Released: November 16, 2017
British girl group Girls Aloud have always been a secret recipe to the pop world. After constructing five very diverse studio records that drilled in infectious hook-worms and a variety of intoxicating musical styles, the girls decided to hang their sparkly dresses and knickers up on the hanger and call it a day… a.k.a., they broke up in 2013. But that doesn’t evaporate the masterful releases in an over-decade long career, such as the teen-bopper collection What Will The Neighbours Say? and the sophisticated and witty charm of Chemistry. But if I have to be completely honest here, the groups fourth record, titled Tangled Up, is by far their best album out. And I mean it.
What was so convincing about the record at the time is that, whilst Girls Aloud were your average starlets of fluttering sequin dresses that song some pretty girly-girl numbers, Tangled Up saw a complete re-invention. They were no longer your cutest-toetsy girls, they became a group of mature woman that dominated the girls groups of the century. And for me, the closest accomplishment to this title was their iconic hit “Call the Shots”, the album’s opener and second single. It’s an elegant synthpop number that shimmered polished performances from the girls, along with its strong approach of mature production and sublime sounds and kinks, all thanks to Xenomania (really guys, thank you for this masterpiece).
From then onwards, Tangled Up is not your average glass of wine. Yes, I know it opened so fresh and classy, but the material from there became a massive party of innovative blends of EDM and balladry, balancing it out with sophisticated pop hooks. “Close to Love”, another hooky number, showcases a more unified vocal performance from the girls over an array of guitar riffs and bubbly keyboards, whilst “Sexy! No No No…” and mid-tempo pop number “Damn” amps up the dance floor with some hard rock and tasteful dance music. And whilst numbers “Can’t Speak French” and “Crocodile Tears”, another entry written by Girls Aloud, aren’t the most spectacular sweet in the lolly box, it sure does have some interesting instrumentation and lyrical content. Throughout majority of the record however, there are small hinders that make it feel slightly uneven. Number one; member Nadine basically overkills the album with the amount of lines she gets. Number two; like most of Xenomania’s work with Girls Aloud, the test of time doesn’t necessarily work out that well for the gorgeous quintet. And number three, the artwork… like, what the hell?
Despite these flaws, the bigger tunes in Tangled Up are smacked-right in the middle that joyfully invest in some more fun and fluff. “Black Jacks” is a funky 60s-inspired rock number that works incredibly well with their singing, whilst “Control of the Knife” is my immediate favourite track on this damn fine record! When it was released (and I didn’t have the CD back then cause… well, I was young and couldn’t work, that’s why), I remember trying my best to find it online to no avail. It’s a trendy blend of ska music and bopping electropop, but the vocoder during the chorus is a bloody earworm that would easily riddle through every route and corner in your brain. Other highlights include the four-on-the-floor rock anthem “Fling” that escalates a lot more fierceness and skanky-realness to the girls, a slick drum and bass hit “What Your Crying For?” and the futuristic breakbeat composition “I’m Falling”. All these tracks work underneath an umbrella of EDM, but for the girls, this was a great step in the right direction that unfortunately didn’t work out in their final releases.
So, all in all, Tangled Up is a British pop blessing. No other record from the girl group have managed to be as cohesive, interesting and innovative as this one, as it shows the true strengths of the group mainly through its sound, the lush quality, and the maturity that comes with it. It’s a true gem that was created by the stellar team of Xenomania, but without Girls Aloud, Tangled Up would have been a questionable effort (especially if it was with some other amateur pop group/singer). To say the less, it is one of the greatest modern British pop albums of our time. And girl, I mean it too.
Track list (Bold means best tracks):
- Call the Shots
- Close to Love
- Sexy! No No No…
- Girl Overboard
- Can’t Speak French
- Black Jacks
- Control of the Knife ~Liam’s favorite~
- What You Crying For
- I’m Falling
- Crocodile Tears