‘Ello! Idolator is here in London for a wild few days of English pop immersion school, taking in the best and brightest Britain has to offer with particular attention to the superstars who haven’t commanded as much stateside attention as, say, One Direction or Adele. (But maybe deserve to. Just saying.)
Yesterday, I had the very unusual privilege of hearing some new music from Mutya Keisha Siobhan (or MKS), objectively one of the best English girl groups of all time, whose comeback has been hotly anticipated for over a decade. Literally.
As fans know, MKS — comprised of Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy — formed over a decade ago as Sugababes, then left the group one by one (and were subsequently replaced) in a Destiny’s Child-esque string of lineup changes; by their fourth iteration, the band we call Sugababes had none of its original members. At that point, the original girls reunited to begin recording their first album since their iconic debut, 2000′s One Touch.
Despite a few attempts over the years, Sugababes never made much of a splash in the US despite finding massive success globally — one launch in 2003 with their single “Hole In the Head” saw them just barely crack the Hot 100, and another planned for 2009 through Roc Nation was scrapped — but the original girls, now formed as MKS, have something very special up their sleeves. Yesterday, I heard their song “Boys” for the first time; the UK’s finest pop music blogger, the inimitable Popjustice, has written about the song at length, which only piqued my interest further. He was right: It’s a glorious song that couldn’t be a better comeback for the girls. (Here’s a Vine of me listening to it for the first time, if you’re so invined.)
As promised, “Boys” a big pop number: Modern-sounding, but with a lot of spunky ’80s influence. Shades of Cyndi Lauper, even. It also had a quality that one finds in a lot of the very best pop songs (to me, it evoked K-pop girl group 2NE1‘s pretty much peerless “I Love You” in this way, even though they sound completely different) in that it sounds very textured, layered and dynamic, building in density and complexity with each successive verse and chorus. It’s a funny thing to attempt to describe, but you know it when you hear it — and it’s not something that could come through in their gorgeous a cappella rendering of the song, posted last month.
The “Boys, stop!” callout, which can be heard in the snippet of the track, is infectious (it more or less demands palm-out “Stop! In the Name of Love”-style choreography), but it’s even more of a delight in the context of the song because it’s such a likably tough moment, while much of the song hinges on a lot of lush, velvety harmonies. Their voices are magic together, and the emotion when they sing “We’re over!” is surprisingly stirring, given how spunky the song is. But that’s what the girls did best together, on songs like the brilliantly dissonant pop existential crisis “Overload,” and “Run for Cover,” with its sinister bent — a mixture of light and dark that’s sublimely dynamic.
I heard some other jaw-droppingly great new music from MKS, too, which meets the same high standard as “Boys” — there’s one song that reminded me of the melodrama of “Run for Cover” as reimagined for the sound of 2013 — but “Boys” is a definite smash. If this seems like a lot of words to write about one song that nobody’s even heard yet, trust me: It’s worth it.