Thursday, October 09, 2008

Not Aloud... dislike Girls Aloud? Here's to the musical equivalent of Tesco and Starbucks.

Human beings don't like to go against the grain. Fitting in with the general consensus is as natural as cleaning your ears and whether it's about everyday habits, general preferences, collective hysteria or collective mourning, nobody wants to feel like the odd-one out. It's an anthropological fact. So why would music be any different? How many times did I hear "Really? You don't like Oasis?". I still remember sitting in a pub in Moseley around the time Wonderwall topped the charts and heard a forty-something shaz saying how "amay-zeeng" the Gallaghers were. Then there were the Spice Girls. For a brief period of time it looked like they could do no wrong.

Still, nothing like today's sacred cows, Girls Aloud. Unlike the Spice Girls, these are truly revered by everyone. Indie kids or townies, masturbaceous teenage boys or forty-something mothers alike, they all want a piece of Cheryl and the girls. Have a look on Google. You won't find a single negative article, review, interview. The Pop Goddesses seem to have magically eluded any form of critical scrutiny. As far as the press is concerned, it's just an all-round collection of how great Girls Aloud are, how hard they work, how much they love to party, how good they look and more fawning, kowtowing and bootlicking.

Last Sunday's Observer's piece by Sylvia Patterson was a case in point. "Can anyone resist Girls Aloud?" was the interviewer's rhetorical question, followed by the mother of celebratory articles/interviews. The first two lines alone featured the words love, obsessed, amazing, fantastic as well as the ultimate form of life, and that was merely a quote from Coldplay's Chris Martin. The rest was just a cringeworthy exercise in grovelling.

Of course there is nothing wrong with loving a band and writing a celebritarian piece about how superfab they are. But with Girls Aloud one has the feeling new highs are being reached. The Observer's piece, for instance, was the epitome of sanitised, empty journalism, a lengthy celebration of nothingness. There was not a single factual, challenging question. And by that I don't mean Cheryl or Kimberley should have been asked about post-modernist political theory or the Wall Street bailout. But there's only as many paragraphs anyone can stomach about "the girls" saying "how ferociously supportive and protective" they are of Cheryl Cole "the survivor", "how much they love her" and how "she looks more gorgeous than ever". At times it felt like they should be spared any substantial questions or ballsy chat purely because they're pretty, lively, bubbly 'gals'. 'Makes you wonder what a good ol' feminist would make of that.

Like anything written about Girls Aloud so far, the Observer had literally nothing, not a word, about artistic development, or the reasons behind the band's current wave of notoriety and their 'ironic' impact on pop culture, or why their songs have such widespread appeal. Not even on the dynamics of their shows, how they prepare them, how they manage their stage moves, how they pick their clothes. And, of course, less than nothing about how their new album will sound or anything remotely associated with 'music'. Perhaps, just perhaps, because the girls themselves have got absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

Girls Aloud are the musical equivalent of Tesco and Starbucks, the perfect embodiment of 21st century marketing aggression. The songs they're told to sing are clearly infectious; the girls themselves are obviously good-looking and very good at wearing Gucci and D&G. They may also be great at selling themselves as a feisty, "about business" bunch of party gals. And faux-rock chick Sarah Harding is the dogs' at showing she can take a big swig from a whisky bottle in front of the cameras while she tells them to fuck off. But the image of barbie dolls placed on a stage and instructed by a team of marketing buffs and advertising executives about how to speak, what to sing, what to wear and how to dance springs to mind.

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