Hello, thanks for tuning into the ninth blummin’ edition of DiS Does Pop: The pop column for people who think Florence & The Machine were infinitely improved by Calvin Harris’ remix... which admittedly isn’t saying much.
This month we’re running through the 10 best girl bands of all-time because someone needed to step up to the plate and decide whether TLC are better than The Shangri-Las. As virtually the first form of manufactured pop, you can practically judge the strength of the genre by its biggest girl band. So yes, quite a lot is riding on the debut Little Mix album being ‘not shit’. There’s also a special Olympic Baromenter of Pop and Made For TV for regular readers of this near year-old bastion of Top 40-related nonsense.
The 10 best girl bands of all-time...ever
Before we go on, two things need to be sorted out. Firstly, someone will have to sit down with The Saturdays and explain that they didn’t make the cut. Secondly, we’re going to have to define what a girl band is before all hell breaks lose. To do this simply, we’ve written a handy Q&A.
What is a girl band?
A manufactured pop act (i.e. all-singing, all-dancing, all-embracing of commercial partnerships) consisting purely of members of the female gender.
So I guess that means Bikini Kill and Pussy Riot can’t be included?
No and - for simplicity’s sake - neither can The Runaways.
Why not just forget gender and do a general list of pop bands?
- We didn’t want to choose between ABBA and Alphabeat, on top of all the other very tough decisions to be made.
- We’re planning on wringing this column out for as long as possible.
How could you dare neglect 2NE1?
We appreciate your polite concern and would like to direct you to the comments section should you wish to vent further.
That all makes sense, what do I do now?
Read on starting with the Number 10 entry below or the Number 1 entry further down if you want to skip 1,000 words or so.
As the all-female group with the most global chart entries, no list of the best girl bands would be complete without Bananarama. The biggest act of the SAW era would have probably been a lot less successful had they agreed to be managed by Malcolm McLaren as he proposed in their early days. Then again, they may not have dated so badly, with many of their biggest hits having become a victim of saccharine 80s production values. ‘Love In The First Degree’ is still a tune mind.
9) All Saints
Thanks to the Spice Girls, the 90s were the biggest boom time for girl bands since Motown was in vogue. In Britain alone, Atomic Kitten, Mis-Teeq and B*Witched all strode in and out of the charts as the decade ran its course. All Saints get the nod above their peers mainly because of ‘Pure Shores’ - a song so good that Madonna reportedly blacklisted producer William Orbit after he neglected to give her first dibs on it. Also, Richard Hawley contributed his brooding guitar talents to their cover of ‘Under The Bridge’ and that man is a solid indicator of what is the dog's bollocks and what is not.
8) The Shangri-Las
The girl band for people who don’t like girl bands. The Shangri-Las have enjoyed an untarnished critical reputation for years now thanks to the fact that they sang about death and stuff. That and their lead singer Mary Weiss was rumoured to have got in trouble with the FBI for transporting a firearm across state lines. Oh, and before we forget, they had some bloody brilliant songs too. Not least ‘Past, Present and Future’ which borrowed from Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ years before Glasvegas magically did exactly the same thing for ‘Stabbed’.
We love the Sugababes and they love us... at least one of those statements is true. While we really are extremely excited about the origibabes reunion of Mutya Keisha & Siobhan, it’s worth remembering that their best songs and success came with Heidi Range on board. ‘Push The Button’, ‘Freak Like Me’ and ‘About You Now’ all feature the blonde Sugababe but now she’s out in the pop wilderness alongside Jade Ewen and Amelle Berrabah. It’s a cruel world readers, especially when you happen to be in a girl band.
6) The Ronettes
The vehicle for Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and a song of timeless beauty in ‘Be My Baby’, The Ronettes are undoubtedly one of the most influential girl bands to have ever set foot inside the Top 40. From Jesus & The Mary Chain to Lady Gaga, it’s easier to list the acts that haven’t nicked an idea or two from this iconic trio at some point or another. “I'd like to have a nickel for every joint he [Brian Wilson] smoked trying to figure out how I got the 'Be My Baby' sound,” Spector has bragged. For all his production genius, a lot of the credit for The Supremes’ success goes to the tender voices that made up their line-up. Harmonies rarely come better than those created by sisters Veronica and Estelle Bennett, and their cousin Nedra Talley.
CrazySexyCool - a three word manifesto to define your teenage poster collection by and the title of a damn fine album. It’s a minor miracle that TLC figured out a pithy summary for themselves because lord knows we’d struggle otherwise. A girl band who didn’t need a man to satisfy themselves, weren’t at all engineered for the dancefloor and featured a hip-hop auteur in Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes - they were truly one of a kind. Despite what some cretins will tell you, it takes something special to sell 50 million records worldwide and TLC were the R&B group who carved out a magic formula of magnetic slow jams that no-one has managed to replicate since their untimely demise.
4) Spice Girls
If you grew up in the 90s with a similarly aged sister then you will have watched Spiceworld at least five times. Like Geri Halliwell’s solo cover of ‘Raining Men’ and Mel B’s reality TV career, these are facts we can all choose to deny but they are facts nonetheless. Why reject Sporty, Scary, Posh, Baby and Ginger, when you can join them in their ill-defined and altogether nonsensical quest for girl power instead? Subtlety wasn’t their strong point but Number 1 singles which wedged themselves right in your frontal lobe certainly were. ‘Stop’, ‘Wannabe’, ‘Spice Up Your Life’ - all examples of dazzlingly dumb pop fun with its tongue firmly in cheek.
3) Girls Aloud
When you consider just how well Girls Aloud turned out it’s easy to forget what might not have been. Nicola Roberts (a.k.a. the cool one) and Kimberly Walsh (a.k.a. Princess Fiona) were only drafted into the Popstars: The Rivals after two other contestants dropped out. One True Voice, the boy band to be spawned from that show, tragically disbanded after only two singles. Most significantly in January 2003 - four months before the release of their debut album Sound Of The Underground - Cheryl [Tweedy/Cole] was charged with assaulting a nightclub toilet attendant.
Despite all of this the ragtag group of five would go on to string together a run of 20 UK Top 10 singles, two bona fide classic albums in Tangled Up and Chemistry and release their own range of Fashion Fever Barbies. Right at the heart of this triumphant tale is Brian Higgins’ production team Xenomania which provided the creative spark behind every record its flagship girl band produced. To paraphrase the Pet Shop Boys, this was a partnership where looks, brains and some mighty fine singing voices combined to make everyone a shitload of money.
2) The Supremes
If you thought the Sugababes were bad, spare a thought for the 10 singers who all performed as part of The Supremes. Especially when the ones who aren’t Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson only get a mention in the context of how they ruined EVERYTHING. That’s not exactly true but, to be completely honest, ‘High Energy’ and ‘Bad Weather’ aren’t the tracks to have earned the band their Number 2 spot.
No it’s the golden years between 1961-67 which have come to define this archetypal trio. The years where ‘Baby Love’ was followed by ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’ which was followed by ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. There were a few more songs about love and some other ones about heartache but they always made for a timeless snapshot of Motown at its very finest. Besides, not even our champion girl band do 'romantic woe' better than The Supremes.
1) Destiny’s Child
It’s been 11 years since ‘Bootylicious’ and we’re still not sure we can handle ‘this’? ‘This’ being the all-conquering force of Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and the numerous singers they performed with as Destiny’s Child and Girl's Tyme before that.
Like the Spice Girls and The Supremes before them, it’s impossible to neglect the role this girl band’s manager had in their existence. There would be no ‘Independent Women’ without Matthew Knowles and his brutal chop and change approach to the Destiny’s Child line-up. Between The Writing's on the Wall and Survivor four members passed through the group’s revolving door but the tone of confident femininity remained the same.
This tenacious mantra of girl power mk.II - think fewer Union Jack dresses, more references to rude boys with street credibility - was the glue that held Destiny’s Child together until their split in 2006. Excluding the abominable ‘Cater 2 U’, every one of the band’s imperious singles stuck to this script and featured a peerless R&B beat to boot. The result was a string of hits that easily withstand a decade’s worth of perspective and lay down a near impossible gauntlet to any future challengers. Like we said earlier, Little Mix have quite a job on their hands.
The Olympic Barometer of Pop
Jessie Ware - 110% Golden
Such is the level of anticipation surrounding Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion, that it's already ranked at 20/1 to win the Mercury Music Prize the week before its release. That's better than Ed Sheeran, Laura Marling and Graham Coxon - all of whom can be expected to pick up a nomination next month. We don't remember this kind of hype surrounding the Nicola Roberts LP but we suppose she really needed to dabble in post-dubstep a bit more.
Anyway, we can assert with some confidence that there are at least four awesome tracks on Devotion because Jessie unveiled 'Sweet Talk' last week. It's a sultry, soulful slowjam which ideally would have been done in collaboration with R Kelly but since we like Ms Ware so much, we'll let her off.
Rita Ora - Silver Right Now
Rita Ora is quite good at being a popstar - i.e. making DJ Fresh sound bearable - but she's even better at telling Jay-Z anecdotes. There was the time she mentioned to MTV that Beyonce's BFF 'loved' her debut album. The occasion she told GQ that Hova advised her to 'act more like Chris Martin'. And who can forget where they were when they read in Complex that Jay had told her 'you're not good enough'? All classics we tell you, all classics.
Aiden Grimshaw - Is This Bronze?
Given the Aiden Grimshaw album campaign seems to be flatlining, we feel it's only right to throw our full weight behind the mournful credi-pop prowess of 'Curtain Call'. Now we've fallen in line behind basically every other British music publication, the former X Factor contestants latest single should at least manage a Top 60 chart position. If only Aiden could trade all those nice words for a spot on the Capital FM playlist eh?
Pet Shop Boys - Winners... Of The Wooden Spoon
Hooray! The Pet Shop Boys have a new single out called 'Winner'. It's not an official single for London 2012 but given the effort that went into timing its release - 'It's called 'Winner'? Let's stick it out around the Olympics' - we're a bit sad not to have seen it used in at least one BBC montage. Not that sad but a little sad.
Wiley - DNF (a.ka. Heatwave)
Just when we had almost forgiven Wiley for his part in Roll Deep's god-awful 'Good Times', along came 'Heatwave'. A song that's hilariously appalling for many reasons, the best being its video which is a cut and paste job of Dizzee Rascal's 'Holiday' from three years ago. This makes us feel angry and confused but mainly old, very old.
Made For TV: The Hit Factory - The Stock, Aitken & Waterman Story
It's been a muddled couple of months for Pete Waterman. On the plus side, he enjoyed a long and highly entertaining conversation with us. On the downside, his Hit Factory Live Hyde Park mega-gig was cancelled due to poor weather and definitely not poor ticket sales. If you want to see why all the fuss about SAW exists in the first place, this ace ITV documentary is worth a gander.