Today the news has broken via PopJustice that the original Sugababes line-up of Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy has reformed – twelve years after their debut album ‘One Touch’ breathed new life into the UK girl group sound. This could prove to be a great moment for British pop if done right – they’ve delivered some of the most delicious slices of grown-up, clued-up and fun pop music of the last decade, so, in something of a celebration, here are five superb Sugababes moments.
The lead single off their debut ‘One Touch’, this was a complete shot in the dark; a simple, stripped back and confident pop record with a distinctive percussive element and electric guitar hook that’s still recognisable today – a rare feat. And to think they were only in their teens when this was released.
- Round Round
Round Round was something of a triumph for the new Sugababes line up, having replaced Siobhan Donaghy with ex-Atomic Kitten member Heidi Range, the first of many line up changes that would happen over the years. Round Round was a UK No 1 single for the group and it’s easy to see why; a sultry and incendiary lead single with a driving drum track and an eerie synth line laced into the background, this cemented the punch of Sugababes and their sense of originality. The video no doubt was a massive influence on the image of the soon-to-be-formed Girls Aloud, whose excellent first single Sound of The Underground was released a year later with a strikingly similar video.
- Too Lost In You
In stand-out girl groups’ careers there’s that one track that makes everyone collectively sit up and take notice. It’s not necessarily a No. 1 smash hit, but it’s that track that raises eyebrows and makes people think “Damn, those girls really can sing.” Too Lost In You was that track for the Sugababes. Taken from their third studio album ‘Three’ it was an uplifting and heartfelt pop ballad that featured their now characteristically great orchestral production sound. It’s interesting to see how many of the Sugababes tracks heavily featured instrumentation rather than straight electronic production, which in hindsight probably greatly helped the longevity of their singles. Also, in hindsight, there was a tangible trip-hop element to the group in their melancholy vocal style which came across in ballads just as well as their club hits. There’s no Mariah Carey-esque vocal acrobatics on this one because that’s not what they were about. It’s pretty effortless, and all the better for it.
- Freak Like Me
As a cover Freak Like Me could have bombed. The original Adina Howard version is a rap and R&B classic and to touch it was potentially cringe worthy, but Sugababes made the inspired move of using Gary Numan and Tubeway Army’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric? as a backing track (and a sound effect from early 1980s coin-insert video game Frogger for that recognisable load-and-click sound) to re-invent it in a way that befitted the group remarkably well. Intertwining self-consciously sexualised, tongue-in-cheek 1990s American R&B with a British electro pop classic was a symbolic pulling together of the two aesthetics that made Sugababes what they were. It was the groups first No. 1 single in the UK and remains one of the most innovative and, importantly, fun No. 1 pop singles of the past decade.
- Hole In The Head
Hole In The Head was released in 2003 and in the heyday of the Sugababes catalogue. Another hit from their album ‘Three’ (and interestingly the only one to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100) it encapsulates everything that was unique about the group for the time. Here were three women who represented something truly interesting in the girl group landscape. They were the generation that grew up on the Spice Girls, but didn’t pander to that twee, cartoonish styling of girl power. They were stylistically and vocally in an altogether different league from the likes of Atomic Kitten, B*Witched et al, and had an imagination and sultriness that even the occasionally-great-but-regularly-bland All Saints couldn’t quite pull off either. In short, I miss the Sugababes, and I hope this newest-oldest incarnation of the trio will prove something of a renaissance moment for British girl groups.