Performance detailsDate: Saturday 2nd July 2011
If the ‘babes began the decade with one of its defining singles, the fabulously shape-shifting electropop mash-up Freak Like Me, they intend to leave it in precisely the same way. Where to start with the virile groove of Top 5 smash Get Sexy? The introductory, Vanity 6-ish break-beat? The cheeky Right Said Fred reference? The explosion of a completely unexpected and somehow completely right, full-blown techno meltdown in the chorus? The fact is that the girls have returned to pole-axe dance-floors with an irresistibly cheeky and post-modern pop bounce. Just the way we like them. “It’s what we do,” states Heidi, putting things neatly into a nutshell. Having flown to LA to make the album they found themselves hanging with The Smeezingtons, Flo Rida’s sonic architects to create a sound that was undoubtedly Sugababes.
That the first single from their brilliantly contemporary-sounding new album was the last to be recorded is something of a pattern in the land of the Sugababes, as if genius alights upon them quite by accident, at the 11th hour. It happened to them with Push The Button on Taller In More Ways, with Freak Like Me on Angels With Dirty Faces and with About You Now on Change - implicitly reminding you of their killer knack for reinvention and their peerless back catalogue. It’s not a bad skill to carry around, even when you’re not showing off.
We greet the Sugababes at this particular juncture in their career at a place no other British girlband has been before not knowing that after a whopping 6 albums and a massive 10 sell-out tours later, the cream of the world’s songwriting and production talent would still be clambering to jump aboard and lend their own personal alchemy to the unique Sugababes USP?
For their 7th longplayer aptly titled ‘Sweet 7’, the girls decided to retool the Sugababes magic. “It was about remembering what we are,” says Amelle, “and thinking about what we can be. We love this band. We love what we do. And we love the fact that every album is different from the last.” Three albums into her tenure as a ‘babe’ she can say this stuff.
A conversation at Jay-Z’s restaurant in New York got the ball rolling for the new record, as Jay Brown, A&R wizard responsible for Rihanna’s Good Girl, Gone Bad album, agreed to trace his platinum hand over proceedings. Rihanna herself was working in the same studio as the Babes and after they finished recording tracks, the girls would ask their first producers Stargate what she thought of the material. The thumbs were up. Something was immediately beginning to catch fire.
When you are working with the hottest A&R man in the world right now, phone calls that might seem daunting to three lovely ladies happen in a flash. When producers that have worked with some of their favourite contemporary artists began saying yes, they started reconnecting with their own ambition, understanding the gift that Sugababes have lent pop music in their incredible decade at the forefront of it.
Suddenly, Sugababes weren’t a nice three way vocal harmony group. They were hob-nobbing with those that have shaped the sound of Beyonce and Lady Gaga and finding something with them that was distinctly their own. They played some of the material back home to the record label, and a buzz immediately began to be felt about their transatlantic reinvention.
The new record is marked by a glistening neon sheen. It sits ahead of the contemporary curve of welterweight R&B with an endless succession of tracks to choose as singles. They say that this is the Sugababes record they are proudest of. A flawless cast-list of collaborators seem to agree. Sessions with Ne-Yo, Red One (“we all argued over who’d get to sing the ‘Red One’ hook that had become so famous through Lady Gaga at the beginning!” says Amelle). Stargate, the Smeezingtons and Beyonce writer Makeba all produced the goods.
"A sound just emerged for us,” says Amelle, “that was putting the excitement right back into recording. The girls Twittered the results as they were happening to their loyal fanbase in the UK, lending the whole thing an extra layer of dynamically modern instant returns. “We wanted to make the album as Sugababes as possible and wave the British flag, we‘ve pushed ourselves and stepped it up” says Amelle.
The music speaks for itself. From the nagging, hook-laden second single About A Girl to a signature Ne-Yo ballad (“for some reason, he just writes so brilliantly from a female perspective”) No More You, this stuff oozes effortless musicality. The hip-hop referencing Heartbreak had everyone at their new American home, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation records, jumping for joy.
If you can feel the confidence bouncing out of the girls in their shiny new form right now, you wouldn’t be wrong. “We’re having fun. We’re so excited to have Jade in the band and embracing the next chapter. This is us. And we want to be Sugababes as badly as ever.”