December 12, 2009
You don't know about a girl
Sugababes, version 4.0
In a new Guardian piece on the new pop duo Mini Viva (well, it's really about Xenomania), producer Brian Higgins declares, "You can't sell an album in 2009 without an emotional connection." Probably true. But what happens when the connection is negative or dysfunctional?
Cut to the recent fan-queen fighting over at Popjustice Forums about Sugababes since the group polarized their fans by dumping their only remaining original member, Keisha Buchanan. This is one of the strangest pop music stories of 2009 and I am of several "minds" about it. Before I say one hot word, let me acknowledge this: I know it's just pop music. This is not the end of the world. But this is a pop blog and Sugababes are pretty high up in the pantheon.
1. We don't know what happened between them, but we have to assume there is a humdinger of a story that would lead to Keisha Buchanan being sacked just a few months before they released their seventh album. Anytime money and a "brand" are involved, there is a lot at stake and this group was already on the wane. Their use of mega American-chart producers like RedOne was a last ditch attempt to regain chart success, all under the guise of "evolution," much of it perhaps orchestrated by Keisha herself.
2. That said, the wave of dislike toward the new version of the group - 4.0 if you will - is somewhat earned. What's really happened is simple: the breakup of a long-loved group has caused strong emotions. There are a lot of fans who feel insulted by how the label handled this ("Let's just trade Keisha out and plow on"), as if theh 'babes fanbase would not notice. It's not so simple, is it? While fans have long been aware that Sugababes was not the happiest of groups, the recent news puts into question their whole facade. Why should we believe any of them get along? Should we care?
3. I thought the Keisha version of About A Girl (see below) was epic. A masterstroke of merging (crass, but necessary) hit chasing with a group's trademark sound... and coming out with a winner. Lightning strikes! And now? I. Could. Not. Give. A. Shit. If it were up to me, the label would shut down Sweet 7, record some new songs with new member Jade and relaunch it under a new album title in summer '10. I'd let them keep the group's name only to keep the ship from sinking completely.
Personalities in a group actually matter and music executives can't really afford to gamble with their established audience. It doesn't matter that Jade Ewen, the "new girl," won a contest or "tests" well or even sings well. Fans have rolled with member changes before - any group that can survive the loss of a vocalist like Mutya Buena deserves credit. This one too many changes, it's bad business and even worse karma.
Sugababes About A Girl (Keisha version)