1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 256

The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits, by Girls Aloud
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson (GP)

As a forty-seven-year-old man with metalhead leanings, I’ve upheld a healthy disdain for commercial music for most of my life. My tolerance for a tune was an inverse of its popularity in the wider world. If it charts, I hate it.

It’s not entirely my fault. I know it’s a cliché, but the charts were so much more engaging when I was a youngster. You’d get a wider range of diverse music, with oddball acts and fringe genres making an impact much more often that today. Maybe it’s a function of the streaming rules, or maybe it’s down to the Cowellification of music in general, or maybe it’s just because I’m old and grumpy and set in my ways, but everything feels so beige today. And to be clear, I’ve no real hatred for Simon Cowell and his Reality Pop. I did audition for X Factor myself, after all.

When people rail against manufactured music, their ire is generally reserved for Boy of Girl Bands. That’s understandable, as such bands seem the ultimate product of the Music Machine. They sing and dance, but they don’t write their own songs and they don’t play their own instruments and they’re employed on their looks in order to court a certain demographic. At least, that’s what their detractors say.

Early examples of such acts, like Take That and the Spice Girls, set the blueprint for countless acts to come. Girls Aloud were one of those acts, formed in 2002, live on air on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals. Over an eleven-year, five-album, twenty-three-single career, with four number one hits, Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Nicola and Kimberley delivered their saccharine dance-pop to a nation of excited fans. Such a career certainly deserves a Best Of compilation, especially when you consider twenty-one of those singles were Top Ten or better, and one of the remaining two was Top Eleven.

The Sound of Girls Aloud was released in 2006, with fourteen of the fifteen tracks cribbed from their exceptional Top Ten Singles run. That’s a great return, bringing much bang for your buck, but if you’re not a fan of this subset of chart music in general then it’s pretty meaningless. While it’s generally liberating to be unencumbered by a devotion to the Top 40, it’s times like this that can make you somewhat feel out of the loop.

Oh, I do know a few of the songs, of course. I’m not an animal. Sound of the Underground is my standout, and the one-two-three opening of this, Love Machine and Biology is about as explosive as it gets in this particular wheelhouse. The rest? Other folk will know and love each one, but I’m not that guy and these aren’t my songs. There’s a few nice cover versions, such as Jump and I Think We’re Alone Now, but there’s nothing I’d put on a playlist through choice.

Guilty pleasures are hard to quantify or explain to other people. We all have them. Me, I’m a little too partial to Robbie Williams for my liking, but that’s cool. If you like Girls Aloud, ironically or not, then I applaud you. At the time, they were lauded as the saviours of Pop by such luminaries as Bono, Duff McKagan and Neil Tennant. But to me, they sound just like all the rest: 5/10, nothing special.

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