LIKE a particularly persistent verruca that refuses to respond to treatment, it would appear that Girls Aloud are back. You know the ones. Cheryl Cole. The one that’s been in rehab. The other three.
For reasons as mysterious as the fact that Andrew Mitchell still has a job, it seems that Britain’s second most famous girl band are once again to be foisted upon a reticent nation. Yesterday, a “sneak preview” was “leaked” online showing the five band members doing what they do best: prancing around in thigh-high skirts to tinny-sounding pop music and exuding about as much musicality as a deaf walrus with its flipper trapped under a rock.
It has been three years since Girls Aloud took their sabbatical. During that time one of them has opened a pub, one of them has been to rehab, one of them has been on Strictly Come Dancing, one of them has launched a make-up line, and one of them (guess who) has apparently become “Britain’s sweetheart”. Between them they could launch a careers fair for the used-to-be-famous-and-now-looking-to-turn-themselves-into-a-cliché.
Of all of them, Cole is, of course, the most prominent. The X Factor stint, the humiliating jettisoning from the US version of the show, the ear-bleeding solo singles, the “tragic” downfall of her marriage to a footballer – all of it has been played out in public under the watchful eye of the tabloids and the gossip columns. And now Cole has released her autobiography, just in case we missed anything. That’s the nation’s sweetheart for you – always thinking of her fans.
It reveals the sort of person that makes me desperately thankful I don’t have a teenage daughter – as I would spend half my life worrying that she might want to grow up to be just like Cheryl.
In the book, she claims she hit a toilet attendant – an incident for which she ended up in court – “instinctively”, because the woman hit her first. She writes about “shaking”, “kicking”, “scratching”, “pushing” and “shoving” her husband when she found out he’d had an affair. When she was sacked from the US version of the X Factor for, well, not being very good at the job, she reveals she sent her boss, Simon Cowell, this charming little text message: “F*** you. F*** Fox. F*** Britain’s Got Talent. F*** the orange and purple outfit. F*** big hair. F*** the UK X Factor. F*** you all. I hate you.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any of this to be remotely acceptable behaviour, no matter who you are. Any normal person sending a text like that to a former boss would find themselves embroiled in an employment tribunal. All of it smacks of spoilt brat, diva-style behaviour.
I also suspect that behind Cole’s fake-lashed eyes (all five members of Girls Aloud have their own range of fake eyelashes, available in Boots for the princely sum of £5.49) there probably isn’t an enormous amount going on: a circle of tweeting birds singing “I feel pretty” in a Geordie accent, perhaps.
The rest of them aren’t much better. Sarah Harding has had a well-publicised battle with alcohol and sleeping pills that saw her end up in rehab, while the other three potter about, working on vanity-based side projects that are, I suppose, the prerogative of those who have made an obscene amount of money in a small amount of time and now have three years off to enjoy it.
Let us not forget, of course, that Girls Aloud were one of the earliest beneficiaries of the reality TV music show juggernaut when they won Popstars: The Rivals. Following in Popstars’ footsteps, the X Factor now dominates the every waking thought of many hundreds of thousands of young British people and continues to churn out the concept that the only acceptable path to fame and riches is through looks, an interesting back story and a sliver of talent. Girls Aloud, unfortunately, are the living, breathing, about-to-make-a-comeback proof of it.
Ultimately what Girls Aloud peddle is a confused and, I worry, dangerous message, about what it means to be a “girl” today. Waists must be tiny, hem lines high, make-up (preferably Girls Aloud brand) must be caked on with a shovel. Acceptable accessories are footballer husbands, addictions and false eyelashes.
I just wish we could aim, well, a bit higher. Surely, we owe it to Britain’s girls to do so? How about some “women aloud” to aspire to?