From Mutya to Beyoncé: who is the best girl band member of all time?

To mark Sugababes’ return, it’s time to rank the 25 greatest female pop-group performers

25. Mollie King

Time has not necessarily been kind to late 00s quintet the Saturdays, a sort of Girls Not Quite Loud Enough. But every solid girl band needs a linchpin, someone with the infectious enthusiasm to sell even the ropiest of singles. Step forward Mollie King.

24. Lisa

Blackpink’s Lisa had her defining moment in this year’s hyper-glossy Kill This Love video, causing havoc in what looks like east London’s Cereal Killer Cafe like a perfectly styled anti-gentrification protester.

23. Heidi Range

Earning her girl band stripes the hard way – she was briefly in Atomic Kitten before, in 2001, Sugababes’ revolving-door recruitment policy let her in – Range was never the most dynamic pop star, favouring chunky highlights and Girl Next Door energy. But give her a middle eight and – briefly – there were few better.

22. Dawn Richard

Sugababes aside, Danity Kane are the messiest of modern-day girl bands, with album campaigns often hampered by lineup changes or, as with 2014’s DK3, physical fights. Amid all that drama sits Dawn Richard, who walks the thin line between “mercurial talent” and “loose cannon” perfectly.

21. Keisha Buchanan

Every girl band needs someone who embodies their unique raison d’etre and during Sugababes’ early career no one quite lived out the trio’s “don’t talk to me” attitude quite like Keisha. Also: can still ad-lib like her life depends on it.

20. Sarah Harding

It is December 2008, Girls Aloud are promoting their single The Loving Kind on GMTV and all is right in the world, when suddenly a sound like a goose passing a jagged boulder unspools from Sarah Harding’s mouth, instantly cementing her status with a bum note so magnificent musicologists are still unpacking it.

19. CL

The best thing about K-pop’s best girl band, 2NE1, CL managed to embody both the group’s hard-edged futuristic playfulness and their vulnerability. Plus, at a 2012 awards show, she performed with a live parrot sitting on her shoulder. A PARROT!

18. Normani

Fifth Harmony had all the chemistry of a Tory party conference, but it was clear almost immediately that one person stood out, with Normani offering up gymnast-level devotion to choreography and the noble girl band art of walking as if you’re the best person on the planet.

17. Nicole Scherzinger

Less a girl band and more a vehicle for Nicole Scherzinger’s impending solo career, the Pussycat Dolls nevertheless still needed to be led, and Scherzinger stepped up to the role with the manic gusto of someone who really, really wanted it.

16. T-Boz

A good girl band needs a good vocal blend, but it also helps if there is a voice that stands out, one that you can easily identify. TLC have that in T-Boz, whose husky, hungover-with-a-hint-of-honey croon works on both the sultry swing of Creep and the cracked vulnerability of Unpretty.

15. Siobhán Donaghy

Even without the heavily mythologised Sugababes’ breakup story (she didn’t climb out of a toilet window to escape), there was always something indescribably cool about Donaghy, all cut-glass vocals (debut Overload is basically a solo single) and porcelain beauty.

14. Melanie Blatt

For pairing combat trousers with a pregnancy bump on Saturday morning TV. For looking as if she could drink you under the table at the Met Bar any day of the week. For winning Celebrity Spectacle Wearer 2008. And, most importantly, for the celestial verses on Pure Shores.

13. Jesy Nelson

Even in the early days of Little Mix – well before the Jamaican-accent “Balegdah” meme and the harrowing documentary about online bullying – Jesy Nelson stood out, co-opting multiple roles as the band’s fearless spokeswoman, ardent defender against morons and low-register vocal pioneer.

12. Alesha Dixon

During her time as one third of “M with the I with the S-T double-E Q”, as she put it in garage classic All I Want, Alesha Dixon very much was the UK’s answer to Beyoncé, singing and rapping her way through a run of forward-thinking R&B bangers.

11. Jade Thirlwall

Modern pop’s best girl band member, Thirlwall has taken on politicians, homophobes and Piers Morgan, all while being the vocal glue that holds Little Mix together. Once farted in front of me.

10. Ronnie Spector

The Ronettes’ Be My Baby basically invented Amy Winehouse circa Back to Black, and in among all the back-combed hair high enough to house a small family of voles was Spector’s immaculate voice, a clarion call for every single emotion.

9. Cheryl Tweedy

Forget the intermittently entertaining solo career, Cheryl was a proper grade-A girl band member, pulling Girls Aloud up by the scruffs of their necks. The perfect mix of dancer, versatile pop vocalist and properly determined girl-next-door glow-up.

8. Shaznay Lewis

All Saints’ leader co-wrote two of the greatest girl band songs of all time in the shape of Never Ever and Pure Shores. Bonus points for making voluminous cargo trousers and braces (for the mouth) look cool in the 90s.

7. Nadine Coyle

Girls Aloud’s hit factory Xenomania would often get Nadine to demo their gonzo creations, her supple voice being the perfect template for how far they could push pop. She really came into her own during the band’s cruelly curtailed 2012 reunion, threatening to quit when dreary ballad Beautiful ’Cause You Love Me was mooted as the comeback single. Famously quite forgetful when it comes to her passport.

6. Diana Ross

Even at the height of the Supremes’ success, Diana Ross was being primed for solo stardom, with Motown boss Berry Gordy even changing their name to Diana Ross & the Supremes. In among all the fallout the top billing created, Ross remained dedicated to the craft of delivering exceptional pop R&B with a voice as pillow soft as a chinchilla in a cashmere sock.

5. Kelly Rowland

Sure Destiny’s Child had Beyoncé but Beyoncé needed Kelly Rowland to elevate them beyond a straightforward star vehicle. It is one of pop’s greatest supporting performances, with Rowland adding a genuine playfulness to the mix on Bootylicious, owning the harder-edged sound of Soldier, and remaining calm during that infamous clip in which she uttered the words “second lead vocalist” as Beyoncé’s eyes burned holes in her flesh.

4. Mel B

Sure you can bleat on all you like about the Gallaghers but Mel B was the UK’s best rock star of the 90s, pulling off being one of the most famous people on the planet on minimal sleep, inspiring a new generation with a litany of reckless soundbites while chewing up the scenery left, right and centre. Fuelled their recent reunion on pure passion alone.

3. Geri Halliwell

Yes she dresses like a home counties mum now, doling out platitudes to Theresa May, but to a whole generation Geri Halliwell represents girl band incarnate. Halliwell – who favoured hard work over raw talent – feverishly pushed the Girl Power ethos, barging her way into male-dominated spaces when no one wanted to listen. She also somehow got Nelson Mandela to say that meeting the group was the one of the greatest days of his life.

2. Mutya Buena

Mutya Buena is Sugababes. When they first started as teenagers she was everyone’s cooler older sister, the kind who could destroy you with a withering look while sneaking into school late and very hungover. As the lineups changed and their sound grew more commercial, she remained the group’s anchor, her lived-in voice adding grit to romcom-sized ballads Too Lost in You or Stronger, and a genuine sadness to the anti-bullying anthem Ugly. “She is undoubtedly the finest female singer this country has produced in years,” mused producer and songwriter Brian Higgins in 2004, a fact that remains true to this day.

1. Beyoncé

Destiny’s Child recalibrated what it meant to be a modern girl band, mixing bootcamp-level work ethic (and a similarly cut-throat attitude to personnel) with a discography full of empowering anthems (let’s ignore Nasty Girl). Beyoncé made short work of her role as the group’s all-consuming, once-in-a-lifetime central force, gleefully devouring The Writing’s on the Wall’s futuristic anthems, shadily delivering Survivor’s thinly veiled kiss-offs, and demanding someone say her name with a head-spinning mix of desperate longing and unhinged anger. Her apprenticeship turned into the gold-standard template for everyone else to follow.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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