The Sugababes Discography Rate


Staff member
I'm gonna love how obviously pointed some of the zeroes that come will undoubtedly be, especially when the reasons that will be primarily cited are: "Amelle", "Sweet 7", "Keishagate", "Mutya was everything". The transparency and affected posturing will be more than evidently real.
I've only managed to rate Angels with Dirty Faces and Three at the moment, only one track has a '1' rate so far.

I am struggling to do this as I haven't listened to any of their music in a long time and after revisiting it all a massive wave of nostalgia has hit me, IT'S ALL SO GOOD.
Right, gather round and prepare your teacups for...


If you wish to skip what follows, the tl; dr on the Sugababes’ history is simple. Behold the greatest chart on Wikipedia:


Despite its reputation for structural complexity, the Sugababes’ trajectory is relatively straightforward. A three member band has each of its members replaced one by one, and no original member returns. Compared to the ructions of, say, En Vogue, or even Destiny’s Child, this is eminently simple.

But, of course, there’s more to it than that. What follows is a brief, and necessarily pottered, history of the band. Given everything that has happened within the space of sixteen plus years; what is and what is not publicly known from that time period; and your feelings towards particular lineups, there’s a very good chance that you’ll have at least something to find issue with in what follows. Accordingly, what follows is less the “truth” and more a broad outline, which, I hope is nonetheless at least a little illuminating.

In the beginning…


there was Mutya, Keisha and Siobhán. More specifically, there was Mutya Rosa Buena, aged 13, who had been signed as a solo artist alongside Siobhán Emma Donaghy, also 13, by the manager of the All Saints, Ron Tom. Mutya was in the studio one day and was asked to sing with her friend Keisha Kerreece Fayeanne Buchanan, 13, who had come along to watch. Their voices gelled and they began recording together with Siobhán. Initially named the Sugarbabies, the band changed its name to the far less cringier Sugababes upon signing a record deal with London Records. The band set to writing and recording their debut album, with the help of All Saints producer Cameron McVey.

In September 2000, the band released their debut single “Overload”. The song was instantly acclaimed as a fresh, innovative piece of pop and reached #6 on the UK Singles Chart. The début album One Touch followed in November 2000 to similar plaudits and peaked at #26 on the UK Albums Chart. One Touch would produce three further singles: “New Year”, “Run For Cover” and “Soul Sound”.

From the get go, there was something … different about the Sugababes. In a market saturated with high energy, brightly coloured and often saccharine pop acts, the Sugababes – with their jeans and sneakers, awkward diffidence and clear, understated talent – stood out. At various points, the band appeared as the anti-girlband, seemingly taking the piss out girlband conventions such as elaborate dance routines, matching outfits and personability. The now-iconic bar stool routine for “Overload” captures this exemplarily; simple, awkward and straddling irony with a detached, on-the-edge-of-breaking bemusement, even whilst delivering a pop classic.

Of course, this image was as manufactured as other pop acts. The girls’ handlers knew that such an image was a good enough selling point in the pop climate at the time. But what stymies the cynicism somewhat is the fact that this image was not at all incongruent with what appeared to be the girls ‘true’ sensibilities, particularly as reflected on One Touch. The album’s lowkey conversational and contemplative tone was not at all a far stretch from the personas they projected. All this, coupled into the band’s gathering critical esteem – based especially on the three girls’ clear vocal and songwriting abilities – fed into a sense of accomplished coolness about them.

Despite One Touch’s relative success – three of four singles in the Top 20, critical acclaim, a Brit Awards nomination (Best British Single for “Overload”) and eventual Gold certification – the band was dropped by London Records for not meeting commercial expectations. And then, in the middle of a promotional tour in Japan in August 2001, Siobhán abruptly left the group (not by climbing out of a bathroom window). The official explanation was that she was leaving to pursue a modelling career, but statements put out later noted that she was diagnosed with clinical depression, and that she was in particular bullied by Keisha. It appeared that this would be the sour final note of the band, consigned to the crowded dustbin of promising but short lived girlbands.

A different account of what happened that would emerge years and years later, when the 1.0 members reconciled; a tale of systematic manipulation by their management. The girls would recount being pitted against each other, and jealousy fostered among them. Of course, this could have been a convenient reimagining to sell their reunion. But if so, then it appears as no more or less credible an explanation than the official account from back then. Either way, the end of 1.0 is the first example of what a case study the Sugababes would be in the machinations of the music industry, and its particular toll on young women.

Reinvention: Sugababes 2.0


Getting dropped by your label and losing a founding member would in any instance be a death knell for a girlband. This is what makes the Sugababes’ rebound all the more impressive.

The band moved to quickly recruit Heidi Range, a former Atomic Kitten, as a replacement for Siobhán. They signed to Island Records and released the single “Freak Like Me” by underground producer Richard X, a grungy, electro-infused reimagining of the Adina Howard song. The track, unexpectedly, shot straight to #1, and with that, the Sugababes began one of the most sustained and remarkable imperial phases in British pop. The success that followed virtually erased any memory of the discord that preceded it; it was as if an entirely new band had stormed onto the pop scene.

2.0’s entire reign was rather astounding, achieving the band’s peak of commercial success whilst maintaining their already-established critical acclaim. Its three albums, Angels With Dirty Faces in 2002, Three in 2003 and Taller In More Ways in 2005, reached #2, #3 and #1 respectively, achieving multi-platinum status and producing a total of four #1 singles – including all three lead singles – and a further six Top 20 singles. By the Taller era, the band was regularly charting in Western European, Asian and Australasian territories. Outside the singularity of the Spice Girls, such commercial success was unprecedented for a British girlband. Equally, each album was received well, and the band was considered to be at the vanguard of mainstream pop. Angels leaped from One Touch’s Pop/R&B-lite head first into gritty, often edgy R&B, which Three consolidated comprehensively into urban power pop, before Taller eased more squarely into poppier territory. In many ways, 2.0 retained the “girlband it was cool to like” moniker of 1.0, whilst pairing that, unusually, with massive commercial success.

As a unit, the band settled into a ruthlessly efficient machine. The girls’ roles were perhaps a bit more rote than the more freeform of 1.0 – Heidi more often than not seemingly the backup (middle-eight queen etc.) – but the band’s structure was still a lot less defined than most other girlbands. While Mutya performed song opening duties often, and was perhaps the band’s most distinctive voice, her offhand demeanour meant that the band had no clearly identifiable lead singer as such. It is also true that Heidi brought a sunnier disposition, contrasting with the more sullen Siobhán. Yet Heidi’s entry did not alter the vibe that the band gave off from the very beginning – of three random girls, with very distinct personalities and seemingly not much in common between them, who in their appearances together seemed disinterested, cool and a little stilted. Until the moment they started singing, when it all made sense.

The Three era in particular was the apex of this, when the Sugababes re-channelled the nervous, introspective energy of its début as brazen, coolly sexy and not-taking-any-shit confidence. The album was jam-packed with assertive bangers detailing the girls’ self-assurance in clear terms. Lest these be construed as the band’s only trick, on back up were a dizzying array of soulful, heartfelt ballads, providing added dimension to the girls’ talent and personas. This combination, of exciting pop music, expertly made with obvious talent, yet executed by a most mismatched getup was, still, an intriguing anomaly on the pop scene.

While alleged infighting between the members, with Heidi seen as a target of bullying by the others, persisted, the band’s simultaneous popularity was an effective control on this becoming a liability. In hindsight, a lot of the perceived tension could be seen as somewhat exaggerated. The band stood out within pop precisely because it didn’t set out to be actively likable, something the press in particular had a hard time rationalising. Keisha’s forthrightness and Mutya’s standoffishness, with only Heidi’s bubbliness as a tonic, was a far cry from your regular pop band. This froideur was, of course, part of their brand, and what they were marketed as. In the end, it didn’t really matter. In an adage that would prove itself over and over in the years to come, people were here for the bops, and the Sugababes juggernaut continued to steamroller ahead.

Until, at the height of their popularity, things changed again.
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Change x Three: Sugababes 3.0


By late 2005, the Sugababes had released the phenomenally successful “Push The Button”, the lead single off their fourth album, Taller In More Ways, which itself became their first album to chart at #1. This was followed by the #3 charting “Ugly”. Following a number of missed promotional appearances for the latter by Mutya, however, it was announced in late December 2005 that she had left the band, becoming the second Sugababe to do so. The official reason provided was that it was for “personal reasons”. Indeed, Mutya had given birth to her daughter Tahlia the previous year, and as would emerge later, was suffering from severe post-natal depression. It was also clear through the Taller campaign that her heart was not in it; her involvement decidedly less than the other two.

48 hours later, Amelle Berrabah was announced as Mutya’s announcement. The Taller campaign continued on; the album was rereleased in early 2006 (three tracks rerecorded using Amelle’s vocals), and two further singles were released: “Red Dress” and “Follow Me Home”. This was followed later in the year with the Sugababes’ first (and only) greatest hits album, Overloaded, with the single “Easy”, and accompanying Greatest Hits tour.

2007 saw the girls release their first proper album with the new lineup. Change carried over the success of Taller in many ways, providing the girls with another smash lead single in the form of “About You Now” (their biggest in the UK) and another #1 album, albeit with a less successful follow up singles run (“Change” charted at #13 and “Denial” at #15). The album, however, was widely seen to be composed of cast-offs from Taller, and perhaps lacking the band’s usual strong identity, casting doubts as to 3.0’s viability.

Mutya’s departure ranks as the least acrimonious of the founding members, mostly because it seemed largely voluntary. Yet it was not a completely smooth transition. Heidi, who had grown especially close to Mutya, has expressed her sadness that she departed so abruptly, whilst the fact that Amelle was brought in as a replacement so quickly rankled some, not the least Mutya herself later. While she had not been presented so and had herself never proclaimed herself as such, a significant part of the fanbase saw Mutya as the most distinctive member of the Sugababes, and for them her loss was difficult to reconcile. It also did not help that Amelle was clearly drafted in to directly replace Mutya’s voice and image; she had a similar huskiness to her voice (“Mootyah! Mootyah!”) and even arguably filled Mutya’s “ethnically ambiguous” profile. This was deeply unfair stumbling block for Amelle, whose identity as a band member was stifled by the machinations of management, in slotting her into the role in the first place, and by the emergent intra-band stan wars, whose arguments over 3.0’s viability turned on Amelle’s legitimacy as a Sugababe.

3.0 did signal a noticeable shift in the band’s demeanour. The casual, chilly and deliberately uncoordinated vibe of the previous two lineups was replaced by matching outfits and a sunnier disposition all around. In many ways, 3.0 completed a shift that had begun with Taller in terms of positioning the band as more mainstream girlband, particularly in response to the rise of other poppier and friendlier girlbands, most notably Girls Aloud. Musically, this was matched by Change doubling down on the more straight out pop sound signalled with Taller. For certain fans from the beginning, misgivings about the band after Mutya’s departure continued to simmer, feeding into the idea that the edgy, cooler-than-thou, R&B-oriented outfit had transformed into a more generic pop band. Underneath the surface, it was perhaps evidence that the management and label were taking even greater control of the band.

Yet despite all this, the Sugababes remained, in essence, talented, cohesive and driven. The follow up to Change, 2008’s Catfights and Spotlights, was the surest sign of this, and is an emphatic rebuke to 3.0’s denialists. It was an album that, whilst seemingly following the retro, throwback trends of the time, was nonetheless a deeply considered and remarkable showcase for the band’s vocal and songwriting skills, containing some of the band’s best songs. Its emergence, particularly after the by-the-numbers Change, was unexpected and gratifying; taking the band’s sound into neo-soul/retro R&B territory whilst marking a return to the brassily confident and emotionally searching songwriting of earlier albums.

Unfortunately, Catfights was a commercial failure; lead single “Girls” became the first lead single since “Overload” to not top the charts, the album itself only hit #8, and follow-up single “No Can Do” charted at #23, before the campaign was cut short. It seemed that the Sugababes’ heyday was well behind them, particularly when contrasted with the by now dominant Girls Aloud.

Indeed, Catfights’ commercial failure would mark a distinct turn away from the sound and direction that the band seemed set to pursue. In 2009, the band singed a recording contract with Roc Nation. The girls were flown to the US to record with the likes of RedOne, Ryan Tedder, Stargate and Bruno Mars. In September 2009, “Get Sexy” was released as the lead off the band’s seventh album, Sweet 7. The song was yet another change in the band’s sound, towards a more electropop and distinctly American sound. Moreover, the band’s image had also changed radically to be more overtly sexualised, in a way most fans found jarring. Nonetheless, “Get Sexy” charted at #2, justifying for the management its investment in the new direction.

Early 2009 also saw the band’s well-publicised tensions, kept at bay for most of 3.0’s tenure, surface again. Keisha and Amelle’s relationship, initially cordial, had reportedly deteriorated rapidly. Some offered Keisha’s supposedly “difficult” personality as an explanation, while others pointed to Amelle’s solo success – her feature with Tinchy Strider on “Never Leave You” reached #1 in the UK in August 2009, making her the only Sugababe to date with a #1 solo single – and the band management evidently pushing her as the star of the band, as evidence of Keisha’s discontent.

All these things in combination snowballed, and rumours began circulating rapidly that the band was on the verge of another lineup change, or implosion for good. Following a series of missed promotional engagements for the forthcoming album, Amelle was reported as about to leave the band. In September 2009, with the band in Los Angeles to shoot the video for upcoming second single “About A Girl”, the band management ominously promised an “announcement on the Sugababes’ future”.

Keishagate and Sugababes 4.0


Where were you when Keishagate happened? If you were anywhere on Popjustice, you were on this iconic thread, awaiting the announcement and going though every single scenario for the band’s future, including the replacement of any of the members with a new member, or with Mutya, or the group’s disbandment. When it finally came, it was not Amelle that was leaving the band as was widely guessed, but Sugababe of more than 10 years Keisha. 2009 Eurovision contestant Jade Ewan was drafted in immediately as her replacement. Keisha released a statement saying that “it was not her choice to leave”, more or less confirming speculation that she had been fired from the band.

The fallout was cataclysmic. Fan and critical reaction was overwhelmingly negative, with outrage at the last founding member being ousted and ridicule at the new band now composed entirely of replacements – labelled the Sugafakes among a bevy of monikers. Opinions ranged from the thought that the Sugababes should have properly disbanded or – as Peter opined – have chosen a name other than the Sugababes. Few saw much of a future for 4.0, and were prematurely eulogising the band.

Given legal manoeuvrings to contain the fallout, it’s difficult to state with certainty what had happened, with multiple explanations swirling about. In most accounts, Keisha had evidently declared to the management Crown that she could not continue to be in the band with Amelle, and offered them an ultimatum. When Crown consulted Heidi, she refused to pick a side. After Keisha refused to budge, she was forced out of the band. In another account, Amelle had quit the band and Heidi followed suit, leaving Keisha alone and under the belief that the band was over. Unbeknownst to her, Crown had reformed the band with Jade behind Keisha’s back. Making the whole affair even seedier was the fact that Crown had flown Jade over before any of the conversations with the band members had happened; the actress doubles used in the “About A Girl” video clearly indicate that they had anticipated Amelle leaving and had intended to replace her with Jade. This was, all in all, a damn MESS in a way that very few dramas are in pop. It certainly puts many of the messeries that have occupied the forum of recent years to complete shame in all its horror.
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Conceptually, the band’s fourth lineup change pushed the boundaries of identity – in a terrifying way – literally enacting the Ship of Theseus.

[Philosophy tea time: the Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment used in philosophy which asks whether an object that has had all its component parts replaced remains the same object. The question was first posed by ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch who questioned whether a ship that had been restored by replacing every single one of its wooden planks remained the same ship. Here, the question is whether the Sugababes are still the “Sugababes” when each of its original members have been replaced over time so that none of the original members remained. The Sugababes are one of the most frequently cited examples of the paradox. I mean, when will your faves?]

4.0 spluttered towards a particularly undignified.mp3 end; Sweet 7’s remaining singles (now featuring Jade!) “About A Girl” and “Wear My Kiss” managed to chart within the top 10, but the album itself – entirely rerecorded with Jade’s vocals – charted at #14 after a 2010 release. Worse yet, the album was universally panned, with critics ripping into the album’s faceless electropop, and looking particularly unfavourably on the album in light of Keisha’s ouster. Bad on its own, the album suffered worse in comparison to the band’s previous six albums, charting a catastrophic decline in quality and identity.

In 2010, the Sugababes were reported as recording again for their eighth album. The band left Island Records, their label of nearly a decade, and signed a distribution deal with Sony RCA Records, with Crown Management to serve as the record label (indicating the declining commercial clout of the band). In September 2011, the Sugababes débuted “Freedom” – an electro dub-infused number – but its failure to catch on in radio led it to being released on Amazon as a “free thank you to the fans”. Thenafter, the band’s activities seemed to cease. Various statements by the girls in the intervening years suggested that they might be getting back together, but now – with each girl enjoying their own lives and careers – that prospect seems remote.

From the perspective of longtime fans, the entire 4.0 saga was just heartbreaking. Perhaps the worst part of it was in how quickly the band imploded. The outlook for the band following Catfights was largely positive; they had broken some new, interesting ground musically, and had seemingly settled into a healthy rhythm as a unit. That it could change so suddenly, destroying everything about the Sugababes that made them ... the Sugababes, from their image to their music, was deeply unsettling. More broadly, for a band subject to the music industry’s machinations for its entire history, this was the final coup in how cruel and devastating it could be.

4.0’s eventual fate was a shame because the band was not, as a three-piece, lacking cohesion or talent. Jade was a particularly strong vocalist and the image of her alongside Heidi and Amelle was not at all incongruous. It was simply that the spectacle of them dressed in matching leather leotards and singing the uninspired songs from Sweet 7 alongside songs from the first two iterations of the band (where only Heidi at most was involved with the songs) rendered them into some sort of macabre tribute act. A new album – the first with Jade entirely on board – would have been a chance to wipe the slate clean and prove themselves. Sadly, the opportunity never came. In hindsight, it’s clear that regardless of who would have replaced whom, a fourth line-up change was one lineup change too many. It confirmed in conclusive terms the utter messiness of the band and turned the name Sugababes into a national joke. 4.0 indeed, seemed like a tragic full stop to the band’s story.

That story, however, was not yet over.

Full circle: Mutya Keisha Siobhan


The fact that all three founding members of the Sugababes were now out of the band naturally fuelled the idea a possible reunion of the originals. Keisha was, of course, now an independent agent, and was reportedly recording music for a solo album throughout 2010 and 2011, performing several small showcases. After leaving the band, Siobhán had embarked on an acclaimed but criminally under-noticed solo career, releasing the two albums Revolution In Me in 2003 and Ghosts in 2007, before retreating from the music world entirely. Mutya had released a solo album, Real Girl, in 2007, but had also been inactive musically. The real question was whether these three women could put apart their well-documented differences to work together again, after a huge chasm of time, during which the myth of the “originals” had only acquired more allure.

And then, improbably, fantasy turned into rumours, which turned into reality. Sightings of the girls together, a secret gig, and then, finally, official confirmation: a band called Mutya Keisha Siobhan, named simply after themselves. If there’s a counterpoint to the despair that Keishagate and what these girls themselves would provoke in the coming years, and a foremost example of the elation this community can inspire in general, it is right here. The blissful year and a bit that followed was this elation drawn out: hearing the girls together for the first time in thirteen years; the first promo images; the interviews; a £1 million recording deal with major label Polydor; a smörgåsbord of amazing collaborators; the unimaginably brilliant first single; and finally, their first performance together in public in thirteen years at the (now mythical) Scala gig.

Everything about it – from how they looked and sounded together, to that improbable story, to that sense of complete and utter Popjustice – felt so right in a way that very few things are in the world of pop. So of course it wasn’t to be.

The warning signs were there already, with the numerous delays since the project was announced and the gradual sense of waning momentum. The shifting dates for “Flatline”s release, and the virtual absence of promotion and radio play for it, and its subsequent #50 charting (and countless ensuing “’Flatline’ flatlined ha!” quips), were surer signs that things were starting to go wrong. While the girls embarked on a six date UK-wide tour in November 2013, no second single or album announcement was forthcoming. Rumours of being dropped by the label, and of the band splitting, naturally, began swirling. The girls’ final public appearance was in February 2014. Since then, it has been a virtual radio silence.

It’s not uncommon for projects to stall and to drop off, but given what immediately preceded it, the silence was especially bewildering, and frustrating in corrosive ways. The persistent promises of “soon” (from mainly Keisha in her expertly trollish ways) generated first hope, then scepticism, then, depending on the temperament, everything ranging from rage to despair. 1.0 became, for the second time, one big what if? Things wouldn’t have been as painful if it wasn’t for everything they promised. In the brief taster of new music they had put out (see exhibits A, B and C), and testimonies from those who had access to a wider unreleased cache of it, the years of their potential seemed to be finally, and emphatically, realised. And so all that has happened leaves bitterness, incredulity and heartbreak.

In the nearly three years since, the band’s remaining four stans have pieced together a few things. The girls have almost certainly been dropped by Polydor (possibly because of soured relations from the label pushing them in directions they wished not to go in, in their newfound desire to not be controlled and managed). They evidently have a new team together. They’ve recorded new music. Oh, and they’re trying to get the “Sugababes” name back. In 2015, Keisha applied for, and subsequently gained the rights to the Sugababes trademark in the US. A succeeding application for the trademark in the EU is ongoing, and may be resolved by early next year. There has been a renewed round of “soons”, which this flurry of activity may or may not give credence to, depending on how much patience you have left.

If they secure the name and release music under it, it will be yet another entry in the Sugababes’ dizzyingly convoluted, messy history. And if they don’t, then … ditto, actually.
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In many ways, the Sugababes make it difficult to sympathise too much with the complaints by fans of other girlbands, such as, for example, the lack of a reunion at a neat anniversary; or one member’s solo career overshadowing the others’ careers; or a shitty, career-invalidating last single; or a member not inviting all her former bandmates to her wedding, and so on. These all pale in comparison to emotional fallout resulting from the sheer, unimaginably messy saga of the Sugababes.

With the Sugababes, in effect, there can be no closure. The different lineups, and the consternation associated with each, guarantees no possible ending that could satisfy all fans. If there was to be a reunion, for instance, which lineup? The one that started things off? The one that was the most successful? The one that kept the band going into a second half-decade? Or the one that still has technical entitlement to the name? A union of all six makes little logical or logistical sense; the band has always been a three piece and each member has not performed with at least one other. MKS was closest thing that made narrative sense, in that it was the originals etc. but yeah …

This rate, then, is not exactly about closure, but about trying to come to some sort of peace about their collective body of work and legacy. As time passes and the immediacy of the turmoil associated with the band’s many ructions fades (especially for the women that have all been part of the Sugababes, never mind the gays obsessed with them) making some sort of sense of what the band meant is appropriate, and necessary. For me at the very least, if not you all.

And the only place to do that is the music.
I present here an extract from my graduate thesis:

"A Brief History of the Sugababes", too, presents itself as reportage, but the tone is far from that of a reflectionist naïf. Instead, it is that of Angus Wilson in his premier works of the 1960s - remaining in thrall to the presentation of social matters, but in a fractured and time-displaced form befitting its subject. Working from a basis of the Sugababes as a calculating Apollo to the technicolor collective Dionysus of their era, the author presents a tragic portrait of six subjects both part and not part of this system, questioning the impact that individuals might have upon it (or, indeed, if such can last), and deliberately placing different Frankfurt-derived notions of mass media in conflict. At the centre, of course, are the complex and anti-heroic figures of our main protagonists, one in particular raising questions that extend back to John Fowles' famous query in The French Lieutenant's Woman. Who is Keisha? Out of what shadows does she come? The ending, too, ultimately undercuts expectations of a revelation from on high. The author ultimately grants us, the audience, the chance to understand the group Babes qua Babes and reveals the text's own fundamentally discursive nature, but leaves only one truth, in the vein of Rick Moody's famous epiphanies: that @beyoncésweave is the fucking MAN AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HA TO BITS OH MY GOD THAT WAS SUCH A GOOD READ