When I witnessed the formation of Girls Aloud on Popstars: The Rivals 5 years ago I could not have imagined that they would go on to be one of the greatest pop groups of all time. I didn’t even care that much for Sounds Of The Underground, and when I heard the amazing No Good Advice I believed it would be their one-off great song, which of course was very incorrect, as I learned when the influence of Popjustice led me to buy their debut album. For the first few years we waited pessimistically for them to stop making the top 5 and get dumpered, or to have a massive fall-out and break up. Then they released their Greatest Hits and suddenly it wasn’t just the usual pop fans who recognised their brilliance: everyone did. The group were at last seen as the national treasure they are, and now they are releasing their first album since.
I know a lot of long-term fans are not so keen on the new dancier direction of the group, but for me this is no problem. I want to see the girls keep things fresh, and to hear Xenomania’s take on a slightly different genre than the electro-pop and pure pop they usually provide us with. Plus, I love dance music when it’s done well – September’s latest album is one of my absolute favourites this year, and every time she came on the radio when my English friend was here, he thought it was a new Girls Aloud song. The sound suits them, and it is only more prominent on this album, not actually taking over. Some of the best songs are the non-dancy ones, such as I Can’t Speak French and Call The Shots. But then there’s my instant fave, Girl Overboard, which is one of the group’s danciest tracks yet.
I enjoyed Sexy! No No No, but it hasn’t won a spot in my top 5 GA songs. Call The Shots, similarly, is not an absolute favourite for me, but it is probably their best ballad, if you can call it one. Their best song that is definitely not for parties anyway. I think I would enjoy it more if I could understand the chorus lyrics, though… Put your rays in the bed? What’s that supposed to mean? Overall this album has more of a set sound than their last two, I think, and so it is harder to pick out which tracks should be singles. I think Girl Overboard, Can’t Speak French or Control Of The Knife (I just love the male vocoder bits) would be my top choices, but will they be able to keep up the girls’ impressive record of success? Most fans will have them on the album, and what with the decline of CD singles there is even less reason for a single to sell when it has already been available on downloads for a while.