Review Summary: Essential for any fan of pop music this past decade.
Girls Aloud are one of the few reality TV graduates to seemingly have shaken off that tag, and on this 2006 greatest hits compilation they show exactly why. Spanning 15 tracks, this is a perfect album for anyone looking for all the hits up until that time, and neatly sums up their overall sound.
Their first single, and opening track "Sound of the Underground" still sounds fresh and edgy now, and in retrospect it's obvious why this track won them Popstars: The Rivals - production house Xenomania craft a catchy, slick pop song underlined by drum n' bass influenced percussion and guitars more rocking than half of the middle of the road "indie rock" that became so popular this decade - the girls provide the perfect vocal for the song, and this track remains a classic to this day. Other massive singles like "Love Machine" and "Biology" also use ingredients from that opening track to great effect, the former an unashamed bouncy power-pop number and the latter a more mellow offering, the chorus's additional vocals being ridiculously catchy and really making the song. Another definite highlight is "The Show", Xenomania's production at it's absolute best, with upbeat percussion and buzzing synths melting to produce a more understated but no-less catchy hit single.
What's great about the album's sound is that, unlike some other bands, Girls Aloud never try and mask their total pop credentials, and the guitars and slick, stylish production is used to maximize this attribute, never to hide it or create a mask of "credibility". Even when the band decide to "play ball" and match the style and sound of their contemporaries, with Pretender's cover "I'll Stand By You" succeeding largely on the vocal performance of the girls - whilst no one's pretending they're the next Whitney Houston, the carry the song's massive chorus and do the song justice. They enter the ballad foray again with "See The Day", and whilst it's a good song, one does feel that the band would do well exploring this side of their sound with original material - whilst this isn't a knock on the quality of the music itself, it would be good to hear the group's own take on that kind of song.
Overall, this is pretty essential for any fan of pop music this past decade. In a ten year span that's seen the rise and rise of reality television pop contests, one cannot go wrong with reminders such as this - for every bland, identikit winner of the show there is a success story (such as the one shown here) which drives those shows in the first place, and makes their contestant's dreams of pop stardom and genuine musical achievement very real indeed.