20 years of Mis-Teeq: Paying Homage to an iconic UK sound
24 Jan 2021
Scandalous, One Night Stand, All I Want; they were the trio that hailed from a small label and became one of the first female garage sounds in the UK charts, selling 12 million copies worldwide.
When a young Alesha Dixon and Sabrina Washington met in 1997, at a dance studio in Fulham, London, later joined by Su-Elise Nash and Zena McNally (who left in 2001), they formed Face2Face, formally known as Mis-Teeq.
While their career was indeed short (1999-2005) in comparison to other bands such as Girls Aloud, Spice Girls, and Little Mix, their roster of work and impact on music culturally is crucial while contemplating UK music history. They became household names with seven singles and two albums in the Top Ten UK, and having excelled charts in Europe, Australasia, Asia, and the USA… their career was Scandalous.
It is hard to believe that their first single ‘Why?’, (originally an R&B track) was released 20 years ago, as tweeted recently by former member, Sabrina. The single spent three weeks in the Top 20 charts, peaking at number 8. Which makes us question, Why? Mis-Teeq is often left out of the topic of the greatest UK girl-groups.
The odds were all stacked against the trio from the outset of their career, they were the underdogs, prevailing in a time where R&B music groups were towering the charts and the most marketable act for managers. Their competition included, S Club 7, NSYNC, Atomic Kitten, and The Spice Girls, just to name a few, “There were so many bands around at the time that had so much more money thrown into them,” said Alesha in a 2015 interview.
But this did not halt their ambitions as a collective and separately, as they went on to create three studio albums, ‘Lickin’ On Both Sides’ (2001), ‘Eye Candy’ (2003), and their final, self-titled album in 2004. Their music entailed everything from, love, dance, singing, rap… their talents were quickly exhibited in their legendary Top Of The Pops and Brits performances.
It is amazing to look back on such performances, and see how the current music industry has followed in the footsteps of women in the ’00s influenced greatly. From the coloured co-ordination, leather ankle and thigh-high boots, braided hair, they were beautiful, talented, and aiming for the stars. But this did not come without hardship.
In a recent interview, Washington describes the racism and colourism she experienced while being in Mis-Teeq, which is a reality many girl groups continue to face. Speaking to Channel 5’s, Claudia Liza, she said “I was told I was the darker-skinned girl and dark-skinned girls don’t sell magazines, so I never really got a cover.” Her experience rung true for many musicians and is an issue the music scene is yet to correct, with Little Mix’s, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, exploring racism she faced and, in the UK, in a new BBC3 documentary.
In hindsight, my experience of UK garage and possibly female rap was crafted by Alesha Dixon laying-out bar for bar why her man didn’t deserve anything or dancing uncontrollably to the garage remix of All I Want. I vaguely remember comparing her to the likes of Lil Kim, as someone who did not feminise her sound/voice in the name of record sales or to fit in with her counterpart’s sweet harmonisation, but it still worked.
It was the first time I was exposed to a UK female MC, which inevitably curated my love for MC’s and grime music. Whether the two are the same is a different question, but Dixon’s distinct persona and Mis-teeq’s ability to introduce a new-sound is elite.
Mis-Teeq were a trailblazer to many aspects that are still with us today, whether it was their signature siren echo at the start of their track or, Alesha’s iconic intro, “it’s M-I-S-T to the double-e Q”, you know the iconic trio, together or separately… we just hope The Spice Girls have inspired the group to have a reunion, for the good ol’ days.