Album: Girls Aloud – “Ten” (2012)

Has it really been ten years? Ten years ago I was halfway through uni, listening to so much music, or at least buying it after discovering tremendous music store Fopp (all but gone, these days). Girls Aloud were an early flash of promise in the still fledgling reality TV music world. Hear’say had already been and gone, but Pop Idol winner Will Young had generated sales thought impossible, “Candle in the wind” aside.

Girls Aloud TenCrucially, up to this point reality TV winners singles hadn’t been reduced to middle-of-the-road slurry cover versions we are so used to now from the X-Factor. Against this backdrop, the second series of Popstars wasn’t to be decided by a public vote to the extent it is now, the public vote generated a boyband and a girlband, who both released singles targeting the then-prestigious Christmas No.1.

The girlband were Girls Aloud, and their debut “Sound of the underground” scored a defiant victory over the boyband One True Voice, and started the biggest winning streak the UK had seen since the Spice Girls. By early 2009 they had chalked up twenty consecutive top 10 hits in the UK, along with a belated first #1 studio album and a Brit Award to boot. Talk about going out on a high (we won’t mention their 21st single peaking at #11), the girls went on an indefinite hiatus and pursued various solo exploits.

Girls AloudYou could’ve been forgiven for thinking they’d never come back, despite the lack of any real reason for their mothballing. But they returned with a second Greatest Hits collection and four new tracks. If I’m honest I didn’t really need another Greatest Hits collection just yet, perhaps as it would almost certainly feel like the end. But for now they are playing the 10th anniversary angle, so who knows.

“Ten” groups up the four new songs with 14 of their hit singles, including all 6 singles released since their previous hits collection, notably streak-breaking “Untouchable”. No real bloopers in the track selection, though I did rather like “Long hot summer”, and two tracks (“Wake me up” and “Whole lotta history”) made it to the 2CD deluxe edition after a fan vote, along with a sprinkle of B-Sides, rarities and albums tracks. But what are the new tracks like?

10 Something New – Well I’ve talked about this one before, it’s a raucous shoutathon of a 90s throwback, with the full might of Xenomania behind them. As we’ve come to expect from Girls Aloud tracks, there are about three choruses, and it ends in a complete maelstrom of hi-octane dancepop, the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the last hits collection was launched with the ridiculous but spectacular “Something Kinda Ooooh”. Shame it seems like it was just a fanbase hit, but it’s certainly a welcome and modern entry to the GA canon.

10 On the Metro – God do I love this even more than “Something new”? Shamelessly ripping off the production from The Saturdays’ “All fired up” chorus, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Traditionally GA toe-curling rhymes (“his moves were so ridiculous, but he looked so meticulous”), but an endearingly hopeless picture is painted of the girls meeting some nerdy girl, getting on great but then he just disappeared, leaving them a sobbing (presumably drunken) mess on the tram home. It’s just a hot pop-dance track, and definitely NOT the girls phoning in some tracks to pad out a contract-fulfilling hits disc.

07 Beautiful cause you love me – Oh well it’s not all party anthems, we are subjected to a ballad now, just in time for Christmas (it’s doomed, I tell you!). It opens with one of the worst lyrics I’ve heard in a long while (“Standing over the basin I’ve been watching my face-in”), and is a strained love song about true unconditional unsuperficial love, it’s empowering dontcha know? I could really have done without a normal ballad from them, they’ve managed quite fine without them for the last 7 years, why start now? I’ve heard worse, it’s quite sweet, but I could’ve happily done without this.

08 Every now and then – Forget that, back to the dancepop, and happily Xenomania return for one last dance… but it’s not quite the masterpiece I’ve come to expect. It’s a disaffected song about a long-dissolved relationship, with pretty straightforwardly empowered lyrics about being better off without it. Nothing world-shaking, didn’t The Saturdays want this one? It does the job, but doesn’t light up my world in the same way the other two uptempos did. Oh God, they aren’t singing about the band are they?!? *weeps*

Keepers for the iPod: Something New, On the metro, Every now and then.

Well it’s a solid package from the girls, and the new tracks didn’t confirm that the girls were better off apart. If anything, “Something New” and “On the metro” make the prospect of more Girls Aloud all the more tantalising. I mean I doubt it would be a total disaster (maybe don’t release it in the middle of Christmas though), but it can’t be that bad. Especially if this is anything to go by.

Far be it from me to curse the solo careers of the girls, God knows I barely need to in the majority of cases, but I hope they enjoy this time enough to want to go through it all again.

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