The members of Girls Aloud - Nadine Coyle, Cheryl, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh - smiling together on a red carpet event
I love girl groups. What gay doesn’t? (Picture: Dave Benett/Getty Images)

The Sound on the Underground has been confirmed and it’s finally official. Girls Aloud are back.  

Nadine Coyle, Cheryl, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh will be touring the UK and Ireland in 2024 to honour the late, great Sarah Harding and celebrate more than 20 years since they were first formed.

And I’ll come right out and say it: they are the best girl band of all time.

No, I don’t mean ‘since the Spice Girls’ or ‘in the UK, at least’. 

I mean ever. Ever!

Look, I love girl groups. What gay doesn’t?

From the saccharine energy of B*Witched to the sleek R&B flavour of Mis-Teeq, I was totally on board with the late-90s and early-noughties boom in all-female collectives.

If you don’t consider All Saints’ Pure Shores one of the best songs of the century, or break into a strut whenever you hear the intro to Destiny’s Child’s Lose My Breath, who even are you?

In the 2010s, Little Mix became absolute giants, too, with a decade-long raft of empowerment bangers. And now, the likes of Flo are ushering in the next generation of female phenomena; while the original Sugababes are making delicious vocal magic all over again.

Spice Girls, of course, started the wave – at least, here in the UK. They came out when I was seven years old, and I was instantly obsessed. 

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 16: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Girls Aloud pose in the press room at the Disney Channel Kids Awards 2004 at the Royal Albert Hall on September 16, 2004 in London. The annual children's awards includes categories such as Best DVD, Best Male, Best Female, Best Newcomer and Single Of The Year. (Photo by Gareth Davies/Getty Images)
They were musically exciting, an absolute riot to follow, and they were never far from the headlines (Picture: Gareth Davies/Getty Images)

I’m not saying they weren’t incredible – and I’m certainly not here to get into the kind of problematic squabbles that have plagued certain corners of the Kylie and Madonna fanbases.

Their music, their unstoppable personalities, their total global domination… I exhausted the Spice album on cassette and remember buying the Spiceworld CD on my tenth birthday.

But looking back now, they really weren’t around that long – in fact, Geri departed less than two years after Wannabe’s release. And while they have several bona-fide classics in their repertoire, the overall quality of their discography is far from flawless. The non-singles on Spice are a little patchy, and final album Forever – though not without its moments – showed a marked decline in quality.

So while they must always be credited for blazing a trail and inspiring countless artists who followed in their footsteps, it’s Girls Aloud who, for me, hold the mantle of the Best Girl Band Of All Time Ever.

Not bad for five regular lasses who were thrown together on a ropey reality show in 2002 – and went from strength to strength until their ultimate split in 2013 (via one teeny-tiny three-year hiatus).

With over five million album sales, an incredible 20 consecutive Top 10 hits, a BRIT Award, and countless memes that have truly stood the test of time (‘Will you just tap the f**kin’ table?!’), they are basically Gods to the generation of girls and gays who grew up with them.

They, and their teams behind them, just got it – Louis Walsh notwithstanding.

They were musically exciting, an absolute riot to follow, and – at a time when gossip mags were at their peak – they were never far from the headlines.

And at a time when the terrible reign of landfill indie had pushed pop towards the sidelines, Girls Aloud never stopped being big, bombastic and dripping in personality.

Can you imagine any other group coming out with Sexy! No, No, No… or Something Kinda Ooooh? The titles alone are head-turners, let alone the tracks themselves.

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They had bite, too: shout-out to B-side Hoxton Heroes, which brilliantly takes aim at the posh indie-boys who considered themselves more ‘credible’ than a colourful girl group.

Nadine’s power, Sarah’s rockier edge, Nicola’s beautiful tones, Cheryl’s unmatched attitude and Kimberley’s low harmonies make for one hell of a versatile cocktail.

They also had – in the original sense of the phrase – ‘the X factor’. They were obviously stars, but their reality TV roots gave them a girl-next-door vibe that made them relatable – girls you could easily find down the local Chicago’s with a blue WKD.

Because they initially felt like underdogs, lurching from single to single with a wing and a prayer; their ascent, their longevity, and their eventual acclaim from critics felt all the sweeter.

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By the time they scored a No1 album and single in November 2008 (fifth album Out of Control and its lead single The Promise were both huge), shimmering in glamorous gowns, they had come a long way from the stylist-free girls who were threatened with the axe after only three singles.

Now, it will of course be emotional to see them on-stage again without Sarah – a real livewire at any Girls Aloud concert, and terribly missed. 

But the fact the surviving quartet are now planning to celebrate her, and their collective legacy, tees up one of the big musical highlights of 2024.

So, I don’t care what the neighbours will say, I’m ready to Jump – for the best girl band ever. Bar none.

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