Friday, January 13, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #10 - Sound Of The Underground by Girls Aloud

Claire: The next time some gimlet eyed would be popstar (the term used very loosely in this case) like Cosima De Vito or Marty Worrall pitches into the newspaper whinging and complaining that a reality music TV show has ruined their career and now they can't have hits, they should be given a mardy slap across the chops, and told the cold, harsh truth - you CAN have massive hits from a reality TV show, but you just have to do better than rehashing cold R&B and old Cold Chisel songs. You have to be excellent - Oprah once said excellence was a deterrent to racism - well, in this case, majestic Pop is a deterrent to bland. And how do we know this? Girls Aloud told us so, loudly, proudly, and via the liberal use of Surf guitars.

For the totally unitiated: a recap. There once was a show on UKTV (the home of many great things) called Popstars The Rivals, which had a simple premise, one person (Pete "Now listen here kid" Waterman) would form a boyband and one other person (Louis "Sharon Sharon!" Walsh) would form a girl band. Simple enough, as the two bands fought it out for the position of 2002 Christmas number 1. You might think this show would produce two rather bland pieces of fluff (especially from the man who inflicted Ronan Keating on Nanas of the world) - but you'd be horribly wrong. Somehow, someway, it actually produced the best girl band of their time, a beacon at a time when Pop is seemingly stagnant. One True Voice (the boy band) were simply blasted out of the water by a combination of sass, wit (the girls campaign slogan "Buy Girls, Bye Boys!" surely should have won a posh advertising award) and sheer majestic pop brilliance. Out of a line up and an audition process, Kim, Nads, Sarah, Tweedy and Nic have fused together to create the pop act most ahead of it's time, a band that takes dynamic risks, and which continues to excite like little other music that's around today.

Sound Of The Underground, of course, started the story. Like it's pop classic precusor, Vacation by Vitamin C, it's built around the kind of surf guitar 60s bands attempted desperately to hit, but failed miserably. There's a purring cat sound in the mix, deep down. Like the best work of Madonna, it's a song about dancing, about music, the beat, the rhythm - and yes, we hope calling it Sound Of The Underground DID annoy some tedious indie whingers. For Brian Higgins (also responsible for entry #1, All I Wanna Do, so the guy knows his way around a guitar sample), and the Xenomania team, it was another wonderful little pop milestone, but it would still take a while for the bands hierarchy and lowerarchy to become fully established, so it's not a brilliant song due to any amazing vocal tricks or flicks, but somehow it still wouldn't sound right sung by anyone else. It's an amazing debut single, at least in the all time top 10, and it's shot right throughout with a kind of liberating JOY the best songs are riddled with. By the end, the Girls sound rather possessed and demented, and caught up in the moment. If you aren't dancing by the end, there's probably not a lot of hope for you...

You could probably split the atoms a little with Girls Aloud - is it the band who are brilliant, or do they simply get great songs? In truth, it's the package, a wonderful, confident band backed by fantastic songs - what rivals you might ponder? At this stage, they were merely brilliant, but with the next single, they were breathtaking...


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