After all, the last U.K. band formed via a reality show, Hear’Say, had gone spectacularly to pieces, with public backlash and rapid disintegration within 18 months. The twist to Popstars: The Rivals was that it put together not one but two bands: Girls Aloud, and a boy band called One True Voice, who were then expected to battle it out for that year’s U.K. Christmas No. 1. Public money was on One True Voice: After all, teenage girls always have room on their walls for another boy band, whereas everyone in the U.K. knew that there hadn’t been a successful five-piece girl band since ... well, since the Spice Girls.
In the end, One True Voice came up with an awful piece of drivel called “Sacred Trust” for their first single, and Girls Aloud beat them to No. 1 with their first release, “Sound of the Underground.” Since then, the Aloud have been more successful than anyone would have predicted, achieving 17 consecutive top ten singles, three of which reached No. 1. Although not a global phenomenon like the Spice Girls, they’ve held on to success steadily for five years, without any major upsets like the loss of a band member.
Image-wise, the girls project a slightly different, more aloof and grownup vibe than the Spice Girls do, and they also play to a different demographic: less to kids, more to men’s-magazine-reading guys (alas). However, to introduce you to each band member individually, and to amuse myself, I thought I’d try pairing each Aloud Girl with her equivalent Spice Girl:
1. Nicola Roberts and Geri Halliwell
Nicola and Geri go together in my mind for the simple, and perhaps not very reasonable, reason that they are both red-haired. Apart from this, though, they don’t have a great deal in common. Ginger Spice was joyously loud and mouthy. Nicola is quiet and unusual and enigmatic-looking — a bit more like the also red-haired Siobhan Donaghy of the original Sugababes.
2. Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy) and Victoria Beckham
A fairly simple one here: Cheryl and Victoria are both pretty, dark-haired (when they’re not busy dyeing it an unflattering blonde) and married to footballers. Cheryl is fairly daft, though, whereas (at least in my Posh Spice fantasies) Victoria possesses a subtle intelligence and surprisingly comprehensive knowledge of 19th-century French poetry.
3. Nadine Coyle and Emma Bunton
Nadine and Emma are both blonde, sweet, pretty, friendly and generally prone to making you feel that it’s a lovely day. I suspect Emma’s blonde to be a tad more natural than Nadine’s, however.
4. Sarah Harding and Melanie Brown
They’ve both got a hard edge that I find slightly off-putting — though Sarah is a huge hit with the men’s magazine market, and in fact I can scarcely walk past a newsstand without seeing her posing in her underwear.
5. Kimberley Walsh and Melanie Chisholm
Both seem like down-to-earth girls whom you might meet on the street. But I have yet to see Kimberley do a backflip.