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Girls Aloud - 'Untouchable'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:41 UK time, Sunday, 19 April 2009

Girls AloudUntil recently, I never considered the possibility of having to discuss Girls Aloud having to edit down a seven-minute album track to make it more radio-friendly. After all, lengthy album tracks are not the sort of thing that straightforward pop bands do; they make albums where every song should be a four-minute-or-less earworm capable of sneaking its way up the charts. But of course, it's not like Girls Aloud have ever been the sort to play by the rulebook, and so there were raised eyebrows aplenty when people got their hands on 'Out Of Control' and realised how lengthy 'Untouchable' was.

Now, I'm a big fan of Girls Aloud, but even I'll admit that I don't think 'Out Of Control' is an album brimming with potential singles. Good songs, yes. Potential singles, no. As far as I was concerned, the only viable options left once 'The Promise' and 'The Loving Kind' were out of the running were this and 'Love Is Pain', but I can see why this won the battle - it's epic and dreamy and a bit of a diversion from the usual GA pattern while still being recognisably very Girls Aloud. But the issue of how to trim down a song twice the length of an average single without stripping it of all its character is a tricky one.

(Here's the video. Spaceballs!)

And to be honest, it hasn't been done entirely successfully. The basic gist of the song is still here: Nicola still gets the lion's share of the verses, and rightly so (I will bore on to anyone willing to listen about how I think Nicola is the best singer in the group, but I'm trying to stay on point, so I'll save that for another time), the verses remain haunting and wistful, and the bridge sort of zooms up and kicks into a dancefloor stomper of a chorus that's uplifting while still being very sad, and there's still the amazing "without any meaning, we're just skin and bones/like beautiful robots dancing alone" refrain at the end. These are all good things.

However, someone has made the regrettable decision to vocoder the living daylights out of the verses for no good reason, which does rob them of a lot of their emotional kick. And the shortening of the intro, and the removal of the repetition of the first few lines (meaning that we hit the chorus for the first time only about 40 seconds into the song, which is a little too hurried for me) all go a little way towards removing the intensity of the album version that I loved so much in the first place.

I'm not saying it doesn't work, because it does. If I'd only ever heard this version, chances are I'd be fine with it. But compared to the version that's available on the album, the radio edit definitely feels rushed and inferior, which is a shame.

Four stars Download: Out now
CD Released: 27th April

BBC Music page

(Steve Perkins)


  • Comment number 1.

    WOW what an excellent review !

    This is what we want.... informative , thoughtful , objective and staying to the point... pure quality.

    I like the song..... but like yourself the album version was a little more intense and worked better in that concept.

    I think NICOLA is gorgeous and deserves her chance to shine.

    However my choice for next single was MISS YOU BOW WOW but I was outvoted.....

    UNTOUCHABLE has a good video and excellent TV and RADIO support........ I just wonder if it will be the first GIRLS ALOUD single not to make the top ten . (this was my fear... and I did not want the record to come to an end.

    We will see.

    Anyway excellent review... that is now your benchmark !

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think the radio edit works as well as it could have. The vocoder thing mars the singing. The shortened song detracts from the epic feel of the original, and ends way too abruptly. The video rushes along way too fast to accommodate the shorter song.

    This 'radio friendly' excuse for trimming the length always annoys the hell out of me. How can it be radio friendly to ensure that the best line....without any meaning, we're just skin and bone etc.... is right at the very end, so every DJ in the land has been talking over it for a while by then. Is the need for adverts and DJ speak so demanding that they couldn't fit the odd 6-7 minute track in their schedule?

    They should have been brave enough to release the full version. Just think of what they could've done with nearly seven minutes to play with for the video. It didn't do Bohemian Rhapsody (at almost 6 minutes - albeit shortened from 7 minutes) any harm, did it?

    My advice - buy the album and listen to the full version. Use your imagination for the video! :)

  • Comment number 3.

    Loads of songs are getting the juice with longer running time - bohemian rhapsody being the classic example.
    But even new-uns can pull it off with Green Day's 'Jesus of Suburbia', whose cut down Radio Edit still edged on 6 and a half mins, fared well with airplay, sales and critically.
    T.I and JT's Top10 'Dead and Gone' flirts with 5mins also, so surely just compromising around the 5min mark would have left much more room for impact.

    The Vocoder can just go to hell.

  • Comment number 4.

    Average Girls Aloud. Maybe one day they will push the boat out, but I doubt that. The closest to a good single they've had since Sound of the Underground is The Promise in my opinion. Then that just hit irritating after 10 listens.

    Not a fan, but each to their own :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Silly Norwegian I am: it's "we're just skin and bones"? I always heard it as "we're just getting born"...

  • Comment number 6.

    Agreed. The radio edit could have been done better.

  • Comment number 7.

    I still like how a poorly edited Girls Aloud song is far bettter than any other 'pop' song out there at the moment.

    And that's coming from someone who couldn't stand them for quite a while!

  • Comment number 8.

    WORD. The auto tune really gets to me. It's pretty amazing how they cut the song down so much and it's still OK, but it's nothing on the original, which is beautiful and moody. I cringe every time I hear the single... eeew.

  • Comment number 9.

    The Saturdays are wiping the floor with Girls Aloud in terms of the last few songs. No competition really. On back catalogue Girls Aloud have probably got better songs, but at the moment they look amateur compared to The Saturdays.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ok Spirit ... put your crystal ball away !
    Girls Aloud number 11...... no more self- fulfilling prophecies........

  • Comment number 11.

    Gutted ! It was a great record !!

  • Comment number 12.

    Spooky... I wrote 14 days ago of my fear that this would be the first Girls aloud single not to make the top ten, and I that I did not want the record to end... now it looks like it will stall at number 11 !

    Cue Twilight Zone music ......

  • Comment number 13.

    Went to a headphone disco the other night, where you have 2 channels and get to pick what to listen to.

    Channel 1: Girls Aloud - The Promise
    (Their best and most popular single in years)

    Channel 2: Alphabeat - Fascination

    I take off my headphones and virtually the entire club is singing FAS - CI - NATION.

    Just an example of how every1 is a bit bored of Girls Aloud. Then they produce dirge like this and are probably wondering why its not doing well..



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