Girls Aloud: ten of their best songs

Girls Aloud brought a new level of acclaim to modern pop, overshadowing their popstar rivals with explosive creativity - ten years on, we look at their legacy

Read more on Girls Aloud Listen to Girls Aloud on Spotify
Posted 25th November 2012 in Features & Reviews, Girls Aloud

Girls Aloud - ten years of hits

I'm counting down the ten best singles from Girls Aloud, one of the most exciting girl-bands to come out of the UK since pop music began.

10. ‘The Promise’

‘The Promise’ was Girls Aloud’s last hurrah. It was their first number one since the ‘Walk This Way’, a collaboration with Sugababes 3.0 and another experiment with expectations. The song itself is a lush nod to the girl groups of the Motown era and while it split opinion the first time it aired, it grew to be one of their signature songs.

9. 'Wake Me Up’

Following two pop standards like ‘Love Machine’ and ‘I’ll Stand By You’ was never going to be easy, but the Girls threw a curveball with ‘Wake Me Up’. Combining the grungy sound of garage rock band with electro pop, Xenomania and Girls Aloud proved that they wanted to make pop music more sophisticated again after the hideousness of early noughties pop.

Xenomania manage to use both the power and softness of Sarah Harding’s voice to great effect on this single. Where Sarah can sometimes sound sharp on the big notes, she wrestles the song into submission and leads the way for the other four girls.

It’s every bit as grimy as you remember, which makes it even better after all these years.

8. 'Love Machine’

‘Love Machine’ is a shining beacon of nostalgic pop with retro hooks. It brought us a new side to the Girls Aloud sound, one which became hugely popular in gay pubs and certain floors of Oceana nightclubs. The song followed suit from the happier sound of ‘Jump’, which was a welcome change of direction from their earlier 'moody' singles.

7. 'Untouchable’

‘Untouchable’ has the dubious honour of being the first Girls Aloud song to miss the UK top ten. It’s also one of the girls’ most natural, understated and emotional songs to hit the UK chart. Like all Girls Aloud songs, it was a slow-burner that needed time to strike a chord. It has grown in acclaim since its original release and GA fans everywhere continue their campaign to get the song into

A sombre electro-pop epic that served as a lingering goodbye to the girls.

6. 'No Good Advice’

How do you follow a single as distinctive and genre-bending as ‘Sound of the Underground’? If you’re Girls Aloud, you follow it with a song that blends 1980s pop-rock with a stomping disco beat.

The video was appalling by anyone’s standard, but the song was a magnificent example of modern girl power. Everything about it felt like a natural progression from the girls’ debut and they struck gold with a winning formula.

5. 'Call the Shots’

Our girls can claim ‘Call the Shots’ as one of their most acclaimed hits and one of 21st century pop’s most mesmerising ballads.

Girls Aloud have always struggled with ballads – not counting ‘Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me’ – because girl-bands find it difficult to sell an emotional song they haven’t written themselves. (‘Whole Lotta History’ and ‘See the Day’ are murky examples of one-note balladry.) But something about this song worked on a trembling, broken level; it felt like a goodbye on the horizon, which gave it the kind of goosebump-inducing, melancholic poignancy you’d expect from electro-indie rockers rather than a pop group.

‘Call the Shots’ was stunning and much better than a 2007 pop song ever needed to be.

4. 'Sexy! No, No, No...’

‘Sexy...’ was another unconventional song with fierce attitude. Cheryl’s vocoder intro was darkly weird, the song hit into samba rhythms, even the synths were out-and-out stormy for the time; it showed their contemporaries that you could do something different without losing connection to your fan-base.

3. 'Sound of the Underground’

Back when Popstars: The Rivals first aired, some critics bet on One True Voice triumphing over Girls Aloud. Pete Waterman was their mentor; there was no denying his ability to craft memorable pop melodies for his artists. But that all slipped away on the day the two bands debuted their singles.

One True Voice’s offering was a paltry, wet – even disastrous – pop song with an even more terrible ballad as the B-side. What did Girls Aloud bring to the table? A fresh, exciting pop sound with brash surfer riffs and electric guitars. They brought the darkening mood of the early 21st century and dominated the boys aggressively. They fought their way to the top of the charts and One True Voice disappeared within a matter of months. When you compare this song with 'Shakespeare's Way With Words', it's easy to see why.

2. 'The Show’

Xenomania made their mission statement with this track. ‘The Show’ was the first time Girls Aloud and the Xenomania production team employed a more intricate style and some seriously feisty synthesiser work. It was new and that throbbing, seductive bass felt like more than a revelation: it was a revolution.

1. 'Biology’

Girls Aloud were never short of critical acclaim throughout their career, but this song brought a new level of attention to the dream-team.

‘Biology’ flipped conventions by once again rejecting the rigid verse-chorus structure of traditional pop songs. There are so many different styles in the song, it can feel overwhelming on the first listen; but once its complexity settles in, you’ll be dumbfounded at how intelligent and stylistically brilliant the song is.

The moment that blues riff starts and Nadine’s voice belts out, you’ll sit up and take notice.