22
Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 5 / Girls Aloud – “The Show”

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Pop Factor: 807 Controversy Score: 153

A little cold, a little forbidding, perhaps even a little too well-drilled: typical Girls Aloud. Their singles are design objects: beautiful, impeccably put together, never neglecting the practical (i.e. you can move to this stuff), but lacking warmth. Which often doesn’t matter. And also – in among the shining sweeps and arcs of the synthwork a little flawed humanity creeps in anyway, from the clunky, cryptic words. The awful oversinging in the first verse is a sign of fallibillity too, and a less attractive one, but I can forgive 5 rotten seconds. 9 (Tom)

I hear this as another song about saying NO to sex: you don’t see the show until my heart says so! (But is the something special just a little bit dirtier: we’re surely out of Avril Lavigne territory here?) Or just about saying NO to men in general. I should have known, should have cared, should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear – Oh really? At what point was that part of the deal? But the war between the sexes being a dialectic, it’s no fun on your own, so we’re back into the show… So perhaps you SHOULD have made me? Should have made me do what it takes to keep you: and the flip retort flip-reverses. Did she want to be made or not? How could you have known? But you should have. 10 (alext)

A huge great fruit machine of a song, all flashing lights and improbable promises – if it weren’t for the fact that fruit machines are rubbish. A glamour mag of a tune, shiny pages of shiny pouting models and fold-out freebie perfume rubbing off like celebrity on your fingers -but glamour mags are boring. Chicklit lyrics – I know what I want and it’s you, but I’m going to faff about with other blokes for a while anyway – except chicklit is stodgy and smug. I can’t think what to say about this, how to explain that it’s just thrilling. The clipped vocals, the crunched-up synth, hook piling into hook like silver cars on a science fiction highway. Joy.

Plus, the power of pop telly is such that I cannot listen to this song without the image of The Blonde One doing her ‘get in the queue’ thumb-up handwave. Best dance move ever. 10 (cis)

Abba-esque in its catchiness, The Show is just so devilishly addictive. Pop is all about the in-group, being part of the masses. The Show seems to instantly draw you into the (female) circle, begging you, the listener, to sing along. Although I want to erase the synths – even though I realize that’s what makes The Show a hit – there’s never a moment I want to reach for the stop-button. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

A group’s not “Girls Aloud!” unless they’re afraid they won’t be heard. That they “hung around the kitchen in their underwear” reveals more than just their underclothes or their sense of how to play with propriety. It’s where they find comfort, sip tea, spoon some ice cream, crack jokes and pause for breath from the rigors of performance – where we’ll have to wait for them and that is that. These young ladies don’t rap so much as let off a rhyming stream of self-consciousness, a chant coating a dense, rushed and buzzing synthesized background. “That special something that they are hunting, they’re always wanting more and more” is not just a bridge, if I read Paul Morley’s “From moppets to puppets” correctly. “Nobody sees the show until my heart says so” is what they say to themselves to buck up their courage. The curtain rises and they hit the stage, but it’s not a musical. It’s just broads’ way. 9 (George Kelly)

Well sexy tune, with synth lines flashing across the mix like long legged dancers. BUT problems present themselves – it’s too fast and dense to dance to, like the girls have been shackled to a frantic dance workout machine. And the concept lyrics are great only once you’ve figured out what they’re on about.

Musically though, I get off on the tango-style sexuality that catalyses hi NRG production into a strident show stopper. The key to dancing to this must be to find a partner. And if I have any remaining doubts about how this song works, it’s only because there’s so much going on under the bonnet. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Note to self: find a hairdresser who hangs around the kitchen in her underwear or die like Atomic Kitten trying. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

Two songs for the price of one – stellar pop! I bet they have a movie called Girls World before long, and that’d be a good thing. 8 (Jel)

Arpeggiated ‘title screen’ synths grind into motion, the echo of a ghost in the pop machine, some dark, vampish chills n’ thrills to come? The idea of the girls as mere joyless cut-outs almost appeals, almost a sense of guilt or even relief in hearing the tone of their regret so cold, depleted and possibly cyborgian. Whereas Alison Goldfrapp (the saucy mare) appears to willfully embrace the trappings of her strict machine, GA seem noticeably less thrilled by the prospect of mechanical oppression. No Orgasmatron for them, only gleaming but desolate cells, dancefloor prisons with no-one else around. Show, what show? Is it over? Has it started yet? Is there still time to go to the lobby and get ourselves some snacks?

Nadine’s opening line grates at first, like a chalk agonizingly scraping ‘TRITE’ on a blackboard, but there’s still the sense of hope in her brittle tone. The harmonies, particularly in the bridge and chorus are stark but satisfying in that synthetic style, with the call to be rescued perhaps cutting the deepest. Despite appearing locked in broody resentment (of themselves, of the other party and of the fact there were these things they DIDN’T do) their defiance, stubbornness, refusal to let go also resounds heavily. Like continuing to hurt was at least still a sign of life. Attracted by the sound I’ve wandered into the abandoned fairground, opened up an old door and turned the light back on, to find them all there in their individual cages – beautiful emotional freaks captured like birds. But their pleas sound too scripted and rehearsed. How to trust them? Is this the show itself? The doubt, the guilt, it’s all too much! I’m off for a cold shower… 8 (Steve M)

Strikes me as a hi-NRG version of some of the girly-groups who hogged the sound systems of cheesy meet-market dance clubs in the mid/late-80’s (Waitresses, Bananarama, Expose, Cover Girls). Which is no mean feat, actually. As with those artists, “The Show” exhibits a certain “becoming” facelessness. I can’t even begin to form a mental image of what these Girls Aloud look like, so anonymous and bland is their singing. Again, a good thing. The ravey hook of the chorus oddly reminds me of “Chime”. (I realize I’m probably alone here). Yeah, this track would have my gangly ass on the dance floor, Long Island Iced Tea in hand. 7 (Henry Scollard)

Some fiddly vocal lines, as when different voices sing on “I want you”, do them no favours at all (they’re pretty ordinary singers, and anything that draws attention to this is not helpful), and it’s not got the power of their mighty first two singles – the main vocal lines sound very mechanical and don’t really hook me – I think there is a disappointing lack of big moments. Nonetheless, it bounces along pleasantly enough, and I like the housey breakdown three quarters of the way through. 7 (Martin Skidmore)

As a kid, I would be a dancin’ with my-self uh oh oh to Axel F, performing for a hundred thousand strong throng of hysterical admirers. This has the same animus. Utterly relentless, completely lacking in pretention and fillled with some of the most bone dumb sillyass lyrics I’ve EVER heard (“shoulda known, shoulda cared, shoulda hung around the kitchen in my underwear”?); putting this on permarepeat hurts like an indian burn, but switching it back on after three hours of the new Devin tha Dude album feels fresh like an Altoid. A little online hunting suggests that these guys are the progeny of a Brit “American Idol” type show. Sometimes the suits get it right. 7 (Forksclovetofu)

This is good. I was searching those lyric sites again, so I could figure what they were saying at the ‘shoulda this, shoulda that’ bit. Oh all right, I looked them up so I could sing along. Happy now? Now if I started looking up the ringtone7 (Bushra)

Meh. Sounds like Sugababes covering the Spice Girls, which isn’t as bad an idea as I thought after a few listens. Still, I feel like I’m missing something w/out any sort of accompanying media blitz to give my formless, diffident feelings for the song some substance and structure. I need calculated marketing schema against which my passion and snarkery can flower and bloom!

The femme-pop over here in the Most Popular Country In the World…Ever! seems to eschew the glitz and glamour of electric dreams for guitar-based effrontery dripping with authenticity (Britney notwithstanding, of course, since she can do whatever the hell she wants) (and I think Fefe Dobson is rocking the 99 Luftballoons, but I can’t say that for sure). Between this track, the Rachel Stevens slab goodness, the Sugababes MP3s that repeatedly find their way onto my playlist, and the wonder that is Richard X, I find myself landlocked pop-wise (poplocked?), dreaming of a United States where Sheryl Crow ain’t a thang, The Matrix is just a movie, and Michelle Branch is getting Fischerspooner to produce her next record. So, hey, Tom or anyone else reading this – if you got some more, please send it, even if substandard. 6 (David Raposa)

Something clever about it being all Show and no substance?
Something about walking around stools?
Something about the Sugababes doing this sort of thing better?

All of that is bollocks. I cannot put my finger on why I do not like The Show. My critical faculties tell me that I should. And yet the curse of Girls Aloud is that if I see them, I hate them. They should be like Kraftwerk and send out mannequins of themselves, because after seeing the debut of this on CD:UK I disliked it. The more I hear it devoid of them, the more I like it. In this ying-yang battle the song is caught halfway so it gets a 5. (Pete)

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