Herald rating: * *

Key Points:

She's the ex-Sugababe with the trashiest image, not helped by a falling out with her bandmates. Mutya Buena's first solo effort has girl power but not the power in numbers of her former group.

Real Girl sounds more like an album that exists because a handful of big names and producers got paid, rather than the husky-voiced singer bursting with creativity.

Much of the album, while brimming with the cliches of a young woman setting out to find herself, shares the Sugababes' sultry-but-safe brand of R&B-pop. And while there's nothing wrong with Buena's singing - she performs the bluesy songs such as Just A Little Bit well - it lacks the edge you'd expect of someone with so many piercings.

The title track isn't the only song that suggests a lack of inspiration, leaning heavily on a sample from Lenny Kravitz' It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over. Amy Winehouse also duets on B Boy Babby in an overly polished reworking of the Ronettes' Be My Baby. Only Groove Armada's 80s contribution on Songs 4 Mutya, the singer's appreciation of Prince, is a surefire pop hit. Wonderful sounds like a song patched together from pop templates rather than a song that just had to be born; George Michael only adds to the confusion by singing "you know I'm going to leave you" on This is Not.

Label: Universal
Verdict: Former girl group singer plays it safe on first solo album