The Independent


The Indy archive: Robert Webb on the No 1 Sugababes hit ‘Freak Like Me’ that brought mashup into the mainstream


Sugababes (2002 line-up: Heidi Range, Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena) first heard “Freak Like Me” as preteens in 1995, when it was a low-30s UK hit for the R&B singer Adina Howard. Howard’s version is itself barely original: Sly Stone samples nestle in the mix and the melody rests heavily on a mid-paced

funk cut from 1976 called “I’d Rather Be with You”, by Bootsy Collins and George Clinton.

The single had a fan in Richard X, though. In 2001 the producer made his name with a series of white-label bootlegs, released under the name Girls on Top. One, dubbed “We Don’t Give a Damn about Our Friends”, adeptly grafted Howard’s a capella vocals on to an “interpolat­ion”, as he put it, of Gary Numan’s 1979 debut, “Are Friends’ Electric?”. It became a club anthem and commercial release beckoned.

A slightly bemused Numan was happy to grant permission. Howard, however, declined. Richard X needed someone to recut the vocals. Sugababes, newly signed to Island Records, weren’t too familiar with Bootsy Collins, and even less Numan. “I didn’t have a clue who Gary Numan was,” said Buchanan. No matter: they loved Richard X’s mash-up. “We tried it out and everyone was like, that’s the first single!” said Buena. Island pressed up a limited “Are Freaks Electric” on vinyl, credited to Sugababes vs Girls on Top, before remixing it for the charts. The rougher edges of Richard X’s original were sensibly left untouched.

In spring 2002 it made No 1, reviving the trio’s flagging career and becoming one of the decade’s defining records, bringing the mashup into the mainstream.

 ?? (JM Enternatio­nal) ?? From left: Heidi Range, Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena at the Brits in 2002
(JM Enternatio­nal) From left: Heidi Range, Keisha Buchanan and Mutya Buena at the Brits in 2002

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