One True Voice. Shane Ward. Leon Jackson. Matt Cardle. Little Mix. The thought of a reality show winning pop act enjoying a career spanning a decade seems ludicrous, especially given the fact that most these days fail to struggle through 18 months before being dropped. Yet here come Girls Aloud, reunited and flaunting their tenth anniversary to all and sundry. You could debate the reasons for their longevity – the fact that they arrived while the format was still relatively fresh, clever PR management, a brutally efficient approach to song writing – but the reality is, Girls Aloud have lasted because they’re pretty fantastic.
As with all great pop acts, the proof of that particular pudding can only come in the eating of their greatest hits. They’ve already been down this route in 2006 but Ten brings the story up to date, adding six singles and four new tracks. Working backwards from ‘Something New’, it proves that – although they haven’t exactly taken radical steps forward – they have managed to maintain the quality. What makes the lead track so enticing is that it harks back to their golden era in the mid-‘00s when the likes of ‘Love Machine’, ‘The Show’ and Biology’ saw them hit a vein of form that took them out of the teenage girl band ghetto and onto the greater stage. Those tracks still prove the highlight of their career so far, fizzing with an excitement and joy that’s hard to beat.
It’s not all perfect, though. When Girls Aloud were good, they were very very good. When they were bad, they were the Saturdays. Thus the band who were able to produce the sublime ‘Call The Shots’ and gloriously ridiculous ‘Something Kinda Ooh’ were also able to slip into lazy covers ‘(Jump’, ‘Stand By You’) or indentikit pop (‘Untouchable’). Yet, as even their first ever single ‘Sound Of The Underground’ proved, there was always the chance of some inspired brilliance around the corner.
Should we talk of the band in the past tense at all, though? The suggestions are that this – and the accompanying tour next year – will be their final curtain call and, while the other three new songs are nowhere near up to the same standard as ‘Something New’, it would still be one of the few occasions when a band has had the sense to bow out at the top. All five have new lives to return to, although only Nicola Roberts’ work so far suggests anything close to their joint best, and so Ten will most probably be their swansong. They don’t come much better.