The Sugababes Discography Rate

Situation's Heavy is good but it's time for it to leave when you compare it to the tracks that are left.

Maya too.


Staff member
Yes they cut the end where keisha dives off the balcony because originally it showed much more of her naked bum. This version was shown originally - i remember seeing it and then there were several mtv bites about how they had to edit it and was never shown again...
Is this it?



Staff member
I love how feminist the lyrics are, given that it's the only Sugababes single (that I can think of) to heavily sample a man's song.

I must insist a girl's got more to do
Then be the way you think a woman should
I'm taking it into my own hands
In this man's land I can
Understand why I'm taking command
I've had enough of stuff
And now it's time to think about me


Also, PJ is the reason I realised that the single version was different from the album mix - there was a long gap between me seeing the video and buying the album, so I hadn't realised before.

Definitely one of their most underrated singles, especially given how quietly determined the lyrics are. You tell him, queens.
I wrote and rewrote this for a very long time.

I don't think I can say any more.




Score: 8.061
Highest: 10/10 x 24 (@Jonathan27, @RJF, @LE0Night, @NecessaryVoodoo, @Petty Mayonnaise, @kal, @Solenciennes, @Voodoo, @PCDPG, @lalaclairi_, @theincredibleflipper, @CasuallyCrazed, @JamesJupiter, @Reboot, @High Heel Feminist, @Robinho#1, @Runawaywithme, @scottdisick94, @Remorque, @Mr.Arroz, @constantino, @Blayke, @PLUTO)
Lowest: 2/10 x 1 (@Lucas) sigh
My score: 10/10

How do you make sense of loss? How do you make sense of the ultimate loss? And how do you make sense of that ultimate loss when you yourself still possess its opposite – life – in your hands?

“Maya” attempts to do that in the most indescribably (because I’ve tried writing this for weeks) moving of ways. Give or take “Spiral” (sob), this might be the most beautiful thing the band has produced. And I mean that in the most literal sense of the word, because there’s no other description for it. Its words, its soundscape and its voice are all layers on layers on layers of breathtaking gorgeousness.

It begins with a dedication, to Mutya’s lost sister Maya, which turns into a conversation with her. As it unfurls, she wrests with her doubts, that her thoughts aren’t being relayed, that this very conversation isn’t really happening. There’s such heartbreaking despair that stretches across its words – but it seems so far look at the stars, and the empty space – that when standing under the night sky, those whispers seem so utterly insignificant. That, when faced with something as large as the universe, as death itself, you yourself are so insignificant. That even if you had some vision of respite, no matter what you do, it's always slowly fading away.

The song tries to counter that with the chorus which telegraphs a kind of hope. Of trying to ignore the despair and situate yourself within the universe, the worlds within worlds that rotate. And to seal that, the song’s most heartbreaking line: if this universe is really shrinking, we'll be together in time. When faced with that crushing despair which leaves you desolate and tiny, all you have is hope, isn’t it? It’s almost a blind hope, no other foundation to base it on apart from sheer force of will. I’m not religious, or particularly spiritual, but I can totally understand how people build entire worldviews on hope itself. “Maya” itself is too wise, too demure, to do that world-building (and potentially complicate and tarnish the picture in the process) beyond a few suggestions – it simply rests on that first impulsive instinct alone: we’ll be together in time.

The two sentiments, despair and hope, wrestle with each other across the song, supported by the faultlessly tailored production and vocals. The quietly bubbling drum, like a heartbeat trapped in the ether, lilts the song forwards. The quiet piano layered in progressively through the song as builds up a sense of momentum, but it never breaks into anything. Even when some lovely strings come on for the chorus, and a distant transistor effect later on, the soundscape remains so wonderfully minimal. It’s an immediately noticeable, almost jarring change of pace in the album, impossible to characterise as Pop or R&B as stylistic labels, or even as a ballad in structural terms. The song’s gentle pulse is, simply, a pure complement to Mutya’s voice.

A lot has been said, here and elsewhere, about Mutya’s vocal prowess, how she brought such fire to a band expanding its sound from quiet R&B-lite to urban power pop; her incredible vocal range across the most blazing bangers to the most soulful ballads; and how she came to almost be the stand-in for what the Sugababes “sound” was like. Her incredible talent is undeniable across the 66 songs featuring her as surveyed in this rate. “Maya” is that 67th song which either caps her talent off and sends an assessment of it from incredible to stratospheric, or which stands as singular proof of that talent on its own.

She never raises her voice, or goes for the theatrics (though it’s always difficult to call it that even when she’s belting, isn’t it?), maintaining it at a frightening controlled level. What that exposes – and with the minimal production as backlighting – are the infinitesimally beautiful contours of it. How it contains multitudes of sadness, on-the-edge-of-breaking down despair, the quietest self-confidence, and something like hope. On “Maya”, Mutya’s voice is at once strikingly innocent and wearily wistful, capturing in a sense that child-like disbelief at the first shock of loss as well as the very adult weariness of dealing with the aftermath. It paints, in volumes, a girl cowering under sheets with the weight of despair pressing in, and a woman running her hand across a gravestone one last time before leaving.

And the answer to the question of despair or hope? There is no resolution. As the song goes on, voice melds with production irrevocably. Her voice gets slightly processed, which, next to the throbbing drumline results in the song warping and fraying at the edges, as if being pulled into other dimensions. The repetition of the chorus at the end suggests her coming down on the side of hope, but it’s a desperate kind of hope, and each repeat confirms that. And in its denouement, with Mutya’s processed soft cries interlaying with Keisha’s murmur, this hope collapses. Even as it ascends to the cosmos, grief finally settles over a song rapidly dissolving itself into stardust, distorting and deforming itself terribly. Ultimately, the idea of loss seems as open a question as when the song started. And that’s it, isn’t it? In the end, you’re not making sense of loss or grief or death themselves; you’re just making sense of the fact that you can’t ever make sense of it.​


In a broader sense, “Maya” is a categorical validation of Mutya as an artist and person. I’ve alluded to this throughout the rate, but like any pop act composed of women, the Sugababes faced a lot of shit, from the music industry (clearly), the general public and their fans. As one of two women of colour in the band during its rise to fame, Mutya faced a huge portion of that shit, where the misogyny was layered in with doses of racism. As a woman who was not conventionally attractive (especially by white standards of beauty); wasn’t particularly interested in playing the game; and seemed reclusive to very obvious degrees, the shit she got was magnified tenfold. Against the backdrop of the band’s contested public image as a hotbed of bullying, in-fighting and drama, these aspects of Mutya’s person and personality were fodder in the suggestion of her as a cut-throat, unpleasant presence; the almost sinister backup to Keisha’s bully supreme. And this image was given unwitting credibility by the heady, fuck-off R&B bangers the band pushed out as singles – it was easy to believe that the girl in the “Freak Like Me” or “Hole In The Head” videos was very simply Mutya Buena.

“Maya” is the most emphatic rebuke to all of that. It reveals her as a deeply felt soul, with a fascinatingly hallowed inner life, and a singularly poetic imagination. These kinds of thoughts, ways of seeing the world, dreams of imagining the universe – they’re the sorts of things that just draw you into a person. Makes them seem and feel special. Of the many, many reasons to love Mutya, “Maya” is that one confirming that she is, indeed, special. For me, the idea that the woman with the ever changing hair and ever multiplying tattoos and piercings; who wore trackies and a permanent scowl; who smoked away nights listening to 90s R&B deep cuts, was also a woman who could produce something like this was … all I needed. Not as a reason to love her, of course, I knew that that was already there, but to know what that love was worth. And it was worth everything.


Let’s begin with P'NutButter (9) who is suitably moved, “Extremely touching song, Mutya is a genius.” Ironheade (9) is also unsurprised by Muts’ genius, “I don't think it should surprise anybody that Mutya would deliver the best of the three solo tracks. I can't think of any other girl group member who would dare to tackle a heartfelt tribute to her dead sister like this, and Mutya handles it with dignity and grace, amazingly sung and deeply sorrowful. And in terms of arrangement, it's airy and delicate, but strong as steel – the steadily heartbeat pulse of the bass drum, soft layers of electric piano and warped bassline make for a nicely unadorned backdrop for Mutya to do exactly what she needs to. Very simple, yes, and I'm glad of it. It's not the kind of song that could have stood bombast or overplaying – hard-won beauty through restraint.” Which is a great way of pinpointing how the song’s production is so up to the task of matching Mutya. acl (9) finds that time makes everything better, “So many of the songs on Three I like more as a 30 something. At the time I didn’t know what the song was about and I had written it off as a vaguely William Orbit lite track. Now given I know the subject matter it has much more weight. I like that Keisha is in the nananananeees at the end.”

mrdonut (9.5) does a bit of reminiscing, “I remember once listening to an amazing podcast interview with Miranda Cooper and she said some very interesting things about working with The Babes. One of the highlights is her talking about how heart breaking Mutya’s vocals are and how brilliantly she delivered in the studio. When you hear a song like “Maya” it’s impossible to disagree with that opinion.” [Ed: here it is! The whole thing is an amazing listen, but she starts talking about the Sugababes from about 28:00 onwards, and Mutya specifically from about 29:00 onwards.]

“I can't really say anything harsh, considering what it means to Mutya,” begins DJHazey (7) wisely, “It'd be a much easier listen for me without those vibrating synths though,” before going off to listen to Cascada. “Mutya’s vocals and sentiment give this at least three extra points,” for Deborux (7) exposing how she considered giving this a 4! uno (6) needs to look up what “captivating” means, “An endearing and sweet song, but not exactly captivating or exciting. Definitely the best of the three solo songs.” Which of course is true, it completes and certainly validates the album’s gimmick of three solo centures, not only in making the good song count at least two out of three but also in showing another side to the band’s singers.

“I really enjoy the ambience of this track; sad subject matter though,” says a Mina (8) who wishes to remain perky. “This appraisal is a beautiful tribute for Maya,” says a sombre Sprockrooster (8). tylerc904 (7.5) thinks this to be “a gorgeous sentiment. Typical Mutya that she thought this was just for fun and never album worthy.” I think what makes Mutya … Mutya is her singular worldview; when it comes to her own talents, she often doesn’t see what others see as her best work, opting for more idiosyncratic choices instead. I don’t think this is borne out of insecurity or some bizarre lack of taste – it’s just her, in a wonderfully unique and weird way.

The corner of hate for this is thankfully really small, but no less hurtiful. londonrain (4.5) has had a few run ins with me, but this? This is unforgivable: “Sorry, guys, but I just don't like this. The weird “womp womp womp” sound effects in the background are distracting make me feel slightly sick [Ed: ???], and it feels like it needed more than just “da da da” harmonies for a chorus. The “worlds within worlds” bit (which is presumably the pre-chorus) is good but doesn't end up in anything. Perhaps this would have worked better as a piano ballad that brought out the lyrics more.” What more is there to be brought out? Chanex (4) just … lets me down, really, “I originally wrote this and gave it a 2.5: ‘Oof I know it's super divisive and lots of people love it but I am for sure not one of them.’ But I listened to it several more times trying to give it a chance and it's not the worst actually...” Chanex sis, you almost gave your 11 to “Change” which dealt with the same theme that “Maya” does albeit in a slightly less refined way, so what gives?

Real talk: I really don’t want to judge people, and I’m not singling anyone out in particular; after all, this received a whole 10 below-6 scores which resulted in this placement. It’s just that, when something moves you so deeply, and you find that it does not have remotely the same effect on others, you feel this profound sense of disconnect with them. And I’m not talking about a failure to bop to a banger scenario (“why didn’t your puss fly off to “Into You”?! teas etc.), but songs like “Maya”delve so deep into the human condition that it baffles you as to why they can leave others so indifferent. And I know musical taste is subjective, and that if you don’t like something then you just don’t – but it’s so hard for me to reconcile those feelings sometimes. Like, how do you not find yourself bawling to this?

Anyway, PCDPG finally shells out for a 10 I can agree on, “A beautiful haunting song with emotional lyrics. The perfect album closer.” lalaclairi_ (10) concurs that it “is such a beautiful song, and a high point of Three.” Mutya’s Bulgarian stationery retailer kal (10) is also lost in the feels, “You just know shit’s gonna get real when Mutya gets personal. “Maya” is a deeply touching ode to Mutya’s lost sibling and it’s hard not to get the feels when you listen to it.”

Solenciennes (10) comes thruuu for me, “this is so wonderful, isn’t it? A touching tribute to Mutya’s sister, it’s a chillingly reflective song that makes you ponder the vastness of space and I especially love the line “’cause all these prayers must be going somewhere”, it’s just so touching and delivered faultlessly by Mutya. The raw emotion is incredible and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for her to have been away from her family being a popstar when her sister passed away, presumably rather suddenly. On a related note, I’ve always admired how private the Sugababes were, I think it says a lot about their artistic intentions and integrity that Mutya can have a solo song on the record about the death of her sister and it not become a media circus exploited for sales. Plenty of other less scrupulous contemporaries would have milked that for their careers, I’m sure. Anyway, the philosophical nature of this song gives them this otherworldly wisdom that conveys their religious backgrounds in a way that isn’t too on the nose, I think it’s genius and it’s one of the best songs in their discography. If this universe is really shrinking, we’ll be together in time… beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Sweet, precious Runawaywithme (10) goes in with another soliloquy, “A simply gorgeous hauntingly beautiful ballad, the lyrics really hit hard to me as I have lost people close to me at a young age and I was questioning where people go and what happens after death, is there a heaven? Will I see them when I die? And this song really sums up how I feel so I always get chills and a lump in my throat whenever I listen to this song. I love mutyas voice here, I don’t think she has ever sounded more raw, vulnerable and emotional. The outro with all her gorgeous echoing layered harmonies just gets to me, it’s haunting yet heavenly at the same time. The bare bones production really fits well with the song and I love how it slowly gets a bit warmer and lighter as the song goes on and it adds such a nice spacey vibe to the song, and I like how it leaves all the shine on Mutya as this really is her moment, and a wonderful one to close the album on.”

“Heartfelt moment from the tattooed crooner,” observes Robinho#1 (10). CasuallyCrazed (10), like me, has depressively sad baths, “This song has been on every wine-induced bathtime playlist I’ve ever created. Pop introspection has never sounded so gorgeous.” I’m very proud to have made another Mutya stan out of Constantino (10), “Woah this is stunning; Mutya was always my favourite member but now that I’ve read up on her backstory and delved into Real Girl… I love her even more. Her vocals really flourish with the swelling, yet feather-light production (it was nice of Keisha to let her have this one…maybe she isn’t such a bully after all…). I won’t go too much into it but this is really special to me.

Mutya’s Australian merchandising rep Blayke (10) has nothing but praise as he sneaks in another humble brag about hanging out with the goddess herself, “This song is just unexplainably gorgeous. I can’t even describe what I feel or think when I listen to this song. Mutya really surprised me with her raw vulnerability in its purest form of grief. When I was staying with her a couple of years ago, I brought up this song (respectfully of course) and Mutya’s story of how this song was developed and what it meant to her family changed the way I listen to this song. It’s a painful but beautiful memory that is a part of the Sugababes legacy. Depending on my mood, I find it hard to listen to this song because I just zone in and become consumed. It’s higher-place sounding instrumental and the outro leaves me sobbing at sometimes! I know it may be an exaggeration but this is one of the most beautiful songs and lyrics to the Sugababes name.

Filler (8) surprises me once again by offering something so poetically beautiful, “I really love the final 54 seconds of this (sorry, Mutya, it's no reflection on you that my favourite bit of your solo song is the bit where you stop singing). I'm not sure if this is necessarily what they were going for, but it's like the production adds a whole new chapter to the lyrics – the sunny, lightly sad but optimistic backing vocals start to warp, like they can no longer take the metaphysical strain, then collapse entirely in the unexpectedly disquieting 30-second fade-out, all hope sucked out and replaced with a sort of glittering existential doom. Either your prayers are going nowhere, or they're going somewhere you really don't want to go. There is no heaven in this song.” Like, damn.

Finally, I’m going to leave closing up and guilt-tripping y’all massively duties once more to my dearest Jonathan27 (10), who made me tear up uncontrollably over the most appropriate song to do so to. Have I mentioned how rewarding running this rate is? Yeah, this, and that, and him: “I’ve cried to Maya. Surely every Sugababes fan has cried to Maya? It’s a song about denial of death, at least that’s the most obvious subject. Prayers are shot up like rockets of hope, lost in the void of space. “If this universe is really shrinking, we’ll be together in time.” I’ve lost most of my family members at this point in my life, some suddenly and others prolonged to the point of a defeat I would’ve rather they hadn’t needed to feel. Maya feels like the question mark that comes after losing someone gone too soon, or perhaps too late to salvage. I don’t think we’re ever prepared for death. Not until it’s facing us and we have no choice but to confront it. We’re never prepared because every relationship we have is individual and we have an inherent need to treat them as such, particularly in death: “Maya this song is for you.” When I was in elementary school, my best friend’s mom committed suicide. As such a young child, I had no idea how to react; I remember him calling me and telling me, and I said I’d pray with him. I remember him sobbing and I just sat there in silence. I don’t know that I handled it well, but I also had no idea how to understand that sort of suffering. I’ve mourned death but I’ve never wished it away. Maya blurs the lines between life and afterward, not erasing death but negating it. We attach ourselves to our memories of people so that they can live on with us: a tattoo, a dream, an alternate universe. My best friend would never get to see his mother again: that sort of possibility makes me want to believe in the same world Mutya inhabits.

“If this universe is really shrinking, we’ll be together in time.”

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