Girls Aloud are a British girl group. They hold the record for "Most Consecutive Top Ten Entries in the UK by a Female Group" with 20 consecutive top tens. Nineteen of those were produced by Xenomania.
The group was formed on November 30, 2002, on the TV show Popstars: The Rivals. The premise of the programme was to produce a boyband and a girlband who would be "rivals" and compete for the 2002 Christmas number one single. The five girls who made it into the band were Cheryl Tweedy, Nicola Roberts, Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh and Sarah Harding. They were named Girls Aloud.
Girls Aloud won the battle with their single "Sound of the Underground", which stayed at number one for four weeks.
The runners-up, a boy band called One True Voice, were managed by Pete Waterman. Girls Aloud were originally managed by Louis Walsh. "We finished the show and it was literally 'you're on your own'. Louis was our manager on paper but he just never got involved", said Kimberley Walsh. In their first few years, they found their only ally on Xenomania's Brian Higgins. "It was literally, 'Here's the producer'", explains Kimberley. "And nobody else was there. And that's why Brian's like the sixth member because he had nobody else to talk to, only us"1.
"Yeah, we're manufactured, but we went down to the studio and we'd be, 'We don't like that song', and got into altercations. We decided to do [Sound Of The] Underground. We were No.1 for a month straight and then getting songs from all these other producers and we were, 'Nah, don't like it'. We waited from December to May before releasing a second single because we knew it had to be our strong point or we might as well kiss our careers goodbye"1, Nadine Coyle says.
That's when they found "No Good Advice". "I think we came along for each other at the right time," says Brian Higgins. He has stated that the moment that bonded him to Girls Aloud came at the beginning of the sessions for their second single. "When we started working on No Good Advice we played them some of it, and they said: 'That's not our sound.' I objected to the use of that phrase 'our sound'. I told them they had five minutes to talk about whether or not they wanted to continue with me. They went away and spoke about it and since then it's been fine. They come in expecting to work, and there's a trust there which, I think, dates back to that day"2.
The story of Girls Aloud is as much the story of their production/songwriting team. The vision of Xenomania comes through in every song, but the performers are also an important piece. "The idea that they've spent five years showing up in our studio and just sung any songs we throw at them is ludicrous. It's great artists that make the producers great"3, Higgins declares. He says that the success of the songs rides on the girls' personalities: "No matter how good a tune might be, if the girls couldn't take charge of it and get us excited, we'd chuck it out"4.
Kimberley explains the band's longevity: "It's partly the quality of the songs, and the fantastic relationship we have with our producer Brian Higgins and his main songwriter, Miranda [Cooper]. We connect with our material and we always try to bring something fresh to our performances"5.
A Girls Aloud record starts with a chat with Brian Higgins. One by one, the girls go to his studio and tell him all about what's been happening since their last album. "It's not like an interview or anything," says Kimberley. "We know him so well that we can talk to him about anything. He just wants to know whatever's". "Brian takes inspiration from all that, so it's important he's up to date with where we are. Our songs have to reflect us so that's why we do it,"6 says Nicola.
"It infuriates Brian when people say bad things about us not writing our own songs," adds Kimberley. "He's like, 'I couldn't have this kind of success without you and the whole team of people around us.' The way we look, the way we are as people - all of that inspires Brian to write. We just sing bits and pieces of the songs and he builds the music around us. Our vocal performances are a big part of the song, though". "It would be a shame if someone like our producer Brian Higgins went unnoticed," says Cheryl Cole. "He can't sing a note and he definitely couldn't front 'Love Machine' or 'Biology'. Those songs would never have come to light if it hadn't been for us"5.
Girls Aloud have released six albums (one of those a Greatest Hits), always working with Xenomania. The first, Sound Of the Underground, is the only which also has the contribution of other producers.
Miranda Cooper says that Girls Aloud "are one of the last pop bands out there"3. For Brian Higgins, the girls have helped usher a new, credible age of pop music. "It's moved away from being merely a product to satisfy a market. Bands such as Sugababes and Girls Aloud indicate to the public where the bar is, and anyone coming in below that really struggles. There's less pop out there, but the producers and writers are coming up with stuff as original as anything the indie bands are. And that's how it should be"4.