Girls Aloud: A Retrospective (Part 1)

Girls Aloud: A Retrospective. Part 1: Intro/The B Sides

Back when I finished up this post, I announced my plan to write a retrospective focusing on the tenure of Girls Aloud as Pop Champions. Now you might have read that and assumed that I was going to talk about the ups and downs of fame as experienced by Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Nicola and Kimberly. So here is the thing: I’d be lying if I said that the members of Girls Aloud don’t interest me at all. I am not cool. I freely admit to being fascinated by show business, however naff and low rent that may seem. But I don’t feel I have anything much to say about them as individuals or as a group. This passion piece is about one thing and one thing only: The Music.

Because that is why I love Girls Aloud. It is not about the public feuds, the misdeeds, the footballer husbands, the feisty attitude, the Ghost Hunting, the fashion…Although…

Frequently named one of the sexiest women in the world. Anything is possible.

As I discussed in the aforementioned post, Brian Higgins and his team at Xenomania are the source of some of the best pop music of the last decade and that is in no small part thanks to the fact that Girls Aloud were willing to take chances. Higgins talked about early encounters with the girls when he was working on tracks for their first album. When presented with second single ‘No Good Advice’ the girls complained: This isn’t our sound’ and he, brilliantly, pointed out that they didn’t have a sound as they couldn’t create music. Burn.

Let’s stare at him until he admits we have musical talent. Ready…Go!

There and then, Higgins issued an ultimatum: Either they accept that he knows what he is doing and they don’t or they find someone else to write some songs for them. After a time out, the girls were able to admit that Higgins and Co were bloody good and agreed to let him do his thing and that right there was the best decision of their career. To be successful as a reality TV act you have to be able to see beyond your own ego. You don’t need to be a musical genius, you just need to recognise when you are in the presence of one.

That’s not to say Girls Aloud are not part of the music. In fact, Higgins will have fisticuffs with anyone who tries to claim otherwise, saying: ‘It’s great artists that make the producer great…no matter how good a tune might be, if the girls couldn’t take charge of it and make us excited, we’d chuck it out.’

I usually enjoy their vocal work on the records and almost always love their stage performances. I think it is unfair to dismiss them as talentless. They may not be remarkable but there are flashes of real humour, understanding and skill in their work that can only be attributed to them. They all brought something to proceedings but for anyone just dying to know here is my personal ranking:

5. Sarah Harding

At Her Best Vocally When: She has some solid moments live where she demonstrates a surprisingly strong ability to hold long belting notes and nail a kind of scratchy throat sound in her lower range. On the records, that scratchy whine of hers often sold some great lines.

Not So Good When: For a singer she has appalling control over volume and her ability to hit notes/sing in key/be on pitch reliably is 50-50. Overall, the sound of her voice live doesn’t appeal to me as much as the others but I know a lot of people rate her so it comes down to personal taste.

On Stage: Her stage persona was a bit too desperate for me (Her constant assertion that she was a rock chick also wore me down) but it did seem to get fans all riled up, so fair play. Rather worryingly she really didn’t seem all there in the last tour, but I was always touched by her emotional display during the weepier songs.

In a Word: Needy

 

4. Cheryl Tweedy (Cole) (Fernandez Versini)

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At Her Best Vocally When: Hold the jokes. I genuinely think her head voice and mid range vocal has a lovely tone and a nice soft quality that while not exceptional is pleasant to the ears. In some of the songs where there was a bit of rage/sadness needed she brought a convincingly bittersweet quality to her delivery.

Not So Good When: Frustratingly limited, no strength or flexibility in her range. Some of her live performances, particularly as a solo artist, sound flat throughout.

On Stage: Easily the member of the band who connected with the fans best even before X Factor she remains a fairly charismatic live performer and I always enjoy her in high energy choreography routines. While her live vocals are more miss than hit I feel the group would be poorer without her as she always seems really into it in a way that is infectious.

In a Word: Zealous

 

3. Kimberly Walsh

At Her Best Vocally When: She is allowed to be sultry and smoky. The nicest thing about Kimberly’s voice is when she infuses a bit of ‘glam’ into her lower range. It has an easily identifiable tone and is very nice indeed. Her delivery is always clear and crisp thanks to being a Stage School Pro and she actually has a bigger range to her voice than she often got to sing with Girls Aloud.

Not So Good When: I don’t know if it is nerves or what, but her voice often goes quite shaky when she sings live and it makes it sound like she has a very limited vocal range which is not reflected in her theatrical successes (a long run in a West End musical would be tricky if you couldn’t sing at all)

On Stage: Kimberly is a solid dancer and clearly wants to be there, (I feel like I am writing a school report card now) While she is rarely the stand out for me on any one song she is a team player: The consummate professional who comes across quite chummy and affable for the most part, she puts her all in and has a quality pout.

In a Word: Fair

 

2. Nadine Coyle

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At Her Best Vocally When: Despite the fact I resent that she gets the lion share of the vocals, I do see how it ended up happening. Easily the Aloud with the best control over her voice and this is all the more impressive when you consider her range and ability rivals some of the big divas. She is often pointed as the only member of Girls Aloud with a good voice, something I would (and do) dispute but I have to admit she has a strength to her voice that colours the songs sometimes to the point that they would fall down without her. Some of her big belting notes have left me with goosebumps and she can riff like nobody’s business.

Not So Good When: Sometimes she overeggs the pudding a bit in her desire to push her voice in a way that sounds displeasing. Her innate ‘Irishness’ sometimes means the very clever lyrics get lost and I personally find her vocal on many of their records quite bland and uninventive. Sure, she can really belt, and I love it when she does, but she doesn’t make much of some of the verses that don’t ask her to bounce around vocally.

On Stage: I think she is the most guarded Alouder in terms of her personality which often makes it seem like she hasn’t got one, making it harder to connect with her on stage. Despite this, I much prefer her live voice to her recordings and she has given the world some truly inspired riffs, struts and poses. God bless you Nurh-Deen.

In a Word: Diva

 

1. Nicola Roberts

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At Her Best Vocally When: Timbre! I am partial to the soft, gentle and often fierce quality that infuses the vocal chords of the Ginger One. She is the only Aloud who is reliably funny in her delivery (Examples WILL follow) and for my part has the most pleasant sounding sweet quality on every song where she got a line. There weren’t many singles where she was given the opportunity to show off but she made up for it by really making the most out of her small moments. As the years went on, she demonstrated a fantastic range, can make her voice soar, and has a spine tingling ability to connect to the material, however nonsensical it was. She has two distinct ‘characters’ in her voice: Little Nicola who has an almost criminally tender quality and Miss Roberts who has the most phenomenal belt. Easily one of my favourite vocalists of all time and by far my favourite out and out pop star.

Not So Good When: She often overdoes vibrato and sometimes her top range can sound screechy. It is not to everyone’s taste. In the early days she sang too quietly and I suspect that cost her the right to take centre stage in the first couple of albums.

On Stage: Here’s the thing: Nicola freely admits she wasn’t a good performer at first. And man, she wasn’t. Although she moved beautifully (second to only Cheryl) and clearly loved to sing, there were times when she would look like she would rather be anywhere than in a big arena singing with her pop band and quite frankly her grumpy ass face just made me love her more. But from the Tangled Up tour onwards she started to get more confident and began to sneakily steal the shows with her ethereal beauty and a real shining star quality. I especially can’t get enough of her interpretations of certain moments in the songs she is just so…

Yes. I love Nicola Roberts. I loved the nervous, awkward, dour faced Nicola and I LOVED the angelic, graceful, beaming Nicola. I will never not love her.

In a Word: LOVE

Now I have covered that and had fun looking through Girls Aloud gifs, It is time to talk B Sides.

What is a B Side? Well, it used to be the additional and less important song on the reverse side of a phonograph record. In my day, it was generally the superfluous bonus tracks on CD single releases. Sometimes B Sides break through (‘Rock around the Clock’ possibly being the most famous example) but 9/10 they get ignored and as such are usually reserved for lower quality, unfinished material.

Brian Higgins has spoken about how important it was not to forgo quality in B Sides because what was going to emerge as a strong single was never clear in the early stages. In the ‘Collection’ album sleeve, Higgins explains:

‘We would not worry about specifically trying to write ‘hits’. We just wrote a load of stuff that covered all of the musical possibilities we wished to experiment with at that time with the band. On many occasions therefore, the B-sides were songs created within the main body of work – they were not afterthoughts, they were songs that at some stage were vying for a much greater prominence…

Girls Aloud has always been about blurring the edges between pop and indie, creating confusion and breaking down artistic boundaries. If Girls Aloud ever have a legacy, I believe it will be that they show how pop music offers unlimited possibilities for artistic expression.’

Expressions like these…

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With that said, let’s dive in. My Top 10 Girls Aloud B Sides:

 

 

10. Blow Your Cover (B Side of Call the Shots)

I don’t really know why but I always imagine this being performed by flapper girls:

This is what it is like in my head…

I just want to move constantly when it is on. It is so wonderfully goofy. The lyrics have some cringe factor, with chat about ‘Sexy señorita’ and the exaggerated ‘Say what?’ and then there is the bit where I was convinced they were saying ‘Chilli gives me the bends’ when the internet suggests it is ‘Chilling gives me the best’ Ok that makes even less sense. I nearly omitted it from the list because the lyrics are sooo stupid but…Hell that chorus just wins me over. You win, Higgins. Now back to flapper dancing…


WEEEE!

Compared to the A Side: Call the Shots is a really strong single that can’t be overshadowed by the B Side but ‘Blow Your Cover’ is still pretty fun.

Best Lyric: I am partial to ‘Don’t show that sucker your soul, he’ll get his hands on your gold, you won’t know how much he stole, until he’s gone’ Wise words indeed. Well…words, anyway.

Best Vocal: The vocal work is a hodgepodge of noise but Cheryl seemed to have the most fun with some of the odder phrasing as her voice stands out during the ‘Say What?’ moments.

 

 

9. Nobody But You (B Side of Biology)

I often felt like Girls Aloud struggled with classic girl band ballad type songs. Xenomania were always at their best with the floor filler stuff. But every now and then they were able to combine pulse pounding music with sweet sickly ballad tripe and create magic. ‘Nobody but You’ is something in between and that is possibly why it didn’t make it to the Chemistry album which has its quota of sad sounding love songs. It is a shame that it got demoted to B Side while their uninspired cover ‘See the Day’ not only made the album but was released as a single.

It is unhurried and steady, flirting with being a boring r n b love song, but then it is eerie, like the girls, who all sound great in their solo moments, have been slowed down: They sound like wind up toys being let go and running out of power. The song kind of spins out at a strange pace but still has a solid beat throughout. The lyrics are pleasantly ambiguous about the quality of the love with lines ‘I care about love boy, I care about you, but I couldn’t think of anything better I’d rather do’ and ‘You slide into my head, my so-called life gets kind of grey’ Is this a good thing? It doesn’t sound that great. If it is great why do they cry all night? Oh well. Pretend happy is better than nothing. (copyright: Tony Kushner. I don’t think he was talking about a Girls Aloud song though)

Compared to the A Side: It is a very, very different song so really I find it easier to compare it to the other slow songs on the album and I do think this one deserved to make the final collection more than ‘No Regrets’ or ‘See the Day’

Best Lyric: There are a lot of great moments but ‘ You are so damn divine…I’d like to peel back your love and climb inside’ rings truest to the icy sadness of obsession. Passion is not always on fire, you know.

Best Vocal: Nicola’s delivery of ‘The rain goes into hiding…when I see you in a crowd’ and ‘My eyes they sparkle…even when you’re not around’ because the lines are either very loving and hopeful or very sad and clingy depending how you want to hear it and only her voice can tell both narratives.

 

 

8. On a Round (B Side of No Good Advice)

The warning sirens blare, the drums kick in…And then the fun begins. This is the earliest B Side on the list and the only one that comes from their first album: Very early Aloud was a bit more hit and miss for me as they were working with multiple producers but this is just so childish I have to love it.

Despite this NOT being listed as a Xenomania track…I am dubious. It is quite hard to find who wrote it and I can’t help but believe Higgins was involved anyway. Hell, the lyrics seem to be Xenomania just boasting about how good they are at writing songs, talking about how to build a solid sound that gets people moving. And boy, will this get you moving. The chorus almost sound like a jump rope melody a kind of playground ‘na-na-na-na’ anthem. This is matched by the youthful, silly energy of the girls who still can’t believe their luck that they are getting to be popstars.

Compared to the A Side: The two songs go very well together and cement the fact that if Girls Aloud were going to follow the Reality TV route and get hustled out of the charts, they were not going to go quietly. It sounds a bit unfinished compared to ‘No Good Advice’ but I actually like the rough production, it always makes me think of them knocking this out in 1 take and then going for lunch. But ‘No Good Advice’ feels like the more legitimate single.

Best Lyric: ‘No need to change a thing, don’t touch it, keep it on a round’ I always imagine Higgins delivering this line to the girls after their protest that ‘No Good Advice’ wasn’t ‘them.’ He knew what he was doing…

Best Vocal: The vocal work is fairly indistinguishable here but I would say the most stand out moment is actually Cheryl’s confident delivery of the opening line: ‘Don’t let that beat sleep in the suburbs, keep it buried underground, if you know what’s good for you, keep it on a round’

 

 

7. Dog Without a Bone (B Side to Sexy! No, No No…)

This song was initially a single contender, around the time they needed a hit to go with their Singles Collection ‘The Sound of Girls Aloud’ and to me this demonstrates the high standards of Xenomania that this was eventually rejected in favour of something a bit more frenzied and urgent. Because…this is a tune. It has a fantastic shout along chorus, (I always picture stomping around the dance floor pointing at people in a needlessly aggressive way) a great growling riff and even pays homage to classic glam rock in its execution. Are you honestly telling me you can’t imagine David Bowie snarling this one out during his Jean Genie phase? Yeah I went there. And if you come at me I will just shout ‘You’re like a dog without a bo-o-ne’ while pointing in your face. That’s how I roll.

Compared to the A Side: ‘Sexy!…’ Is easily one of the most experimental songs they did, and in comparison ‘Dog Without a Bone’ seems quite safe. I still think it stands alone as a thumping track though.

Best Lyric: I think I have to go for the whole flipping the bird chorus: ‘Oh you’re like a dog without a bone, hanging round my heels every night, it’s like you got nowhere to go, babe are you for real, cos this ain’t right…You’re like a dog without a bone, hanging round my heels for just one bite, tonight I’m dancing on my own, baby cos it feels right.’

Best Vocal: I do enjoy Nicola’s indifferent delivery of the second bridge, but Nadine’s voice delivers just the right bark in the ‘five inch bullet’ sections. Pun very much happily intended.

 

 

6. I Don’t Really Hate You (B Side to See the Day)

This one took a while to register at first, but once I got into it I couldn’t get enough. Plus it is one of the rare occurrences where Nicola sings more than the others. Huzzah! And why not? Who else could deliver a kiss of death like ‘I don’t really hate you…Just don’t want to date you’ so flatly. Brutal.

‘Soz babes…’

It is basically one of the meanest yet most reasonable brush off songs I have ever heard. It goes in a few different directions and the melody, while kind of clumsy and undecided, fits well with the head space of the narrative voice. The first bit is them firmly letting the person know they are not interested (Don’t tell me I’m beautiful, I’m not available) and then they are getting angrier (put out your fire…you’re sticking to me like glue) and then they try and be nice (You’ll find your way, don’t wait around for me), back to mean (I’ve got a secret that I think you ought to know…the happy people are the ones who have a soul) before surrendering to their indifference in the chorus and then it goes into this really bittersweet, slightly patronising section where they wish the person all the best and reassuring them that they will find love someday…Admit it. You have either been rejected with this line or rejected someone else with it.

‘I Don’t Really Hate You’ is kind of beautiful, even though it is held together so awkwardly. Nonetheless, the lyrical content is great and the music does work even if it took me a while to accept it. After all, they don’t have all day to polish that distinctively disconnected style in every track. I just wish they had done it with this one. Because seriously…’I Don’t really hate you…Just don’t want to date you’ is such a painfully familiar sentiment.

Compared to the A Side: This is sooo much better. ‘See the Day’ is ok, but nothing special. It is a cover after all. I really would have liked to see so many other songs from ‘Chemistry’ be a lead single and ‘I Don’t Really Hate You’ certainly deserved to be heard too.

Best Lyric: As is clear, I am a big fan of a lot of these lyrics (Hence my sadness that the hasty production loses a lot of them) and Kimberly’s bridge: ‘I’ve got a secret that I think you ought to know…The happy people are the ones who have a soul’ stands out as being kind of mean in a ‘where the fuck did that come from?’ kind of way. But the winner has to be the chorus: ‘I Don’t really hate you…just don’t want to date you…There’s not much else to it…don’t wanna talk about it’ Ooft. I felt it.

Best Vocal: Nicola steal this one easily with her faux sweet: ‘To tell the truth you’re just too good for me…all I do all day is chase my dreams’

 

 

5. Androgynous Girls (B Side to Love Machine)

I fucking love this song. Yes. We are at the cursing with enthusiasm portion of the evening. It is just so cynical. 10 years before Lorde lamented how boring boasting rich people are, Xenomania were acknowledging what is fashionable is very often bland and unrelatable. It drips with disinterest and ‘so fucking what?’ about everything. The first verse makes an effort to be a-typical pop: ‘I told ya, Last Monday, your friends are ca-oool’ before descending into ‘I think, I feel, I said Oh no I want you honey’ like they are just shrugging their way through the clichés.

And then that chorus. They really sell the ‘isn’t life pointless? We may as well piss about’ (not actual lyric) feel of the whole thing and it is an earworm and a half. Even when Xenomania are half assing it, I can’t get it out of my head. Not to mention the riff behind the whole thing is groovy as all hell. Disagree? No worries guys. Shit will happen. What a beautiful life.

Compared to the A Side: They fit together nicely, musically speaking, but when standing side by side this song does start to look weak.

Best Lyric: ‘Pretty boys back in fashion with androgynous girls and pretty soon shit will happen…what a wonderful world’ Impassivity this naked is always alright by me. I would love to hear Steven Wright saying these lyrics.

Best Vocal: I actually enjoy everyone in this, it is hard to pick. I suppose Nadine does the best job with ‘I think I feel I said oh no I want you honey, but as I liked my lips you turned and said no worries’

Here is the demo version which sounds a little more raw, and a little bit better (ie I can hear more Nicola):

 

Now the next two songs are, aside from the chorus where she gets support from Nadine and Nicola respectively, Cheryl solos. They would also be where I would go to try and convince Cheryl naysayers that she is worth a bit of your time…

 

 

4. Crazy Fool (B Side to Whole Lotta History)

I love how the intro of this sounds like a retro video game before heading into this pretty dark place with a scorned Cheryl whose vocal just steams over with long held back bitterness. Unlike most Xenomania lyrics, this one is not hard to decipher. Her Ex is dating someone just like her and she finds it funny. In an angry way. Cheryl might not have the best range (has she even nailed down one octave? Not being horrible, genuinely interested) but I really like her voice on this one. The growl behind it, burns. It is a total smack down on whomever it is about but equally makes her seem quite petty. Everything about this just buzzes with dodgy energy and I love it.

This was actually recorded quite a bit before any of her marriage drama, which dominated so many headlines, but perhaps Brian saw which way the wind was blowing when he gave her this. Who knows? Either way, it is a tight little pop song which for me is up there with the best of angry disco. Let’s boogie our rage away!

Compared to the A Side: Whole Lotta History is one if their better sad ballads but I would take this over it any day. It would need to give the other girls more to do before it became a single though.

Best Lyric: The delivery is what sells this more than the individual lyrics but I get a kick out of the line: ‘Bet you didn’t even think I knew about that girl that you’ve been talking to…Now you do.’ It is all in the pause.

Best Vocal: It is practically a Cheryl solo and you know what? Good on her. She nails it.

 

 

3. Hoxton Heroes (B Side to Can’t Speak French)

In its own quiet way, this song was actually very controversial. Music press picked up on it after Xenomania writer Miranda Cooper talked about it in a Guardian interview saying that she and the girls had written a song ‘slagging off the whole indie scene’ That is putting it lightly. Girls Aloud (Consisting of Cheryl here, and Nicola helping in the chorus) have a lot of fun sticking two fingers up at the guitar toting pretty boys and their hangers on who feel confident that they can look down at manufactured pop when they couldn’t produce memorable music if their life depended on it.

Part of the controversy came from the fact that the girls seemed to be lampooning their most vocal fan base: Wry hipster types…

Who? Me? Nope.

But to me, that is part of the fun. Even the chorus is the adult equivalent of going ‘So’s your Mum!’ There is very little menace in it. It makes it all the funnier that it sincerely upset some people.

Personally I feel Girls Aloud earned the right to suggest that anyone and everyone ‘get a sound of your own’ when they single handedly saved Pop from disappearing up its own arse in the 2000’s. ‘Hoxton Heroes’ is a battle cry from a war that was won long ago: I will spend the rest of my life unironically loving Girls Aloud. Other people can listen to Coldplay wannabes that are going to be the ‘next big thing’ and sneer at my ‘taste’ but I will know they are just sad because they didn’t get into RADA. Better luck next year, Devon.

Compared to the A Side: The A Side is good…This is better. The low level production does let ‘Hoxton Heroes’ down a bit. Still, I wish more people could hear it. Pop should have a sense of humour.

Best Lyric: So many to choose from it hurts…’I don’t know your name…You’re just another band with a different game…You’re all the same…You said you played at Reading then you chart at 57′ Sure success can’t be measured in numbers but…This lyric just makes me think of all the fucking bands that have failed to entertain me on every conceivable level as they indulge in their terrible and always long (why so long?) efforts at music. This is totally fine by me as long as they are not smug about it. As long as their terrible band isn’t their whole identity. Because seriously…Get a job.

Best Vocal: Cheryl’s brilliantly snarly: ‘Walk round the place like you’re number one…So why don’t you write a tune that we can hum?’

 

 

2. She (B Side to The Promise)

At this point in proceedings, I just want to remind you how much of an afterthought B Sides usually are. But this is so complete. A neat, total and genuinely awesome song. Many years in, and they still weren’t running dry creatively. It is addictive, well sung, well paced and, like all the best Xenomania songs, fucking deranged.

I put this higher than I was initially expecting just because I find it so cool. The arrangement begins in quite a conventional way before that brilliant descent into earnest rock that putters out so soon after it arrives that it is hard not to want to hear it again right away. There are so many production touches from the guitar work throughout, to the slinky, sly delivery of the Bridge that leads into the shouty chorus (‘Hey! She’s got your number!’) to the inclusion of lines like ‘Midnight…cruising up to heaven in the neighbourhood…In skin tight…Balenciaga, damned if she’s looking good’ What? What the actual fuck? But they play it so straight. I just love it. Try not loving the chorus and that outro. Go on. Try. I dare you. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

Compared to the A Side: The A Side remains their most popular song, according to polls and such, and won them a long desired Brit Award but I would have loved to have seen ‘She’ released as an A Side. It would have been a bitching single.

Best Lyric: In part because I love Nicola but I do enjoy: I see her… working on the double playing who’ll be next, Tequilia…half a pint of trouble and we’re heading west’

Best Vocal: Everyone is on it in this one. Nicola is as charming as ever in the first verse and I love her ‘playing who’ll be next’ delivery, Kimberly talking about cruising (cruising!) Cheryl’s shouty bit of the chorus, Sarah was a good choice to sing about smoky eyes…But Nadine crushes the outro especially the yelpy ‘you’ leading into the commanding: ‘You in the middle, grab your coat, let’s go!’

 

 

1. Memory of You (B Side to The Loving Kind) 

This song was initially only released on the 7 inch vinyl record version of The Loving Kind. So I didn’t hear it right away. I could have missed it. If it wasn’t for the murmur. The murmur that this song was one of their best. When the fans got the chance to vote for the Disc 2 tracklisting of their second Greatest Hits album, Memory of You won by a landslide. Here is what some critics had to say about it:

‘Memory Of You’ (…) is a total corker.’

‘[“Memory Of You”]…it’s epic, angelic (read; godly), uplifting, inspiring, quite attention diverting (I swear on my deceased guinea pig I’m not able to concentrate on anything with this song blasting through my rusty speakerphone) and, not to mention (and probably the most important one of them all, too:), unbelievably good.’

‘Because, quite frankly, most B-sides are shitty remixes or boring instrumentals nowadays which will be forgotten about in approximately three seconds. But then there’s this one: simply astonishing, rather confusing (because what are those lyrics about, really? A holiday in Japan? The wonders of the universe?) and sounding like a massive hit record from the twenty-second century.’

‘It’s absolutely fantastic and it just gets better every time I listen to it.’

‘Memory Of You (originally called Japan) is, without a doubt, one of the best songs Girls Aloud have ever released and bloody deserves to be a single.’

‘…How does one define the concept of a “B-side” again? Because I thought the B-side was a passively listenable extra from an album session, often times not developed much further past its demo format and usually better off left slapped onto a bonus CD on a greatest hits compilation. Well, I’d like someone to explain to me how the b-side to Girls Aloud’s “The Loving Kind” fits that definition, because judging from what I’m hearing, “Memory of You” damn near eclipses its host single.’

‘Far more dance oriented than pop (think early’90’s club!), the song finds Kimberley and Nicola taking the lead in an edgy, frostbitten, electro-tinged haunter. With the aid of super serious, super slick vocal performances, the ladies delve into a territory far from the camp quality that has become the signature Aloud sound. Go darker, Aloud…This works brilliantly for you.’

‘Best Aloud B-side, ever.’

Yeah. Pretty much what they said. This song is a fucking masterpiece. I cry when it comes on. That’s all I have to say. This is beyond beautiful. I want it so badly. Even when I am listening to it. Listen to it. Let it take over your brain. And please, please, create an acoustic folk cover version of it and send it to me. Love, Cokieblume.

Compared to the A Side: Sorry Pet Shop Boys. This trounces the very good ‘Loving Kind’

Best Lyric: ‘Late at night I dream I’m falling into love again…25 electric angels are dancing in the rain’ Does it make sense? No. But I picture rain stroked window panes and the dead eyed lost girl pulling flakes of paint off the frame wondering where he is…It is one of the most evocative songs I have ever heard.

Favourite Vocal: As much as I love Nicola and her chat about sheep, Kimberly’s robotic delivery works well on this wistful track and the section that goes ‘When I lost you in Japan…’ is goosebumps inducing. And that chorus…

Much to the chagrin of die hard fans, they never did sing this one live. However I don’t mind too much. While it would have been nice for their final tour to include a few more fan favourites rather than a cover of ‘Call me Maybe’ (I wish I was kidding) I almost feel like a live version of this would never live up to the recording. Interestingly, Nicola did a solo version for the B Side of one of her solo singles. Much to my surprise I find I do prefer Kimberly singing it. Make of that what you will:

Honourable mentions that are also worth a listen if you enjoyed this: The Crazy Life, History, It’s Your Dynamite, Why do It? (That’s the song title. Not me questioning what I am doing with my spare time)

Next Time on my Girls Aloud Retrospective: We look at the best of the Album Tracks. I am excited.

So is Cheryl. See?

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(With thanks to http://xenomania.freehostia.com/artists/girlsaloud.html and http://girlsaloudgif.tumblr.com)

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6 Comments

Filed under Lists, Music

6 responses to “Girls Aloud: A Retrospective (Part 1)

  1. The top half of this is basically PERFECT. Namely Memory Of You, Hoxton Heroes, Crazy Fool and I Don’t Really Hate You. They’re head and shoulders the best GA b-sides ever committed to record and better than most bands A’s.. My next tier would be History, She and Loving Is Easy. Loving Is Easy is just so classy and beautifully sung – it’s gorgeous. And History I personally think is just really underrated – it’s one of the best uses of Cheryl on a ballad I’ve ever heard as far as maximising the effect her tone can have, and there are some beautifully subtle moments in the melody – particularly that whole “…and you’re cold heart’s no friend of miiiine” post-choruses. They’re fecking brilliant both vocally and from a songwriting standpoint.

    Good job!

  2. Ceru

    As someone not living in the UK, I was very late to the Girls Aloud party, finding the Ten CD in a New York City music store instead of ordering an import online was rewarding.
    It’s been a lot of fun discovering their music: the big hits, the other album tracks, the B-sides, even that demo of Love Machine with different lyrics… erm, well maybe not that one. It’s been like opening up a musical time capsule, and this list really helped.
    Yes, good job!

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