Sweetest Girl

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Toward the end of "Sweetest Girl" when lead singer Suggs sings "maddest group in all the world, how could they do this to me?" it seems to be some sort of an apology to fans. What he's apologizing for is not entirely clear; whether for the unusually serious tone of the song and the album it comes from, Mad Not Mad, or for adopting a sleeker electronic sound than heard on previous albums. Whatever the reason, the single's #35 U.K. chart performance, a significant disappointment to a band that had never before failed to make the Top 20, was shortly followed by the band's breakup, and Madness has continued to apologize for the song ever since. In 1993 guitarist Chris Foreman revealed that the band had never intended the Scritti Politti cover to be released as a single, preferring to release the catchier "I'll Compete." In 1999, Suggs, whose idea it had been to cover "Sweetest Girl" in the first place, groused that the song was "too cold and clever," which isn't a bad assessment. The song relies too heavily on quirky drug programming, blustery brass, and the irritating background vocals of Afrodiziac. Certainly "Sweetest Girl" has not been remembered as one of the classic Madness tunes. This 12" single contains two extended remixes of a song that sounded like a remix in the first place. The "Dub Mix" also adds harmonica and subtracts the vocals. The single's saving grace is the terrific "Jennie (A Portrait Of)," which is perhaps the band's best B-side ever. The song has a memorable minor key chorus and would have been a better choice for the album than many of the songs that made it -- including "Sweetest Girl."