Two years on from her Sugababes departure, Mutya Buena cranks up the rivalry with a solo debut that works off the sass 'n' slush energy of her former group and throws in a couple of big name guest stars to prove she's not short of good company.

'Real Girl' opens with three tracks which show just how good Buena is at her best. 'Just a Little Bit' establishes her soul credentials; the title track continues that mood with a clever reworking of Lenny Kravitz's 'It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over' while her collaboration with Groove Armada on 'Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)' is a massive hit full of 1980s thrills.

While Buena doesn't light as many fireworks over the rest of the album, there's enough here to suggest she can buck the trend and have a career by herself. What she needs to do is avoid relying too much on ballads - her duet with George Michael was all she needed here - and think more in the direction of her team-up with Amy Winehouse on 'B Boy Baby' and the Winehouse sounding 'Not Your Baby'.

She's some distance off a 'Back to Black', but the best moments on this record say she can get there.

Harry Guerin

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