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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The end of Girls Aloud : a celebration of 10 years of first-class pop


So it's finally here: that moment all Girls Aloud fans have been dreading. Last Wednesday, after the final show of their Ten Tour in Liverpool, the UK's number one girlband of the 21st century officially announced they were splitting up, after a decade together. While this is sad news, it seemed inevitable and it's here to reminds us of the longevity of the band, pretty unusual for this kind of acts. But even more so, it's a great occasion to celebrate the amazingness of Girls Aloud, their music, their tours and all of those things that made the past decade a freaking amazing one for pop fans. 

Nearly three weeks ago I went to London to attend one of three Girls Aloud shows at the O2 Arena. It seemed just right to make the trip to see the band perform on what was likely going to be the last ever GA tour. I had managed to avoid all spoilers, so I had no idea about the setlist, the stage, the costumes the inclusion of Untouchable in the show or the presence of amazing props. And I couldn't be happier for not giving into my need to compulsively watch Youtube videos and learn the setlist by heart weeks before attending. I was blown away.


Unsurprisingly, the show was amazing. A 90-minute pop marathon of the grandest kind. It had everything you wish for in a show of that nature. An eye-popping entrance (the five girls standing atop a suspended platform made of the letters GIRLSALOUD, looking proud and fierce from the first second), multiple costume changes, dancers (both male and female this time!), giant video screens, top-notch lighting, feathers, platforms, stairs, a second stage in the middle of the arena (to which they flew singing Sexy No No No), confetti, flames etc. But above all, there were songs. Amazing songs. 

The biggest strength of that ultimate Girls Aloud tour in undeniably the song catalogue. Even more so than their sassiness, their ability to put on a great show and their generally good vocal skills ("excellent vocal skills" if you're talking about queens Nadine and Nicola), what made this show way better than your average arena concert is this unique and fantastic catalogue of pop songs. 
In a little under two hours, Cheryl & co reminded the audience of what no other girlband has ever achieved: maintaining consistence in sonical excellence. All thanks to Brian Higgins and his team, who spent the last ten years carving custom-made tunes for the band (and countless others, too), allowing Girls Aloud to distance themselves from a genre that is too often overlooked as "mainstream pop". 
But I don't agree with that. These songs are not just "mainstream pop". They are a statement. A statement that says "we've made pop songs for a girlband, but we've made excellent songs above all". Girls Aloud were the living proof that pop has to be innovative, mind-blowing, exciting, surprising, yet accessible and in some way, simple to truly mark its time. There's no doubt they did. 

Quite brilliantly, they chose to showcase this string of hits in a sort-of chronological order. What a trip down memory lane when the first twenty minutes of the show consisted of Sound Of The Underground, No Good Advice, Life Got Cold, Wake Me Up and Jump! These songs are ten years old, yet they sound as fresh and exciting as they used to in 2002/3. The greatest time machine ever never stopped and barely disappointed. 

Of course, there's always *that* song missing (in my case: Every Now And Then and a b-side like It's Your Dynamite, Memory Of You or Dog Without A Bone that would have been nice surprises), the awkward cover of Call Me Maybe (I can't believe they had to do that given all of their songs they could have performed instead) or the unnecessary non-hit ballad (Beautiful Cause You Love Me). Apart from that -and let's admit it I sung along to Carly's song- what an enjoyable set. 


Now who knows what the future holds for the members of Girls Aloud? They know, probably. Cheryl will presumably get back to releasing very bad albums with one good single on them. Will Kimberley become the West End queen she dreams of being? Will Nicola release a second album as great has her first one? What will Sarah do? Is Nadine going to release the amazing pop record she deserves and establish herself as the best UK solo artist? Better put Xenomania on the job and forget about Tesco exclusive deals. Whatever happens, we'll be there. 

So today isn't a sad day. It's a day for celebrating one of the best music catalogues of the past ten years, countless memorable moments, and also the next ten years whatever is coming our way. 
Go girls, go go go. And thank you for everything.

Let's all remember one of the most epic Girls Aloud songs: Untouchable (from 2008's Out Of Control Tour).



Oh and: Girls Aloud top 10:

#1 Untouchable
#2 Biology
#3 Sound Of The Underground
#4 Call The Shots
#5 Every Now And Then
#6 Wake Me Up
#7 Something New
#8 Sexy No No No
#9 The Show
#10 Love Machine.

Agreed?

Monday, March 18, 2013

[ALBUM REVIEW] Zazie - Cyclo


Photo en noir et blanc, graphisme sobre et élégant, air mélancolique de l'intéressée : le nouvel et huitième album studio de Zazie est à l'avenant de sa pochette. Un opus inattendu et brillant, s'éloignant considérablement des disques précédents de la chanteuse sans pour autant dérouter complètement.

On avait laissé Zazie en 2012 au terme d'une longue tournée, suite à la sortie un an plus tôt de Za7ie, son projet de 7 EP de 7 chansons ou vidéos chacun. J'en avais largement parlé ici, et avais eu le plaisir d'en discuter avec elle et d'autres camarades du web. Un projet certes ambitieux, mais finalement assez décevant dans son exploitation sur disque comme sur scène. 

Mais avec Cyclo, c'est du contraire dont il s'agit. Plus dense, plus sombre, plus risqué, il surprend et demande du temps pour se laisser apprivoiser complètement. J'ai la chance de vivre avec ce disque depuis deux mois maintenant, d'en avoir fait le tour et de l'apprécier à sa juste valeur. 
On le sait, Zazie ne fait pas les choses comme tout le monde ; plutôt que de proposer un album facile, rempli de singles, qui s'ingère en une écoute sur les plateformes de streaming, elle offre onze titres plutôt downtempo, qui s'étirent au delà des cinq minutes pour cinq d'entre eux, qui montent en tension (Cyclo, Si Tu Viens) et ne lâchent pas l'auditeur. 
Si c'est finalement 20 Ans, l'un des seuls titres uptempo qui a été choisi comme single, le premier extrait, Les Contraires a immédiatement donné le ton : sombre, sans refrain évident, il a d'emblée affiché les ambitions de l'album. Ici pas de tubes à la Rue de La Paix ou Zen, mais des chansons excellemment écrites et produites (par Olivier Cousier, moitié d'Aaron), des moments sublimes -Je ne sais pas, Si tu viens, Temps plus vieux- habités par une voix elle aussi plus sombre qu'à l'accoutumée.


A l'aube de sa cinquantaine et après un semi-échec, Zazie choisit donc d'aborder ce moment charnière de sa carrière avec un album d'une classe folle qui fait fi des exigences commerciales qu'on imagine peser sur ses épaules. Un album qui n'engendrera peut être aucun tube radio (quoique Tout, pépite centrale du disque, a tout pour en devenir un), mais qui fera sans aucun doute avancer son auteure et interprète vers la prochaine ère de sa carrière avec grâce et intelligence. Si l'on n'attendait pas Zazie en caricature d'elle même, retouchée et pathétique, on est d'autant plus rassuré par ce parti pris d'honnêteté. 

Cyclo permettra à Zazie de renouer avec les grandes salles, puisqu'une tournée des Zéniths débutera à l'automne. On s'étonne de ce choix de salles au vu de la tonalité l'album, mais après un marathon des petites salles décevant, on n'est pas fâché de retrouver l'artiste aux commandes d'un show qu'on espère tout aussi étonnant et prenant que son disque.

En tous cas, Cyclo ravive la flamme. 
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Zazie - Cyclo (Mercury/Universal)
Disponible en CD / Digital et dans une superbe édition collector (mon anniversaire est dans 15 jours).
En tournée à partir du 12/11 et au Zénith de Paris les 27, 28 et 29/11. Toutes les dates sur www.zazieonline.com