A few years back, pop tarts were elated when the three original members of the Sugababes announced they were reuniting under a new moniker to try and revert pop to its glory days of early noughties fierceness.
Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy, under the name MKS (makes sense) announced they would be returning to the music biz and releasing new material in July 2012. It was over a year later in September 2013 when they released their single Flatline, setting the internet on fire. Critics lost their shit over it and bloggers praised the band’s new sound. Sleek and modern, it screamed No. 1.
Commercial success, however, wasn’t so easily garnered and the song, well, flat lined. It limped to number 50, failing to chart. A second single and the as-promised album failed to surface, which left us in girl band limbo.
Will it ever be heard?
Let’s go back to the start for a second. Mutual and Keisha meet at primary school in London. As teens, a manager adds Siobhan to the mix and the Sugababes are born. Unfortunately, after a couple of hits, it all went a bit wrong.
Siobhan famously bolted from the group whilst they were on tour in Australia. A press release was sent out on her behalf, and without her consent, saying she had a kidney infection. She never went back.
Mutya left in 2005 and was replaced by Amelle Berrabah and in 2009, Keisha threw the towel in, with Jade Ewen taking her spot. If all of the girls had stayed, the band would have been seven members-strong at this point. Rumours of fights between the girls have always been banded about, some of which they themselves have confirmed. They blame their managers for the split however, claiming they pitted them against each other.
With all three original Babes out of the picture, the band became more about looks than music. In 2011, this incarnation announced they were over and done with, too.
Which brings us up to 2014. After a less-than-triumphant return, Mutya fueled rumours the band was about to split again, tweeting “Gym diet and letting go to any1 that dnt make me feel good…Time to move on.” Fans despaired but the girls’ each took to their Twitter accounts to assure them all was well and the band’s spokesman said: ‘The tweet is nothing to do with the band.” Their label says the album is still on its way. Siobhan recently gave a radio interview saying the album would be coming in 2017.
Whether the split rumours are true or MKS are just making us wait so they can make the grand entrance they deserve, we’re ready.
Produced by Dev Hynes, the man behind Solange Knowles’ debut EP and hits by Florence and the Machine and The Chemical Brothers, Flatline was the first time in over a decade fans were able to hear Buena, Buchanan and Donaghy’s voices together on the same record. And boy, was it worth the wait.
Just like their introduction to us the first time round, 2000’s Overload, it’s a slice of sassy, slick, all-round amazingness. Pop music can sometimes get a bad reputation as being cheesy or camp but these girls ain’t having any of that. Mixing 90s drum beats with 80s synths, it’s a hybrid of genres and sounds that at the time truly sounded like nothing else on the pop landscape.
The opening lyric, ‘don’t say it no, please wait ‘til we’re sober. Don’t play a sad song, put your guitar back down’ is goose bump-inducing and throws you off immediately. All the production of a club hit with gut-wrenching lyrics Amy Winehouse would be producing were she still around today.
Their voices blend beautifully as they approach the chorus. Mutya brings the husky soul, Keisha the riffs and Siobhan the belt. The eponymous Flatline of the title refers to the unfulfilled expectations of a relationship. ‘I can feel a flatline that ought to be a wave,’ the girls sing with the soul of an American 90s R&B group. And we’re talking En Vogue here, not Destiny’s Child. It all builds to an almighty crescendo as drummers and a male chorus join together with the girls’ soaring vocals to take us to church. Amen.
And don’t get us started on the video. Think Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford flitting off to Venice Beach for a girls’ holiday. Then add a marching band, vintage sports car and leather mini skirts, and you’re about there. All filmed on a camera with a filter Instagram would gag on, of course.
It was our favourite track of 2013 and we truly believe it will go down in music history as the little-pop-song-that-could, but didn’t. Charting at No. 50, it was a sad day when this pop gem failed to reach its real potential. We salute you, MKS.
Now PLEASE give us an album.