The Spice Girls. Fifth Harmony. The Pussycat Dolls. Little Mix. Girls Aloud. What do they all have in common?
They’re girlbands. They’re all-empowering, go-get-em girls that often champion fearlessness and questionable fashion, spawning hits we’ll be downing jagerbombs to and subsequently humming in the shower for the next forty years. But what is a girlband?
A girlband has, in recent years, evolved from simply a playlist staple, the soundtrack to your morning run or high school break up, to, perhaps even sadder… just a trend. A marketing tool, for talent shows and influencer-hungry start ups to sniff out and cash in with.
You know the drill. Girlband gets discovered, probably on YouTube or through the brutal and televised rejection of their talent as themselves. A team is assigned to ‘make them the stars they are inside’, they probably share a house for a little while to get properly acquainted and test if they can handle each other.
Before too long, a banger of a single, let’s say ‘Wannabe’, is dropped and becomes an instant sensation across the world seemingly overnight, setting our little princesses off on a trip of World Domination to become the Queens we always knew they would be someday *slow clap for Nadine Coyle, who is, apparently, for reasons unknown, still trying.*
Schoolgirls start to argue about who gets to be the Geri at playtime, while BuzzFeed rides the wave by promising to tell you whether you’re more Perrie or Jesy (despite the fact we all wanna be Jade), one of them will become your new favourite meme by pulling funny faces into the camera Office style’ at The Brits and then, just in a flash, they get Issues and it all falls apart.
You’ll be in the group chats or even at the bookies placing bets on who’s gonna become the Beyonce, while tabloids uncover reports of covered up fights on tour, secret meetings with music execs as one by one, every girl goes solo and, if you’re anything like us, you cross your fingers and wait for the string of absolute hits that inevitably come (‘Fight For This Love’, ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’, ‘Crazy In Love’ etc.).
4/5ths of the members will end up working from home, taking a vacation only for their annual stints on *insert reality show as appropriate.* If fate smiles down on the ashes of a pop legacy burnt down, a Phoenix may just rise and take the form of Cheryl.
Of course, you can lead a superstar to glory but you cant stop her from blowing her £38 million fortune, can you Mel B? For every Nicola Roberts the Universe will apologise with a Mollie King, and for every failed Frankie Sandford (still mourning every scrapped project after ‘Undercover Lover’), well, at least we’ll always have Kimberly Wyatt’s mesmerising verse in Candy (which should have been a solo release…)
Anyway, trip down memory lane aside, it’s time we start thinking of the future of girlbands, and dispelling the age-old template; for me, enough was enough at Danity Kane, and I’m sure you have your breaking point too, that shattering glass moment behind the eyes when that dreaded notification pops up and confirms *insert favourite girl band here* are officially on hiatus. I mean, you knew that for days from twitter rumours anyway, but nothing really sets it in stone like someone typing out the headline.
So, let’s all group together and remember that Camila’s and Kelly’s aside, nobody from any band ain’t gonna make anything as good as Ego or Independent Women, Pt. 1 as a one-piece. And speaking of headstrong females, let’s welcome the stars of the show, a little known girl band (check me next year, I’m sure we’ll have to amend that part) called The Aces. They need the plural because ace doesn’t even begin to give them justice.
You won’t have seen these girls on your TV’s competing for a crown before being bundled up into a celebrity’s living room together and subsequently making friends and forging a dynasty of club-ready chart-toppers. They’re more MUNA than Atomic Kitten; subtle, sultry, and soulful. After eight years of searching for their sound, they’ve scraped their way from their small town in Ohio and have been touring Europe and the US in support of intensely-anticipated debut album When My Love Felt Volcanic. It was released worldwide on April 6th; we’ve had a listen and quite frankly, its bloody beautiful.
Thirteen proves to be a lucky number for the quartet, made of Cristal on the vocals, Katie as Lead Guitar and Vocals, McKenna as Bassist and Alisa on the drums. The 80’s isn’t just the inspiration for their style, with bold primary colours, denim and flares dominating their instagram; one spin on the vinyl and you’ll hear notes of at-their-peak Fleetwood Mac (‘Stuck’), tunes that you just know Tina Turner could have rocked (‘Strong Enough’), and even traces of the raw emotional honesty that is signature Whitney (‘Put It On The Line’).
The tracks revolve playfully around various parts of relationships, from butterflies to bitterness, capturing the innocent beginnings and brutal aftermath that sometimes follows if you fail to follow the path carefully. Whilst the girls portray heartbreak with upmost sincerity and wear their tears on their sleeves, When My Heart Felt Volcanic achieves one thing few girl bands manage; they never seem powerless. You won’t find yourself pitying them, rather standing up and cheering them on for their endless tenacity, courage and integrity in the face of such life-changing and often soul-shattering moments.
Opener ‘Volcanic Love’ sets the tone for the LP. Told from afar, long after the explosion, the introduction is fiery and flaming yet is told as the dust settles, treading carefully over the ashes of everything that once was and knowing deep down there is little to be gained by tip-toeing through the wreckage. It shows how Love is exactly like a Volcano; bright, beautiful, intense, and if not approached carefully, destructive.
Environmental imagery doesn’t end there. Various hits import the prowess of Mother Nature to give relationships their roots, with piano-led ‘Hurricane’ capturing a more delicate and less heated moment of reflection, cooling the flames and allowing the dust to settle on what once was. Its portrayal of a love that once was, or one that we thought was, is tender and again, highlights the behind-the-curtain moments of raw, soulful honesty in a way that leaves us only wanting to applaud for it’s bravery.
Stay should come as a complimentary download for every couple on the first night they shut the outside world away in favour of the better one they share together. Custom built for late nights cuddling under a blanket on the sofa, ditching the clubs for candles and cuddles has never had a soundtrack so romantic. It’s perfect for that moment you catch yourself falling deeper than before, as you stop, smile to yourself, and then leap right off that cliff into their arms. Don’t even wait for the chorus, get your tongue down their throat as soon as you feel the intro beat.
We need to stop for a moment. If you haven’t heard this album, I highly recommend you start with this next song, ‘Lovin is Bible’. I cannot stress enough the sheer magnificence of this song, which in the first line cements its place as stand out of the album. I’m not religious, but I refuse to believe that I will hear anything but this song as I ascend the stairs to Heaven in my afterlife (let’s just assume I’m going to heaven, for three minutes anyway). Loving is Bible washes away every sin of the past, and reminds us that with a new relationship comes a rebirth of ourselves; we have the chance to be brighter, better, than before. Leave your baggage at the stairs and grab your lovers’ hand; all you’ll be needing from now on is each other. And doesn’t it just feel so damn good?
If it’s a mean guitar riff you’re after, dump your John Mayer wannabe boyfriend and turn the dial up on Bad Love as loud as you can. Find yourself someone who shows you constellations in their eyes, grab a glass of champagne and leas the both of you outside into the sun to slow-dance in each others’ arms. It’s gonna be a cracking year with a love like this, kiddo.
It’s not all picnics and prosecco, of course. Cutting tracks such as ‘Last One’ and ‘Stuck’ pinpoint lows in a relationship, as there always are. But it’s the highs that make these moments numb and void almost instantly after they end, as the girls manage to whip you back up to cloud nine and remind you why exactly you drive right into this in the first place; because if you’re lucky, you’ll find Love… proper Love. One that is understanding and patient, that knows both the exact place to kiss your ear and your Starbucks order for the morning after. In a world that often employs girl bands as tools to market clothing lines and Kit Kats (Girls Aloud are British, and we do love our choccy, so they can be partly excused), it’s rare to find a group that are sincere enough to write honestly about their emotions, penning for years to discover what life is truly about.
You won’t find The Aces telling you to ‘leave your man at home’ cause ‘the club is full of ballers and they ‘pockets full grown’;instead, you’ll find them harmonically reminding you of the more important moments of life, such as ’laughing in your car’ while we ‘feel the heat when you’re around, got the seats laying down’. You know, the minutes you look back on and think, ‘huh, maybe I’m not as alone in this world as I thought I was. Maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for, and I didn’t even know it’.
The Aces are angels that have been sent from above, and they’re here to stay. The days of the old girlband are gone, and when you look back, you’ll wanna say you were there at the start of something new. When ‘My Heart Felt Volcanic’ is out right now, so give it a listen, it’ll be worth it. And that’s a promise.
Words by HQ