It seems my favourite Sugababe, Keisha Buchanan has been booted out of the group. This – and her subsequent replacement by Eurovision 2009 entrant Jade Ewen – is the culmination of a couple of weeks of intense speculation about in-fighting within the long-suffering pop group.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the group, whose seventh album is due for release in November. I’ve heard that Keisha’s departure is going to involve Jade Ewen re-recording her vocals for the new album, so the remaining girls won’t even have a minute to dry their crocodile tears for their departing member.
Why did Keisha leave?
As the remaining original member, we all assumed that Keisha had some controlling share or ownership of the group she helped to found. It seems strange and unsettling that she could be kicked out, but that’s what she’s been claiming on her Twitter account.
Although it was not my choice to leave, it’s time to enter a new chapter in my life. I have nothing but positive things to say about the girls and I wish them the best of luck.
Despite the very diplomatic “nothing but positive things” bit, how can it not have been her choice to leave? It can only have been a sacking. I know that’s stating the obvious, but…wow.
The thing is, Keisha’s always been the one cited whenever a member of the band left – first with Siobhan Donaghy, then Mutya Buena. The recent spat with Amelle Berrabah again pointed suggested that Keisha was difficult to work with and had a tendency to bully other members.
The Heidi Connection
In all of the controversy between Amelle and Keisha, one member of the band was conspicuously silent: Heidi Range. Heidi joined the band in 2001, replacing original member Siobhan Donaghy.
Mutya Buena started speculation when she Tweeted that Heidi should have followed Keisha out of the band:
I will say this publicly…shame on Heidi for not following Keisha out. But doesn’t surprise me a bit. x
(More of Mutya’s comments on the Sugababes situation on The Guardian.)
The Sun newspaper then came out and claimed that Heidi ‘pushed the button’ (har har) for Keisha to leave. Calling her the ‘silent assassin’, they quote a source who says that:
Heidi felt they stood more chance of success in the US with someone new and enthusiastic – not Keisha, who rubs people up the wrong way.
What can we say? Does that make Heidi top dog in the ‘babes now, or does it really matter? Since even a founding member can apparently be sacked by the management, it makes the members of the group look like hired guns rather than artists with any real say in their musical direction.
It’s worth mentioning that The Sun claims that Keisha received a six-figure payout to leave the band, at a time when they have a new album coming out:
But the decision to bin Keisha and draft in Jade, is going to hit the group, who had a No1 hit with Push The Button, where it hurts most – their bank balances.
They have had to book emergency round-the-clock studio time so Jade can re-record Keisha’s vocals for album Sweet 7, which is due out on November 23.
No doubt it’ll take years for the details to leak out of what’s happened behind the scenes, but to push the last remaining founding member out of the band is quite a feat. I wonder how exactly they managed it.
Jade Ewen has been formally announced as the official replacement for Keisha. OK, not strictly correct if you follow the confusing almost-legalese on the Sugababes website:
The current line-up of the Sugababes has disbanded.
Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah will continue as the Sugababes and will be joined by new member Jade Ewen. They release their album ‘Sweet 7’ on November 23rd through Island Records.
Keisha Buchanan will continue to record for Island Records as a solo artist.
The new lineup have just recorded a video for their new single at Santa Clarita in the LA desert – you can check out the pictures on the Daily Mail website. They look pretty comfortable with that lineup already, don’t they?
The Future of Sugababes?
It looks like the manufactured pop bandwagon is going to forge ahead, and the new Sugababes album Sweet 7 will come out in November. It’ll be the first to feature new member Jade Ewen, but more notably the first Sugababes record not to feature a single original member.
The biggest question being asked – by Mutya, by journalists and by fans is “is it right to continue the band now that the last original member has left”?
If you consider it as strictly a business decision, clearly someone owns the Sugababes ‘brand’ and it’s not Miss Buchanan.And like the well known teenybopper band Menudo (which launched.. er…Ricky Martin), it looks like the band will continue with a rotating cast of members as long as they continue to sell records.
There are a couple of good articles on The Guardian asking whether it’s right to keep the band running. Peter Robinson suggests that Keisha should hook up with original bandmates Buena and Donaghy to start a new group.
Now entirely consisting of substitutes, one would imagine that the Sugababes could no longer seriously exist, but this is no ordinary pop group. As one commentator on the website Pop Justice put it, “even after a nuclear war there will be cockroaches and Sugababes”.
And, picking up on criticism about the band’s change in musical direction over the years, this post suggests that the Sugababes are already dead:
It is a rather miserable, undignified end to a band who fell together at school, made their name with a sophisticated pop sound and achieved what they did with a rare class. Pop which is invented in order to be a brand is often unpleasant. But Sugababes made pop whose values and attitudes were strong enough to inadvertently create a brand. Theirs was smart, British, soulful pop, occasionally arty but always melodic, lush and a cut above most of the rest.
However, their last single, Get Sexy, pushed the band in a different direction: a soul-free, sex-led, moronically-lyriced attempt to chase an American electronic R&B sound which sounded brilliant, but jettisoned any semblance of what made many fall in love with the band.
Taking the Sugababes’ side for a minute, I’d imagine that the band can survive the departure of Buchanan. I think Heidi Range has been in the band long enough to satisfy one generation of fans. She was there for Round Round and Freak Like Me, two of the groups biggest hits. And Amelle has been on the scene for a few years too.
I agree with the statement that Robinson made in The Guardian though – musically, the Sugababes have lost credibility. They’re following trends where they used to create them. But that was happening even with Keisha Buchanan. I reckon they’ll continue to be successful regardless (unless they release some really dire shit).
On the upside, I’d be interested to see what Buchanan can do as a solo artist. Just don’t leave it too long Keisha.