When Mutya Keisha Siobhan — otherwise known as MKS, otherwise known as the original line-up of the UK powerhouse soul-pop trio, the Sugababes — first announced their plan to reunite back in July of 2012, the entirety of the Sugababes fanbase was promptly sent into overload.
And then, we waited.
We waited as the girls stepped into the studio with dozens of producers, past teaser interviews, past surprise New Year’s Eve showcases and magazine spreads, acoustic teases of upcoming tracks, Kendrick Lamar remixes and single snippets.
Exactly one year after the reunion announcement, MKS has officially returned with their (re-)debut single, “Flatline” — and yes, it was entirely worth the wait.
The first thing you’ll notice from the song’s first bubbling, ’80’s pop beats and early ’90’s R&B piano-led melodies is that this is the work of the endlessly talented Dev Hynes. In fact, it sounds like something you’d find on Solange‘s brilliant, Hynes-produced True EP.
And then, there’s that spine-tingling opening lyric, courtesy of Siobhan: “Don’t say it, no / Please wait ’til we’re sober.”
The Keisha-led pre-chorus all but seals the deal already, in what is perhaps the song’s stickiest melody: “The change was obvious / So miscellaneous / We used to live it up, remember baby? / But like a pack of cards / The King and Queen of Hearts / All fall down.” (Excuse me while I quote the entirety of the song, because every line is brilliant.)
The chorus alone is one of the best pop choruses of the year, melodically and lyrically speaking: “Stay gone / Darling, I can’t hang on / I can feel a flatline / There oughta be a wave…” How haunting! How endlessly beautiful!
Mutya steals the show later on in the second verse, lending her distinct set of smoky, soulful Real Girl chops to mix: “I know what I face, the silence is deafening / I know crying through pain won’t make it right.”
And it just keeps getting better, like a Christina Aguilera career retrospective: That soaring bridge is nothing short of a work of art, as the girls croon in unison above pounding drums, continuing to grow louder as the almighty male chants grow stronger (“OOH-oh-oh!”) in one gorgeous crescendo. “Don’t wanna be in love…”
BOOM: The final chorus comes surging into the speakers, propelling the track to a higher level as all three girls harmonize their way to the heavens, followed by a spectacular, shimmering comedown.
“Flatline” sounds exactly like what Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s 2000 debut, One Touch, would sound like if re-recorded today. It’s easily one of the greatest pop songs of 2013 and, in a changing pop climate where downtempo R&B is slowly creeping its way back into the mainstream, the timing couldn’t be better for MKS.
The songcraft is truly some next-level stuff — from the immaculately crafted production, to the endless hooks, to the harmonizing to the heartbreaking lyricism — recalling a time when girl groups actually had that soul sound.
With “Flatline,” the girls have revitalized the very essence of the Sugababes — and this is only the beginning.
“Flatline” will be released on September 1.