Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Random Top 10: The Non-Singles of Girls Aloud
It's no surprise that as a gay man obsessed with British pop music, Girls Aloud is one of my favorite musical acts around. Ever since I heard 'Sexy! No No No...' for the first time about two and a half years ago, I have been quite devoted to the Way of the Aloud. Over the years, I've met quite a few Girls Aloud fans online (a surprising number of them Americans) and the subject of their best songs always comes up before long. Most people agree on 'Biology,' but, beyond that, all bets are off. They have released so many singles, album cuts, B-sides, remixes and unreleased tracks that it's impossible for two "Best of Girls Aloud" lists to match. In fact, I know I've been asked to come up with a list on a couple of occasions and I'm sure that even my own lists didn't match each other. I wanted to create a definitive, once and for all list of their best songs but that seemed too, I don't know, ordinary. Let's try and make this a tad more interesting by focusing only on the non-singles. Any minor Girls Aloud fan knows that 'Biology,' 'Something Kinda Ooooh' and 'Call the Shots' are magnificent pieces of pop music, but where on earth do you start with the rest of their catalog? Well, here 10 good places to start exploring Girls Aloud beyond the hits.
10. Rolling Back the Rivers in Time
From Out of Control
The Girls and longtime collaborators Xenomania pushed their sound into a surreal electropop sound that neither of them had ever really explored before. 'Untouchable' was probably the masterpiece of this experiment, but 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time' is not far behind. It's hard to describe, but this song feels like a dream where you're not quite sure what's going on but everything about it feels so damn good that it must be alright. Not sure if that makes sense but, hey, it sounds good to me.
09. Miss You Bow Wow
From Out of Control
Replacing the surrealism of 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time' with a hard, pounding edge, 'Miss You Bow Wow' manages to turn repetitive, downright silly lyrics into a masterful, memorable song. Again, as with 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time,' I have no idea what it means, but it feels oh-so-right.
08. Wild Horses
Quite possibly, one of the strangest songs Girls Aloud has ever recorded. The intro is, more or less, a church hymn, slow and steady but not exactly straying into dire ballad territory. Then, 20 seconds in, the hymn is ditched and the Xenomania production kicks in full-force, producing one of the most jarring transitions I've ever heard. The rest of the song is great, and the chorus is catchy as hell, but that opening is the true reason why I love it so much.
07. Black Jacks
From Tangled Up
I don't know if anyone else does this, but I often associate songs to ideas and meanings that have absolutely nothing to do with the song itself. 'Black Jacks' is one of those songs, and for whatever reason, I associate it with some kind of end-of-the-world apocalypse. It's the line "It's hard having fun when you can't see the sun anymore" that really set that interpretation in stone for me. The rest of the song probably doesn't fit, but when you think about it in that context, the lyric is almost too beautiful.
06. Memory of You
B-side to The Loving Kind
A curious omission from the Out of Control album, 'Memory of You' fits in with the album's electropop sound and dream-like atmosphere. Even curiouser, the track was only featured on the vinyl edition of the single. It's like everyone at the record company purposely tried to keep us from hearing this song. But we showed them, those buggers, and the fans have been totally receptive to this killer track.
05. Hoxton Heroes
B-side to Can't Speak French
Girls Aloud isn't normally known for starting shit but on 'Hoxton Heroes' the queens of British pop decided to take the piss out of all the indie rock bands (and their fans) who, for years, had called their music garbage. Hey, indie fans, your music is garbage too, so fuck off. What I love about 'Hoxton Heroes' is that it's one of the few pop songs to wear that label like a badge.
04. You Freak Me Out
From Sound of the Underground [Bonus Track]
I'm not going to argue that 'You Freak Me Out' breaks any new ground in the realm of pop music, but it is excellent for what is: a bright, silly pop song about people who just don't get each other. And that chorus! Such fun.
03. Crazy Fool
B-side to Whole Lotta History
A lot of people cite the ambitious 'Memory of You' as Girls Aloud's best B-side, but I like to think of the simpler, yet stunning 'Crazy Fool' as my favorite. The chorus is stunning; I love how stylized and accented the lyrics are. Freaking beautiful.
02. Live in the Country
From Out of Control
A beautiful yet all-around wacky (check out those pigs and ducks at the very end!) song about the desire to give up the fast life for the simple country life. I love personal pop songs, and I feel like 'Live in the Country' is the perfect snapshot of Girls Aloud circa 2008: exhausted and ready for a break from it all. After this song, it's no surprise that they have been M.I.A. since with no word yet on a follow-up album.
From The Sound of Girls Aloud [Pink Cover Version]
After songs like 'Something Kinda Oooh' and 'Sexy! No No No...' with their relentless beat and unstoppable drive, a song like 'Singapore' is a sweet, simple relief from the group's "harder" edge. Achingly tender and melancholic, yet surprisingly upbeat, 'Singapore' reveals a softer side of the Girls without having to descend to depths of shallow ballad hell. And when you've been forced to listen to one 'I'll Stand By You' after another, this song looks better all the time. Bonus points for this fan-made video which has to be the greatest Girls Aloud video ever: