Released: 23rd October 2006
Writers: Miranda Cooper / Brian Higgins / Tim Powell / Nick Coler / Jodie Lei / Giselle Sommerville
Peak position: #3
Chart run: 5-3-3-7-12-9-14-18-28-32-21-28-48-58-75
The announcement that Girls Aloud would release a greatest hits album in 2006 fuelled rumours of an impending split. And it did, indeed, appear the group might be running out of steam until they unveiled something big, something bold, something…kinda ooooh!?
However much Girls Aloud defied convention musically, they were still bound by many of the same industry expectations as their peers. Namely that after three studio albums – more or less the average shelf-life for a pop act in the early ‘00s – a split was likely to follow sooner rather than later. The group claimed otherwise, but such protestations had proven baseless in the past, and the confirmation of a greatest hits collection (The Sound Of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits) merely compounded suspicion that things might be winding down. Yet, this wasn’t just a case of circumstance. Girls Aloud’s previous album, Chemistry, had garnered strong critical reviews but missed the top ten (amid the festive rush, it peaked at #11). Furthermore, recent singles like See The Day and Whole Lotta History had chart runs and sales that appeared increasingly fan-driven. They just seemed to have lost their way commercially ever so slightly. And, while there was no talk of Polydor looking to drop the group, this did seem like a juncture where The Sound Of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits could easily have provided closure.
That is until Something Kinda Ooooh. It was among several tracks created or considered for the greatest hits (Dog Without A Bone became a B-side to Sexy! No No No…, while Call The Shots was deemed too downbeat for the occasion and successfully deployed a year later instead), undergoing several revisions along the way, which wasn’t unusual for Xenomania. However, rather than significantly altering the structure or lyrics, it was the production that ended up shaping what Something Kinda Ooooh became. The original demo is charming in a bouncy early-’90s way but sounds – at best – like an album track. However, it instead became a thundering electro-pop behemoth that grabbed attention in precisely the manner Girls Aloud needed after two consecutive ballads.
In many respects, Something Kinda Ooooh is a perfect summation of the group’s (and Xenomania)’s best qualities while being quite unlike anything else they’d released. Lyrical oddities are delivered with absolute sincerity: “Shoulda come with a party map, so I’d know where the night would take me”. The track also jumps from refrain to chorus to verse to pre-chorus in a way that feels – possibly for the first time – unremarkable in the sense that this is how Girls Aloud songs are constructed. Something Kinda Ooooh firmly reasserts their brand; the tale of a fleeting romance: “Ooh, when tomorrow comes, maybe, I won’t even know your name, baby so good, wanna follow on by, but I’ll never meet you, never see you again” told at a relentless, club-ready tempo that feels well-judged for where the group’s market was likely to be at this stage.
What Something Kinda Ooooh captures proficiently is that beneath the quirkiness of Girls Aloud’s lyrics often lay a relatable honesty, thanks to their close working relationship with Xenomania. The team were able to craft songs built around the group’s life and experiences; thus, for every moment of spiky attitude: “Can’t dance, no pain, no gain, no show, jumping to the beat all night, don’t roll, if you wanna handle me, you’ve got to keep up” there’s a rueful frustration at getting carried away and having let their guard down: “Shoulda known where the man was at, shoulda known he was gonna make me, I shoulda recognised the plan of attack, when he turned and he called me baby”. Something Kinda Ooooh strikes the right tone in conveying to a broader audience what Girls Aloud fans had known all along: rarely are they ostensibly singing nonsense just for the sake of it; there is – usually – a point.
And Something Kinda Ooooh balances creativity and mainstream sensibility in every aspect. Xenomania’s idiosyncrasies are still here, down to the smallest detail, like the male backing vocals (“Three, two, one, fire!”), which unquestionably complement the track but are objectively random. Similarly, it’s easy to take the randomness of the chorus: “Something kinda ooooh, jumping on my tutu, something ‘side of me, wants some part of you-ooh-ooh, something kinda ooooh, makes my heart go boom boom, something ‘side of me, wanting what you do-ooh-ooh” for granted because it’s such a powerhouse presence throughout the song. Something Kinda Ooooh might not be up there among Girls Aloud’s most left-field songs, but it’s still brimming with a level of imagination rarely seen in ‘00s pop music.
Indeed, the track is such a triumphant tour-de-force that singling out a highlight would almost be impossible were it not for Kimberley Walsh’s sultrily purred couplet: “Oh…boy…I can’t tell you how sad I feel, if to…night is just another kink in your steel” set against the intensely pulsing backing track. The vamp-ish performance is so completely juxtaposed to the rest of the song that it shouldn’t work, in principle, yet ends up being one of the most memorable parts of Something Kinda Ooooh for all the right reasons.
If everything seemed to come together for Something Kinda Ooooh, then there was just one slightly underwhelming aspect…the music video. Shot just nine days before first premiering, the visuals are entirely serviceable but very clearly the result of a rush job, allegedly leaving Girls Aloud themselves dissatisfied with the results. They’re shown in static, studio-bound cars, with lighting and screen effects employed erratically to disguise that and create the illusion of movement. However, where Wake Me Up utilised a similar concept with motorbikes and the group cheekily leaning into the obvious artificiality, Something Kinda Ooooh never quite captures their personality in the same way. Nor does it achieve momentum that matches the track’s energy, although the choreography somewhat compensates for that.
It’s not as if Girls Aloud were necessarily known for lavish, big-budget videos, and for almost any of their previous singles, this would’ve been a passable effort. However, the occasion of this being the lead single from a career-spanning greatest hits collection warranted more than that. Indeed, such was the rush to get Something Kinda Ooooh to music channels, a partially-edited version aired briefly on The Box. The finished product was – at the very least – a significant improvement!
Something Kinda Ooooh might have been well-received by fans and critics alike, but that wasn’t anything new for Girls Aloud. In addition, this single marked a seismic shift for the group in how it connected beyond their fanbase and demonstrated they could thrive in the digital era. Including downloads into the chart was starting to give a more accurate picture of acts that relied heavily on fanbase-driven physical sales, often resulting in a top-ten peak followed by a collapse in sales and increasingly brief chart runs. It was a pattern Girls Aloud were also experiencing, but Something Kinda Ooooh bucked that trend decisively. It became the first track by a British group to debut in the top five – at #5 – on downloads alone and then rose to #3 with the addition of physicals, earning Girls Aloud their highest-peaking single since I’ll Stand By You topped the chart two years earlier. The track went on to spend two months in the top 20, ended 2006 as the 36th biggest-seller of the year (147,000 copies) and became their longest-running single in the top 75 since Sound Of The Underground. By every conceivable measure, Something Kinda Ooooh showed Girls Aloud had the propensity to survive in a different landscape for pop music from the one in which they launched.
And things continued to get better when The Sound Of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits became the group’s first #1 album when it debuted atop the chart several weeks later. Truthfully, it’s not the most appealing collection of songs from a fan perspective, although the white label Girls On 45 Megamix did an excellent job at pulling together the highlights. While showcasing Girls Aloud at their creative best, there are also the obligatory ballads and cover versions – including another one (I Think We’re Alone Now) released as the next single – that peppered the group’s career and aren’t fondly regarded in most cases. At the very least, though, they highlighted a gulf in quality when Girls Aloud and Xenomania were constrained by the need to chase radio airplay (rarely forthcoming) or play safely to maintain commercial viability. With The Sound Of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits, it felt like the penny finally dropped, and the group stopped needing to compensate for their eccentricities — as far as pop music is concerned – having earned unanimous recognition for being at their best when they did things differently. Within eight weeks the album became Girls Aloud‘s most successful, having shifted 664,000 copies, and has since sold more than 1.2 million copies.
Yet, with the aforementioned I Think We’re Alone Now already pencilled in for Christmas and another cover – Walk This Way – shortly thereafter (which is at least defensible as a charity collaboration with Sugababes), it took a little while for the impact to become apparent. Once it did, the newly-liberated Girls Aloud and Xenomania created some of their best work, free from the shackles of obligatory cover versions and pedestrian ballads designed to court radio airplay. In the meantime, however, those split rumours quickly disappeared because the greatest hits – and Something Kinda Ooooh, in particular – very much affirmed this as a (re)start rather than an end.