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Music / Sugababes

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Looking at the pattern, Heidi is due to be replaced by a new white girl
"People are all the same,
And we only get judged by what we do,
Personality reflects name,
And if I'm ugly then so are you,
So are you."

Sugababes are a British three-piece Girl Group, based in London. Just as famous for their constant lineup changes (see the main picture) as their music, the group has managed to achieve multi-platinum accreditation for their albums and singles (courtesy of the British Phonographic Industry) despite (or perhaps because of) their ... chequered history.

Originally formed by Ron Tom in 1998 when the original trio of Siobhán Donaghy, Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena were just 13-14 years old, they were known as The Sugababies before a name tweak upon signing to London Records. Despite hitting the UK Top 10 with their preternaturally assured debut single "Overload" in late 2000, debut album One Touch did not sell well (although it collected good reviews) and the group were dropped by their label the next year. Around the same time Donaghy, by this point a grizzled, road-weary veteran of 17, quit the group under a cloud of (long unclarified) rumours of bad blood, and unwittingly initiated what would become one of the most infamous Revolving Door Bands in pop.


With former Atomic Kitten member Heidi Range replacing Siobhán, a 2002 reboot saw the group sign to Island Records and return with single "Freak Like Me", sampling Tubeway Army's 1979 electro-pop classic "Are 'Friends' Electric?" to devastating effect. It unexpectedly launched them to Number One, and ushered in a slick, cool sound that produced a string of big hits over the coming years. Together with Girls Aloud, Sugababes held the banner aloft for Girl Group music in Britain in the first decade of the 21st century, pulling off the unusual combination of thoroughly commercial pop and rapturous critical acclaim. They went on to achieve success in the UK and abroad, performing the Theme Song to The Powerpuff Girls Movie and Girls In Love as well as contributing to the soundtracks of The Guru, Love Actually, Wimbledon, Wild Child and St Trinians. They would sell eight million records in the UK alone, with eighteen Top Ten singles including six Number Ones, two Number One albums (with five making the top 10) and their international hit single "Push the Button" featuring on the soundtrack to the 2012 London Olympic Games.


All this though came alongside a continual, slow, but increasingly hilarious morphing of the band's membership. The halcyon run under the 'Mk II' lineup of Mutya, Keisha and Heidi ended when the former contentiously quit in turn at the end of 2005. She duly received a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in Amelle Berrabah, and although with only one-third of the original members remaining something of the shine had come off the group's image, they initially appeared undimmed commercially with a clutch of new hits culminating in their biggest ever seller "About You Now" in late 2007. The 'revolving door' label in public consciousness had become a continuing source of jokes, though, and it was to the surprise of surely very few when sole remaining founder member Keisha inevitably exited in turn in September 2009, amid the usual round of rumours and counter-rumours. Still, somehow, the Sugababes would not die, with yet another like-for-like substitute seeing Jade Ewen parachuted into the ranks just months after representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest alongside Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber — and a week after her solo career was meant to kickstart in earnest, killing it off at birth.

Despite the group's apparently cockroach-like resistance to annihilation, this clearout of the last remnant of the original 'Babes finally proved a bridge too far in the public's perception. A couple more hits could not prevent their subsequent seventh album charting lower than any since their debut a decade earlier, and in March 2010 former member Buena applied to the European Trademarks Authority for ownership of the group's name — still amid the controversy of Buchanan's departure, in which Buena insisted that "the Sugababes have ended" without a founding member still in the group. Initially undaunted, the Mk IV lineup reconvened to record an eighth album, but the next handful of years saw few concrete results and the usual fog of conflicting hints, reports but little real news. Eventually, Ewen confirmed that the group had effectively fizzled out in 2011.

After years of rumour and hope, it was announced in 2012 that the original lineup — now all equally at a loose end, as it were, and with their differences put behind them — was reforming under the name Mutya Keisha Siobhan, and there was much rejoicing. Naturally, though, things couldn't be that straightforward, and once again little of substance emerged from the new project. In 2018, however, the group at last regained the rights to the Sugababes name and have become a formidable touring act in the 2020s.


This girl group provides examples of:

  • A Day In The Lime Light: Three has three solos for each of the group members.
  • Album Title Drop: Most of their albums have one.
    • "One touch of love, that was all it took my dear…"
    • "You don't know where we go, you don't know that we're angels with dirty faces in the morning…"
    • "People made me feel that life was unfair. and I did things that made me ashamed, coz I didn't know my body would change, I grew taller than them in more ways"
    • "…and ain't it crazy how you think you got your whole life planned, just to find out it was never ever in your hands… change "
  • Animated Music Video: The Powerpuff Girls Movie tie-in "Angels With Dirty Faces".
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "New Year", about someone leaving (exactly who or why is left ambiguous) at Christmas ... last year.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Hole in the Head".
  • Beach Episode: The video for "Flatline" takes place on Venice Beach in LA.
  • Bowdlerization: Due to Heidi's lack of N-Word Privileges, the word was changed to "brotha" in their cover of Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" (since it's her who sings the line in question).
  • Break-Up Song: "Now You're Gone", "Little Miss Perfect", "No More You", "Thank You For The Heartbreak", "Unbreakable Heart" and many more.
  • B-Side: There's a compilation album called The Complete Bs, released in 2011, that contains every single b-side and remix that ever existed. It was apparently done to fulfill an album contract, but it does save a lot of Archive Panic for old and new fans of the group.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: In 2011-early 2012, Mutya and Siobhan began exchanging tweets about missing a bus. Keisha then said something along the lines of "aren't we supposed to be keeping this [reunion] a secret?"
  • Careful with That Axe: Oh, Jade.
  • Covers Always Lie: The iTunes EP Live From London uses a shot of Heidi, Keisha and Mutya on the cover, but the record is actually just Keisha and Heidi performing (it was recorded during the transitional period between Mutya leaving and Amelle arriving).
  • Cover Version: They've also covered many songs during live sessions, and a rendition of "Santa Baby" was released to iTunes 2009.
    • "Freak Like Me" (originally by Adina Howard), mashed up with the riff from "Are 'Friends' Electric?" (originally by Tubeway Army)
    • "Killer" (originally by Seal)
    • "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (originally by The Arctic Monkeys)
    • "Obsession" (originally by Animotion), "Come Together" (originally by The Beatles)
    • "Walk This Way" (originally by Aerosmith, collaboration with Girls Aloud).
    • Inversely, Miranda Cosgrove covered their smash hit "About You Now".
    • Their Translated Cover Version of Patricia Kaas' song "Quand J'ai Peur de Tout" as "Too Lost in You" was an international chart hit.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The video for "Caught In a Moment".
  • Dramatic Wind: In the video for "Round Round".
  • Eating the Eye Candy: "3 Spoons of Suga".
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Jade joined the group literally just before their seventh studio album was due to be released. She came so late that the entire album had to be re-recorded with her vocals replacing departed member Keisha's.
  • Endearingly Dorky: One of the three male Love Interests in "Push the Button". He's a dork with one of those Norwegian ski sweaters and black nerdy glasses and weird facial hair. Yet the hot blond woman with a bare midriff in a tight red top and a tight skirt is very much into him.
  • Era-Specific Personality: From 2000-04, the group was marketed as a cool, unsmiling alternative to the loud, brash nature of groups such as Spice Girls (this was downplayed after Heidi replaced Siobhan, seeing as she was the group's resident Perpetual Smiler). From 2005-08, they were marketed as a more traditional pop group in keeping with the direction of their sound. From 2008-09, they became "soul divas", influenced by the sound of Amy Winehouse, Adele and many other burgeoning acts. Finally, in late 2009 they ramped up the "dance" in both sound and image, as well as being more overtly "clubbable" and stripperiffic.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: In the lineup spanning 2002-09, it was Heidi who received most of the press' attention. Now it's Jade.
  • Exhort the Disc Jockey Song: Inverted in "Never Gonna Dance Again":
    I get into the groove but it's giving me pain
    There's nothing you can do for me Mr DJ...
  • Fanservice: The Sweet 7 era ran on this trope, although subtler versions existed in their image previously. (The video for "In the Middle", anyone?)
  • Genre Mashup: Their music was definitely this back in their early days. Their sound melded pop, R&B, Jazz, Soul, UK garage, trip hop, electroclash and nu-disco.
  • Grief Song: Three has "Maya", about Mutya's deceased sister. Change also has the title track, which heavily implies this trope.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: They released a cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" in collaboration with Girls Aloud - who were their biggest chart rivals at the time - for charity.
  • Good Bad Girl: Amelle.
  • In Da Club: "Coz I'm too sexy in this club, too sexy in this club, so sexy it hurrrrrts…"
    • "Freak Like Me", Heidi's introductory video, also shows the group dancing in a club atmosphere. "Freedom" is also set in a club.
    • They've also done many songs about clubs, but one notable subversion occurs in "In The Middle", which is about the dark and seedy nature of parties.
  • Intercourse with You: "Virgin Sexy", "Low", "Freak Like Me", "Wear My Kiss", "Someone In My Bed", "Push the Button", "Caught In a Moment", "Easy" and more.
  • Lady in Red: "Red Dress" (in both the subject of the song and the video).
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover
  • Melismatic Vocals: Though Siobhan and Heidi didn't utilize them as much as the other members did.
  • Murder Ballad: "Every Heart Broken", in what is probably the only girlband version of this trope.
  • New Sound Album: Taller In More Ways broke from their usual R&B/Soul/UK Garage sound, in favor of something Lighter and Softer as well as being more 'poppy'. Many Sugafans though it sounded too similar to a Girls Aloud album, which is somewhat justified since the album does feature a few productions by Xenomania, the brains behind their music. The pop/dance sound stuck around for their next studio album Change, but the urban flavor returned with Catfights & Spotlights when they adopted a sound befitting the Soul Revival. Their latest offering Sweet 7 was basically a combination of Hip-Hop and Eurodance music (with some hefty doses of Auto-Tune and lashings of trend-chasing crunk-n-B), but overall reaction wasn't very positive.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The titles for Three, Catfights & Spotlights and Sweet 7 don't appear in the lyrics to any of their songs.
    • "Ace Reject", "Joy Division" and "Maya" are all song titles which don't appear in the lyrics for their respective songs.
  • Noodle Incident: The group very nearly split for good in 2004. All the fans know about this incident was that it involved an argument over Britney Spears' hit song "Toxic"...
  • Obsession Song: Their cover of "Obsession", naturally.
  • Ode to Youth: “Back in the Day” discusses the time when the group were just starting out at the age of 14, recording songs in their school uniforms and navigating teenage dramas at the same time.
  • The Oner: The video for "Overload".
  • Open Secret: Though some people were genuinely surprised at the news of the group's forming, for almost an entire year rumours persisted that the "Origibabes" would reunite. This was supported with arguably strong evidence such as Mutya and Keisha tweeting that they were with "two other ladies" at the time of recording and information leaking about their management and record deals, as well as Mutya's court case against the current Sugababes over use of the name.
  • Overcrank: Used in many of their videos, most notably in "Too Lost In You".
  • Power Trio
  • * Putting the Band Back Together: The original lineup released an album, One Touch, in 2000 (it featured the singles "Overload" and "Run For Cover"). However, due to tensions within the group Siobhan left in 2001. Mutya and Keisha stayed in the group after their management secretly recruited former Atomic Kitten member Heidi Range to take Siobhan's place under the guise of "open auditions", but in late 2005 Mutya left after more disagreements within the group (as well as depression resulting from her newfound motherhood). After Keisha was fired from Sugababes in 2009, a reunion was considered but soon shelved. However, in 2011 the three members decided to come together to record some songs, and MKS was born before resetting as the Sugababes officially in 2019.
  • Rock Trio
  • Rearrange the Song: Their uptempo pop-rock hit "About You Now" (originally from Change) was redone on the album Catfights and Spotlights as an acoustic ballad, in response to the rise of slower and softer renditions of their songs on YouTube.
  • Revolving Door Band: Which, at this point, would probably be a better band name for them.
    • Jade Ewen has since gone on record that this is the reason that the band split in 2011.
  • Sampling: Quite a bit.
    • "Get Sexy" naturally sampled "I'm Too Sexy".
    • "Shape" interpolates the chorus of "Shape of My Heart" by Sting (who, at one point, was slated to feature in the group's music video).
    • "Girls" interpolates the chorus of "Here Come The Girls" by Ernie K-Doe
    • "Freak Like Me" sampled "Are 'Friends' Electric?" by Tubeway Army (a.k.a Gary Numan's old group).
    • "Overload" samples "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.
    • "Lay Down In Swimming Pools" interpolates the melody and the chorus from the Kendrick Lamar track "Swimming Pools (Drank)".
  • Self-Parody: This skit the current line-up did with English comedian Katy Brand, poking fun at their ever-changing lineup.
  • Singer Namedrop: The band name is dropped in "Sugababes On the Run", "Groove is Going On" and "About a Girl". Individual names are dropped in "Real Thing", "Angels With Dirty Faces", "Gotta Be You" and "You On a Good Day".
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Heidi's speaking voice (a thick Liverpudlian accent) is a direct and rather surprising contrast to her smooth style of singing.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Mutya provided the Gravel to Keisha, Siobhan (lineup mk.I) and Heidi's Sopranos (lineup mk.II). This spot was taken by Amelle in contrast to Heidi, Keisha (III) and Jade (IV).
  • Spell My Name with an S: No, it is not spelled "Sugar Babes". It is also not spelled as "Sugbabes", "Sugababez" or "Sugbebs". (The last few actually turned up on Google searches.)
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Every member replacement in the group has been very familiar in vibe to the girl they replaced. Heidi replaced Siobhan, the soulful white one. Amelle replaced Mutya, the soulful "ethnic" one. And finally, Jade replaced Keisha, the… soulful black one.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: Where do we begin…
  • Three Minutes of Writhing: As a girl group, many of their videos naturally fall under this.
  • Token Trio: Every lineup has been an all-female version of this, with the third member being a non-black minority.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: "Ugly" is basically about this.
  • The Unreveal: In early 2012, both Mutya and Keisha tweeted about "being in the studio" with two females and Professor Green.
    • Mutya tweeted:
    "@ studio wit professor green in tha building and two beautiful ladies"
    • While Keisha wrote:
    "Hanging out in the studio with @professorgreen and two lovely ladies with bags of talent :-p lol".
    • However Mutya later denied this, saying in response to a fan:
    "No track [with] keisha or professor G he was around tha studio. im jus workin on my stuff @ tha moment".
  • Urban Legends: The group has had many of these during their 13-year tenure, the most famous being Siobhan's alleged method of leaving the group. The story goes that while the girls were on a promo tour in Japan in August 2001, Siobhan excused herself to go to the ladies, climbed out through the bathroom window and caught a plane back to Heathrow all by herself. Siobhan has denied this, saying she she waited for the band to return to England as a unit before throwing in the towel. However, that doesn't stop long-term fans expressing their desire for Mutya Keisha Siobhan to allude to it in a possible music video...
  • Vocal Evolution: Obviously, since the ladies aren't 15 - 17 years old anymore. Siobhan's tone is now fuller and richer, while Mutya's is darker and more expressive. However, it was arguably Keisha whose voice changed the most out of the three: In the group's early years she was a higher-register soprano, now her voice has deepened enough for her to become a mezzo-soprano (though she can still easily hit high notes).
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: In their earlier songs "Sugababes On the Run" and "Don't Wanna Wait" as well as the 2005 b-side "Future Shokk!"
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The original lineup couldn't use the name "Sugababes" until 2019 because the group that consisted of Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewen legally had that name under their record label.
  • Younger than They Look: This has been said about Heidi during her time in the group.