TV talent competitions are a very mixed affair. On the one hand, shows such as X Factor and its precursor Pop Idol have been midwife to some truly horrific music careers – Michelle McManus and Steve Brookstein anyone? Then, we have those whose flame burned so very brightly only to be abruptly extinguished by a lack of discernible direction, the most obvious examples being Gareth Gates, Hear’Say and, most recently, Alexandra Burke.
Yet, bucking the trend of reality TV oblivion are the likes of Will Young, One Direction, Olly Murs and the inimitable Girls Aloud. It’s difficult to fathom that, as the title of their latest greatest hits compilation reflects, the winners of 2002’s Popstars: The Rivals have now racked up an entire decade at the top of their game. The question lurking at the back of our minds is this: have Girls Aloud achieved enough to justify two ‘best of’ compilations in ten years?
In short, the answer is very much ‘yes’. Girls Aloud’s success lies in having stuck with a winning formula to carve out a distinctive, instantly recognisable sound for themselves, while never becoming tedious or predictable. DÃ©but single and 2002 Christmas number one, ‘Sound of the Underground’, immediately hit home with discerning pop music fans, many of whom felt that Atomic Kitten – who, back then, were at the height of their popularity – did not quite cut the mustard. Since then, only Sugababes have come close to rivalling the five-piece and, with Heidi, Amelle and Jade seemingly on semi-permant hiatus, Cheryl, Nicola, Sarah, Kimberley and Nadine can confidently lay claim to being part of the most successful UK girl group of the 21st century.
Ten is a veritable roll call of Girls Aloud classics, from the early rawness of ‘No Good Advice’ to the more dance-orientated vibe of ‘Untouchable’, as well as new song and lead single from the album, ‘Something New’. The thread which runs through the compilation and binds it together to form anything near a coherent entity is the irreplaceable and unique stylings of Ã¼ber-producers, Xenomania. Like a loyal dog that never leaves your side, Miranda Cooper and Brian Higgins have almost single-handedly crafted the Girls Aloud sound. It’s safe to say that without them, you would not be reading this review.
Among the tracks on the album are the obvious big hitters. These include the BRIT award-winning ‘The Promise’ and the perhaps lesser-known, yet wonderful tracks from Out of Control, ‘The Loving Kind’ and ‘Untouchable’, both of which we feel were woefully underrated as singles. We challenge you not to tap your feet and sing along to the irresistible ‘Biology’ and ‘Love Machine’, while the more grown-up sophistication of tracks such as ‘Call The Shots’ and ‘Sexy! No No No…’ will remind listeners that, despite the obvious ‘Girls Aloud’ flavour, the band’s back-catalogue is by no means repetitious.
The standard edition of the album does contain some notable omissions, such as ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Whole Lotta History'; on reflection, we would have probably sacrificed ‘I’ll Stand By You’ in favour of the latter, which, in our opinion, is a far superior ballad. Thankfully, however, both are featured on the album’s deluxe edition bonus disc, comprised of tracks voted for by Girls Aloud fans. ‘Long Hot Summer’ also failed to make the final cut.
Aside from ‘Something New’, there are three other brand-new tracks on Ten. Upcoming single ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’ is as schmaltzy as the title suggests, the lyric ‘You don’t love me ’cause I’m beautiful / I’m beautiful ’cause you love me’ dripping in the kind of self-indulgent emotion one might not expect from the band. Still, it’s a classy number. ‘On The Metro’ and ‘Every Now And Then’ are far more standard Girld Aloud fare. The quirky lyrical posturing and sharp instrumentation discerning listeners have come to expect from the group are evident on both of these new songs, and may leave you hankering for a whole new album of material.
Overall, Ten is an essential addition to anyone’s music collection. The album is a true testament to Girls Aloud’s prowess as a manufactured girlband, who have stood the test of time through a combination of clever marketing, wise adherence to a successful musical direction and the chemistry which binds the five individuals together as an act.
Go Get It: ‘Untouchable’ / ‘Sexy! No No No…’ / ‘Biology’
Forget It: ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’ / ‘I’ll Stand By You’