Sweet 7

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Following the departure of Keisha Buchanan just weeks before Sweet 7 was originally scheduled for release, the previously all-conquering Sugababes are now in their fourth different incarnation, with Eurovision entrant Jade Ewen stepping in to replace the only member left from the original 2000 lineup. However, their seventh studio album reveals they are now unrecognizable, not only in terms of personnel, but also in terms of their sound and image. After the underperformance of Sugababes' retro-soul-based Catfights and Spotlights, the lowest-selling album of their ten-year career, the trio appears to have hit the panic button in an attempt to keep up with the likes of rivals Girls Aloud and the Saturdays. Whereas their earlier material effortlessly combined commercial radio-friendly pop with cutting-edge influences, Sweet 7 aims straight for the jugular, ignoring any ambitions of originality in favor of churning out the kind of formulaic electro-R&B that has lately become ubiquitous in the upper reaches of the charts. Drafting in hotshot producers Stargate (Beyoncé) and the Smeezingtons (Flo Rida), Sweet 7 is never short of an infectious hook or club-friendly production, but undoubtedly betrays the experimental sensibilities that set them apart from their contemporaries. Lead single "Get Sexy" is a hopelessly misguided stab at Black Eyed Peas-style robotic synth-led R&B that samples Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," a far cry from their Gary Numan/Adina Howard mash-up, featuring cringe-worthy lyrics performed in a stilted manner that appears audibly to emit their undeniable embarrassment. Considering their previous sophisticated image, it's a desperate and calculated re-invention that fails to pull off the risqué and sensual vibe they were obviously aiming for. Elsewhere, power ballad "Crash & Burn" is basically a carbon copy of Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks' "No Air," "Miss Everything" is generic Auto-Tuned fluff featuring rent-a-rapper Sean Kingston, and the aptly named "She's a Mess" is a chaotic attempt at a Clubland trance-pop floor-filler. The one saving grace is "About a Girl," a gloriously sassy uptempo Lady Gaga-esque number that stands up next to the best of their back catalog and suggests that if producer RedOne had been on board for more than one track, the album might have avoided becoming the bland, soulless, and repetitive affair it sadly is.

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