The Glenny Guide To… The Top 20 Girls Aloud Tracks of All Time
The best Girl Band of all time aka Girls Aloud aka Curls Allowed aka Cheryl Tweedy’s Side Project have finally (FINALLY) gotten off their arses and released their first new piece of music in over four years. By now, you’ve probably heard new single Something New which, if you haven’t, is probably the best pop release of the year that’s not Call Me Maybe or Wings by Little Mix (Maybe..) – Listen to it HERE.
SO. The question I hear you asking is ‘why exactly should I care?’ Well, let me tell you.. Girls Aloud are a funny proposition for serious music fans (excluding those based in the UK and some parts of Europe who have long since been assimilated Body Snatchers-style). They’re a band formed on a Idol-lite Talent Show and fronted by the aforementioned tabloid magnet Tweedycole, a moody ginger one and an incomprehensible Irish lass named Nuhdeen. Hardly a recipe for serious music success. But, here’s the thing – Girls Aloud, since their first single, have basically been operated as a front by an Enid Blyton-esque musical powerhouse production team called Xenomania (they also were responsible for Believe by Cher but don’t hold that against them..) This means that every single (except for those few awful charity cover versions), every album track, every b-side ever recorded is part of a satisfying, creatively exhilarating whole. Seriously, most LEGIT bands don’t produce albums that are this delightfully eccentric and thrilling to listen to.
Don’t believe us? Well, today’s your lucky day! In honour of Ten, the new Greatest Hits The Aloud are releasing to commemorate them lasting ten times longer than anyone ever expected them to – we’ve compiled what is officially (OFFICIALLY) The Perfect Girls Aloud Mix CD. Twenty tracks made up of all their best singles, albums tracks, b-sides and alternate versions that all fits on one brilliant, mind-blowing, musically flowing CD. Seriously, NO ONE is making music as layered and as thrilling as this – it’s pop music for people who just love MUSIC.
Anyway, Here. We. Go :-
01 – THE PROMISE
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – The first single off massive 5th (FIFTH) album Out Of Control.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Giving the Girls their biggest hit single since their first, The Promise proved that there was life in the old horse yet. A gloriously uplifting 60’s inspired retro pastiche, it has perfect harmonies, a catchy chorus and lovely vocals all wrapped up in one gorgeous little bow.
BEST BITS – The countdown at the start; The strings; Kimberely’s middle eight; “Giving up just looking into windows, yeah – had enough of wishing I found you. Had as much as I can take of falling, got a lot to learn about riding through..” is a GREAT line.
02 – BIOLOGY
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – 2005’s seminal pop-concept album Chemistry.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Good Lord, where to start? One of the most important pop songs of our time, Biology is just everything music was meant to be. A stomping blues piano riff, Nadine’s Aretha Franklin-esque vocals, an amazing obscure slavery reference (“I got one Alabama return..“) and dancefloor-ready beats all coalesce into one mighty musical behemoth that has no discernable structure or form, yet never feels less than transcendent. Plus, the music video has prom dresses, deceptively slutty dance moves and some really pretty butterflies. AMAZING.
BEST BIT – EVERYTHING. Oh, and that part in the video where they do the ‘Hand Clock’. THAT WAS AMAZING.
03 – SOMETHING KINDA OOOOH
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – On their first Greatest Hits – The Sound Of Girls Aloud
WHY IT’S AMAZING – The song that saved their career, basically. After third album Chemistry was critically revered (for real real) but only moderately successful, Polydor decreed Girls Aloud were to be wound down with a Greatest Hits anthology to see out their deal. Problem – perfunctory token original track and lead single Something Kinda Ooooh accidentally became one of their biggest hits and reinvigorated their careers in the minds of the record-buying public. Suddenly, Girls Aloud became cool. Oh, and the song was kind of amazing too (lets not talk about the abortion of a rush-released video though).
BEST BITS – The fact that ‘Ooooh’ is now official spelled with about seventeen (okay – four) ‘O’s. Kimberley’s “Oh Boy – I can’t tell you how sad I feel, if tonight is just another kink in your steel” is basically the sexiest thing a woman has ever done to me, ever. Plus, you know, THAT HAIR.
04 – CALL THE SHOTS
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – On electro-pop masterpiece Tangled Up.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Holy Jesus, we’d challenge anyone to try and find a reason why it’s NOT amazing! A perfect, shimmery, synthey slice of melancholic pop with a deceptively simple earworm of a chorus that you’ll not be able to lodge for the better part of the decade. Honestly? It’s as perfect a pop song as you’ll ever find. To think that this was almost not released (it was written pre-Greatest Hits but held back for being too downbeat) is just mind boggling.
BEST BIT – Sarah’s “..and I won’t cry because I’ve stumbled through this faaaaaaaar” is just heartbreakingly beautiful. Plus, her Lego hair she rocks in the video is immense.
05 – SEXY! NO, NO, NO…
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – See above r/e Tangled Up.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – All the best Girls Aloud tracks have a certain rollercoaster quality where they unexpectedly veer from one wildly inventive moment to the unexpected next. And Sexy! No, No, No is Xenomania at their Kitchen Sink Production best. The icy vocodered intro, the stomping chorus, the fact that the whole thing sounds like it was recorded inside some Pinball Machine in Hades – it’s just 27 types of amazingness thrown into a giant pop blender and set to spin.
BEST BIT – The bit where the stone cold intro explodes into the ear-shatteringly shouty chorus and the beat sounds like a boucey ball having an epileptic fit. Also – “did you ever think that loving would be nothing more than walking me home” is a GREAT line.
06 – UNTOUCHABLE (Album Edit)
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – The centerpiece of Out Of Control.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – First, let’s get one thing straight. The only acceptable version of Untouchable is the album version. It should go for 6:43 and not a second less. The Radio Edit wasn’t awful per se, it just sucked all the life and momentum out of what might be the single most beautiful song the Girls have ever recorded. A big dreamy Ibiza ballad (although, technically, the BPM means it’s quite danceable), it builds so slowly and elegantly but without ever dragging once. It’s basically the electro-pop ballad equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody – it’s THAT majestic.
BEST BIT – The middle eight is both amazing vocally and lyrically. It takes but all our strength not to cry – it’s just what pop music is all about.
“Whenever you’re gone, I stand at the door – and everything’s hurting like before
Without any meaning, we’re just skin and bones – like beautiful robots dancing alone.”
07 – SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Debut single off debut album Sound Of The Underground.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – The little song that started it all. The thing that often gets lost in the annuls of pop music history is that Girls Aloud weren’t actually MEANT to win Popstars : The Rivals. Everyone was expecting that boyband to win right up until they dropped their competing debut singles and the Girls unleashed this surf-guitar driven pop-strocity. Still as fresh sounding today as it was ten years ago, there is no denying that this is a corker of a tune.
BEST BIT – The second THOSE guitars kick in…
08 – HOXTON HEROES
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – B-Side of Can’t Speak French.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Because, in three short minutes, it cuts the balls off the English Indie Music scene better than any music critic ever could. A hilarious, stomping attack on the po-faced Indie crowd wannabe’s, it’s basically Girls Aloud at their snarling, incisive best. The fact that this was left off Tangled Up is something we still can’t understand even half a decade on..
BEST BIT – Drop a pin and you’ll land on a ridiculous brilliant line, but the way Cheryl delivers the “You’re off your face like you’re Number One – how many tracks have you sold, hmmmm? None .. So why don’t you write a tune that we can hum?” is a testament to how she’s one of the most underrated popstars on the planet, when harnessed correctly..
09 – MEMORY OF YOU
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – B-Side to 20th single and Pet Shop Boys collab The Loving Kind.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – The ultimate GA B-Side. This literally made news when it wasn’t included on last album Out Of Control. Honestly, given the fact that this was better than anything that made that release (bar Untouchable and, maybe, The Promise), you can’t help but feel it was held back intentionally to shift singles, given the fuss that was made over it. Don’t let any of this malarkey detract from that fact that this is one Grade A bona fide slab of futuristic electro-pop amazingness (even if they DID change the title from the original ‘Japan’ at the last minute). Basically a Kimberley solo number with a little Nicola thrown in for good measure, this really should have made the album. Heck, it could have easily been a single.
BEST BIT – The ethereal chorus and the way the vocal stretches out on the “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” hook. Shivers. DOWN THE SPINE.
10 – MODELS
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Chemistry; plus it was the theme song to their surprisingly brilliant six part reality series Off The Record.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – If Chemistry was a concept album about modern day celebrity culture in the UK (and it WAS), then this (as well as fucking brilliant Intro) was it’s opening statement. A thrilling indictment of the men who derive status from sleeping solely with Page 3 Bimbettes, it unfurls like some unholy combination of Duran Duran’s Girls On Film and Material Girl by Madonna herself. A delirious whirling dervish of guitars, chanting choruses and bonkers spoken word, it’s one of the most inventive and fun pop numbers of the past decade.
BEST BIT – As good as the spoken word bit is, the “You get your kicks like flies to shit buzzin’ round the Model Zoo” is most gloriously sardonic and bitter use of a swear word in a bubblegum pop song, ever.
11 – LOVE MACHINE
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – The title(ish) track to 2004’s breakthrough album What Will The Neighbours Say?
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Okay, well – clearly NOT for the title. Look, Moment Of Glenny Truth – this was the exact moment when I fell in love with The Aloud. It was my first day in London and I was literally just walking passed a television screen playing this and I basically just stopped in my tracks, transfixed by this cheesily hypnotic dancing popstrel that I would later learn to be Cheryl Tweedy (before she became a Cole and infinitely less fun). I couldn’t stop watching her. Say what you want about Cheryl but, when she’s not busy beating up Black People, she used to basically be the Most Charismatic Popstar On The Planet. Oh, and the song is gloriously fun too. I mean – it SHOULDN’T work, but it DOES.
BEST BIT – The fact that the chorus is only used twice in the whole song, which is just enough to grab you by the balls, but sparingly enough to keep you coming back again. And again. And AGAIN.
12 – BLACK JACKS
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Tangled Up.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Because there just aren’t enough jaunty northern soul stompers about domestic violence (‘Black Jacks’ are obscure northern slang for bruises, evidently) now, are there? Oh, and the tune is officially Very Good too. A cross between a girlband Amy Winehouse, sixties psychedelia and, well, Toni Basil’s Mickey, it stormed into the midsection of Tangled Up like a breath of fresh air in a sea of electro-pop amazingness (not a bad sea to be stranded in, TBH). It managed to sound like not a single other thing they’d recorded before yet still, definitively, it couldn’t be anything BUT Girls Aloud, which is what it’s all about, really.
BEST BIT – The demented cheerleading chanting after the first chorus (“NEW YORK NOTHING – COME AND GET STUCK IN“) is basically the most nonsensically thrilling moment on an album that sometimes seems like it’s whole point of existence is to be nonsensically thrilling. AMAZING.
13 – CAN’T SPEAK FRENCH
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – See above, r/e Tangled Up.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Featuring the sultriest jazz guitars this side of a 70’s Bond Theme and one of the best bananas ideas for a chorus since Gwen Stefani hollered back, a classic tune was born. So simple, so sexy and so unlike anything else that has been in the Top 40 then or since, it’s just brilliant.
BEST BIT – “I can’t speak French so I let the funky music do the talking, talking now” is basically the best line anyone has ever built a chorus around, ever. The fact they rerecorded it in hamfisted, ‘Allo ‘Allo accented French for the b-side was a stroke of cheesius, too.
14 – GRAFFITI MY SOUL
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – What Will The Neighbours Say?
WHY IT’S AMAZING – The original Girls Aloud ‘No Chorus No Structure Popstraveganza’, it’s a swirling, stuttering pop mess at it’s best. Originally commissioned for Britney Spears circa In The Zone after her team heard Sound Of The Underground and went “Ooooh – we’ll have one of those please”, it was sent back to Xenomania HQ with a big yellow sticky note saying “Where’s The Bloody Chorus?”. So, instead, it ended up on sophomore release ‘Neighbours instead, and the Girls’s offical place as mouthpiece for the production house was set in stone.
BEST BIT – “Spike Heels and Skintight Jeans – I got a fistful of love coming your way” and “On the table, onto the floor – it’s procreation and nothing more” are both fantastic pop lines, but “Come Baby Come – you know what I mean” is sung in such a knowing way it pretty much sounds like the dirtiest thing that’s ever been recorded in the history of pop, EVER.
15 – MISS YOU BOW WOW
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Propping up the back half of Out Of Control.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Less a song and more a Frankensteins Monster of 15 Brilliant But Completely Unrelated Parts (the winning formula for all the best Aloud tracks, you’ll notice..), this is Xenomania’s Pastiche style of pop at it’s finest. Every single part is exhilaratingly brilliant – the thumping guitar riff, the chanting verses, the soaring chorus, the poignant lyrics, the completely nonsense titular bridge and the fact that the last minute is nothing but the sound of the track’s instrumental basically deconstructing and collapsing in on itself for no good reason.
BEST BIT – Sarah’s money note on the chorus (I’ll RE-MEMBERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) is pure pop gold. When she gets a big note wrong (like THIS at the 3:39 mark), it can be cause to run for the hills (cappuccino in hand, obvs). But when she gets it right, it’s just AMAZING.
16 – DEADLINES AND DIETS
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – What Will The Neighbours Say.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – After the minor musical abomination that was their (admittedly, chart-topping) cover of I’ll Stand By You, the Girls redeemed themselves with this slowed down Dusty Springfield-esque ditty, a perfect regret-tinged ballad for mornings after everywhere. Downbeat but cheeky, it’s histrionic free harmonies helped keep it classy even when the lyrics veered dangerously adult.
BEST BIT – The lyrics, which manage to run the gamut of one night stands, hangovers, adultery and oral sex (and ENJOYING IT) over three short melodious minutes.
17 – WHOLE LOTTA HISTORY
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Chemistry (SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE? SEE?)
WHY IT’S AMAZING –You know how ballads are THE WORST, right? Especially Girl Band Ballads? Well, welcome to the absolute exception to the rule. The Rolls Royce of heartfelt ballads, it just does everything RIGHT. The understated but plaintive vocals, the beautifully honest and observant lyrics and the fact that it consists of no less than seven completely different parts yet never feels like anything less than a completely satisfying emotional whole. The video below is the original, superior album recording.
N.B.If you want to listen to the single mix and watch the (rather beige) video, you can find it HERE. Not amazingly different, but just has a few background bells and whistles that detract from how simple and unadorned the original is.
BEST BIT – Of all the brilliant vocals she’s done with The Aloud over the years, the way that Nadine delivers the “So finally I just decided to go, I know I’ve had enough – SO TELL ME THAT YOU’RE NOT ALONE.” is both a masterclass on how to break the listeners heart and, all these years on, still one of the most thrilling moments in modern pop music history.
18 – WILD HORSES
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Chemistry.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Because it’s f*cking bonkers. Starting with a ominous choral arrangement, it suddenly descends into a completely demented tornado of electro pop rock and never looks back. Sounding like Biology being thrown into a giant Disco Blender, it features one of the hookiest choruses they’ve ever done and the absolute best bananas lyrics of all time – “Get out of town and take your lazy dog with you“.
BEST BIT – The fact that the follow the bit in the chorus about “your train is running late and overdue” by making literal “WOO WOO” Train Noises. TRAIN NOISES! AMAZING.
19 – SWINGING LONDON TOWN
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – Chemistry.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – Because it’s one of the dirtiest, darkest pop songs ever recorded by a commercial pop act. A riotous takedown of UK modern celebrity culture (think of it as a darker cousin to album opener Models), it spins at rollercoaster pace tales of It Girls, Party Boys, coked up Models and Wannabes riding along on a deliriously sinister Giorgio Moroder style riff.
BEST BIT – The dead eyed glee that the Girls spit out lines like “we’re on a downward slide to Rehab – and all of it’s for FREE” is just perfect.
20 – NO GOOD ADVICE (Uncensored Version)
WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT – The censored single version is on debut Sound Of The Underground, the far superior uncensored version (they say ‘shit’ in the bridge. It is, of course, AMAZING) is on the bonus disc of Greatest Hits The Sound Of Girls Aloud.
WHY IT’S AMAZING – And we’re back to where it all began. Sure, Sound Of The Underground may have been their real debut but it was this, the follow up single, that really showed signs that there was life beyond their Reality TV origins. Sounding like the hormonal cousin of The Knack’s My Sharona, it’s spiky pop at it’s best. And, with better guitars than most real rocks bands have ever had, the Girls spit out a defiant, rebellious anthem for a wasted generation.
BEST BIT – The spoken word coda has more attitude than a whole country of scorned teenage girls and the ‘Frankly I don’t even care..” is one of the ultimate kiss offs in pop history.
So, there you have it – the Ultimate Guide to one of the Ultimate Pop Acts of the last couple of decades. Discover anything new? Disagree with the selections? Want to know what I was smoking when I wrote this? Let me know below!
(The answer to the last question is obviously NO. Smoking is for weiners. Obvs..)
N.B. – We’d also like to point out that we actually wrote this about a month ago (including cementing the tracklisting) but got a little sidetracked finishing the final few blurbs. The fact that we ended up nailing 7/10 of the fan chosen tracks for the second disc was a complete shocker, both because a public vote went so completely and utterly RIGHT and the fact that they didn’t choose something naff like Control Of The Knife or Rolling Back The Rivers In Time (although, to be honest, we secretly love the latter). Kadoos General Public. Seriously, KADOOS.