Monday, October 27, 2008

Number 1s of 2008: 26 October

(Or watch it on YouTube without the adverts in higher quality. I would.)

That's Girls Aloud, "The Promise", knocking off Pink after three weeks. It's almost certainly a one-week wonder, but I'll come back to that.

Girls Aloud were created in 2002 as the winners of Popstars: The Rivals, a Pop Idol-style show which whittled its way through an armada of contestants to come up with five girls and five boys. The boys became One True Voice, released two shockingly mediocre singles, then split up, to general relief. The girls became Girls Aloud, and ended up as the front-women for production house and songwriting team Xenomania, who are responsible for virtually all of their output.

Six years later, they're still going. They've seen off a ton of other talent show winners. They've seen off every other British girl band apart from the Sugababes (and now the Saturdays, but give them time). A lot of the credit for this has to go to Xenomania, who've given them material which is often very good, and often quite unusual. Their back catalogue ranges from ridiculous electro anthems to surprisingly good ballads to more electro anthems to eighties throwbacks to... well, I don't even know what this is.

And, admittedly, they've also released some cover versions, which are almost universally dire. But we shan't speak of that.

It's a very respectable career for a bunch of talent show winners. In fact, though, they're not as big as the British tend to assume, because they sell almost nothing abroad. According to their Wikipedia discography, their last album generated hits in the UK, Ireland and Croatia - and nowhere else. The Sugababes, in contrast, have racked up hits around western Europe and Australia.

And you might be surprised to learn that "The Promise" is only Girls Aloud's fourth number one - the other three being "Sound of the Underground" (their TV-promoted debut), "I'll Stand By You" (a charity single) and "Walk This Way" (um... another charity single).

I'm not quite sure about this new sixties direction, but hey, at least they keep changing, and that's always good in a pop act.

Now, this was meant to be the second of three consecutive number ones connected to The X-Factor, which is basically the current version of Pop Idol. The 2006 winner was Leona Lewis (but she's an anomaly - earlier winners were a motley bunch). Cheryl Cole from Girls Aloud is one of the judges this year. Next week, the finalists are releasing a charity single for injured veterans, which is practically guaranteed to go to number one.

But last week... well, last week's number one was meant to be "Don't Call This Love", the second single by 2007 winner Leon Jackson. He's no Leona Lewis, unfortunately, and the record entered at number 3 (dropping out of the top 10 entirely this week). This wouldn't have been so embarrassing, but for the fact that the number 2 single was "The Winner's Song" by Geraldine McQueen - comedian Peter Kay in a dress, singing a parody of the singles released by talent show winners. It's a damned odd record - it contains no jokes as such, just a subtly exaggerated version of what these records actually sound like. Gary Barlow wrote it.

It's a tie-in to Kay's Channel 4 special... deep breath... Peter Kay's Britain's Got The Pop Factor and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, which divided audiences in much the same way. The basic joke was that all of the acts had clearly made the final on the strength of their human interest stories rather than their abilities. (Good use of Cat Deeley, though.)

Since the record label won't let me embed "The Winner's Song", here's Geraldine's innovative medley of her favourite songs.

Leon Jackson came third to that. That's... not altogether encouraging.