With Girls Aloud on hiatus and the Sugababes continuing with their innovative revolving door policy (Eurovision you say? You’re in!), now’s a good a time as any for The Saturdays to step up and sashay off with the title of biggest UK girl group.
Wordshaker follows hot on the heels of last year’s debut, Chasing Lights, an album that spawned five UK Top 10 singles. With only a year between albums, and with most of Wordshaker recorded whilst touring the debut album, it’s clear the record label weren’t keen on these five young ladies taking a break.
Things don’t start well, however, with first single Forever Is Over. Co-written by James Bourne of Busted fame, and originally intended for Kelly Clarkson, it’s a lumpen, stodgy confection that almost single-handedly erases the good work done by Up and Work from their debut. Where those singles flirted with electro and disco, Forever Is Over sounds like, well, a Kelly Clarkson b-side written by one of Busted.
Luckily, this so-called ‘rock’ direction is ditched after one song. Ego brings back the throbbing synths, sirens and an ascending chorus that’s as joyful as it is biting: “Don’t tell me that you’re done as far as we go/ You need to have a sit down with your ego”. It’s the kind of swaggering, American-influenced pop that the Sugababes hope will deflect from all the extra-curricular activities. One Shot and Lose Control are similar singles in waiting, the latter riding a beat that’s a whisker away from a Lady GaGa pastiche but just about gets away with it by the time the massive chorus swings round.
Best of all is the title track, which features a mid-paced beat, strange sonic squiggles and an odd lyric about “velvet lining (is) on your language”. It’s probably the best thing they’ve done and once again the chorus is guaranteed to lodge in your head for weeks afterwards. The fact that it’s nearly ruined by an awful burst of guitar riffage only adds to its success.
When it’s at its best, Wordshaker could be the work of Girls Aloud. But there’s still an area that The Saturdays have yet to master – the ballad. Where their contemporaries opt for icy detachment, The Saturdays prefer all out vocal warfare, and as such they manage to bludgeon most of the slower songs to death. Here Standing is a ridiculously OTT mix of piano, marching drums and vocals turned up to 11, whilst the dreary Denial is a poor facsimile of every other pop ballad since 2 Become 1.
When they sound like they’re having fun, as on the cheeky Open Up (basic premise: they’ve been cheating and their boyfriends have locked them out), Wordshaker is an enjoyable blast of well-crafted pop. The record label will be pleased that, despite the rush, they’ve managed to create a handful of future singles. It’s just a shame that with a better first single and some more work on the ballads this could have seen them take the title. As it stands, they’ll have to make do with filling the void until the rest are ready to return.