God knows why I subject myself to girl-pop. Maybe I’m just looking for a foil to my preferred, inherently depressing niches in the rock spectrum. I gave Jessica Simpson the boot for the truly puerile In This Skin and gushed for Mandy’s great but not g-pop, Coverage. It seems Sugababes’ 3 hit the notes I’m looking for, it just carries them out for way too long.
I think an appropriate point of reference for Sugababes would be a raspier, British late-era Destiny’s Child produced by Trent Reznor and dedicated to beating the fuck out of you. Perhaps a better one would be, Pink if she wasn’t a man and if there were three of her. In any case, many of the songs on 3 ride an iron wave of industrial electronics. On the opener, “Hole in the Head,” singers Keisha Buchanan, Mutya Buena and Heidi Range set the stage with 21st century girl power slogans like, “late at night when I’m feeling blue/ I’d sell my ass before I think of you.” And as if it wasn’t there already, Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me” gets made over into an almost terrifying S&M mantra.
If there’s one thing to say about Sugababes’ “dance faster, motherfucker” pace, it’s that even the requisite ballads steer clear of the lite radio pitfalls. Take “Too Lost in You,” one of those songs. It’s still all glassy-eyed emoting, but here the rhythm keeps a 4/4 time making the song ideal for some real heartfelt grinding on dance floors everywhere. The group is at their best when they turn down the burn and let the metallic keep a warm electro glow and oscillation, as on “In the Middle” and (surprisingly) “Nasty Ghetto.”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but 3 is decent, driving, uncomplicated dance-pop. For my tastes, at fifty-five minutes it’s about twenty too long. But this stuff wasn’t written for me. It was designed for nights full of European-style hedonism. Though I’m hardly an expert, I think DJs would be wise to start ditching Britney’s and Christina’s back catalogs and think about introducing the crowds to some of this. It certainly couldn’t hurt.