Girls Aloud are Nadine, Sarah, Nicola, Cheryl and Kimberley - launched via the TV show Popstars: The Rivals... 'Sound Of The Underground', which was written and produced by pop maestro Brian Higgins, beat boy contenders One True Voice to the Xmas No. 1 and went on to sell over half a million copiesAnd so begins the longest consecutive run of appearances by any act in the history of the Now albums. Girls Aloud loom so large in the history of 21st-century pop that it's easy to forget they originated via reality TV, perhaps all the more so given the relative obscurity of the show itself, which for all the success of this act only ran for one series. For those who don't remember it, Popstars: The Rivals was a kind of sequel to the original Popstars, with the twist that instead of producing one mixed group, it spawned a girl group and a boy band who were supposed to battle for the Christmas Number One single in 2002. Battle they did and the show worked to the extent that they did take the two top positions, but perhaps taking the final out of the confines of the show made it too public; we could see from the sales figures just how far ahead the Girls were without having to follow the show itself and perhaps there was not enough demand for a second series.
At least we did get one good thing out of it, in the shape of what I think's probably the best Christmas Number One this century, musically. An unlikely blend of surf guitars and soft electro beats, it was originally recorded for a failed girl-group called Orchid but revived when the commission came for P:TR. Co-writer Miranda Cooper recalls recording the contestants' vocals a few weeks into the series, and then having to edit them out as they were voted out. She says she hoped every week they wouldn't lose the best singers, though she has more class than to say whether they actually did. In some ways it didn't really matter though, the song has the advantage of not needing particularly spectacular voices, though as the Xenomania writing/production team continued to work with the group they began to tailor more material to them. As an off-the-peg debut though it was good enough to do the job, and still one of the best-ever talent-show singles.
Also appearing on: Now 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 84
Available on: Sound Of The Underground