Of the four new tracks on “Ten”, the latest Greatest Hits collection from Girls Aloud, none is perhaps as precious as the four-minute-plus epic Eurodance romp “Every Now and Then.” Driving the five-piece straight into classic Xenomania territory with one of their most forward-thinking productions since The Saturdays’ “All Fired Up” (and, naturally so, the exceptionally better of the two). Of course, it’s not just the stunning levels of production that clench this as a hallmark Aloud moment.
Not since “Call The Shots” have Girls Aloud really nailed this kind of song; deep, soul-wrenching heartbreak with both feet firmly placed onto the dance floor. “Untouchable” was certainly close, but of the former two mentioned singles I’d even go as far as saying that “Every Now and Then” is the stronger and better track. This sublime, bittersweet song of the heart deals with a subject we’d all be familiar with and ensures the listener embarks on a rollercoaster of emotions upon its first listen. There’s also the matter of a whopping key-change that comes into play just as you think you’ve got the song figured out, just as you think you’ve nailed how the chorus sounds. Within its first minute the track shifts into overdrive, wallops itself into a higher key, before serving the lessors with the actual chorus, which is a million times better and more satisfying than you could have ever imagined. Little inflictions, like when Nadine croakily sings “I knew it from the start” – and sounds like she’s on the verge of a mini-meltdown – to Cheryl’s gut-wrenchingly telling line “I gave you everything, I even wore your ring”, there’s very little in this complete masterpiece of a pop song that doesn’t leave me for dead, slayed beyond conceivable existence.
That’s what I’ve really, really missed about Girls Aloud. Not just the little things they bring to the proverbial table that make them the greatest pop group since ABBA, but that undeniable ability to rip you apart into a million pieces with 4 minutes of song but still remind you that, no matter how heartbreaking the situation is, you’re going to come out on top. Girls Aloud have always sung about matters from the heart but there’s been this strong, near-feminist approach to a lot of their lyrics (for the most part) over the years. “Never ever going back,” they sing in the chorus to ‘Every Now & Then’, “I said I never would again, It’s better now that we’re apart, but I still think about you every now and then.” There’s this acknowledged melancholy in not only the lyric but the way it’s sung, but not before a statement of their strength and survival is thrown in for empowerment. The chorus, lyrically, reminds me slightly of Cher’s “Strong Enough” which, thematically, follows a very similar pattern; the tears have stopped, I know I am a better person without you but I can’t help thinking about you every now and then. It’s nice we’ve still got some girls in charge who are still hell-bent on putting the boys in their place, as opposed to the current trend where a large portion of our female pop stars are poppin’ puss ‘in da club’ and whailing about guys going down on them or, even worse, singing about how their relationship with a person who beat, kicked and bit the living shit out of them is “Nobody’s Business.” No, not Girls Aloud. Because that would not only label them as hypocrites, it would also reverse the power of their name and serve as an undoing to all of the hard work they’ve constructed over the last 10 years. Girls Aloud are more than just a girl group, they’re a Girl Force.
I discovered Girls Aloud properly in 2005 through Popjustice, also one of my discoveries that year. The year was a rough one for me personally and saw me in hospital for major life-saving surgery on my lung. After the operation I was housebound for 6 months; unable to walk for 3, unable to work for 4 and unable to drive a car for the full 6 month duration. I was stuck in a house where my only solace was the world wide web. After years of straying from my pop roots (I was working as a dance music journalist for a number of years before grounding myself where I belonged; in the pop world) I started to really investigate what I’d missed over the last two years, and one of those were the mighty Aloud. The music of Girls Aloud got me through the troubles I faced out of hospital; there was this level of strength within their music I hadn’t really heard via a girl group before, and it was exactly what I needed. Plus to top it off, the songs were mind-blowingly good. There was an immediate connection not only to what was being said, but to the way it was produced. There was something this girl band had that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but knew I would no longer be able to live without.
The return of Girls Aloud onto the pop market is a comeback I’ve been in harder celebration for than that of Madonna. And the return of my favourite pop group of current times could not have come any sooner. Just when I needed a little reminder of my worth, there were Girls Aloud, thinking of me – every now and then.
“And you’re out of my heart, I swear I can’t pretend. But the heart tears apart, as I still think about you every now and then.”