Tuesday, 29 September 2009

THIS IS POP MUSIC - NOT NEWSNIGHT: A structure-less ramble on the Sugababes

Arguably a Sugababe should NOT be able to do this....It's trite, but occasionally pictures really do speak a thousand words, don't they? SugaGate makes this point well. Suddenly, the sight of former-Eurovision sweetheart Jade Ewan flashing her inner-thigh-area has become synonymous with "THE SUGABABES R DEAD!" Indeed, the public fall-out following the girls' latest lineup reshuffle must have surprised even the band's somewhat Stalinist management (the StalinBabes does have a ring to it). Journalists and fans alike wept aloud at the death of the anti Girl-Band. Even Bruce bloody Forsythe entered the debate, with predictably zero comedy success. Such hullaballoo was all well and good, but in fairness the Sugababes have been on a somewhat slippery slope for years. The latest crisis is just another metamorphosis of a brand we expected far too much from. Yes, photos of Heidi - clad in leather, inexplicably straddling a car in a desert (as a Liverpudlian, one wonders whether she stole it) are a world away from the tear-drenched tragedy of 'New Year.'

But an element of consistency is needed from the SugaBashers. Few complained when Mutya, in 'Push the Button,' claimed that her "sexy ass has got them in a new dimension." The Sugababes have changed, for better or worse, but the sullen chic of the first lineup would hardly have worked into their twenties. Change - incidentally the title of the Sugas' worst ever album - is intrinsically linked to what it has always meant to be a Sugababe. And thank God for that, as without it we would have missed out on some jaw-droppingly good music. 'Round Round' is, still, one of the most adventurous, downright bizarre pop songs ever written: an audible cut-n'-paste job, it contains entirely nonsensical lyrics, a completely unnecessary ballad thrown in halfway through, and sounds EXACTLY like the future of music. And yet we would never have heard it, had Siobhan's exit equalled the End of the Sugababes.

Even when they stopped setting trends and started following them, it was difficult to argue with the results. See 'Every Heart is Broken,' in which Amelle and co. graphically map out plans to murder their boyfriends, over a blisteringly-camp orchestral opus. Crucially, it wouldn't have worked with any other Sugababes lineup, and lord knows what future musical wonders will result from Control-Alt-and-Deleting the current clan.

And this is where the band's future truly lies: they must again find their sound, their look, and continue to redefine what the Sugababes are (here's a tip: steer WELL CLEAR from 'Get Sexy'). A hundred years from now, I will be severely disappointed if there aren't three completely different girls asking my distant relatives whether they are also Freaks Like Me. Although former Babe Mutya has publicly called for the new gurlz to change their name, well, why should they? The Sugababes have always been the sum of their Pop parts: fantastic, if occasionally monstrous, management, amazing songwriters, and decent stylists. There were some girls who sang, too, but they were - in all honesty - the most disposable part of the franchise.
For if you enjoy manufactured Pop, as the Sugababes' record sales suggest the nation does, then you shouldn't really be too surprised when the manufacturing process rolls on. Just Fucking Enjoy It, in other words.

Many will find this approach somewhat cold, but I've come to the conclusion that I couldn't care less about the ethics of booting one girl out and getting another to jump in their warm grave. This is Pop Music, not Newsnight, and the Song is All. For the Sugababes it always has been, and no band has ever asked greater questions about where exactly we listen to music: do we judge with our dancing-feet, our ears (OBV) or, evidently, with out hearts? Because to blindly refuse to enjoy Sugababes.4, as many have, suggests we are listening to pop music for far more than just Big Tunes. Which, is quite unnecessary. Just Fucking Enjoy it.
Finally, what of the poor Babes themselves? Well, the girls have evidently been under lock and key since day one, and should've got out long ago were they unhappy with the system. Because that's the beauty and the problem with this particular Musical Matrix. It can create you, but it will ultimately outlive you, as great pop music always does.

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