The Story of Pop: 2000 (Chapter 38)

Offering up another classic hit from the UK singles chart of two whole decades ago, and the tale behind it, this is The Story of Pop: 2000. This week: the sensational debut of the most successful female chart act of the 21st century…

If there’s one thing that sits clear on the mind of many avid chart watchers of 2000, it is the large glut of girl groups that were launched. Barely a week went by without one of the major record companies launching their latest attempt at grabbing the Spice Girls‘ reigning crown (who were themselves about to lose it anyway, as we’ll discuss later this series).

Some found to their peril – such as Simon Cowell’s Poundland attempt at the format with Girl Thing – that they were launching these projects to a market that could see right through the obvious and cynical targeting, and who had seen it all before when they had bought their copies of “Wannabe” four years ago.

But something was brewing a couple of years before this that, beyond all expectations, would see this week’s featured artist become the UK’s most successful all-female chart act of the century. Back in 1998, Ron Tom, who had had a hand in putting All Saints together, was managing two young teenager singers from Kingsbury in North West London.

Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena, then aged 13, had been friends since primary school, bonding over a mutual love of singing and R&B. After introducing Irish descending Siobhán Donaghy to the fold via super producer Cameron McVey, Sugababes were born.

Signed to London Records – then home of All Saints, but also Bananarama back in the 80s – work began on their debut album. An eclectic blend of styles and sound, from street set UK garage to clipped R&B, there was nothing about their first album – called “One Touch” – that could be replicated or sounding like a copy of someone else.

And that was nowhere more prevalent than on their debut single, “Overload”. Stylistically pitching itself between the tight harmonies of En Vogue and the frenetic break beats of The Chemical Brothers, it was a shuffly, cool and slightly dark song about teenage lust: “Train comes I don’t know it’s destination / It’s a one way ticket to a madman situation”.

In short, it was the sound of girl groups for the new millennium, breaking down the barn door for a lot of what followed. And perhaps most importantly, it sounded the most authentic a new girl group had sounded in a very long time. The public agreed, and the single sent Sugababes hurtling into the UK top 10 at #6, instantly becoming a radio staple and finding itself nominated for Best British Single at the BRIT Awards in 2001.

Even so, their true imperial phase where they started getting the number ones – and embarking on the first of several changes of line-up – was still two years away at this point. But ‘Overload’ perhaps remains one of the most important records we revisit from 2000. It’s one of the first songs that sounded truly like a lot of the 00s whilst remaining timeless. And that surely has to be one of the lasting legacies of Sugababes.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2000. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2000.

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