Tuesday 16 August 2022

One Touch/ Sugababes (2000): Albums of my Life: an A-Z

  being aware of the single 'Overload' and not immediately loving it, but knowing that it felt a bit different to other girl groups. I'm imagining that I saw the music video because it is definitely a factor that set the tone of who these young girls were (and they were young, only 15 and 16 years old). The video is shot on a plain white background and pans across to reveal the girls in mid and close-up shots, and they just look so fresh, natural and 'normal'. It doesn't surprise me to read that they were formed in 1998 by the same manager as the group, All Saints, because they had this cool edge and their lack of frills and girliness appealed to me at that age. Also, the fact that they were about the same age as me at the time made them feel relatable.

I'm not sure about when I took the plunge and purchased the CD, but I did and I got it on vinyl last year-- testament to what a great album it is. When we were teenagers my dad would let us load up a CD into the car's player and in hindsight, it strikes me how much of a champion he was for us being into music because he always took an interest in what we listened to. Even though his music taste lay in the 70s for the most part, he (and my mum) have always been open to new music providing it had substance and musicianship to it. I recall him liking some of what he heard with this album, only a brief comment, but it was clear that he recognised the groups' skilful harmonies, something that I think makes the Sugababes a  standout group.

'Overload' is a showcase of three talented young singers in their purest form. Some people associate the group, Sugababes, with an ever-changing line-up and rumours of falling-outs between band members. I liked some of the follow up albums (and even some of the songs when the line up changed), but this is the classic Sugababes sound for me: tight, soulful harmonies and clever arrangements. Mutya Buena's lower tones work so magically with Keisha Buchanan's sweet voice. As a three-piece, Siobhan Donaghy is the perfect middle between these two and as well as incredible sounding lead vocals on songs like 'Soul Sound' she allows for a the harmonies to sound feel full and polished.

The song, 'Soul Sound', is such a smooth, feel-good track and the vocals are let to shine from it with the simple guitar and percussion. The other two tracks where I feel the vocals are at their most impressive are 'Promises' and 'Run for Cover' at the end of the album. 'Promises' is like a lesson in how to harmonise with its simplicity building to a sound which is so unique to this trio, so captivating and slick. 

'Run for Cover' includes a drum track over piano which could be fairly generic for the time, but the vocals, yet again, make it an emotive and stirring song. Considering that Mutya and Siobhan were discovered at only 13 years of age, it tells you something about how practised these girls were. Keisha was friends with Mutya from a young age and this also makes sense when you hear how tuned in to each other they are vocally. Keisha's intense vocal runs jump out from this song and hark back to 90s R n B singers who were far from bubblegum pop and sung with soul. Mutya's voice is one I have admired for a long time and its gravelly edge makes it really special. Just look at them perform 'Run for Cover' in 2013, thirteen years after its release, and incredible live.

For its poppiness, 'Real Thing' is also a track I enjoy. There's some melancholy, some angst and pain in other parts of the album, whereas this song is good fun. It's interesting to read how co-producer and writer, Cameron McVey, worked with the girls on some of the tracks. For 'Overload', he seemed to have a magic touch according to Siobhan who was interviewed describing how he would have organic conversations with the girls about their teenage lives and they would take lyrics from those experiences; he also helped them by recording a take of them singing, claiming it was not the final take, all because he wanted to capture something real and unpolished. I think this comes through on many tracks where the voices of these talented singers sounds both emotive and raw. What has always been so cool about this original line up is that they didn't feel 'stage school'.

1. Soul Sound-- those harmonies showcased perfectly

2. Promises-- some interesting things going on here

3. One Touch-- I love the cute lyrics that take you back to being that age and falling in love for the first time

... I need some soul and nostalgia.

' It doesn't really matter
Sometimes we run for cover
I'm always on the outside   (Run for Cover)

I remember using this song for a video project at university because the lyrics perfectly conveyed something about isolation that comes from loneliness.

... electric purple: the colour of powerful, angsty, yet wonderful youth. It's not a bubblegum pink, but something with greater intensity, spirit, and palatable sweetness.

'Off the Wall'/ Michael Jackson (1979)
'On the Outside/ Starsailor (2005)
'Office Politics'/ The Divine Comedy (2019)

What is your favourite album beginning with O?

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