It's not strange to have had reservations about the return of Girls Aloud. A year break and a three-album promise became a three-year break and a Greatest Hits that feels more like a goodbye than a hello. During those three years, some of their solo careers took off and some fell faster than Felix Baumgartner, and while some members seemed to remain close, others clearly felt like keeping the distance. There were rumours about fall-outs, about miscommunication. The more they let the momentum go, the more it made the best of us wonder, "Will they make it?". At some of their tragic, most bizarre times, it didn't seem like it.
And yet, it all feels a bit of a hazy memory now, a few hours after listening to their new single, titled 'Something New'. Originally meant for release this Friday, it leaked last night, thus sending pop fandom into delirium. I didn't have particular expectations about the sound, I - I think, like many others - simply wanted it to be good. Girls Aloud's career is full of stylistic changes, all executed with the same amount of success, never compromising the quality of their sound. Tracks like 'Sound of The Underground', 'Biology' or 'Sexy! No No No...' have nothing in common except for the voices that sing them, and yet they all represent the vibe of Girls Aloud, through the originality of the lyrics and the song structure and the groundbreaking element they all held at the moment of their release. All we, pop lovers, not-so-secretly needed was for them to do that again.
The indisputable team of Xenomania/Girls Aloud have been the ones to set the trends over the years for others to follow, and 'Something New' continues down that path. They are now coming back to a pop scene that isn't the same as when they left, and they're doing it in a very intelligent way: by adopting some of the Calvin Harris electronic massive sound that is current right now, yet creating an intricate song structure (because it just wouldn't be a Girls Aloud song if it didn't sound like 5 songs into one) that will be food for thought for those who care a little too much about music.
For those who don't, the song will probably still sound catchy and kind of huge, because it is. It is a huge song, with lyrics that couldn't fit better with the current pop paradigm, specially in terms of girl bands: They sing about being the leaders of the pack, they remind us to feel the beat deep underground (perhaps a self reference?), and the song completely climaxes when the chants to "follow the leader" start. It's a complete declaration of intentions, a reminder of who is finally coming back and reclaiming their more than deserved throne. And with it, the balance of pop music is finally restored.
Better watch your back, Stooshe/The Saturdays/Little Mix.
Today, 'Something New' got its first play in Capital Radio, and then Radio 1, where a less than impressed Fearne Cotton - "I didn't expect that. Are they rapping? It sounds like Nicki Minaj"- struggled to say something nice about it. "Maybe it'll be a grower" she finally said, as if she could sense that she was missing the point. Not everyone sees the layers, the subtlety that sets them apart from everybody else. But maybe that's part of the beauty and magic of Girls Aloud.