Girls Aloud Biography
Girls Aloud's collaborations with Brian Higgins and his songwriting and production team Xenomania have earned the group critical acclaim, due to an innovative approach to mainstream pop music. The group has become one of the few UK reality television acts to achieve continued success, amassing a fortune of £25 million by May 2010. Guinness World Records lists them as "Most Successful Reality TV Group" in the 2007 edition. They also hold the record for "Most Consecutive Top Ten Entries in the UK by a Female Group" in the 2008 edition, and are credited again for "Most Successful Reality TV Group" in the 2011 edition.
2002: Formation and Popstars: The Rivals
Main article: Popstars: The Rivals
Girls Aloud were formed on 30 November 2002, in front of millions of viewers on the ITV1 programme Popstars: The Rivals. The concept of the programme, hosted by Big Brother presenter Davina McCall was to produce a boyband and a girlgroup who would be "rivals" and compete for the 2002 Christmas number one single. Following the initial success of Hear'Say (winners of the original Popstars show), several thousand applicants attended auditions across the UK in hope of being selected. Ten girls and ten boys were chosen as finalists by judges Pete Waterman, Louis Walsh and Spice Girls member Geri Halliwell. However, two of these were disqualified before the live shows began: Hazel Kaneswaren was found to be too old to participate while Nicola Ward refused to sign the contract, claiming the pay the group would receive was too low. Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts, who had made it into the final fifteen but not the final ten, were chosen as their replacements.
During October and November, the finalists took to the stage participating in weekly Saturday night live performances (alternating week-by-week between the girls and boys). Each week the contestant polling the fewest phone votes was eliminated, until the final line-ups of the groups emerged. The five girls who made it into the group were (in the order announced by the host) Cheryl, Nicola, Nadine, Kimberley and Sarah; Javine Hylton missed out on a place in the group, despite previous expectations that she would be placed in the line-up. The group was named Girls Aloud and were managed by Louis Walsh until 2005 when Hilary Shaw replaced him.
The two groups competed to become 2002's Christmas number one single. Girls Aloud won the battle with their single "Sound of the Underground", produced by Brian Higgins and Xenomania. The song spent four consecutive weeks at number one and was certified platinum in March 2003. The song received critical acclaim; Alexis Petridis of The Guardian stated that "it proved a first: it was a reality pop record that didn't make you want to do physical harm to everyone involved in its manufacture".
2002–05: Sound of the Underground and What Will the Neighbours Say?
After the success of their debut single, Girls Aloud spent five months recording the follow-up single and their debut album entitled Sound of the Underground. The album was completed in April 2003 and released the following month. It entered the charts at number two and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. The second single, "No Good Advice", was released in May 2003 and charted at number-two. In August 2003, the third single, "Life Got Cold", charted at number three.
In November 2003, Girls Aloud released a cover version of the Pointer Sisters' 1980s dance hit "Jump". The song appeared on the to the 2003 film Love Actually, recorded at the request of director Richard Curtis. The single charted at number two, accompanied a re-issue edition of their album Sound of the Underground. The re-issue featured a new album cover and three new tracks.
After a brief hiatus, Girls Aloud released "The Show" in June 2004, the first single from the group's second album, What Will the Neighbours Say?. Polydor built excitement for the release and the group's new look with a promotional campaign featuring five empty director's chairs with each of the girls' names on. "The Show" charted at number two. The next single, "Love Machine", also charted at number two in September 2004. Girls Aloud cover of The Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You" was chosen as the official Children In Need charity single. The song was not well received by critics; however, it became Girls Aloud's second number one single, holding the position for two weeks. The group's second album What Will the Neighbours Say? was entirely written and produced by Xenomania. It was released on 29 November 2004. It charted at number-five and was certified platinum. The final single from the album, "Wake Me Up", was released in February 2005. It charted at number four, making it their first to miss the top three but still their eighth top-five single. In early 2005, the group won Glamour Magazine's "Band of the Year" award, and was also nominated for a BRIT Award for Best Pop Act. Following the album's success, Girls Aloud announced their first tour What Will the Neighbours Say? Live, which took place in May 2005. The group also released its first DVD, Girls on Film.
2005–07: Chemistry and The Sound of Girls Aloud
Following their first tour, Girls Aloud began work on their third studio album, Chemistry. The album was described as "a concept album which relates to the girls and what it's like to be a twentysomething girl in London". The album peaked on the UK Albums Charts at number eleven and received platinum certification.
The first single from the album, "Long Hot Summer" was released in August 2005. The single ended Girls Aloud's run of top five singles when it charted at number seven. The follow-up single from the album, "Biology" was released in November 2005. The song was critically acclaimed; Peter Cashmore of The Guardian labelled it "the best pop single of the last decade". The release was followed by a cover of Dee C. Lee's "See the Day", released in the Christmas week of 2005. It became Girls Aloud's biggest hit in terms of radio airplay since "Sound of the Underground", but became their lowest-charting single at the time when it peaked at number nine. Girls Aloud won the Heart Award for the single at the O2 Silver Clef Lunch. The group traveled to Australia and New Zealand in February 2006 to release "Biology" and Chemistry. Despite, a one-week promotional tour, "Biology" peaked at number twenty-six on the ARIA Singles Chart, failing to break the group in the Australian market. "Whole Lotta History", the fourth and final single to be taken from Chemistry, was released in March 2006 and charted at number six.
In April 2006, Girls Aloud starred in their first television series, Girls Aloud: Off the Record, which followed the group as they promoted Chemistry and traveled overseas. In May 2006, Girls Aloud embarked on their first arena tour), the Chemistry Tour. In the same month, Girls Aloud were moved to Fascination Records, a sub-label of Polydor Records.
In October 2006, Girls Aloud released their first greatest hits collection, The Sound of Girls Aloud. It debuted at number one on the UK album chart and went on to sell over one million copies. The album was accompanied by the single "Something Kinda Ooooh". Girls Aloud became the first British act to reach the top five purely on download sales; the single peaked at number three following its physical release. The next single was a cover of "I Think We're Alone Now". The song was used as the official theme to the film It's a Boy Girl Thing and it peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. In March 2007, Girls Aloud collaborated with fellow British girl group Sugababes for their fifteenth single, a cover of the song "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith. Billed as "Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud, the song served as the official single for Comic Relief. It became the group's third number one and their fifteenth consecutive top ten single. In May 2007, Girls Aloud went on their third tour, The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits Tour.
2007–09: Tangled Up, Out of Control and hiatus
Girls Aloud released their fourth studio album, Tangled Up, in November 2007. The album was called "yet another unrelenting pop masterpiece" by BBC. It was a critical success and earned a platinum certification. The first single from the album, "Sexy! No No No..." was described by critics as "one of the most daring songs they've yet released" and "yet another sample of their [Girls Aloud's] perfect pop: bold, sassy, slightly loopy and unbelievably catchy." The song peaked at number-five on the Uk Singles Chart. The second single, "Call the Shots" entered the top three and was welcomed even more critical acclaim, with pop music journalist Peter Robinson calling it the "greatest pop song of the 21st century." It was described as "an elegant electro-pop ballad delivered with a restraint and maturity to rival groups of twice their age". The third and final single from the album, "Can't Speak French", continued Girls Aloud's top ten streak. The release of the single coincided with Girls Aloud's second television series, The Passions of Girls Aloud. The show revolved around each member achieving aspirations outside of the group. Girls Aloud also received their second BRIT Award nomination in 2008, nominated for the Best British Group award. In May 2008, Girls Aloud embarked on the Tangled Up Tour which consisted of 34 concerts around the United Kingdom.
In November 2008, Girls Aloud released their fifth studio album Out of Control, which entered the UK Albums Chart at number one and became their most successful studio album to date, being certified double platinum. The album was described by critics as "their most melancholy album to date", a "break-up album [...] atop a mix of ’80s electro-pop", and "chock-full of those trademark, otherworldy electro-synth songs". The album's lead single, "The Promise", became the group's fourth number one on the UK Singles Chart, selling more than 77,000 singles in its first week of release. The single also returned the group to the top two on the Irish Singles Chart. Girls Aloud performed at the BRIT Awards for the first time in their careers, with "The Promise" being awarded Best British Single. They were also nominated for Best British Group, but lost to Elbow. The second single from Out of Control was "The Loving Kind", the track was produced by Xenomania and the Pet Shop Boys. The song peaked at number ten, becoming Girls Aloud's twentieth consecutive top ten single. The final single from the album, "Untouchable" was released in April 2009. It peaked at number-eleven on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the first single of Girls Aloud to miss the top ten. Girls Aloud embarked on the Out of Control Tour, which ran from April to June 2009. Their label, Fascination Records released a singles boxset collection to coincide with the tour.
In February 2009, Girls Aloud signed a new record deal with Fascination that would see the group release another three studio albums. However in July 2009, Girls Aloud announced that they were taking a year-long hiatus to pursue solo projects, but would reunite for a new studio album in 2010 which didn't happen. Two months later, Girls Aloud briefly interrupted the hiatus to do two shows supporting Coldplay along with Jay-Z at Wembley Stadium.
After three years of hiatus, Girls Aloud reunited for the group's 10th anniversary. The group will release their new single, "Something New" on 18 November 2012. The music video for the song was filmed in October 2012 and premiered on Youtube on 19 October 2012. The song is also the official charity single for Children in Need. The group will also release their 2nd greatest hits compilation, Ten on 26 November 2012. In 2013, the group will embark on Ten - The Hits Tour 2013.
Other musical projects
Girls Aloud also appeared on the 2007 compilation Radio 1: Established 1967, celebrating the 40th anniversary of BBC Radio 1, with a cover of Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag", as well as singing backing vocals on Franz Ferdinand's cover of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision". In addition to these appearances, Girls Aloud recorded two tracks for the soundtrack to the new St Trinian's movie ("Defenders of Anarchy" and "On My Way to Satisfaction"). They also make a cameo appearance in the film as the school band. The soundtrack was released on 10 December 2007, and the video for "Theme to St. Trinian's" premiered in mid December 2007. On 6 January 2008, "Theme to St. Trinian's" became the first Girls Aloud song to enter the UK Singles Chart without any plans of a physical release, peaking at number fifty-one. Additionally, the girls also performed covers of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab", Robyn's "With Every Heartbeat", and Timbaland & OneRepublic's "Apologize" for Jo Whiley's Live Lounge programme on BBC Radio 1.
Girls Aloud recorded backing vocals for "My Love Is Better" from Norwegian pop singer Annie's second album Don't Stop. It was reported that their mutual producer, Brian Higgins, didn't ask for permission, which upset Girls Aloud. However, Annie herself revealed in an interview that "Brian asked them if they'd like to help out. They were really up for it and came into my studio and it was really fun." She continued, "of course their record company said no and they ended up not singing on the song after all. I thought it was a little bit stupid but what can you say? It wasn't my choice. They were really nice, very sweet."
Film and television
In 2005, Girls Aloud filmed a one-off documentary entitled Girls Aloud: Home Truths for ITV2. In 2005, The group also hosted and performed on Christmas Mania. The tracks performed by the group are "Jingle Bell Rock" and "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day". They also made various guest performances, including Il Divo, The cast from GMTV, Liz McClarnon, Lee Ryan and many more special guests and events. The group undertook its first tour, released the single "Long Hot Summer", and took part in recording sessions for the group's third studio album Chemistry. The success of the show later made way for Off the Record, a six-part fly on the wall documentary series for E4. The program started its run on 11 April 2006. The series was filmed during the Chemistry era and focused on the band's promotional activities, including the shooting of the "Biology" video and the lead-up to and aftermath of the release of "Whole Lotta History". It also showed the band travelling abroad, to places such as Greece, Paris, Shanghai and Australia. A DVD of the series, which included an unaired episode, was released on 4 September 2006. Girls Aloud then appeared in an episode of Ghosthunting with... (without Nadine) towards the end of 2006, in which Yvette Fielding guided them through haunted locations.
In April 2007, Girls Aloud filmed a cameo appearance in the new St. Trinian's movie, playing the school band. The film was released in the UK on 21 December 2007, with Girls Aloud providing two songs for the movie's original soundtrack, including its theme song. The girl group also makes a cameo appearance in the Oasis documentary Lord Don't Slow Me Down. The girl group starred in a new television series on ITV2, Passions of Girls Aloud, broadcast from 14 March to 4 April 2008. The premise of the show involves each member achieving something that they have always wanted to do. It was reported on 13 November 2007 that Nadine would not be taking part, due to the programme's bosses refusing to let her undertake charity work.
Girls Aloud appeared in a variety show entitled The Girls Aloud Party. The show aired on 13 December 2008 on ITV, between The X Factor finale and its results show. Girls Aloud performed hits and revealed their Christmas single, as well chatting to showbiz pals and performing comic sketches. Cilla Black and Julie Goodyear appeared as Nicola Roberts' grandmother and Sarah Harding's mother, respectively, in some of the sketches. Kimberley and Nicola also made a cameo appearance in the family drama show Britannia High. Sarah has starred in the direct-to-DVD feature film Bad Day as Jade Jennings, starred in a BBC film called Freefall in 2009 and also starred in St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, reprising her character from the first film. The band's "St. Trinian's" theme song is reprised during the film, including once in an a cappella version by the cast (including Harding).
Merchandise and sponsorship deals
Girls Aloud came together with Mattel in 2005 to produce Fashion Fever Barbies. Each member designed the outfit and look of a doll modelled after themselves. In addition to live DVDs of their tours and both of Girls Aloud's television series, the group has also released Girls on Film and Style. Official calendars have also been issued annually from 2004 to 2009, the only exception being 2005. Girls Aloud co-wrote an autobiography titled Dreams That Glitter – Our Story. The book, named after a lyric in "Call the Shots", was published in October 2008 through the Transworld imprint Bantam Press. Before the release, OK! magazine bought the rights to preview and serialise the book.
In 2007, Girls Aloud signed a £1.25m one-year deal to endorse hair care brand Sunsilk. The girls filmed a television advertisement and appeared in and magazine advertisements, with each of the five members being the face of a different shampoo. The same year, Girls Aloud also sealed a deal with the UK division of Samsung. They endorsed mobile phones and MP3 players, made personal appearances and sang at Samsung events, and contributed to competition prizes, among other activities. The Samsung F210 Purple came with a 1GB memory card featuring Girls Aloud content. Girls Aloud appeared in television advertisements for Nintendo DS the following year. The girl group signed a deal to front a promotional campaign for a new low-calorie KitKat bar called "Senses" in March 2008. The chocolate bar manufacturer also sponsored Girls Aloud's Tangled Up Tour. The exact worth of the endorsement is unknown, but a figure of £500,000 each has been suggested. Sales increased 6.8% in the United Kingdom.
Girls Aloud teamed with Eylure to release 5 sets of false eye-lashes, each set designed by a different member of the band.
It has also been reported that Girls Aloud will front a Christmas campaign for jewellery line Pandora ahead of their 2012 reunion.
All five members of the group have been involved in charity work. Girls Aloud's cover of The Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You" was released as the official 2004 Children in Need single, with proceeds going to the charity. Nicola Roberts said, "Hopefully if our single does well it's a lot of money going to the charity." Their cover Aerosmith and Run DMC's "Walk This Way", a collaboration with the Sugababes, was the official charity single for Comic Relief in 2007, recorded at Comic Relief co-founder and trustee Richard Curtis' request. Kimberley Walsh said, "It's a fantastic song and hopefully will raise tons of money for people living in really difficult situations here and in Africa." In March 2009, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, and various other celebrities climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief. The trek raised £3.4 million for the charity. Between 3 February and 23 March 2009, Cole, Walsh, and other celebrities also raised money for Comic Relief by providing the voice for the BT Speaking Clock. Walsh is also a charity ambassador for Breast Cancer Haven. She helped open a £2.2 million breast cancer centre in 2008 and participated in a "heel-a-thon" in 2009. In February 2011, Cheryl Cole launched her own charitable foundation with The Prince’s Trust following a meeting with The Trust’s President, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The Cheryl Cole Foundation will provide vital funds for The Trust in the North East, helping disadvantaged young people from Cheryl’s own region.
Girls Aloud have worked closely with Brian Higgins and his songwriting and production team Xenomania since the beginning of their careers. Xenomania have produced all of Girls Aloud's albums and singles, excluding their debut album Sound of the Underground and the charity single "Walk This Way". Of Higgins and Xenomania, Girls Aloud's former manager Louis Walsh says, "He just makes great songs for radio. They just jump out at you and stay in your brain." In a review of the group's debut single "Sound of the Underground", The Guardian's Alexis Petridis exclaimed it "proved a first: it was a reality pop record that didn't make you want to do physical harm to everyone involved in its manufacture." In response to Girls Aloud's debut album, Jacqueline Hodges of BBC Music said that "Higgins injects an element of instant-catchy-cool to the songs without going overboard in trying to shape uber-chic dance floor hits."
Petridis of The Guardian described What Will the Neighbours Say? as "a great album: funny, clever, immediate, richly inventive." He later wrote that Chemistry is "a record that dispenses with the tiresome business of verses and instead opts for songs apparently constructed by stitching eight different choruses together." Talia Kraines of BBC Music exclaimed that Girls Aloud "have resuscitated its corpse by wedding chart-friendly melodies to experimental avant-garde sounds". "Biology" was described as "about as far from tired formula as you can possibly get. It sounds like three separate melodies condensed into one." Popjustice referred to the song as "pop music which redefines the supposed boundaries of pop music." In a review for 2007's "Sexy! No No No...", Nick Levine of Digital Spy complimented Xenomania's work on the song: sacrificing "conventional song structure in the name of keeping [...] hooks coming thick and fast – and quite right too."
The band themselves are known to be fans of artists such as Ne-Yo, Oasis, and Michael Jackson.
The group's debut album Sound of the Underground takes influence from a number of 1980s genres, such as synthpop, power pop, and New Wave, and 1990s styles like big beat, drum and bass, and garage. The album received comparisons to girl groups such as Bananarama, The Bangles, and the Spice Girls. Similarities to Kylie Minogue and Madonna were also noted. A majority of the songs make use of guitars and electronic beats. The rise of indie rock also inspired Brian Higgins to "blur the edges between commercial music and so-called 'indie' music." He continued, "pop music was on its backside and indie music was about to rise, through The Strokes and everything else. We were an independent company and we were as indie as the other bands around us. The guitar riff on No Good Advice is very very similar to the riff on the track Michael by Franz Ferdinand." What Will the Neighbours Say? further explores different subgenres of pop, especially electropop. Synthesizers are more prominent on the album, although the usage of guitar remains prominent in several songs. The backing track to "Love Machine", composed by Xenomania musicians Tim Powell and Nick Coler, was inspired by The Smiths, while "Wake Me Up" includes a guitar riff inspired by garage rock.
Chemistry takes influences from a wide variety of sources, including "everything from French chanson to piano-pounding blues to the clipped R&B of the Small Faces". Rapping in the same vein as artists like Betty Boo and Neneh Cherry is prominent. Yahoo! Music says "there's nary a 'formula' in sight. There are as many sudden tonal and tempo switches as the tricksiest Chicago art rock band. And all but one song here gives guitars a starring role." The songs are noticeably less rooted in electronic music, although "Swinging London Town" is "a dark, squiggly synth pop epic a la Pet Shop Boys" and "It's Magic" is composed of "little Royksopp-like keyboard riffs". Alternatively, Tangled Up features a dancier, more electronic sound, inspired by the success of their 2006 single "Something Kinda Ooooh". "Call the Shots", "Close to Love", and "Girl Overboard" are all electropop numbers reminiscent of 1980s music. However, "Control of the Knife" is more inspired by reggae and ska, while "Can't Speak French" employs "jazzy guitar changes" and "Black Jacks" recalls "sixties psychedelica". Out of Control features a number of songs inspired by 1980s electropop, while also exploring retro styles. "The Promise" is a 1960s Spector-influenced number, while "Rolling Back the Rivers in Time" was compared to Burt Bacharach.