Four years ago, the ITV show Popstars: The Rivals plucked five ordinary girls from obscurity and turned them into pop stars. The omens weren’t good. The format isn’t well known for producing long-lasting artistes – does anyone remember the likes of Malachi or Sinead Quinn from BBC’s Fame Academy or Pop Idol‘s Zoe Birkett for example? And it didn’t look good when One True Voice, the other band formed by the programme, split up after two singles. Yet Girls Aloud were an exception that proved the rule, swiftly becoming Britain’s most successful girl group since the Spice Girls and notching up an unprecedented 12 consecutive hit singles.
So what’s made them so successful? While there are still some people who sneer at Girls Aloud, they’re one of the few manufactured pop acts to appeal to both children and adults. Fawning reviews are as likely to be found in the pages of The Guardian as they were in Smash Hits (RIP), and they recently packed out the tent at this year’s V Festival.
Although all five are undoubtedly easy on the eye, just being pretty isn’t enough to sustain a career. The answer, as this compilation proves, is in the songs – 15 glorious examples of how to create joyful, hook-filled pop music that will sound timeless for many years to come.
Every original song here (we’ll get onto the cover versions later…) is positively overflowing with freshness, originality and wit. Each song is ridiculously catchy and packed with elements that you just won’t hear anywhere else – Biology, possibly the most audacious pop song of recent years, melds about 3 different styles together and waits a full two minutes before kicking into the chorus.
The opening surf guitar twang of Sound Of The Underground still grabs the attention as much as it did on its original release, while The Show mixes life-affirming electro-pop with some truly daft lyrics (“should have hung around in the kitchen in my underwear”) to superb effect. And Love Machine still sounds absolutely terrific, nicking the guitar riff to Rusholme Ruffians by The Smiths and creating one of the most memorable pop songs you’ll ever hear. Why, even Arctic Monkeys have covered it, proof if any were needed of Girls Aloud’s universal appeal.
The ballads are less successful, although Life Got Cold still deserves kudos for referencing Wonderwall by Oasis, and Whole Lotta History is nicely poignant. Where they fall down is on the terrible I’ll Stand By You, which only saw the girls’ vocals unfavourably compared to Chrissie Hynde, and See The Day which fails to add much to the DC Lee original.
Even those two aren’t as bad as the other cover versions though. Jump (For Your Love) is absolutely horrible, a ‘will this do’ rendition of the Pointer Sisters disco classic while the new addition of I Think We’re Alone Now actually does the impossible by making Tiffany‘s version sound good. Girls, if there’s a lesson that should be taken from this album, it’s stick to the material that resident songwriters/producers Xenomania write.
Those mis-steps can’t prevent this album from being a classic example of how to produce classic cheesy pop. The harder-edge dance sound of Something Kinda Oooh suits them, while Long Hot Summer is brilliantly barmy, with its lyrics about transvestite boyfriends running down the Old Kent Road.
In fact, if nothing else, The Sound Of Girls Aloud shows that they’ve quickly become the greatest singles act since Blondie in their heyday. This is pure pop at its very best and should be a compulsory purchase for anyone even remotely interested in pop music.