dirrrty pop: RIP Sugababes?

Spare a thought for the Sugababes, once known as being the UK’s ‘credible’ girlband, a refreshing alternative to the sugarysweet pop acts that were around when they first burst onto the scene in 2000 (S Club 7, anyone?), but who have in recent years shed members until becoming unrecognisable as the moody, too-cool-for-school teenagers who gave us modern pop classics such as Overload and Soul Sound back in the early 2000s. Hell, they don’t even bear much resemblance to the comeback queens who bounced back from losing their first member, Siobhan Donaghy, in 2002, with a replacement, ex-Atomic Kitten member Heidi Range, and the Richard X produced smash hit Freak Like Me, instead replacing founding member Mutya Buena with Amelle Berrabah and jumping on 2008’s hottest bandwagon, the faux-soul sound, for their sixth album Catfights & Spotlights.
In 2009, the band took another drastic turn, jumping on yet another bandwagon, the Lady GaGa led electro one, which although was clearly intended to make the American market sit up and take notice of the UK’s number one two girlband, was closer to the sound Sugababes fans loved and missed.
Expectations were high, the ‘Babes signed a deal with Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation, worked with in-demand producers such as Red One, who was behind Lady GaGa’s Poker Face, and fans geared up for a pop triumph.
If you’re a pop fan, you’ll know that it all went downhill from there. Rumours started circulating that all was not well in Camp Sugababes, though their tweets suggested differently, each girl taking it in turns to deny the rumours that plagued them. The old bullying rumours surfaced once more, and once again, Keisha was made out to be the bully with the other girls taking on the roles of the victims in the tabloids’ day to day accounts of their lives while they recorded their new album in America.
Fans wondered whether it would be the end of the Sugababes, with bets being placed on newest member Amelle departing first – after all, she had just scored her first number one outside of the group with her collaboration with one of the hottest rappers in the UK, Tinchy Stryder, on Never Leave You, and it seemed she could do no wrong, with glossy magazines complimenting everything from her hair to her dress sense to her work with the ‘Babes. Suddenly she ‘disappeared’ after an alleged ‘bust up’ with Keisha, with no one able to contact her for days. It definitely seemed that Amelle was on her way out, possibly to capitalise on her new found popularity, but then, as we all know, it was actually Keisha that was booted out, much to the shock of the music world, and apparently against her will for being difficult to work with.
She was replaced almost immediately by hopeful popstar Jade Ewen, who was last seen representing the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest, and, if rumours are to be believed, was waiting in the wings long before Keisha knew she was being sacked.
Suddenly, the mood changed. Keisha was the last original member of the band, and despite the fact that Heidi and Amelle have both been in the band longer than founding member Siobhan, their once loyal fans have not taken to this well at all. A furious backlash emerged on Twitter, with tweeters overwhelmingly supporting Keisha and threatening to disown Sugababes 4.0, some even believing that the three original ‘Babes would reunite and battle the current lineup in court for rights to the name.

But still, the new line up battled on through the storm, Jade getting hard at work rerecording Keisha’s vocals from the already fully completed album, and recording their new video, leaking pictures to the press that showed their ruthless work ethic and just how well the new member blended in. However, a shambolic appearance on Radio 1, which was meant to introduce the new line up officially, did nothing to help them. During the interview, the girls didn’t appear to know Jade at all, and Heidi sounded audibly upset at points, which merely sent the Sugababes further on a downward spiral.
Planned ‘comeback’ gigs kept getting cancelled, often being blamed on legal issues to do with the new member, and Amelle was later admitted to a clinic in Europe, suffering from “a severe bout of nervous exhaustion”- just as they were about to start promotion for About A Girl. Shortly after, the original Sweet 7 album sampler was leaked onto the internet – including 6 tracks that feature vocals from Keisha, which may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for version 4.0.

It is likely that these tracks were never meant to see the light of day after their management made the decision to fire Keisha, and fans will undoubtedly be unfairly comparing Jade to Keisha on the songs, it doing nothing to help Jade fit in as a Sugababe.
It was revealed this week that the album has been pushed back to February 2010, posing the question – will we ever get to see the official unveiling of Jade as a Sugababe? We’ve seen the video for the single, we’ve seen the paparazzi shots, but we are yet to hear something original with her vocals on it, only rehashes of old songs. While Amelle is recovering, the Sugababes will do what they have always done when one member has gone AWOL – they will promote to the best of their ability as a duo, but is this enough? About A Girl rightly deserves to be a hit, though it is looking unlikely with the currrent state of affairs, but it goes without saying that the Sugababes really need a hit single right about now in the wake of all this drama.

This, of course, is not typical of most pop bands. Although some bands have chopped and changed members, mostly rock bands, it does not tend to work with pop acts that have a limited shelf life and fans with a short attention span. It remains to be seen if the Sugababes can recover from such a blow to their ‘brand’, and only time will tell if their fans can forgive them, but their downfall may just prove to be what has helped to build them up over the past 9 years, the 21st century music industry, and a fanbase whose impatience just cannot be controlled.


  1. Posted November 6, 2009 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    And the first incarnation of Sugababes was just so much better. Remember overload ? They are ok today, but not as good as they used to be

    • Posted November 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Definitely agree… they’re not bad now, but compared to what they used to be it’s quite sad.
      Love the remix, thanks :)

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