Review: Girls Aloud – Ten

Review: Girls Aloud – Ten

Six years have passed, so you know what that means, time to wheel out another Greatest Hits album. In those six years Girls Aloud released two  albums of new material, Cheryl became the nation’s sweetheart and released a handful of popular but low quality albums, Nicola remained ‘the ginger one’ and released an unpopular but quite good album, and Nadine disappeared for a long time and then released a Tesco Value album. So is it worth releasing a new hits album? Well, yes, if you want to cash in on the decade ‘in’ music tag. Not all of those years have been very active, so it’s not really ten years in music, but when Nadine wants to take part you just need to be grateful and go with it.

So what has changed?

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The album has been given a fairly decent cover, which the first greatest hits album lacked. It’s a simple image of all members wearing identical dresses and looking very sleek. The Sound of Girls Aloud has a very odd cover indeed. For a group that is very much focused on image, the cover doesn’t even feature a picture of the girls. They probably didn’t all want to be together for a photo, but they surely could have dug up some stock photos of them? Instead there are five  silhouettes, but they could be of anybody really. Additionally there is a chessboard floor and a giant tambourine, which isn’t very fitting. Their music has never been noticeably tambourine-heavy, and there is no Anders SG (Alphabeat) or Ana Matronic (Scissor Sisters) who can often be seen parading around with a tambourine in hand.
Best of all on that cover though is the inclusion of two flags: a Union Flag to represent the four British girls, and in an attempt to include Nadine, who apparently caused a fuss about the Union Flag, there is a second flag, which was supposed to be an Irish flag. In the same haphazard manner which has been applied to the whole album cover, the flag has been put on rotated by 180 degrees, turning it into the flag of the Ivory Coast. Perhaps Nadine fled to the Côte D’Ivoire and took Ivorian citizenship in her post-Tesco period? Perhaps it was an intentional move, as two-fingers up to Nadine and her meddling? Most likely it was another cock-up by the work experience boy given the job. Back to the album at hand though…

What’s happening track listing-wise?

Out goes ballad See The Day.
Out goes ballad Life Got Cold.
Out goes ballad Whole Lotta History.
Out goes non-ballad Wake Me Up.
Out goes non-ballad Long Hot Summer.
Out goes unnecessary cover I Think We’re Alone Now.
Lastly, out goes then new track Money.
All of those certainly go unmissed, especially the ballads. Nobody likes Girls Aloud for the ballads, but perhaps Wake Me Up is missed somewhat, for being upbeat and not 100% rubbish.
In their places we get:
The Promise, The Loving Kind, Untouchable, Sexy! No No No…, Call The Shots, Can’t Speak French, and the 4 new songs, but more on those later.

So let’s do a quick once over of the whole lot:


As Girls Aloud have some pretty bad lyrics, I’m going to highlight the best worst lyric in each song, as well as  ranking each song on the tapas scale. Numbers are overdone. 

1. Something New

First new single to be released from the album. Typical Girls Aloud/Xenomania track, fairly nonsensical lyrics, good number of beats per minute. Very annoying ‘go girls g-g-g-g-go’ intro. Fairly listenable, but not a classic.
Best meaningless lyric:
Most of the lyrics are repeated but I’m still a bit confused by “Take a walk on the wild side of life, bring it back to the other side”.
Song score on a tapas scale: 
Manchego cheese, typical, but then not as good as the alternatives.

2. The Promise

The song that won them the Brit Award, that moment they always go on about. Is winning a Brit Award that exciting? They’ve been nominated five or so times and won once so it’s not a good percentage. Pretty good single though, the last great one even. My main memory of The Promise is my local Wetherspoons having a Girls Aloud tribute band, who sang this one of the first times I heard it. I’d had a few local ales and went back stage to talk to the girls and a gullible ‘Cheryl’ gave me her details when I pretended to be a talent scout.
Best meaningless lyric:
“My Aladdin’s lamp is down and I got a fear”.
Song score on a tapas scale: 
Setas, the big, flat mushrooms which are nice, what with being mushrooms and all, but they are quite wet and flavourless and there are better mushrooms available.

3. The Loving Kind

Written for and with the Pet Shop Boys, originally, then given to Girls Aloud. Sounds better with female vocals, but overall quite forgettable. It will probably be culled in a few years for the next hits album.
Best meaningless lyric:  
Light on stupid lyrics, due to Pet Shop Boys co-write but, “I’ll pour you wine, do anything to change your mind” would take it.
Song score on a tapas scale:
Spreadable morcilla on bread. A watered down version of real morcilla, not for everyone, palatable, but I wouldn’t pay for it.

4. Untouchable

Not too different to The Loving Kind, kind of plods along, not exactly bursting with attitude. Some horribly autotune. It’s most likely only here because it’s a single released since the last hits album. Will surely be culled by the time of the next one.
Best meaningless lyric:
“We’re just skin and bone, like beautiful robots dancing alone.”
Tapas scale:
Mini burgers. Not really tapas at all, you wouldn’t have it twice.

5. Sexy! No No No…

An excellent name for a song and nice punctuation. Weird robot vocals at the start. Kind of rocky and loud and thankfully upbeat. Lots of saying NO NO NO. Overall very weird but enjoyable.
Best meaningless lyric:
“From top to bottom I’m a woman sunshine NO NO NO”
Tapas scale:
Mini squids on a stick. Found in a back alley tapas street, most people would be repulsed by it, but I was quite taken with it and would go back again and again if I could.

6.  Call The Shots

Possibly the best Girls Aloud song that came as the second single from its album, after Sexy! No No No… so it was a surprise it was so good. Was a good sing-along, especially on the ‘nooowowowow on me OOOH’ bit. I especially liked how the chorus was sung twice, but by different people, and also how the kitchen sink hadn’t been lobbed at this one.
Best meaningless lyric:
I’m still not sure what “Just ‘cause you’re raising the bet and call the shots now on me” means. But mostly, the lyrics in this are pretty good.
Tapas scale:
Garlic fried mushrooms. Pretty simple but delicious and you’ll want more than one.

7. Can’t Speak French

Ridiculous from the start, but also ridiculously catchy. If anybody in real life claims that they can’t speak French now, it will always receive the same response.
Best meaningless lyric:
The now classic “I can’t speak French so I let my funky music do the talking”.
Tapas scale:
Proper chunky morcilla, on a piece of bread. The idea of it isn’t so appealing but it’s bloody good once you’re getting your teeth into it.

8. Something Kinda Ooooh

The first new single from the last hits album. Pretty catchy and upbeat, but the lyrics are unbelievably nonsensical, it’s a wonder they were not rewritten.
Best meaningless lyrics:
“Something kinda Ooooh, jumping on my toot-toot/ tutu”. ????!
Tapas scale:
Croquetas, a favourite of many but wouldn’t be my first choice, or even in the top 5.

9. Biology

A structure that’s all over the place, with two choruses, it’s slow then fast then slow then fast again. Chucks the song writing rulebook out the window. Classic Xenomania.
Best meaningless lyric:
“You can’t mistake my biology, the magic number is in front of me”. I used to think they sang ‘the magic pilgrim’s in front of me’, which I personally prefer.
Tapas scale:
Giant prawn and pineapple skewers. Make it as big as possible! Chuck it together and see what works!

10. The Show

Not exactly a beautiful love song. Similar to Biology with an unconventional structure.  Upbeat and from the classic era, but kind of forgettable.
Best meaningless lyric:
“Should have known, should have cared, should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear”
Tapas scale:
Pickled anchovies in a small roll. Recommended by a kindly travelling stranger, not appreciated. Whose idea was it?

11. Love Machine

Another classic Aloud track. I remember when it came out and the newspaper reviewed it as ‘it took all these writers to create this piece of pop pap’, but then Arctic Monkeys covered it in the live lounge on Radio 1 and it was suddenly ok to like Girls Aloud. Before you knew it they were covering Kaiser Chiefs and Wheatus and singing backing vocals on a Franz Ferdinand track. Probably some of the worst lyrics for a GA song.
Best meaningless lyric:
“Let’s go, Eskimo!”. That might become my new “Vamos!” or “Allons-y!” soon.
Tapas scale:
Patatas Bravas with ali oli sauce. Spicy yet soothing. Beautiful and not one to be enjoyed alone.

12. I’ll Stand By You

One of two covers that’s still on their Greatest Hits album. Obviously a charity single, but should have been forgotten by now, really.
Best meaningless lyric:
Not really applicable due to being a cover. Lyrics to this are actually good.
Tapas scale:
A juicy meatball, nice, but not yours. Give it back and leave it there. You’ve got enough of your own good tapas.

13. Jump

The second cover, but actually a good one, because it’s not a ballad. Good singing. Well done everyone.
Best meaningless lyric:
Again not applicable. Boo.
Tapas scale:
That weird drink thing that is ice cream blended with fruit liqueurs and all kinds of things, is that even tapas?

14. No Good Advice

A pretty good second single, kept the ball rolling after the ‘winner’s single’. Not seen so often. Also, guitars! Edgy but still very much pop. Imagine how good it would’ve sounded in the hands of One True Voice though.
Best meaningless lyric:
Lots of little good ones, I always wondered if “I flick a finger to the world below” was a masturbation reference, but maybe my mind is in the gutter.
Tapas scale:  
Chorizo, classic and spicy and good in the middle of the night when you’re squiffy.

15.  Sound of the Underground

What a good winner’s single!  It has guitars. It’s not a ballad about it being your big moment after all these years of rejection and hardship.
Best meaningless lyric:
“Water’s running in the wrong direction, got a feeling it’s a mixed up sign”. When could that ever be relevant to someone’s life?
Tapas scale:
Olives. The one that made you sit up and pay attention. Nobody’s going to be sitting around nonchalantly when there are olives on the table.

16. On the Metro

The second of the new songs. Coming back full circle, underground to metro. Sounds a bit like Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction, hopefully it won’t get a similar video. Most importantly it’s a Nicola Roberts co-write, the main one in Girls Aloud, no longer the ginger one but also the talented one!
Best meaningless lyric:
“A hundred O’s and X’s lighting up the dark, now they turned into a question mark”. ??. I kind of get where they’re coming from.
Special mention for “His moves were so ridiculous but he looked so meticulous” for being a great lyric though.
Also mention of sipping one’s favourite soda pop is  rather unlikely considering ‘Sun Caner of the Year’ Sarah’s private life.
Tapas scale:
Something new and pretty good, like those rolls where the bread was scooped out and replaced with chicken or chorizo. Oh god.

17. Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me.

A pretty sickly ballad about being ugly but you don’t feel it because someone makes you feel like a beautiful young filly. See: Sugababes’ ‘Ugly’, Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’, that pretty similar One Direction song that is in the chart at the moment. A bit cruel to let Nicola sing the ugly bit, what with her being the least conventionally attractive one, but she’s still my top one and she can flash her Lucky Day knickers at me in front of a sperm covered wall any time.  Seeing the Lucky Day video might make that make a bit more sense. An awful choice for second single though.
Best meaningless lyric:
“Standing over the basin I’ve been washing my face in”, not meaningless but good use of the word basin in a pop song.
Tapas scale:
Those dodgy pork kebabs that your friend warned you off because her whole family got food poisoning after eating them and they were sick for days.

18.  Every Now and Then

 The fourth and final new track. The second best of the four, after On The Metro. Upbeat and all about being a strong, sassy woman but still thinking about that darned rascal from your past. You could read into this and see some Ashley  Cole link but that would be silly as Cheryl had nothing to do with any  of it. Like the time she released Promise This and everyone thought it was about her nearly dying of malaria, but that was also completely unrelated. Would make a good single, might get the treatment if the album can be milked a bit more.
Best meaningless lyric:
“I knew it from the start, I knew it at the end, we said it never were”. Were??
Tapas scale:
Tortilla. Once you’ve had this one you will definitely have had your fill.  
And there we have it. A highly professional round up.  It’s probably worth getting if you don’t own any of the tracks already. Much better value for money than the last greatest hits album, with a lot of the crap cut out and replaced with much better content. The new songs are pretty good, considering they’re new songs tacked onto the end of a greatest hits album, this is a rarity. Overall I’d give the album a score of Serrano ham.  Well done to all involved.
 

I’m hungry.

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Remembrance Wednesday: Ricky Martin – She Bangs

Remembrance Wednesday: Ricky Martin – ‘She Bangs’


In pop music, it is a cruel state of affairs when one track or act is overshadowed by another, despite being comparable or better. Scissor Sisters’ third album ‘Night Work’ sank without a trace despite being their best effort yet and having a phenomenal buzz single, Ian McKellen collaboration, Invisible Light’  . Now their only track heard on radio is modern classic ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’’ and you can buy the album for about £2 on Amazon.

Example 2, when Girls Aloud took a break and tried individual projects, Cheryl was the one to sell most records because she was prettiest and most high profile, despite her material being far less interesting than that  of ‘ginger one’, Nicola Roberts. WAH WAH WAH WAAAH.

Another aggravating example would be anything by Janelle Monáe being ignored while the masses only heard her one line of input on the ‘Fun’ single that radio tortured us with this summer.
However, the case I am fighting today is that of ‘She Bangs’, first single to be taken from the second UK charting album of hip-swivelling, Latino ladies’ man (or so his videos would have us believe),  Enrique ‘Ricky Martin’ Martín Morales.
Sometimes with one’s music output, you have a good little run, then something comes along that wipes out all memory of what came before it, but then sometimes you never quite reach the heights of that one big hit, which is the case with poor Ricky and ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ his trumpet-laden Latino banger that warns of a mocha-tinged mad wench who makes him take off his leather trousers and already see-through shirt to go dancing in the rain. Obviously that song is excellent and its legacy cannot be denied, but for me, ‘She Bangs’ is the real Martin classic. Yet according to Compare My Radio (a good site if you like statistics) Loca has been played on radio 51 times in the last month and She Bangs only nine times. Is there any justice in this world? She Bangsis my favourite.
Maybe it’s just because I like an underdog, maybe it’s because I like to make controversial choices to wind people up. Either way it’s a brass-hooked Latino banger that warns of the dangers of women. Hang on that sounds familiar… It’s Ricky’s comfort zone and he doesn’t need to stray from it, after all nobody wants to be reminded of his soppy Spanglish ballads.
Let’s do an in-depth, unnecessary analysis:

LYRICS
Admittedly, lyrically it’s no ‘Imagine’ but it does feature such interesting lines as:

I’m just a link in your daisy chain”, “You wear me out like a pair of shoes” and
“Well, if it looks like love should be a crime / You’d better lock me up for life / I’ll do the time with a smile on my face / Thinking of her in her leather and lace”
That’s right, Ricky is so in love with this rampant lady, if love were to be outlawed he would be given a LIFE sentence, not just a fine or a few days of community service, jailed for life. Imagine being in love that deeply! Your lover refusing an appeal, exclaiming their guilt with no shame.  Ladies can only dream! I don’t suppose Ricky would live up to your expectations, but not to worry, he seems happy enough as he is these days, so that’s jolly nice for him.
MUSIC

Latin piano during the verses, the occasional guitar chord, more trumpets than Mambo no 5! That little bit after the ‘daisy chain’ line where the brass starts wailing like a siren. Woh wohhh woh, sing-along backing vocals in the final chorus! A guitar solo! It’s got a ruddy guitar solo! It might as well be Santana! How could you listen to this without waggling your hips like a hula-hooping Grace Jones?!

VIDEO

In the music video in, our protagonist walks into the sea and attends an underwater grindfest in a bar attended by bikini-clad ladies and guarded by a mermaid and octopus man, my preferred set-up. He enters through an underground waterfall that somehow keeps the water out of the room and starts grinding on anything with two legs or a tail. Are they really underwater? Everyone’s just dancing like in a club yet sometimes a fish goes past and occasionally Ricky starts swimming. But then nobody is wet!… aside from Ricky when he pours water all over himself (can you do that underwater?) and all those women who are subjected to his charms… yeah everyone’s wet in one way or another. There’s even a cubicle for frolicking and Ricky takes his clothes off before getting spanked by a mermaid. Trumpeters line the walls, it’s the perfect party. I do sometimes wonder what would happen after the song finishes and they all stop dancing and stand around awkwardly in their pants. The aquatic party people are hardly likely to request ‘Shake Your Bon Bon’, are they?

WRITERS
There’s some interesting insight here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ricky didn’t do much (any) of the writing himself but there are some interesting links if you’re willing to do a bit of Wiki digging.
Desmond Child has writing credits not only on She Bangs and Livin’ La Vida Loca, but also numerous Bon Jovi songs, including ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. Also in his impressive song list are ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’ by Kiss, ‘Poison’ by Alice Cooper and ‘Old Before I Die’ by Robbie Williams. Producer Walter Afanasieff has credits as producer and arranger on swimmers’ favourite, ‘My Heart Will Go On’,  by Celine Dion, as well as ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child. Also with a writing credit is the man credited with having recorded the first rap song in Spanish.  That’s a good pedigree for a Latino pop song.
If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you of the huge amount of effort and talent behind She Bangs, there’s also the obligatory Spanish language version,  with such beautiful lyrics as:

“She is the queen in my chess, playing with me is her pleasure”.
All in all, it’s a genius song, ridiculously catchy and just that little bit better than Livin’ La Vida Loca, I just wish people would realise this and remember poor old She Bangs every once in a while. At least trusty old Ken Bruce on Radio 2 occasionally plays it. I suppose Ricky is too uncool for Radio 1 as well now. But 9 plays on the whole radio network in a month! That’s fewer plays than in my house! Shame on you, radio, shame on you.