For British girl group Parade, it’s all in the name. When I first interviewed the band earlier this year, I described to them how their name conjured up the image of a marching band type procession traipsing down the road, trailing a banner of brilliant pop colours amidst a world of grey identikit stars who pursue trends like their life depended on it. Parade are something refreshingly different, five incredibly down to earth, street-smart girls who came with the looks and the tunes to win a nation of music-lovers around.
Debut single Louder did exactly that. From its beginnings on the Rimmel adverts through to it landing a place in the UK Top 10, it set the agenda loud and clear – Parade had arrived. Along with its follow-up, Perfume, Louder mined a vein of sleek, modern R&B-laced pop that played to all tastes. A little bit of this, a little bit of that; the girls were just right for this age of instant-access audience gratification – forget The X Factor and its public votes, Parade were right there, leading the charge on Twitter, chatting with fans and getting feedback on exactly what their next move should be. Here was a band that were evolving right in front of the public eye – an exciting new group for the Internet age.
What of their self-titled debut album then? Alongside the confident duo of singles, Ticking On It stands out as an obvious highlight - pop at its most pure. It might be nearly winter now, but this track’s sun-kissed vibes and calypso rhythms can make us believe the last hints of summer are still hanging around for a while yet. With its snazzy little horn riffs and slab bass, this is good old fashioned pop, the way it should be done. The vocals are light, carefree; the voices of genuine goodtime girls instead of sexed-up pop puppets.
Like You feels like a close cousin to Ticking On It, more sunny vibes and party grooves; the middle eight is brilliant. A track devoted to finding the right boy and all the things this ideal man will do, it underpins the core Parade ethic: the band work because their songs speak out to their target audience. There’s not a teen girl out there who won’t have felt these feelings, and for them, Parade are the role models, the aspiration to get out there and be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do.
Just A Girl strikes out for a kind of limbo between Beyonce’s forceful, empowered anthems and the soulful Supremes style retro-pop that’s all the rage at the moment. It’s a mix that really gels together and gives Parade what could quite easily be a toasty Christmas hit. You can practically imagine the jingle bells on this track already.
Looking again to the big US stars, Knock On My Door is fizzy light-hearted stuff that could slot effortlessly onto a Rihanna or Katy Perry album. Of course, with Parade, the track – like all the album – is given an unmistakeably British sheen. It’s playful, coquettish, always there with a cocked eyebrow or a wink. Parade never take themselves too seriously, and the freedom and fun that affords them comes through time and time again in the songs.
Mr Right Now is another Katy-esque track, bringing the guitars out in force for a super-cheeky innuendo-laden number. With a chanty ‘all I want is Boys! Boys! Boys!’ chorus, the song also boasts what is already my favourite ‘naughty’ lyric of the year: ‘you think you’re such a sex pistol / you want to fire off a missile’ - Oooerrr indeed!
Stars, with its hypersonic trancey synth riff, is properly amazing. Oh, and the girls even rap on it - Did you know they’ve even got their own theme song? The fans have been raving about this song ever since they heard a snippet of it on the album mini mix and you can hardly blame them, it’s a real all-out club banger. Stars is one of those instant ‘my god this is the one’ tracks. ‘We’re looking like stars in here,’ sing Parade, hitting on that feeling of rocking up in a club, feeling absolutely on top of the world - Nothing anyone says is going to dent that rock solid confidence, not tonight.
Next up are the super glossy mid-tempo R&B jams that are Shoes, Pretty Ugly and Yes You Are. Both are at heart classic ‘stand up for womanhood’ anthems, retail therapy in musical form. Those pick yourself up and dust yourself down moments, a call to turn things around with an immovable positive attitude. Parade don’t give you a chance to be sad, upset or down – if you’re with them, you’re having fun: Fact. And that sounds pretty good by us. Weatherman is of much the same shape, throwing a lovely 80s riff into the pot too.
These four tracks are the meat and gravy of Parade’s debut album, the foundations from which a pop career is built – this is their sound, their stamp. In a world where Sugababes members change every few years and bands are dropped from their labels at a moment’s notice, establishing that unique place for yourself in the market is crucial, and in the consistency and togetherness of their album, Parade have certainly achieved that.
The full studio version of Rokstar on here sounds totally different from the acoustic piano version we’ve had for so long - it’s transformed into a massive beat-heavy ballad. I’m talking Jordin Sparks No Air type stuff here. It’s dramatic, passionate; everything you’d want from an epic lighters-in-the-air pop moment. I don’t think it can quite replace the shivers-down-the-spine feeling I felt when I first saw the girls perform the live version with Bianca playing piano, but it’s great to see the track given new life in this format.
For me though, it’s final track Rollercoaster that stands as the strongest statement on Parade’s debut. It’s sure-fire single material; upbeat, sexy, and riding on a filthy synth bassline – the vocals are pumped through all kinds of distortion, racing to keep up with the relentless pace of the track. Teasing, catching; the girls have all bases covered here and by the time it gets to the laser-tastic sci-fi middle eight you’re lost, bewitched, whatever you want to call it – just watch the YouTube video of the band performing the Rollercoaster dance routine and you’ll know what I mean.