Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2004 second album What Will The Neighbours Say? by British five-piece girl group Girls Aloud.
This 14 track album roars open with #2 UK hit single The Show. Its phat acidy synths are instantly familiar, and a style synonymous with the Girls Aloud name. Even with only two lines of vocals, it’s catchy, and the girls seductive ‘should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear acting like a lady‘ lyrics ensure that this lead single is as catchy and memorable as hell. There’s a wonderful break at about 2m 30s, where the dreamy background vocals take hold as the song re-builds for the final run. This is a great start.
The pace continues with Love Machine, which swaps the synths for bass and guitars. This is a guaranteed foot-tapping song. Again, we’re in the dangerously sexy and catchy song territory. The guitars have a great little catchy riff, and the beats feel live and raw. With slick production and great pace, this is unsurprisingly one of their biggest hits – but sadly missing out on a #1, settled for a #2 instead.
This is followed by third single, I’ll Stand By You – a cover of the 1994 hit by The Pretenders. This track feels very much like an X Factor contestant song, and doesn’t really stray anywhere in particular. It just kind of wafts along with some ‘nice’ vocals. This song may have been released to raise money for Children In Need in 2004, but that doesn’t stop it being as embarrassing as Atomic Kitten‘s butchering of The Bangles‘ 1989 hit Eternal Flame. Oddly, this song gave them the only UK #1 from this particular album.
Next up on the butcher’s slab, is the #2 hit Jump – oddly placed here as it was really a track from the previous album. The original version brought The Pointer Sisters huge success back in 1984. This time, Girls Aloud do at least give it a somewhat credible cover of it. The pace, the growling synths, and the vocals are all giving a more than capable nod to the original, and sadly it beat the original’s #6 UK peak, by hitting #2.
Wake Me Up follows this, and its rocky guitar riff intro ensures that you’ll be wide awake during this chorus intro. The song switches over to the verse, taking a more sedate route, and sounding musically not a million miles away from something from Garbage. However, vocally it’s undeniably Girls Aloud, and acted as the fourth and final song from the album.
We’re now into mid-tempo RnB territory now with Deadlines & Diets. There’s some really nice softer vocals here, and some warm acoustic guitars. There’s some wonderfully funky but chilled out guitar riffs here, that weave in amongst the soft beat.
This is followed by Big Brother, which is quite a nice gentle song. There’s some great dreamy soundscapes in this song which begs to be played loud. Vocal harmonies are a-wash here too, and it’s almost a kind of Emma Bunton and Kylie Minogue pastiche.
Hear Me Out follows with some wonderfully low bassy synths. This is a kind of electro ballad. Far softer and slightly out of style from the rest of the album, but a welcome change. This is a lovely little song, and a surprise to find on a Girls Aloud album. For a moment, I thought I could hear the synths playing 1999’s Never Be The Same Again by Melanie C, but perhaps it’s just my ears.
A little acoustic guitar riff instigates a more Girls Aloud style Graffiti My Soul. This little intro feels like something from one of Beck‘s songs, but thankfully they’ve not filleted something of his to make this. This is joined by some guitars over a big beat and bassline, which gives the song a nice pace, but it’s not really very catchy, and probably due for the reason that Britney Spears turned the track down – it lacks a chorus.
Tenth track Real Life follows, again opening with a pacey acoustic guitar, but taking a kind of Spanish style with it. This song is quite catchy.
Here We Go opens with what instantly reminded me as the guitar intro from Spandau Ballet‘s 1983 hit True. There’s plenty of 60’s bossa style and breathy vocals thrown in. Again, there’s echoes of Emma Bunton’s tracks on her 2004 Free Me album, although it picks up a rockier feeling after about a minute. Then, once the rockier chorus has passed, we’re back into a James Bond/Austin Powers sounding twangy guitars theme song, which is no surprise as it became the theme song for cartoon series Totally Spies.
Up next is Thank Me Daddy. The stabby synths are back again, subsiding quickly for the verse. This is a reasonably catchy song during the chorus, but it definitely belongs here on the album, and feels a bit like a poor cousin to a hit.
Penultimate track I Say A Prayer For You was written and is sung entirely by Nicola Roberts, giving her the rare opportunity to let a Girls Aloud member to sing outside of the safety net of harmonies. Her voice here is delicate, as she softly sings over the top of piano and strings, although the regular placement of ‘ooh’ feels a little shoehorned in on occasions. The song is just a nice little gentle song.
The album closes with another solo track – 100 Different Ways, which was co-written by Nadine Coyle, who takes the song solo. Again, we’ve got another ‘nice’ gentle song. This wouldn’t sound out of place on the Mutya Buena album. It’s a nice slow song that gives a nice warm ending to this album.
Over all, this album has two parts – throbbingly catchy pop hits, and warm little pseudo-ballads. The appearance of 5 singles as the first 5 tracks (Jump was a single from the first album) feels a bit silly, and might have made it a more interesting listen if those single contenders were woven throughout the album instead. As my first Girls Aloud album, I’m impressed. They might be manufactured, but in the hands of Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper and the rest of the Xenomania team, they are clearly capable.
Where are Girls Aloud now?
Girls Aloud proved that they were capable of maintaining their careers with this album, and embarked on a huge tour. Their success was recognised by brands including Samsung, Nintendo, Sunsilk and KitKat, who all called upon them to help promote their products.
After 11 years, Girls Aloud called it a day in 2013 after celebrating their decade in pop with a greatest hits tour and album Ten in 2012.
Cheryl Cole, Nicola Roberts and Nadine Coyle have all attempted solo careers, with the ever-present Cheryl practically glued to every celebrity interview show couch and tabloid newspaper ever since courtesy of her marriages and role as an X Factor judge. Kimberley Walsh has had minor acting roles, instead finding success as a presenter. Sarah Harding has appeared in numerous TV shows and films, has modelled for big name brands, and recorded music for soundtracks. She embarked on her solo debut music career in 2015.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART POSITION: #6, certified 2x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.00 from an eBay seller.