Over the years, Sugababes, with their ever-changing line-up, which now consists of precisely none of the original members, have become the source of many a joke for precisely that reason. Since the line up has changed, Sugababes should no longer be called Sugababes, goes the argument.
I think that’s rather unfair. Nobody says Arsenal shouldn’t be called Arsenal anymore, just because it hasn’t got the same players as it had in 1886, do they? They might win more games if they did, mind (I know, I know: unwise words when the North London derby is on the horizon). No, any right minded football fan insists they should be called Woolwich, where the club was formed.
Anyway, formed in 1998, founder members Siobhan Donaghy and Mutya Buena – both aged 13 – had been signed by All Saints manager Ron Tom as solo acts, but met at a showcase and decided to work together. Buena invited her friend Keisha Buchanan to watch them rehearse one day, and Tom invited her to join the band, comparing the three of them to the United Colours of Benetton advertising campaign which was causing as much controversy as it could at the time.
Originally named the Sugarbabies, this was changed to Sugababes when they signed to London Records, to give them a more mature image. They had their first hit in 2000. Which makes them 15. I wonder: is it appropriate to foist the moniker “babes” on 15 year old girls?
I’m reminded of a routine by comedian Ed Byrne, who, believe it or not, has done jokes which are not about Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”:
In 2001, Donaghy quit the band, and was replaced by former member of Atomic Kitten, Heidi Range. Of course, when looking for a new band member, your first port of call would naturally be someone who used to work with Kerry Katona.
To be fair, it seemed to work, for in 2002 the band enjoyed their first Number One single in the UK with the Gary Numan/Tubeway Army sampling cover of American R&B singer Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me”, and their second with the follow-up “Round, Round”. There’s a cracking Soulwax remix of that which I posted some time last year, so the link’s probably dead by now. I’ll dig it out again sometime.
The next single was “Stronger”, written by the band along with a chap called Jony Rockstar. I suspect this may not be his real name.
A year later, they were back, with their third album, entitled “Three” (see what they did there…?), but not before they had released “Shape”, which sampled Sting’s “Shape of My Heart”. Critics were sneery about the sample, yet I don’t recall anyone complaining that 1994 classic movie “Léon“ was spoiled by having the Sting song played in its entirety over the closing credits.
Buena left the band in 2005 and was replaced by Amelle Berrabah (you are keeping up with all of this, aren’t you?) leaving just Buchanan as the sole original member. Four years later, and with the band’s selling powers on the wane, she followed suit, being replaced by Jade Ewen who had represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest earlier that year (we’ve been here before, I think…). She performed the Andrew Lloyd Webber penned “It’s My Time”, which it clearly wasn’t as she came fifth.
Sugababes, I’m surprised to learn, have not officially split up, although they haven’t released anything new since 2010. For some time the remaining members occasionally announced that they were either in the studio or working on new material, as if it were the sort of announcement that should be immediately followed by a ticker-tape parade and the announcement of a public holiday.
But band members old and new have kept themselves busy: Mutya Buena appeared in, and walked out of, Celebrity Big Brother 6. She now owns the rights to use the Sugababes name on paper, cardboard, stationery and gift wrapping products, but crucially, not on any records. But you can’t move for Sugababes embossed paper, cardboard, stationery and gift wrapping products can you, so it sounds to me like she got a pretty sweet deal.
Keisha Buchanan recorded 50 songs for a solo album which never saw the light of day; in an interview she explained “there is no particular musical direction” which might explain why she wrote that many songs. Either that or she mistakenly thought she had joined The Magnetic Fields.
In 2012, it was reported that Range was going to join the Spice Girls, replacing Victoria Beckham, a rumour quickly scotched by Emma Bunton. Instead, she turned her attention to television, where she was to be a team captain on ITV1’s “Totally Senseless”, along with Brian Dowling and host Steve Jones. Ever heard of it? Me neither. Probably because ITV ultimately declined to pick the show up.
Just let that sink in for a moment: a show so bad that even ITV won’t air it.
I’m shocked – how could a show with such a glittering line-up of talent fail?
In 2013, she was first to be eliminated from the 8th series of Celebrity Masterchef, when she presented Greg Wallace with a Pop Tart.
In 2013, Jade Ewen was one of the celebrity contestants on ITV1’s godawful diving show “Splash!”; she was the first to leave the show and revealed afterwards that she only did the show for the money. No shit, really?
Just let that sink in for a moment: “Totally Senseless” was considered by the powers that be at ITV to be worse than “Splash!”
In November 2015 Ewen announced that she had won the coveted role of Princess Jasmine in “Aladdin”, which is definitely a musical and definitely not a pantomime.
In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums named the Sugababes as the most successful female act of the 21st century. Yes, you read that correctly: the most successful female act in a century that was a whole six years old.
But enough of this sniping. Sugababes genuinely did make some bloody great pop records, and today’s choice is where it all began, back in 2000,with this, which has the greasy paw-prints of one Mr Rockstar all over, it if I’m not mistaken: