If you were to tell ten year-old me that I’d have the honor of reviewing a new All Saints album in 2016, I would have thought you were crazy. I practically wore out their self-titled debut back in 1998 as I navigated the trials of growing up and being bullied while I started formulating my own personal view with music and how it identified with certain aspects of my life.
Here we are, on the day All Saints fans have been anticipating since their last release ten years ago. Fortunately, things are clearly different this time around as singer Melanie Blatt previously stated that 2006’s Studio 1 was only done for the money. It’s instances like those that need time for reflection and it seems like these reigning queens of Brit-pop & R&B – comprised of Blatt, Shaznay Lewis, and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton – have taken all appropriate measures to make sure their big comeback is better than ever with new release, Red Flag. Mission accomplished.
Album opener and lead single, “One Strike,” – inspired by Nicole’s divorce with Oasis’ Liam Gallagher – is the perfect starting point for a comeback record as it appropriately delivers those old school All Saints sensibilities while still maintaining a modern pop approach, exhibiting that they’re the ones taking the reins with this record while displaying a major red flag for any relationship. “One Woman Man” is an ode to monogamy if there ever was one, especially in this hookup obsessed culture. Their strength shines through, reminding us of everything they’ve stood for during the past 19 years.
“Make U Love Me” takes us back to their debut, which makes us wonder if maybe it was an album leftover from ’97 – think “Take The Key” meets their edgy cover of “Under The Bridge” – while “This Is a War” can only be described as fierce as one’s love and worth are on the line as the chorus goes, “If I gotta fight for the right to be loved and to love, then this is a war.” Maybe a possible social commentary of sorts?
“Puppet On A String” needs to be a single as it screams hit-status – a well-deserved, much needed boost for the group in the US as the last time we heard them on Top 40 was when “Never Ever” was released. “Fear” takes things up a notch as themes of pain and self-reflection come into play – something we’re all no stranger to as we are often our own worst enemies. I can’t help but wonder how this one would have turned out with a collaboration with alt-R&B newcomer, Banks. A girl can dream.
Things get intense with the surprisingly yet welcomed auto-tuned “Ratchet Behaviour” as the girls demonstrate that they’re still as sassy as they were almost two decades ago. Move over, Rihanna. Just saying. Title track, and album high note, “Red Flag,” keeps the momentum going – this is about the time your ears will really start saying, “Holy shit!” We’ll be miming those hand claps for days.
It’s quite evident each track on Red Flag is a collection of major red flags one should recognize in any relationship but it also demonstrates the bond these four women have made over the years. Make no mistake that this is the group’s strongest album yet and hopefully, they’ll stick around this time for another really soon.
Red Flag is available now here.