100 min • Manchester Arena • March 7, 2013
Last week I took myself along to one of the most talked about concerts of the year so far: Girls Aloud’s ‘Ten’ tour, a concert that set out to celebrate the girls’ 10 year pop music career (we won’t mention the fact that they weren’t active for almost 4 of those 10). Having seen so many friends’ comments through social media on how brilliant the concert is, I was rather looking forward to getting my pop fix from the biggest Girl band of the last decade. Imagine my disappointment when I left Manchester’s M.E.N arena feeling nothing but underwhelmed.
If this is (we are to believe) their unofficial farewell tour, then it was a wasted opportunity in saying goodbye and celebrating what has been a welcome addition to Pop Music. Yes, they did the hits but they were presented with such a lack of enthusiasm and stage presence I found myself wondering how long until it was until it was over. Where was the creativity? Where was the artistry? It felt nothing more than a duty bound gig owed for contractual reasons. Pop doesn’t have to be so dull. It should be fun! The show has received glowing reviews from most music critics and put high praise on its content. So I began to ask myself if I was disappointed in what was presented to me, or if I was upset that our pop stars now play it so safe they have nothing to say when it comes to a live show.
Girls Aloud were born out of the ITV show Popstars, The Rivals back in 2002. The reality music show then went on to dominate the ‘00s and has since polluted the music charts as a result. Standing next to the winners and ‘artists’ from these shows, the Girls have done remarkably well (David Sneddon anyone?) They have had a string of Top 10 Hits, a #1 UK album and managed to bag a Brit Award to top it off. The team behind this powerful brand do make good pop songs. But do any of the girls actually bring anything to the group other than the ability to go throw the motions? Even Sarah found that trying.
Pop today is ruled by reality star competitors who are such products they haven’t got anything to say. They are happy to go along as part of the machine and as a result become such faceless acts that, when it comes to performing in an arena tour, the flaw in the pop plan is plain to see. There could have easily have been 5 other girls on that stage singing those songs. I may as well have just stayed at home, played the greatest hits CD, whacked on a feather boa, turned up the disco lights and stood with my hands in a catwalk pose style. It would have been the same experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shite pop. In-fact I have made a fine career out of playing pop music every week. But let’s not go for second best. Just because it’s pop we shouldn’t dismiss its power. Maybe I’m wanting too much? But when you sit in an audience, longing for the people on stage to be The Spice Girls, you know you have a problem. Perhaps it is time for the music industry to surrender the reality format, and return to searching out real pop stars rather than simply stacking the deck by manufacturing the product.