All Saints – Red Flag (Review)
Artist: All Saints
Album: Red Flag
Standout(s): One Woman Man, Make U Love Me, Puppet on a String, This Is A War, Fear
The “British Girl Band” template has becoming a fleeting concept. Once upon a time, not long ago, there were an abundance of them. From the Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, Sugababes, The Saturdays, and Little Mix who were prominent girl bands of the mid-90s to the early 2000s, the formula had definitely ran its course. Some of them bowed out gracefully while others crashed and burned. A few bands would fall by the wayside like Atomic Kitten, Frank, Girls Can’t Catch and regrettablyAll Saints. All Saints specifically was able to weather the ever-changing music landscape.
After collecting a slew of UK Top 10 singles, it seemed that the All Saints could indeed stand the test of time. Critics like fellow UK girl band Girls Aloud who had dismissed All Saints back in 2006 when they regrouped for a new album in 2006. Their scathing and harsh remarks (mainly from loud mouth Cheryl Cole) rang true as All Saints would soon disband.
In a startling chain of events, All Saints would reunite and record a new album. The first taste of this new LP entitled Red Flag would be One Strike. I found the single to be a great re-introduction for the ladies. It was mature, trendy and not pandering to the new generation. The sentiment seemed to be echoed throughout the entire album.
The following track One Woman Man is a power pop thrill ride. The chorus is a soaring string-fest that’s theatrical and dramatic in its execution. The girls sing about fighting for the man they love and not giving him up for another woman. Track No. 3: Make U Love Me is a somewhat throwback to 90s flavored urban pop. The kick drum has a strong impact and the unison singing creates a militant and powerful motif. They sound like they are marching in formation. I was most pleased by the overall vibe of the song. It had a hard edge that was dynamic and gruff. It had a real bite to the lyrical deliver from the onset “Oh Bab-y you’ll see the woman of your dreams has been waiting patient-ly.”
I think the war concept worked for this album well. The theme hits its apex on the undeniably chilling and invigorating This Is A War. It retains the similar effect as Make U Love Me with the hard hitting drum loop and the layered string section. The strings are lush and epic. They create this moment of drama throughout the song. “If I have to fight for the right to love and to be loved then this is a war.”
One of the more trendy songs on the album, Puppet on a String has many of the usual post-modern Sia-esque pop anthems: reggae riddims and synthesizers galore. It’s a great tune and worth merit because it still sounds like it was tailored for them rather than it being “gifted” to them as a hand-me-down track. Fear touches on trends but doesn’t overdose on them. It’s just enough balladry, emotion and melancholy without treading on generic. The fragility in their voices creates a yearning that is heartfelt. It sounds genuine and crisp. The only blight on the album would be the tragically un-cool Ratchet Behavior. It tries so hard to be cool and comes off like your older sister that’s out of touch with what’s cool. This song definitely should have been passed to a much younger girl group…Little Mix maybe?
For a veteran group like All Saints, they are held to a different standard. They come from a very distinct era of music that was truthful and real. It was more so about the message and the soul behind the lyrics. And they have been able to keep that spirit and vibe alive on this album. It’s mature in its package. Despite a few unnecessary and ridiculous songs, the album has a bold and reserved strength. It doesn’t rely on overly complicated production or Top40 magic. It’s rooted in deep and soulful music that has been lacking in pop music in the last ten years. They may be waving the red flag but I hope they never raise the white flag. You can’t give up. You have to keep fighting.