In tribute to Girls Aloud calling it quits last week, I have decided to delve back into my zine writing (as I did here as well) and post an edited down piece I wrote on Girls Aloud in 2006. I have kept some bits which are now out of date (such as the discussion of ’emo’), but I have also edited out some of the more rant-y bits too. I know it might be ‘hipster-ish’ to claim a love of poppy/trashy music, but with GA, I think even hipsters have traditionally had their limits. So let’s go on another journey back to the mid-2000s…
One of the best interviews I did when I was writing a music zine was with electro cut-up glitch king V/VM. The material produced by this artists and released on the V/VM record label were glimmers of genius, especially when it came to crossing over between the very snobbish world of avant-garde experimental electronica and the throwaway trash of the pop world. There is a lot of pretension surrounding the world of electronic music, and V/VM was able to cut through this pretension with ‘remixes’ of Sophie Ellis Bextor, Wham, Posh Spice and Falco. Before the mass commercialisation of mash-ups, V/VM were able to cut a swathe through ideas of high and low music and reduce pop music to something of unlistenable appreciation. As the artist himself said:
At the end of the day, however much you criticise or look into it and try to place intellectual thoughts and ideas into your music, it is entertainment and it’s always been horses for courses and there are plenty of horses.
Whatever contradictory notions I have about the successfulness of DIY to challenge the mainstream and the inherent revolutionary nature of ‘punk rock’, one can find it pretty convincing that whatever had been construed as ‘punk’ or ‘alternative’ today is just as mass-marketed as any of the Pop Idol phenomenon. It is not about crossing over to mainstream and ‘selling out’, because one can cite that the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks and any other number of bands all signed to major labels, but about consumer fetishism relies on packaging this into a homogenous unit for easier consumption. I think the best example of this phenomenon nowadays is how ’emo’ fashion has been circumvented from a range of musical subcultures, such as punk, hardcore, indie, goth and new wave, and marketed as a narrow criterion of acceptability, in both musical output and the ‘fashion’ that accompanies it…
I have to say that the most exciting pop act today has to be Girls Aloud. Produced by the horrible reality TV show Popstars, which also created Hear’Say and One True Voice, Girls Aloud are five girls in a traditional girl-pop format, but what sets them apart is attitude (no doubt marketed beyond belief) and the ability for their music to play off this as well as being consistently catchy. The first two Sugababes albums, marketed as representing the face of a modern multi-cultural Britain, had the same appeal. In my interview with V/VM, he said:
The Sugababes made it cool to like pop again… the most serioys looking girl band – they look fucking bored the whole time, bored of these smiley faced TV presenters.
Girls Aloud are audacious, full of attitude and for the most part, a marketing wet dream, which one could draw a lot of comparisons with the Sex Pistols. The cover of their latest single ‘Biology’ certainly apes the cover of X-Ray Spex’s Germfree Adolescents, which is just the beginning of their awesomeness. Their singles knowingly play off the appeal of the pop single to pre-pubescent girls, the lust of post-pubescent boys and the crossover potential into the world of those who may usually think that pop is ‘below’ them. In a time where the appropriation of r&b by every white, blonde haired girl from middle America has been the mainstay in pop music for the last ten years, Girls Aloud are a step closer to the post-punk aping world of NME favourites, such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, with the Girls twisting guitars and electro into a highly listenable pop medium. Hell, even the Arctic Monkeys (the world’s newest indie darlings) covered a very non-ironic cover of GA’s ‘Love Machine’. Listen to ‘No Good Advice’ and as well as the fact that it is greatly homaging ‘My Sharona’, one has to agree that its one of the greatest things to be released in the last five years.
Props must go to Mark Groves from Ujaku zine and Tim Finney for recognising this back in 2003, where I took inspiration for the title of this piece from.