Yes pop fans, it’s true. Girls Aloud are no more. And as endings go it was a bit of a funny one, all things considered. Given that we all assumed they’d split up in 2009 it was in retrospect slightly tragic that they felt it necessary to come back for all of five minutes, release an under-performing Greatest Hits and fairly dodgy new single only to then end it all via Twitter. Still, at least we have that valedictory tour and “Ten” merchandise to remember them by, eh?
Being one of life’s givers, I’ve set up my very own “OH NO GIRLS ALOUD HAVE SPLIT WHAT AM I TO DO?” helpline (1-800 NO NO NO), and while it hasn’t so far been inundated with suicidal music lovers, any eventual callers will be treated to a recorded message calmly stating “Please transfer your allegiances to The Saturdays with immediate effect” followed by a particularly harsh dead tone.
Such is life and such is pop. Let us remember Girls Aloud for what they were, right up until “Untouchable” – namely, the greatest British girl group of all time, possibly with the exception of Bananarama (but possibly not). Against insurmountable odds they survived formation on the blunt tool (I’m looking at you, Geri Halliwell) that was “Popstars: The Rivals,” roared out of the gates with the absolutely bonkers “Sound of the Underground” and proceeded to form a relationship with writers/producers Xenomania that remains peerless in terms of pop symbiosis. They had, to put it simply, Chemistry. And for that matter, “Biology” is possibly the only single in existence to consist of three choruses, and each one of them a belter.
“Love Machine” was, of course, the turning point. Helped along by a contemporaneous Arctic Monkeys cover that only served to highlight the original’s brilliance, it gave the ‘loud the kind of reviews never usually handed out to pop bands. Even more unusually, they then managed to combine commercial popularity with critical respect – and all while Sarah was falling out of cabs, Nicola was fannying around with make up, Nadeeuyun was hanging out in LA, Cheryl was conquering prime-time and Kimberley… what was Kimberley doing?
“Call the Shots” added yet another stone cold classic to their repertoire, even if no-one could really work out what is was about. Then came “Can’t Speak French,” a record brave enough to feature an accordion solo, and after a bit “The Promise” – glorious, campy proof that a big song is always improved by big hair. And then – AND THEN – they followed it with the sublime “The Loving Kind;” the best, saddest and slightly creepy-but-in-a-good-way Girls Aloud song.
As is always the way though, a break was needed. The temptation to try different things, release solo albums, do a spot of acting, is a strong one. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of pop study, it’s that a break is rarely a good thing (so far only Rihanna seems to have cottoned on to this.)
Basically, pop groups of the future need to learn one simple lesson: be as fabulous as you can be for as long as you can, until you absolutely cannot stand each other, and then stop. That’s it. Just stop. You are the sum of your parts, and like an exploded Rubik’s Cube you can never be put back together in quite the same way. Your audience is fickle, and while you may have satisfied your need for self-expression in the meantime, when you come back most of us will be acting like a cat that’s been left on its own too long. We’ll come round eventually, but the trust is gone.
Had Girls Aloud officially split in 2009 we would, by 2013, just about have gotten over the fact that “Untouchable” only got to number 11 in the UK. Now we have to deal with the fact that their final single “Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me,” was a number 97 bomb. It’s such an unnecessary end to an otherwise exemplary chart career. Remember this, popstrels of tomorrow, remember. Don’t let this happen to YOU.