“Here I go, on the road, crank the stereo / I flick my finger to the world below…”
It’s all happening.
Twenty years ago, Sarah Harding, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Payne Cheryl Just Cheryl were just stepping off the ITV studio stage of Popstars: The Rivals as a newly formed girl band thrown together on live television. The boys of One True Voice were nipping at their heels. Louis Walsh was barking orders in their ear. Nadine’s passport was still missing. They had one shot.
As we now know today, they did it: the Brit-Award winning Almighty Aloud went on to secure the record for most consecutive Top 10 entries in the UK by a female group with 21 singles, taking the world by storm for the bulk of the ’00s and early ’10s. And it all started with a brilliant lead single: “Sound of the Underground.”
Having already celebrated that genuinely game-changing gamble of a lead single last year in the form of a vinyl release, Girls Aloud and Polydor/Fascination Records are now kicking off what is thrillingly described as “the first in a series of exciting reissues of the band’s studio albums,” beginning with their 2003 debut.
The 20th Anniversary Deluxe version of the album will be released on June 16 in 3-CD form (with the original cover, just as God intended), featuring B-sides, rarities and remixes and a 24-page booklet with brand new sleeve notes incorporating interviews with the girls, as well as never-before-seen photos. (There are also some shirts on the store!)
It’s also getting a vinyl release for the first time ever, available on green vinyl and a limited picture disc.
In addition, to kick off the announcement, the girls have released the 4k version of the original “Sound of the Underground” music video (which is geoblocked presently – very authentically throwback ’00s of them!), as well as “Sound of the Underground (Alternative Vocal Mix)” on DSPs, which was previously only available on the 7″ vinyl released last year. The new (old) version of the song features the girls flip-flopping the lines between each other. To be clear, they got it right with the official version, but it’s still a thrill to hear and imagine an alternate universe where Nicola Fucking Roberts kicks off the song.
Sound of the Underground is a fascinating listen twenty years ago, as it’s (understandably) the band’s least cohesive effort. Still, you can hear the sound of brilliance brewing in between the rushed studio sessions to capitalize on their reality TV show crowning.
The Aloud brand comes alive especially within the six songs cooked up by Xenomania, including the delightful, finger-flicking rowdiness “No Good Advice,” which would lead to a winning partnership that would supply the group’s now-signature brand of madcap lyricism and a mishmash of genius hooks and melodies Frankenstein-ed together for years to come.
“The aim was to bring in as much creativity as possible and make something as strong as the single ‘Sound of the Underground’…I would sit down with Brian and he’d say something like, ‘OK, so you’re a 17-year-old girl from Northern Ireland, now living in London.’ What’s going on in your life?’ Those chats were really important because they helped to drive our musical direction and make our songs genuine,” Nadine recalls.
And then, there was the moment that made them really pop with the locals, and convince the record label to give them a sophomore album: “Jump,” their Xenomania-produced Pointer Sisters cover, included on the Love Actually soundtrack.
“It was a make-or-break song for us as a band,” Kimberley says.
“‘Jump’ saved our career. It was four on the floor so it could be played in the clubs, but it was also familiar enough to be played on the radio. And at this point, it was probably our most digestible single,” Nicola adds.
This is an incredibly exciting moment for the Aloud fans, and a terrible moment for the Aloud fans’ bank accounts, as there seems to be plenty still to come. And, of course, it’s a bittersweet moment too. (We love you, Sarah.) Aloud forever.
Check out the full tracklisting…
Disc 1: The Original 2003 Album
Sound Of The Underground
No Good Advice
Some Kind Of Miracle
All I Need (All I Don’t)
Life Got Cold
Forever And A Night
Love / Hate
Boogie Down Love
Don’t Want You Back
Everything You Ever Wanted
Disc 2: B-Sides & Rarities
Sound Of The Underground (2022 Xenomania Alternative Vocal Mix)
Stay Another Day (‘Sound Of The Underground’ B-side)
Sacred Trust (Bee Gees cover version)
No Good Advice (Parental Advisory Version)
On A Round (‘No Good Advice’ B-side)
No Good Advice (Original Demo)
Life Got Cold (Radio Edit)
Girls On Film (UK Bonus Track) (‘Life Got Cold’ B-side)
Lights, Music, Camera, Action (‘Life Got Cold’ B-side)
Jump (from ‘Love Actually’)
Grease (Beatmasters Remix) (from ‘Greasemania’)
Some Kind Of Miracle (New Mix from album reissue)
You Freak Me Out (from ‘Freaky Friday’)
Hopelessly Devoted To You (from ‘Greasemania’)
Disc 3: The Remixes
Sound Of The Underground (Instrumental Breakdown Mix)
Sound Of The Underground (Brian Higgins Remix)
Sound Of The Underground (Flip & Fill Remix)
No Good Advice (Dreadzone Vocal Mix)
No Good Advice (Doublefunk Vocal Mix)
No Good Advice (Flip & Fill Remix)
Life Got Cold (29 Palms Remix Edit)
Life Got Cold (Stella Browne Edit)
Life Got Cold (29 Palms Remix)
Life Got Cold (Stella Browne Vocal Mix)
Jump (Almighty Vocal Mix)
Jump (Flip & Fill Remix)
Girls Allowed (Almighty Radio Edit)
Girls Allowed (Almighty Vocal Mix)
Some Kind Of Miracle (Illicit Mix)
The green vinyl is also available at Rough Trade UK.
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Photo credit: Polydor/Fascination