Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 73)
There comes a bit of a shock when listening to Sugababes Three
when you realize half the album is over and there hasn’t been any filler. Where One Touch
was sustained by half-baked filler and Angels with Dirty Faces
was dominated by its singles, Three
is front to back with great songs and, when consumed in full, it feels like a breakthrough. Like all major pop acts, the Sugababes live and die by their singles, their album’s are permitted to be afterthoughts as long as the singles do numbers. Three
has those big singles but their evenly dispersed through the album and amongst worthy deep cuts, making it the trio’s first big statement as a group and not just pop stars.
Opening with the group’s third number one single, Three
wastes no time in delivering its ample payload of hooks with “Hole in the Head”s catchy rubbery synth hits and eager bounce. Like all great pop, its hook makes no sense (How do you miss someone like a hole in the head anyway?) but is so infectious you don’t care. Three
contains a wealth of great upbeat songs, “Whatever Makes You Happy” coasts on its a smooth “Da-da-da” melodic hook and “In the Middle”’s chorus - with its “BLURT. BLURT. BLURT” horns - comes back harder every time, but these tracks are spread out enough so the album’s stellar ballads don’t get over shadowed. Pop music genius factory Xenomania contribute one of Three
’s best deep cuts in “Situation’s Heavy”, which boasts a distant guitar riff reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Heroes”. “Caught in a Moment” has a killer pre-chorus and chorus melody but doesn’t oversell either, presenting them simply so they grow on you slowly rather than assault you outright.
Even in Three
’s weakest moments the confident personalities of the trio and adventurous production choices save the record from any outright disasters. Keisha Buchanan referring to her vagina as a “Nasty Ghetto”? Bad idea. That song’s industrial bass line and fierce drums? Good idea. The Sugababes even survive the dreaded Diane Warren ballad, living up the melodramatic “Too Lost in You”. And closing number “Maya” is something else entirely, a low key burbling ballad with a gentle ebb and flow that could only be the album’s denouement.
doesn’t have quite enough truly stellar moments to be a classic, it still sets a new pedigree for what’s expected from a Sugababes full length. The Sugababes were already well on their way to being a great singles act at this point but with Three
the trio proved they could sustain a full album that isn’t a greatest hits collection.