Album Review: The Saturdays – On Your Radar

Kane Fulton delivers his verdict on the girl group’s latest pop outing, released November 21st.

If you like your chart acts with a bit of flair, personality and charm – look away now.

A dearth of manufactured girl groups in recent years has afforded vacuous, perfectly-preened entities The Saturdays a relatively unchallenged rise to mainstream acceptance, their sugary electro-pop leanings the perfect fit for their T4-adoring audience.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that The Saturdays’ success has ever been affected by their lack of charisma. Even Girls Aloud, who feature such ‘personalities’ as token “indie” member Nicola Roberts and global megastar Cheryl Cole, still sell records based on the strength of slick, well-written, Xenomania-produced hits.

This is why The Saturdays will continue their upward trajectory with On Your Radar, a record the girls touted as “sexier” than previous efforts, with more of an emphasis on R&B and dance than straight-up pop. They weren’t lying, either – the synths are more prominent, the choruses bigger and the overall sound more mature than previous efforts.

Opening track and No. 3 single ‘All Fired Up’ is prime evidence of this, a song aimed squarely at filling disco floors featuring huge stabs of synth and the repetition of the song’s key refrain, “I feel alive”. It’s catchy and dumb and, much like Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ recent collaboration ‘We Found Love’, its lack of complexity is its strength, making it the standout track as a result.

It’s a template that the LP repeats with varying success. Lead single ‘Faster’ revolves around a tumbling synthesized bass line, the strong R&B influence evidence throughout. The group have previously shown with ‘Missing You’ that they have the voices to carry off a well-written ballad, but the mandatory slow burning waltzer on offer here, ‘My Heart Take Over’, falls short this time round, with comparatively weaker hooks and a string arrangement that adds little of the emotional wallop a heartache-addressing song like this requires.

Halfway through the album, ‘For Myself’ nears passable electro-pop territory as well as the standard set by the album’s opening track, but still lacks ‘All Fired Up’s slightly edgier, darker sound. For a group that’s now on an annual LP release schedule, quite why 14 tracks have been included is something of a mystery, with overkill truly setting in by this point.

Possible future single ‘White Lies’ borrows the synth patch from Rihanna and David Guetta’s ‘Whose That Chick’, breathing a bit of life into the backend of an album that has, by now, stretched its sound and songwriting formula to breaking point. It’s a typical chart-bothering pop album in every way, albeit one with something of a false start in the form of the overachieving ‘All Fired Up’.

It will find its way onto the iPods of its intended audience, who will enjoy it for what it is. Just don’t expect it to be wildly more ambitious, or to expect any of the girls’ personalities to have been injected into the music any more than it has on their previous output.

FMV Rating: ***

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