Thursday, August 22, 2013

Forget the New Singles by Katy Perry and Lady Gaga! It's All about the Reunited Original Sugababes!

I have such a selective memory when it comes to stray, random recollections. I'm terrible with names, Thai words, things on my mental to-do list and umbrellas, so-so with birthdays and movie dialogue, and great with historical trivia, Oscar factoids, song lyrics, faces, ages and dates. On October 7, 2010, the night I met my ex at the Peel in Melbourne, I couldn't tell you what I had for dinner, or how much I paid for the Jack and Coke that I was drinking, but I can recall exactly what song was playing.

"Get sexy right now!"

That's right: Sugababes. How could I forget them -- or their song(s)? I actually praised "Get Sexy" on this very blog (read my commentary here) a year before it would provide the indelible soundtrack to the start of my last great romance.

Ever since the original trio -- Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhán Donaghy, all teenagers at the time -- walked into my life in 2000, during the British girl group's visit to the Teen People's offices in New York City, I've been linking memorable Sugababes songs to memorable life moments. We may have disagreed on the merits of Sisqo's "Thong Song," then a massive hit (I was the only person in the room who hated it), but I loved them anyway.

I can't remember the guy's name, but I can remember his face as we were sitting on my bed at St. Martin's Lane Hotel in London in 2002, watching Sugababes' "Stronger" video. Seeing the clip for the very first time, I was falling even more madly in love (with the trio, not the guy). By then Siobhán had left and had been replaced with Heidi Range, in a first wave of inter-group bickering that would put The Sugababes Story on par with those of The Supremes, Destiny's Child and Dreamgirls.

By 2009, all three of the original members had left (Keisha, the last girl standing of the original three, made her final vocal appearance on the aforementioned "Get Sexy"), with the trio that remained still calling themselves "Sugababes." But how could they? (Read my reaction at the time here.) Apparently, the three replacement "Sugababes" agreed, and after the release of 2010's Sweet 7, "Sugababes" went on indefinite hiatus.

Now Sugababes are back -- not the fake one that was in circulation at the end of the aughts, but the original recipe, reunited and now calling themselves Mutya Keisha Siobhán. It's an unwieldy name, but a similar design has worked in the past for Crosby, Still & Nash (and sometimes Young) and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. (I'd love for MKS -- or anyone, for that matter -- to do a contemporary cover of the latter's 1975 No. 1 "Falling in Love.") MKS's new single, "Flatine," is a teaser for a debut album that's due in 2014.

In a just pop world, they'd be called Sugababes again, and this would be an instant hit -- at least in the U.K., since U.S. pop fans don't always know a great pop thing when they hear it. Like Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue between "It's No Secret" and "Can't Get You Out of My Head," Sugababes, for all their U.K. success (six No. 1 singles), have never had a chart hit on the left side of the pond.

Anyway, returning to that just pop world where Sugababes would be international superstars, Katy Perry's "Roar" and Lady Gaga's "Applause," both decent enough singles, would have some stiff competition for the top new song with a one-word title (of which "Flatline" was the only one whose chorus I could hum by heart after just one listen), and melody and great vocals would once again reign in girl pop. The best thing about "Flatline" is how it sounds exactly the way that you would expect a Sugababes record to sound, which, "Get Sexy" aside, Sweet 7 couldn't quite pull off.

That's not to say it's retro -- classic is more like it. The vocals are natural, not processed and buried in sledgehammer overproduction, and the melody is not only hummable but memorable, too. The only thing missing now is a perfect moment for me to link it to. But I'll be in Rome soon. I'm sure one is on the way.

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