Almost exactly six years ago to the day, Santa Claus (or a disgruntled ex-member) proclaimed to the pop world: “Merry MKSmas.”
Seven demos surfaced at that time, joining a handful of other leaks alongside their 2013 comeback “Flatline,” making up at least an album’s worth of material that proved exactly why they are one of the best girl groups of all time. (It was great news for us, anyway. Maybe not so much for them.)
The leaks highlight the myriad reasons that the Sugababes succeeded for so many years since “Overload” in all (well, most) of their incarnations: those impeccable heaven-sent melodies, the well above-average songwriting, their effortless genre-hopping ability, that deep-rooted emotion generated by a troupe that really did sound destined to sing together. It’s magic.
There are certain tracks — from the surprisingly rock-edged “Summer of ’99,” which feels like a nostalgic sequel to “About You Now,” to instant fan favorite “Drum,” a dizzying dance jam that sounds like something M.I.A. or Diplo might have cooked up with the girls — that are almost maddening: this sounds like the future of adult girl group pop, and these three were (are?) certainly the ones to blaze that trail.
They’re all top-notch tracks in various levels of finish: the MNEK-produced, drum and bass-infused “Today” deserves far more than “leaked demo” status (“feelings of yesterday, I can see them floating away…“), as does the tripping brilliance of resilience anthem “I’m Alright” and the ’80s retro-electro nod of “Love In Stereo.”
And, of course, the Dev Hynes-produced “Flatline” remains the Best Song of 2013 — and still perfect today.
Of course, we know that the Sugababes wouldn’t release a song from the project beyond “Flatline,” and the record they were working on – unofficially dubbed The Sacred Three by the fans – never saw the light of day.
Just when things seemed specially over(load) for the ‘Babes, and it felt as though we could see feelings of yesterday floating away, the impossible happened: they returned in 2019 and brought us “Flowers” with DJ Spoony, then re-released their critically acclaimed debut One Touch in celebration of its 20th anniversary, and hit the road on the festival circuit and with their own tour in 2022, with an Australian leg of the tour and a “One Night Only” show at the O2 set to follow in 2023.
As of this weekend, nearly a full decade after their 2013 return, Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan are making good on years of promises and doing us all a true Christmas miracle, dusting off those demos and giving them an official polish with the release of The Lost Tapes.
The collection’s already out in New Zealand, and it’s got a release date of December 24 on Spotify. It’s showing up on Apple Music there, too. And you can listen to snippets and see the songwriting credits right here.
The collection includes a majority of the leaked tracks, including standouts like “Boys,” “Today,” “Summer of ’99,” “Victory” and “I’m Alright,” as well as “Love Me Hard,” another song they were promoting all the way back in 2013, which eventually surfaced in studio form by 2018, produced by Biff Stannard and Ash Howes, the legendary Biffco team behind the Spice Girls. There’s also “Metal Heart,” which arrived sometime around 2018 as well.
After the trademark legal battles, the steady stream of leaks, the frequently stalled comeback plans, to say this is a Suga stan victory (REFERENCE) is an understatement. There were rumblings that “Today” might get an official release, seeing as they did it on tour this year. But an entire 13-track album? Overload, in the best way possible.
Merry MKSmas once again, everyone. I’m (not) alright.
UPDATE: Just one week later, right in time for the New Year (REFERENCE), the ‘Babes decided to double up the surprise blessings with the Deluxe Edition of the record, featuring three more songs: “Back to Life,” a cover of Sia‘s devastating ballad “Breathe Me,” and “Only You.”