiness above the whims of someone else. There are turns of phrase that are as clever as they are cutting: “Applying pressure on the wound when it's bleeding”, “And you can justify everything / But it don't really matter when reality kicks in”. The song, however, contains a number of references – “You're telling me your definition of a pop star”, “I don't wanna spend my time in the VIP” – that betray what this really is: a rebuke to the music industry. It is both an acknowledgement of the reality of being a popstar – “tell me what to say and I’ll deliver it” – and a forceful declaration that she will find happiness not in the industry’s frills but in her own self and her own talent – all captured in the song’s absolute master stroke of a line, “cos it’s about the music, not the face”, whose ‘face’ is often delightfully misheard as ‘fame’. Under both readings, it’s genius – a riposte against appearance determining the value of a pop artist or (or rather, and) a lambaste against the true value of a pop artist’s artistry being in the trappings of the industry and not the art. In this double act the song pulls, being realistic to almost nihilistic degrees (in being so forthright about the realities of the industry and the impossibility of escaping them) and yet so spirited in yearning to claw back self-worth, it is a deceptively and disarmingly exceptional song. In these senses, “Whatever Makes You Happy” joins the entrapped-songstress-singing-to-and-about-her-captors pop tradition, exemplified by such opuses as Rachel Stevens' “Some Girls”.

“Whatever Makes You Happy” is, finally, a perfect pop song, because after all these years, it’s still the same exhilarating thrill, having aged not one tiny bit. In terms of the album’s central conceit, the song makes it 2/3 for the solo tracks. I’m not sure if this qualifies as the best of the solo efforts, “Maya” being a for-the-ages affair, but it’s also perfect in its own way, and importantly, in a way which nullifies comparison. As the album’s most poppy affair, this really should have been considered as a single either in this form or with more beefed up vocals from Mutya and Heidi, and taking the place of “In The Middle” in the singles run. It’s not difficult to suppose that it would have done as well, if not better. It is that rousing.

But the thrill of the song is all the more piercing because of the significance of its progenitor. Keisha has suffered a lot at the hands of the industry, perhaps the most of all the Sugababes. From what is known and is guessable, even the briefest of sketches is bracing. By the time of Three and this song, she had already faced label fuckery in full, being undersold by London Records in favour of Siobhán then dropped and forced to recoup and reinvent. But the worst would be yet to come. There would be the management machinations through the band’s entire time at Island Records, her steady sidelining in place of the new bandmate Amelle, and the intense horror of Keishagate, where Crown’s scheming would force her out of the band she founded and gave herself to for over a decade. If that wasn’t enough, on would come an aborted solo career and the undoubtedly sickening heartbreak of having a one-in-a-generation, seemingly clean slate comeback crushed before her eyes by yet another record label (this time Polydor). And yet, she keeps going.

Through all of this, she was the public face of the band’s internal turmoil for better or for worse, garnering the title of the band’s bully and unwittingly framing the band’s contested public image. Of course, this is not to absolve her of any actual role she may have played in fostering such an image, but in games of hearsay, one kind of party always loses. It is impossible to be your own advocate and defence in the pop industry, especially when your detractors – from label executives to management officials to hangers-on to your own fans – remain so faceless against your own glaring visibility. That visibility has been coloured by persistent misogynoir over all these years. “Difficult” male or white popstars, especially in multimember outfits, have rarely faced as much vitriol as she has over time. In all these senses, Keisha’s very existence as an artist has perhaps been an effort to embody the ethos of “it’s about the music, not the face”. If “Whatever Makes You Happy” is self-referential to the point of meta, then its irreverence has lasted far beyond its point of release. Across vast swathes of time, it is a continuing personal anthem and affirmation of one of the most remarkable popstars Britain has produced.

Decades of Eurodance and teen bops have left DJHazey (8) with a very limited attention span, “Instantly appealing, but it runs out of steam quickly.” OTOH PCDPG (8) cries that it’s an “Amazing Keisha solo song. A true highlight on this album along with inspiring lyrics.” mrdonut (8) opines that “The chorus and production are colossal and Keisha demonstrates she can completely own a song on her own.” Ironheade (8) is measuredly appreciative, “I've never been sure about the need for the solo tracks on this album, but whatever, it's still good. Keisha certainly seems to welcome the opportunity for a solo spotlight, delivering a delicate but spiky performance that shows off how far she's really come since the days of One Touch, and proving quite adept with the rhythmic vocal melodies. There's a slightly odd production choice with the synth that sounds rather like a chainsaw revving up, but the chopped-up funk guitars of the verses and the catchy, buoyant chorus are enough to keep this song going quite amiably. No Sugababes classic, but it's solid stuff. I do wonder what Mutya would do with this alongside her buddy, though…”

"Not a fan, Quiche, sorry,” says ssa (6) just angling to have Keisha take them to court for unpaid rent. uno's (5.5) sweet words also probably won’t save them from a court date either, “While this song isn't that great, I still think Keisha would do nicely as a solo artist. Her work on Catfights & Spotlights more than proved that.” Lil’ Constantino’s (7) faulty hearing will surely see him served an eviction notice by Quiche, “The production isn’t outstanding but there’s a lightness to this that I really adore, especially in the backing vocals.” And ohnosalgia (7.75) doesn’t seem to mind cross-Atlantic lawyers’ fees, “Definitely would not place this in the Top 20 Sugababes tracks, it's just a tad clunky. Justice for.... any number of wronged songs from One Touch.”

Lost In Japan. (8) clocks Quiche secretly rejigging the album track order at the last minute, “QUEEN Keisha getting her solo song as track #2 when Mutya and Heidi’s are way down the tracklist.” londonrain (8.5) thinks it’s still cute to shade “Maya”, “Easily the best of the three 'solo' tracks on Three, even though it still feels like a group effort. This could have been a single.” acl (10) may be on a similar wavelength, “I never clocked this this was a Keisha Solo. It could have been a single if she let the others on it.” She did, but they weren’t allowed to do much.

CasuallyCrazed (9.5) spreads their legs for dom top Keisha, “Some of the most poignant and biting lyrics ever delivered in a pop song. Keisha has never sounded so passionate and alpha.” tylerc904 (8) also arches his back, “Yes Keisha! Have your solo track be an uptempo! The lyrics have the bite and fury I adore Keisha for.” P'NutButter (9) squirts “A Keisha solo, and it's brilliant!” stopthestatic (9) gets deep into the lyrics, “'It's about the music, not the fame' What a line! The Sugababes don't have a lot of songs that can be interpreted as meta tracks about their career, but this is one of rare few they do have, and a great one at that!” xondus (9) gives us version advice, “A Keisha masterpiece, but it needs to be the UK album mix. The beat on the other one is flat as a pancake.”

The song reduced many of you to near-incoherent screaming. VivaForever (10) bows down at the Quiche altar, “YAAAAAAAASSSSS QUEEN QUICHE. Was my favorite on Three for years until “Conversation's Over” finally surpassed it.” Voodoo (10) asks and answers simply, “Anthem? Anthem.” “YES KEISHA!!!” ejaculates Jam (10). Filler (9) is on cleanup duty, “This isn't just a pop song; this is a SPECTACLE.”

Robinho#1 concurs strongly (10) “A rather remarkable solo track from group’s villain, Keisha Buchanan. It would have been a massive hit if it were released.” kal (10) has barely any time to recover from the album starting up, “If “Hole In The Head” is not a big enough sucker punch at the beginning of the album, delivers yet another one. The booming opening synths and the message behind the song are on another level.” Solenciennes (9) muses over this being a potential single, “Trust Keisha to get the most explosive ‘solo’ song and have it come this close to getting single status. Singing quietly to get your microphone turned up teas. The chorus is great and the harmonies that Mutya and Heidi do later on (“crazy, happy, baby…”) are another highlight for me. Three had a notoriously weird run of singles (two ballads? What are they thinking!) so I can see where this would have been a good alternative to the dreck that is “In The Middle”, but it’s probably better that this remains with “Maya” and “Sometimes” as album tracks.” Sprockrooster (9) is living in ha fantasy, “Fantastic solo and I was definitely thirsty for more, but that seems even more farfetched than a true Sugababes comeback.” *pursing lips intensifies*

Blayke (10) overlooks a large part of the Keisha highlights reel but is correct otherwise, “This is possibly the best thing Keisha has ever done as a Sugababe. She wrote the perfect pop song. I wish it was released as a single with a single mix featuring more Mutya and Heidi. This song was kind of the awakening that Keisha can write some amazing pop music. I still listen to this a lot. I consider this song one of their best!” Along with 57 other songs, kii. Finally, Chanex (10) thirsts that “Over the years this has become a favorite of mine. I love that it's a "fuck off" jam packaged as an uptempo bop, and appreciate the self-referential reflections about the machinations of fame. Man that last sentence was pretentious sorry!” Don’t try and force me to apologise for this entire rate then, boo, cos it has been nothing but pretentious.

The live performances offer a (bit messy) taste of what a retooled all-of-band version could have sounded like.

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I always thought the use of the sample in Whatever Makes You Happy was perfect - just enough to add to the song but without being a blatant cover. Actually the songs sound nothing alike.


Staff member
I knew it was its time but that song is such an anthem that is so reflective on her career, even now.

"It's all about the music and not the face" is such a true statements and you don't get a lot of songs about being a popstar in the industry, especially ones that are well told, sung, and thought out as this. Also, it fucking goes off. Kudos to Keisha for this.

That’s a fantastic Top 15, isn’t it? The #16-20 cull was relatively less painful than most of #21-30; I can say that only “New Year” and “Can We Call A Truce” should have gone further, but that would have been in lovely surprise territory more than anything. But more importantly, and for the first time, every song remaining deserves its place.

I think now is also the appropriate time to make serious guesses about which song will win.
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