[3] Girls Aloud, ‘The Promise’

Girls Aloud

I can play this with the utmost confidence, because Junior’s now done what I would have expected far earlier – she’s fallen in love with Girls Aloud. Let’s face facts: we all have. The most surprising thing is they haven’t run out of steam; ‘The Promise’ is the curtain-up to their fifth (that’s fifth) album, and while the long-players are patchy as ever, the quality of single just isn’t dipping. ‘The Promise’ faced brickbats to begin with, sourpusses claiming it was the first step towards Westlife safe-playing or a pale Duffy/Winehouse identikit girl-group-throwback, but it soon revealed itself to be as complex as any ‘Biology’ you could mention. Only the brashness has been sacrificed, the brazen ambition is still there. Listen to it – no verse is the same (there are three, with entirely different melodies), no bridge is the same, and still they throw in a middle eight. If this is pop in the 21st century, I’m on board.

Junior knows all the words, and shimmies her shoulders just like her mum. She’s probably got an opinion about Kimberley’s hips too. I reckon Junior even knows what “walking Primrose” means and understands what the “promise” is and who it’s pledged to. It’s multi-layered, you see; once you’ve sussed out what the music’s doing, you still have to decipher the lyric. The ‘Aloud are two steps ahead of the pack.

But how much longer have we got them for? Rumours that Nadine’s on the way out won’t abate – and she continues to blow the others off stage with sheer lungpower – while Cheryl suddenly looks too big for a band. If they gotta go, go now. It’s been golden.

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[14] Girls Aloud, ‘Sexy! No No No…’

Girls Aloud, ‘Sexy! No No No…’

Junior jangled her keys to this one. I say “her keys”: she’d nabbed Nanny’s spare set from the dining room table and was refusing to give them back, a proper feisty Girl Aloud with no intention of relinquishing a winning position against all odds. They’re a phenomenon, this lot, showing staying power only rivalled by the execrable likes of Westlife and their peculiar hold on a lobotomised fanbase. That Girls Aloud have managed it while reeling out one inspired pop hit after another is something to be applauded, and cherished.

There are signs, however – sadly – that they’re slipping. The album Tangled Up is bland by their freewheeling standards, while ‘Sexy! No No No…’ is good but it’s no ‘Biology’ nor ‘Long Hot Summer’. It’s here by dint of its surprisingly forthright power, demanding inclusion simply because the consequences of omitting it are too chilling to imagine. It’s one big tease, lyrically and melodically, as the girls discover the potential of remaining demure and the writers experiment with the dispensation of a recognisable chorus. Bravo. I think.