These girls are on fire.
We may not have changed the name of our planet to Spice World back in the 1990’s, but girl groups still reign supreme, at least in the United Kingdom. Back in September, last year’s X Factor winners Little Mix debuted at #1 with their energetic foot-stomper of a hit, “Wings”. Now, some prominent groups of the past few years are releasing new singles which are hoping to rise above in the Christmas (and post-Christmas) market.
We start with Girls Aloud, the five girls selected to form a group back on the 2002 television series Popstars: The Rivals. (Season 2 of the United States show produced a mixed group, Scene 23. You probably don’t remember their one and only single, “I Really Don’t Think So”, but yes, that is Josh Henderson from Dallas singing and dancing along.) They’ve had a very consistent career since their debut #1 single “Sound Of The Underground” stormed the charts back in 2002 and have accumulated twenty other top ten hits since then, including three other #1’s, most recently “The Promise” back in 2008. After their last studio album, Out Of Control, four of the girls launched solo careers to varied success. Former X Factor judge Cheryl Cole went onto several solo chart-toppers including “Call My Name”, a Calvin Harris production that hit the top of the U.K. Singles Chart back in May of this year. Kimberley Walsh, set to release a solo album next year, was featured on the hook of a top ten hit by rapper Aggro Santos in 2011. Nadine Coyle, who made a silly mistake by only releasing her album and single in grocery chain Tesco, severely underperformed with “Insatiable” back in 2010, barely cracking the top 30. Nicola Roberts managed two minor top-40 hits in 2011, including a #27 entry, “Beat Of My Drum”, although I much prefer this mashup with a clip from 30 Rock. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I failed to mention Sarah Harding, the only member of the group who has only seen success as a part of the group, but if she tried a solo career, she would be forever known for her one hit, and when I say hit, I mean hitting a sour note… on live television. Did you see Cheryl’s stink eye back to her? That was some truth tea.
So, forward to 2012, and the Aloud are back together and releasing a greatest hits compilation called Ten: ten tracks, ten years in the music business, ten songs that made the top ten but failed to make the top three, ten more viewings of Harding’s bum note, etc. Leadoff single “Something New” had to settle for the runner-up spot on the Singles Chart last week behind Olly Murs and now it’s crashing out of the top ten. Even their album is just top 5 in the midweeks, although when you can cherry-pick the songs you want on a digital service, I’ll excuse that case. The followup single is released on the ever-important Christmas Week, a yearly tradition in the United Kingdom where many top acts release high-profile singles while other acts attempt to cash in on a novelty hit. This, of course, comes on a chart that is only determined by sales, unlike the Billboard Hot 100 per se, where sales, airplay and streaming are all included. The Girls are throwing their hat into the ring with a ballad entitled “Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me”, a feel-good anthem about the recognition of inner beauty despite one’s doubts of their outer beauty. Roberts really shines on the track, and the piano and strings arrangement provides for some lush moments. It’s for sure one of the their strongest ballads, but in a music world where Dance is still the reigning genre, will the song be able to capture the #1 spot? I’m certain there will be more than a few campaigns going on to ensure a victory for the ladies.
In January, yet another girl group returns to the scene, The Saturdays, who are poised to break the States with their first worldwide release, “What About Us?”, featuring rapper Sean Paul. They too were put together in an audition process back in 2007 and released their first single in 2008, the top ten U.K. hit “If This Is Love”. Their biggest successes to date in the country have been two #2 hits, including a Comic Relief charity remake of Depeche Mode‘s “Just Can’t Get Enough” in the spring of 2009 and “Forever Is Over”, the leadoff single from their second album, Wordshaker, in the fall of 2009. Though they’ve accumulated thirteen top-40 hits in their four year chart history, eleven of them top tens, the girls have been experiencing much less longevity on the chart as of late, including a #7 single earlier this year that spent just three weeks in the top 40. They’re also not a strong album seller. Two of their albums have peaked at #9, an EP went as high as #3, but their last album, On Your Radar, released during the holidays, couldn’t make it out of the teens. Now that group member Rochelle Wiseman is pregnant, the group may face some struggles ahead in terms of single and album promotion, especially if they have to fly between countries.
That being said, “What About Us?” is pretty much in tune with today’s music scene. It’s your standard synthesizer beat overlaid with solid vocals from the five girls and it’s nothing heavy lyrically, not that I’d think you would be paying attention to the lyrics in this type of song. The remixes leaked on the internet several months ago and the song recently debuted on Billboard’s Dance/Club Play survey, which is definitely a good sign since this is very much a club record. However, it should also be an easy sell at CHR radio, unlike the Aloud tune (though their label has never made an attempt to cross them over to the States.) It’s commercial and you can dance to it. That’s all it needs to be. (NOTE: The link above is the Buzz Junkies Remix edit. Can’t seem to a find decent upload of the official radio edit, which is what I currently have, but that remix is fairly close to it.)
So, which of the two will do better in the United Kingdom? I’m leaning towards Girls Aloud, although a soft sales market in January could provide an unexpected lift for The Saturdays. The Aloud tune at least has some depth. The Sats have the musical atmosphere on their side. Let’s see how it all plays out. After all, if these two can’t do it, there’s always Mutya Keisha Siobhan to look forward too. I’ll leave that for another post.
Have a favorite track from one of these groups or totally can’t stand them? Leave me a comment or contact me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.