Friday, October 2, 2009

SUGABABES 1998-2009




No, the English trio with the ever-revolving door hasn't called it a day. Although it probably should. Now that original member Keisha Buchanan has been dumped from the group as of September 22, there are no original members left. It's my firm belief that the turbulent dynamic within Sugababes -- call it reverse chemistry -- has contributed to its unwaveringly original and thoroughly engaging singles. But even Destiny's Child, another girl group that almost fell victim to catfights and the spotlight (to quote the last Sugababes album title), managed to retain two of it's original members throughout its run.

I've got to admit, I kind of saw this coming. In recent Sugababes videos, the most recent member, Amelle Berrabah, who replaced original Sugababe Mutya Buena in 2005, has received top visual billing. I've been wondering what Keisha thought about this, and the word is that she has not been amused. Although according to her, it was not her decision to leave, the writing has certainly been on the wall (to paraphrase a Destiny's Child album title, not to mention Keisha's 2008 collaboration with Don-E).

So what to do now? All the easy come, easy go, easy replacement suggests that the group has always been vocal puppets being controlled by some unseen an uncredited Svengali, and I'd say that it's time for him (or her) to consider a new name. U2, R.E.M. and Radiohead are not the norm. Line-up changes are part of the music-group package. Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Guns 'N' Roses and the Cure: They've all been there over and over. But through years of personnel changes, those bands, even G 'N' R, have managed to retain at least one key original member. Now that Sugababes have none left but are still keeping the name, one must wonder: Is Sugababes a group or simply a brand name. And what's so sugary sweet about them now?

Also, the latest Sugababes single, "Get Sexy," just hit No. 2 on the UK singles chart, and a second single is forthcoming before the album, Sweet 7, is released on November 23. Does this mean the girls must go back into the studio and replace all of Keisha's vocals with new member Jade Ewen? I suppose it could have been worse: At least they didn't pull a TLC/INXS and do a reality-TV search for Keisha's replacement.

Meanwhile, Mutya reportedly has express interest in reforming with Keisha and fellow original Sugababe Siobhán Donaghy under a different name. I remember meeting this trio back in the early '00s when they visited the Teen People offices in New York. Though all seemed well within the ranks, there was friction to spare, and Siobhán was eventually ousted. Hopefully, the ladies are older and wiser and can get along now. And although Mutya, Keisha and Heidi Range, who replaced Siobhán in 2001, remain my favorite Sugababes incarnation, I hope the originals reform and kick "Sugababes" ass on the charts.
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