Sugababes are back! Last week one of this country's most beloved and influential girlbands announced that they were returning with an extended version of the album that brought them to national attention. Pop music fans everywhere couldn't contain their excitement. The band were, after all, responsible for an incredible array of top 10 hits - including their debut, Overload, and bangers like Round Round, Push The Button and About You Now - and seven albums. But with the flurry of reignited interest in the exciting news came the inevitable memes and jokes about the fact that the three-piece weren't really a three-piece.
Yes, the band was always made up of a trio of young women, but several line-up changes meant that there are six women who can feasibly (if not legally) refer to themselves as a Sugababe. Many have posed a philosophical questions on the concept. As with the Ship of Theseus or Trigger's broom, can a group made up of completely new components lay claim to the name of their founders? Whatever the answer, the history of the shifting components makes a fascinating deep-dive. Join us, won't you, as we explain every firing, hiring and argument that - along with their music - cemented Sugababes as one of this country's favourite girl groups.
Line-up 1: Siobhán Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan
Signed as solo artists as teenagers in 1998, Mutya and Siobhán teamed up, adding Mutya's friend Keisha to form a new trio. Their debut, Overload, became a hit, and while their follow-up singles and album failed to set the industry alight, One Touch was a strong debut album. But Siobhán was unhappy. Suffering with clinical depression, and amidst claims that she was not getting on with the other two members (Siobhán later called Keisha the 'first bully' she had ever faced) she left the group during a tour of Japan.
There were rumours that Mutya and Keisha's long-term friendship meant that Siobhán struggled to find her place, and there were claims that they even spoke in a secret language that she could not participate in. Keisha and Mutya state that she 'excused herself to go to the toilet' and simply didn't return. 'I hate her for running away and leaving us,' Mutya added later. 'Why couldn't she have had the guts to tell me to my face what her problem was? No guts, that girl.'
Line-up 2: Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Heidi Range
Heidi, who had been part of Atomic Kitten's line-up before they found their own mainstream success, was recruited to replace Siobhán, and this new trio signed with Island Records before launching with a new sound. Freak Like Me went straight to number one, as did their follow-up , Round Round. Their album, Angels With Dirty Faces, sold far beyond its predecessor. But there were tensions. Mutya resented Heidi's arrival into a ready-made band. 'I never argued with her. I just didn't speak to her,' Mutya said. 'I thought: I've worked from the youngest age to get where I am and here she is, just jumping in. I found that really hard.' Keisha, however, says they only ever had one row. 'In Dublin, and it was between me and Heidi,' she told The Guardian. That row led to the cancellation of the band's two performances in the city. It was, Keisha later confessed all about Toxic, the Britney Spears song. They have not commented further.
The band continued to enjoy huge success, kicking off the next album campaign with number one single Push The Button and, later, Ugly. This was Mutya's swan song: she left the group on December 21st, stating that she wanted to spend more time with her young daughter. Eventually, she revealed that she had suffered from postnatal depression. The group did not beat around the bush: a new recruit was wrangled by the end of the month. Which brings us to...
Line-up 3: Keisha Buchanan, Heidi Range and Amelle Berrabah
Amelle had to hit the ground running, re-recording vocals on what would become the third single from the album, Red Dress, and their fourth, Follow Me Home. She got to really solidify her presence, though, with About You Now, the band's first single from their fifth album, Change (the Greatest Hits included). But their next phase - Catfights and Spotlights - seemed to be the beginning of the end of this line-up's successful streak. Singles Girls and No Can Do did not match past successes. And yet, the trio was intact as they prepared to mark album 7 with their song, Get Sexy. But things were quietly cracking once more. Amelle was reported to have left the band in September of 2009, before a second shockwave hit: she had not. Instead, Keisha had left. It became clear that Amelle and Heidi had chosen to leave, which would have left Keisha as the sole remaining member, and it was instead decided internally that the record company would stick with the duo.
'I'm sad to say that I am no longer a part of the Sugababes,' she said in a statement. 'Although it was not my choice to leave, it's time to enter a new chapter in my life. I would like to state that there were no arguments, bullying or anything of the sort that led to this. Sometimes a breakdown in communication and lack of trust can result in many different things.'
This, of course, meant that the band had lost its final original member. Many wondered if the band could truly move on from such a loss. The answer? Of course they could...
Line-up 4: Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewens
Welcome Jade! Up until then, she was best known for representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with Andrew Lloyd Webber's composition, My Time. She had launched a solo career quickly after, but chose to go with the established act and was flown immediately to film the About A Girl video. The band continued to enjoy some success, but the original Sugababes spirit was undeniably gone. This was what led Mutya to apply to the European Trademarks Authority for the rights to the Sugababes name. She asked what many had posed before: did these three women truly deserve to be known by a name that had been created by their predecessors? The identity crisis took its toll: the group went on a hiatus and it soon became clear that it was a permanent on. The Sugababes were, finally, over. Or were they?
Line-up 5: Siobhán Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan
And here we are, back at the beginning! The reformation of the original trio first came in 2012, when the women reunited as MKS and released Flatline in 2013. One of their best songs to date, it should have set the charts alight. But the charts have changed. The trio continued to insist that an album was forthcoming, with regular solo interviews asking for patience, but it never emerged. And then, in 2019, hope appeared on the horizon in the form of a cover of Sweet Female Attitudes seminal hit, Flowers, and they were credited for the release as Sugababes. Now, they've released a Run for Cover remix with MNEK, and have trailed an anniversary edition of One Touch, their first album.
So there you have it. Five line-ups. Six women. A whole lot of drama. But thank God for Sugababes, and all who call themselves one.