Album Review: The Saturdays – ‘Headlines!’

The Saturdays have the opportunity of a lifetime: they are currently the only girl group on the music mainstream. Girls Aloud are split indefinitely and Sugababes are having to re-think their strategy so hopefully they’d take full advantage of the market right now.

Well, one can’t complain at the sudden release of a Stop-Gap Album ‘Headlines!’, because at least they’re taking advantage, but the problem is they’re going to need a huge hit that defines them as a girl group, like Girls Aloud’s ‘Sound Of The Underground’ or Sugababes’ ‘Shape’. Unfortunately, despite their being some real gems hidden in this eight-track EP, that defining hit is nowhere to be seen.

Back in the days of ‘Chasing Lights’, The Saturdays were a promising rival to Girls Aloud, with a strong début single and an even stronger follow-up, resulting in album sales that most other new artists would turn green with envy at the sight of. But alas, cashing in on their recent success, Fascination made the churn out another album after just a year, giving the girls and the public little time to soak it in. The result of this was ‘Wordshaker’ (originally dodgily titled ‘Short Days Of Glory’) and it was far less adventurous and… ‘fresh’ than their last coming. And after the poor sales performances, The Saturdays were left pretty far upstream without their paddle.

None-the-less, than album did spawn their biggest selling hit to date, ‘Ego’, which sprouted the concern as to why the girls would always release a relatively uncatchy lead single from their albums, and leave the far better follow-up to be their biggest hits. ‘Up’, ‘Ego’ and the recently confirmed follow-up to ‘Missing You’, ‘Higher’, have had a much better reception from consumers and critics alike.

Moving back to ‘Headlines!’, the girls have once again gone for the electropop, synthy production and it’s hardly a politics-challenging album: the deepest message to be found is “I’m gunna lift it higher”, and when you consider the recipe booklet for the album, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

Two songs on ‘Headlines!’ appear on their last album; one track is a cover; and there’s another one that’s a remix of a song from their last album that should’ve been a single. Which leave just four new songs, so here’s my thoughts on just how good they all are.

FORE NOTE: The songs that appear on ‘Wordshaker’ will be rated because the are part of the album and I am doing a full album review and as they appear as part of the album, they will receive unbiased reviews and ratings.

01. ‘Missing You’ (3.0 STARS)

As I’ve said before, I’ll be looking for that signature hit throughout this album, but it’s safe to say that ‘Missing You’ is not it. It’s super-slick, laid-back synth production falls short of amazing and as a comeback single it’s awful. It’s not memorable, lacks any real hook, and features far too much auto-tune from Frankie.

There are some salvaging qualities in the lyrics though – “I just miss all the mess that we made/When we still had the passion to hate”, is a beautifully bittersweet lyrics that goes unmatched throughout the rest of the icy production. At the climax of the song, it does become very listenable, and of course it is a good pop song, but it’s not what The Saturdays need if they want to sell and album, and amongst the other new tracks, it does seem a little flat.

02. ‘Ego’ (4.0 STARS)

Appearing on ‘Wordshaker’, this is supposedly one of the filler tracks. But considering that many people hadn’t bought The Saturdays’ last album, this could be a hindrance or a very clever management move. I suspect the former.

We all know what this sounds like, being the biggest hit to date, it starts with a bleeping synthesiser, moving into and huge pop chorus with hooks a plenty. The energy doesn’t let up in the middle 8 either with pounding drums and Vanessa giving it some, this is undeniably their biggest song to date. It’s just a shame it’s been recycled in order to sell a mini-album.

03. ‘Forever Is Over’ (3.0 STARS)

One peculiar thing I’ve noticed with this song, is it’s one of those that’s pretty appealing to listen to, but once you’re turned it off you find it hard trying to remember what it’s even called, because, despite it having one of Vanessa’s biggest vocal performances to date, it really does lack the hooks it needs.

“Wish I could turn back the page/Save all the time we waste”, may have come across as lyrics as an ode to a lost love upon it’s first release, but right now it seems like their singing them to their label, pleading the sort out the mis-step of ‘Wordshaker’.

04. ‘Higher’ (4.5 STARS)

A racing, pulsing, fart-on-auto-tune-type intro leads into one of the album highlights. ‘Higher’ is ‘Headlines!’s ‘Ego’ or ‘One Shot’, it’s the perfect pop song with hooks, explosive synths, a catchy chorus, “Ohh” moments, harmonies, and… auto-tune. There’s some beasty electric guitars going on too, which adds to the body of the song.

This is without doubt one the best songs The Saturdays have ever put on a album, but the auto-tune really does start to grate by the time Frankie get’s her solo part. And the fact they ruined Una’s high note in the astonishingly good middle 8 (which she masters when singing live) is unforgivable. I’m going to crucify the man who did that when I find out who it was.

05. ‘Died In Your Eyes’ (4.5 STARS)

Without doubt, another highlight for ‘Headlines!’. Holding back on the auto-tune, this beautiful ballad harbours some of the best lyrics from any Saturdays song. With some actual depth, the song go on to sing about how “I just died in your eyes” as a metaphor for the dwindling love appearing in your lover’s eye.

Whilst it moves along at a relatively slow pace, it outshines ‘Missing You’ easily and would’ve made a far better lead single for the album. It starts off dreamily and reserved, before a powerful chorus with accusing lyrics leaps into the foreground. It equals, if not betters the original, thanks to the girls proving to us they can in fact put emotion into their vocal, especially Una, Mollie and Rochelle.

06. ‘Karma’ (2.5 STARS)

Sounding like a demo from Miley Cyrus’ ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ album, this song has all the necessary properties to sound like a promising pop song, but it never comes together, resulting in an all-over-the-place production, with a sense of not knowing where the song is going.

The whole things sounds too fast, like it shouldn’t be played out at the speed it is, which only adds to the rushed out feel the album exudes.

It’s all very annoying, because the lyrics on this song stand-out from the rest, like they’re more sophisticated even if at times the girls sound horribly American in the way they sing them – “You ought to know/I’ve got the piece of the heart you broke/I’ve got the bruises from the letting go”. The awkward production and yet more pointless auto-tune ruin this song and detract from what it could actually be: a very good pop song.

07. ‘One Shot (Starsmith Remix)’ (3.0 STARS)

When I heard ‘Wordshaker’s stand-out was to appear on ‘Headlines!’, I was thrilled, but wasn’t so thrilled to hear it was to be a remix. But I’ll give Starsmith his due – he hasn’t completely ruined the song – he’s added a few zips and zaps and a meatier beat for the song to march along to, but the most irritating thing about this remix is that the magic of that original chorus, with it’s growling synths and huge vocal harmonies are gone, with just a dance beat to salvage the wreckage.

The remix is without doubt in the shadow of it’s former glory – as are most remixes – but it still retain a little bit of the alpha female swagger that the people who actually bought ‘Wordshaker’ enjoyed upon it’s release. Even so, all throughout the remix you find yourself confused, once again, as to why the original never saw the light of day.

08. ‘Puppet (On A String)’ (4.0 STARS)

Getting the hook-line in straight away, the song already brims with sexiness, Rochelle joins in quickly and sings a few delicately staccato lyrics. The songs has one of the best choruses on the album, and if you thought auto-tune was going to ruin this song, fear not, it’s saved for Frankie in the vocal hook of just a few “La la la”s.

The stuttering drums, the dark synth, the vocal hooks all mesh together like putty, and it’s dominant female persona the girls don in this song combine perfectly. Unfortunately, the song does get a bit boring and ‘I’ve heard this all before’-sy by the end but none-the-less, whilst this may not be single quality, it’s good to hear an album (even if it is a stop-gap one) end with an above-average good song with a deliciously dark production.

Post Mortem

This is the album the is going to decide whether Fascination are going to keep or drop the girls; they may have started work on their fourth album (yes can you believe it!? Now stop whining about GaGa going too fast) but that doesn’t mean they can’t be dropped; The Saturdays need to ensure they can persuade people to save them with this album’s sales.

Each song on ‘Headlines!’ has it’s good points, and each song has it’s bad ones, whether each song’s positives can outweigh the negatives is entirely subjective but I’ll say this, the girls need to rethink their release strategy – ‘Missing You’ will not sell this album. Songs like ‘Higher’ or ‘Died In Your Eyes’ would’ve served as better lead singles but there’s time for those songs, right now the girls need to prove there’s time for themselves. Do we, as the public, want to hear from them right now? Are we tired of the same old mediocre/barely passable pop songs? Are they going to give us that song they need to stay relevant? We’ll have to wait until album four to find out because whilst there are moments were the girls are in their stride (‘Higher’, ‘Died In Your Eyes’), there are also moments where the girls are equally just as bad (‘Karma’), and sometimes even forced (‘Missing You’ and to some extent ‘Puppet (On A String)’), the song they need; the song we want, is nowhere to be heard. The criminal addition of the opinion-splitting ‘Forever Is Over’ is forgivable, just so long as the girls don’t make a habit of it.

Considering The Saturdays sales, any other act would’ve been dropped – three albums deep and no defining hit to show for it; poor sophomore sales (I can’t get over the fact ‘One Shot’ was never released most likely because of JLS’ quite frankly shit song of the same name); and over-exposure.

Even so, the girls have produced another above just average record that should see them through to their next full-length LP, but it still fails to reach the acclaimed heights of their début, ‘Chasing Lights’.


Download These: ‘Higher’, ‘Died In Your Eyes’, ‘Puppet (On A String)’

1 Comment

  1. Gerard McGarry

    They are growing on me – possibly due to my recent discovery of Rochelle’s curves and I’ve stopped trying to deny that Mollie’s the sexiest girl in the group. Those simple truths have made it easier to accept The Saturdays in my book…

    But…two albums down, one mini-album released and another one to go. Given the shelf life of yer average girl group, the clock is most definitely ticking. And unlike Girls Aloud, there’s not a murmur of which girl could survive the group and launch a solo career. Because they’re not distinctive enough.

    It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I think we all want them to be better – have more personality, release better songs. Still a bit of work to be done there, I think.

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