Monday, July 6, 2009

Album Review: Chemistry

America is seriously deprived. Here in America, we think the greatest pop act of the last decade is a blond girl from Louisiana with a knack for public exhibition. We think that the best thing to come from a reality show is a spunky Texan with musical mood swings. We think that Britain’s most important girl group has already had its heyday. We’re wrong on all counts. Girls Aloud is what we Yankees are lacking, and boy are we missing out.

For the uninitiated, Girls Aloud was formed back in 2002 on a British reality program, called Popstars: The Rivals. The idea behind the show was to create a boy band and a girl group that would compete to have the number one single on Christmas Day. Needless to say, Girls Aloud trounced their “rivals,” One True Voice. Now, here’s where things turn into the Curious Case of Girls Aloud. By all accounts, Girls Aloud should have faded into obscurity. Nadine, Nicole, Cheryl, Sarah, and Kimberley weren’t great singers. They didn’t write their own music. They didn’t have anything in particular they wanted to say with their music. However, they have somehow managed to release five studio albums in the subsequent six years and remain one of the most commercially successful and critically lauded pop groups in the U.K. What other act from a reality show can claim that?

So, what is the explanation for this? Personally, I think that one needs to look no further than the girls’ third studio album, Chemistry, to answer that question. Released in 2005, it contained an eclectic mash-up of synth, 50’s bass lines, stitched together choruses, and odd song structure. Oh sorry, I was just referring to the song Biology. The album, believe it or not, has ever more to offer. Credit must be given to Xenomania, the production company that breathed life into this album. Their wild experimentation into what pop music can be have yielded some of the most original songs this side of the Atlantic—we just don’t know that yet. Whether you prefer the deceptively simple structure of Watch Me Go, the pulsating beat of Swinging London Town, or the blatantly sardonic nature of Racy Lacey, this album has such range it’s almost unbelievable. Even more shockingly, almost every song is amazing.

Almost. The ballad, See The Day, is a bit overwrought. To me, it’s the only blemish on what is nearly a perfect album. To be fair, an average Girls Aloud tune still manages to hold its own again some of the best work from lesser artists. Leona Lewis would probably have a hit with that song, but only because she doesn’t have much else to choose from. The standards are higher for these girls. Luckily, the girls show they can handle a ballad with Whole Lotta History, a lovely lament of a relationship gone sour. Plus, you can be sure you’ll never hear Leona Lewis sing “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

The bottom line is that Girls Aloud deserves international attention, but they’re content to focus on the United Kindgom and releasing masterpiece after pop masterpiece. If that’s the secret to their success, then more girl power to them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Savage Songs: Biology, Racy Lacey, and Whole Lotta History

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