The sign of a good girl-band – and here we’re talking the ones that truly endure to place an indelible stamp on a decade of pop history – is how well they make that carefully balanced transition to ‘maturity’. Even the word itself is troublesome, because when we say ‘maturity’, we don’t mean mums dressed up all-sexy and riffing on the success of past glories (Spice Girls re-union anyone?). No, what we mean is that vital crux when the band crystallises within the public consciousness and take that step up to the next level, that degree of success where phrases like ‘national treasure’ and ‘pop greats’ can be employed with heft of not only long-standing enthusiasts, but with the voice of a nation whole.
Girls Aloud did it. Tangled Up (their fourth studio effort), via the cool, glacial beauty of Call The Shots, took them to the kind of band that could sell out arenas at the drop of a hat. Every member was a fully fledged celebrity (and woman) in their own right and with this album, that individualism was allowed to shine through in a way only glimpsed at before. It was a pop album that breathed richness and complexity in a way they only bettered in follow-up Out of Control.
And now the Saturdays stand at this point too – if we’re going by full studio albums (so Chasing Lights, Wordshaker and On Your Radar), they’re due their Tangled Up moment with their next release. And about time too. On Your Radar went by criminally underrated, charting poorly and receiving lukewarm reviews. Within a month of its release, it seemed to be already forgotten, in much the same way Wordshaker had before it. What was going wrong? What was stopping the Saturdays from becoming a band that could not only charm the airwaves with pop gems, but really make a stand in the album charts and linger around for weeks on end like your Adele types.
What did the reviewers (and perhaps more importantly, the public) want from On Your Radar? Maybe they wanted more depth, more meaning. But while On Your Radar might not be no 21, replete with love-lorn intensity and backstory, I’d argue it has meaning aplenty within it. As a pop album, it stands as brilliantly post-modern – an effort so sleekly synthesized that it almost becomes a girlband LP about being in a girlband. It posits the five Saturday girls as characters within their own contemporary drama, a world of celebrity get-ups, drink and glamour. It’s exciting, intoxicating; a world where the pace never dies and the every night holds its possibilities.
And this is the message the album sells to its fans. From the sexual politics and dancefloor allure of Get Ready Get Set and Move On U, the album propels itself forth on a hyper-drive of future-synths and breathy appeal. The album tells its listener: ‘this is the high life. We’re showing you what it’s like, now do you want a piece of it too?’. With a rub of well-oiled palms it invites you in throw the open door to a boutique paradise of hedonism, a sort of Great Gatsby for the pop age.
We hear the delectable Una Healy is working with Nerina Pallot on material for the next Saturdays LP – and for those in the pop-know, this is basically knee-tremblingly good stuff. Add in the fact there’ll be more Xenomania tracks (All Fired Up is for my money one of the best singles The Sats have ever released), and there really is the suggestion that the next Sats album could very well be ‘their’ Tangled Up. The girls still don’t have that long aspired-for No. 1 – maybe this time, that dream will finally become a reality. God knows, they deserve it.