Friday, 25 July 2008

Six years on the girls haven't done bad

FOR ones gifted to the planet through the curious voting pulses of a Saturday night television audience – and therefore expected to go spectacularly to pieces, with public backlash and rapid disintegration within a matter of months, a la Hear'say and One True Voice – Girls Aloud have not done so badly for themselves.
It's now six years since they were formed on reality TV show Popstars: The Rivals, and went on to confound their critics with a string of terrific pop songs, such as Sound Of The Underground, Love Machine and No Good Advice.One of the most successful British pop groups of the last decade, quintet Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh have enjoyed a record-breaking 17 consecutive top-ten hits, including three number one singles. And counting.Music snobs will argue that Xenomania, the chief songwriters behind the band, should take most of the credit for their success. But while they have obviously benefited from the pop production house's Midas touch, it's the girls themselves who sing and perform the songs.And it's the girls themselves who will have 8500 fans dancing their socks off when they play Edinburgh Castle's Esplanade tonight.As you'd expect, being in one of the biggest pop bands on the planet, there is little time to relax, what with a hectic schedule of tour dates and promotional interviews."It's full on," admits 26-year-old Harding, who is the oldest member of Girls Aloud. "It's worth it, though, once we get on the stage."Of what fans can expect at tonight's Castle concert, the pretty blonde singer says, "There will still be a few hits in there, but I think it will be different in the fact that every year it gets a bit more elaborate, a bit bigger, a bit better, better costumes. Onwards and upwards."As the record books show, Girls Aloud have been one of Britain's most consistently successful pop acts since being formed on Popstars: The Rivals back in 2002. But did they ever think that, six years down the line, they would still be churning out the hits? "I didn't really want to think about that," says Harding, who was working as a barmaid when she first learned of an opportunity to audition for Popstars: The Rivals."We were just taking every day as it came," she continues. "You've got to live for the moment, enjoy what you have. There's no use fretting about what might not be in the future."So what's been their secret? "Because we are all strong, feisty, opinionated and ambitious girls, I think that's helped a lot," she says. "Plus the fact there is room for us in the market and the fact that we have a great team around us to help us do that."We've been extremely lucky in that case, but despite being lucky I don't think if none of us had our heart in it we would still be here."We have our downsides, definitely, but the upsides definitely outweigh that," she adds.One of those downsides is tabloid intrusion into their private lives, though the love they receive from their loyal fans makes it all worthwhile. When they have time, the girls occasionally trawl through fan messageboards and forums on the internet to see what people are saying about them."It's important to see what the fans are saying," says Cole (nee Tweedy), who has recently become a judge on the latest series of The X Factor, replacing Sharon Osbourne. "It's hard, though, because we don't always have much time – you get home at like 10 at night and you're tired so it's difficult, but we do look."If we haven't time, our record label people normally look and the opinions of the fans do get through to us one way or another."Bradford-born Walsh, who got her first taste of fame starring in an advert as a child, chips in, "Yeah, we have a look (on the internet] to see what they thought of the shows, whether they like the new dance moves, that kind of thing. We have a really strong fanbase and their opinions really matter to us."Surely those vicious press stories must get to them? "We really don't care about it, we just ignore that stuff," insists Cole, whose cache in the tabloids has been larger than any other member of the group, partly down to her marriage to Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, who was alleged to have cheated on the singer last year."I'm immune to it now," sighs the 25-year-old. "Here in the UK the press just like to build people up, put them on a pedestal, and then tear them down – it's just the way it goes. I really don't give a s*** now, though."Luckily, it's not all bad press. Cole, for example, was recently voted No.1 for The Ultimate Fantasy Body.But despite this latest accolade, which she won following a survey of 2000 British men and women, the Geordie stunner says that she hates her legs, because she thinks they are too short."I don't like my legs," admits Cole, who stands at 5ft 3ins. "I haven't got much of them for a start. It's just the thing I don't like, so if I was dressing myself, I would probably cover them up."Despite not liking her pins, Cole acknowledges that she, like most women, suffers from cellulite and isn't that bothered when the blemishes are highlighted in the tabloids.She says, "If somebody sees a bit of cellulite on my legs that's been circled in a magazine and that makes them feel more comfortable then I'm happy that I've made that one person at home go, 'Cheryl's got cellulite, it's fine'."I do it myself. I flick through magazines and see Kate Moss has got cellulite and it makes me feel happier about myself. You can't help it."They may top polls as Britain's sexiest females as often as they top the charts, but perhaps that's one of the attractions of Girls Aloud in a nutshell . . . They're just normal girls, cellulite and all.Girls Aloud, Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Royal Mile, 7pm, £35, 0131-225 9846

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