I don't understand the craze for Supermarket exclusives on entertainment products.
Does anyone who casually picks up The Avengers DVD in Sainsbury's really think: "Hey, I just got an exclusive 90-minute documentary I'll never watch. In your face, Asda!"
I'm sure there's some sort of financial kickback for the distributors, or that Sainsbury's have calculated they can sell an extra 2,050 bags of Doritos to sweaty Joss Whedon fanboys. But, to me, it takes the sheen off a triple-A mega-budget movie when it's languishing in a battered cardboard stand next to a display of "value" sausages.
But it's not just films that suffer - it's happening with music, too. Did you know Ellie Goulding's recent album, Halcyon, contained an extra track if you bought it in Tesco? No. Why would you? And who in their right mind would go out of their way to find a Tesco that stocked the album in order to obtain a solitary song that, let's face it, was going to be on BitTorrent the day it was released, anyway?
The sad thing is, Stay Awake is one of the best songs on the record. Produced by French dance genius Madeon, it's a roaring blast of late-night euphoria, with Ellie doing what Ellie does best - injecting genuine warmth into the frigid digitalism of Dubstep.
Thankfully, Stay Awake has finally been given a "proper" release on Beatport - so you can download it from the comfort of your internet, without being seduced into buying a cabbage.
So says Flume, aka 21-year-old Harley Streten, an Australian producer who owes his career to a box of Sugar Puffs*.
As he explained to Oz website Everguide: "I discovered this little music-making program in a cereal box when I was around 10 or 11-years-old. I installed it on my computer and mucked around on it, and ever since then I've been getting better programs. I started making music as a hobby, but within the last two years it’s become my job".
It's a job he's pretty good at - Flume's debut album kept One Direction off the top of the iTunes Chart in Australia last year. His first UK single, Holdin' On, is now getting some love over at Radio One.
Built around a doctored sample from Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose (the one from the infamous mall scene in The Blues Brothers), it dials down exuberance of the original, making Redding sound like he's about to explode with lust. It's really quite something.
When you combine the genius producer behind Emeli Sande's album, and the soul voice of the moment you know you're in for a treat. And the new single from Naughty Boy and Sam Smith, La La La, doesn't disappoint.
A dreamstep soul track with an irristible swagger, it orbits around around a naive vocal sample - much like Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega. But here the "la la la" refrain is woven into the narrative, as Smith lashes out at an irritating, preachy friend (or politician?) "I'm covering my ears like a kid. Your words mean nothing. I go La La La".
The song is the second release from Naughty Boy's upcoming Hotel Cabana project - the first being Wonder featuring Emeli Sande. On the basis of those two tracks alone, I'd wager it'll be one of the standout UK soul albums of 2013.
If you remix Chloe Howl's name, you get "Oh Hell, Cow".
If you remix Chloe Howl's new single, Rumour, you get this:
Chloe's first EP is available as a free download on her Official Website. It contains the original version of Rumour, the sweary-and-brilliant No Strings, and a ballad. What more could you want? Videos for all three? Oh, ok then.
Ring the "guaranteed Discopop blog post" alarm - there's new music on the internet by Haim (incredible), Jessie Ware (amazing) and MKS (let's just wait and see what the album's like).
1) Haim - Falling (Psychemagik remix)
Oh Haim, with your slick Californian rock guitars and your haircuts like Alanis Morisette circa 1995, how could we love you more? I'll tell you how: With a corking remix. And this remix is so corking, Moet and Chandon are going to take it round the bike sheds and get it pregnant.
2) Jessie Ware - Pom Pom Pom Special Delivery
OK, Jessie Ware's new single is really called Imagine It Was Us - but some cretin at Radio One has ruined it by making a man shout "Pom Pom Pom Special Delivery" all over the top of it. Suitable for the new Skrillex single, perhaps, but it completely kills Ware's slinky 80s groove (produced by Julio Bashmore, who's clearly been listening to Cherelle's Saturday Love).
If this aural spam makes you dismember your ears and hide them under a cushion, fear not: We'll get to hear the unspoiled song in a week or two. At her last London show, Ware revealed that Imagine It Was Us was coming out as a single. She filmed the video 10 days ago, "with choreography and everything". Until them: Pom Pom Pom Special fucking Delivery.
3) Phoenix ft MKS - Entertainment (Blood Orange remix)
I mentioned Phoenix's excellent new single in a previous new music round-up. Now it has added backing vocals from Mutya Keisha and Siobhan, making it approximately 2,563% better. It may be another service station on the road to fresh material from the old new new old Sugababes, but it's a service station with luscious harmonies hiding amongst the sausage rolls. Magnificent.
Fashion model Lily Cole stars in the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs video, Sacrilege, which starts off as a creepy riff on Wicker Man, before revealing a vaguely NSFW twist. Excellent stuff, and brilliantly shot by Megaforce - the director behind this very, very silly Dairy Milk advert.
As DangerxZonex says in the YouTube comments: "They're not even in the video :/ but it was a good video"
The answer, sadly, is "very little". Daft Punk don't give away much. And, despite drowning in a sea of breathless news articles, the only evidence of the band's imminent return is two 15-second music clips. Damn you, robot overlords.
But don't abandon hope yet: By the power of Google, I've compiled this scrappy, second-hand list about Daft Punk's mysterious new release. You're welcome.
:: After sampling some of disco's finest moments in the past, the band have gone straight to the source: Chic's Nile Rodgers.
:: "About a year ago," Rodgers told Rolling Stone, "I get a knock on the door. First a virtual one and then a real knock – from [Daft Punk's] Guy-Manuel and Thomas". The guitar legend went on to say their subsequent collaboration felt "incredibly natural," like a yoghurt.
:: Sessions began at Rodgers' house in February last year. "They came over today around breakfast time," he told Faster Louder, "and it's now evening. I basically had to almost kick them out. We were having so much fun just in an informal setting that we decided to make it formal. And it's very formal. It's gonna be amazing."
:: According to the NME, other collaborators include Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer), Panda Bear (Animal Collective) and Chilly Gonzales (Feist).
:: Sadly, Moroder's contribution isn't of the "vintage synth apocalypse" variety, but a ho-hum spoken word segment.
:: In better news, Billboard reports that the album features contributions from Oscar-winning composer and Monkees reject Paul Williams. I hope to God that Daft Punk have sampled this stonker from his back catalogue:
:: Daft Punk band have signed to Columbia records, home to such musical luminaries as Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd and... erm, Little Mix.
:: Columbia's codename for the new album was apparently "8 Across".
:: But the real title is the slightly more sexy "Random Access Memories".
:: No track names have been announced. However, if you search for Daft Punk on the PPL repertoire database, you'll find 13 new songs have been registered, with such imaginative monikers as "Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, Track 4, Track 5" ...you get the picture.
:: Justin Timberlake will be pleased to know that about half the tracks break the coma-inducing six minute barrier. Track 4, however, is 3'48" aka the perfect length for a pop single.
:: Other songs of this duration include Can't Get You Out Of My Head, No Good Advice, Groove Is In The Heart and 99 Red Balloons.
Apart from Satan, who doesn't love a gospel choir? All that boundless, joyous energy. They’re like pronking Springboks, except singing hymns and stuff.
Actually, I don't have that much exposure to gospel choirs in the traditional church setting (the Irish church doesn't really trade in unfettered joy). But I know a lot of pop songs with gospel bits: Like A Prayer, Man In The Mirror, Tender, You Can't Always Get What You Want... er, I Want To Know What Love Is. The Killers have one that goes "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier". No-one knows what it's called, because it's named after the boring bit before the choir start singing [It's All These Things I've Done - accuracy Ed].
Wouldn't it be great to be in a gospel choir? You get to wear a big shapeless dress, clap your hands and meet amazing pop stars. Best job in the world.
Sadly, unless you're Leona Lewis, gospel choirs had fallen out of favour over the last couple of years. Which is ok, because they probably had real jobs to do. But we're due an old-time spiritual revival and, by some small miracle, two new songs have just cropped up *sha-zam* with a Hallelujah chorus.
First out of the gates are Primal Scream. Their comeback single It's Alright, It's OK resurrects the feel-good gospel phrasings of Movin' On Up to great effect.
Next, we have the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who, counter-intuitively, get their choral minions to sing "sacrilege" over and over. Still, it'll stir your soul harder than a cement mixer.
NB: While we're talking gospel, you really should check out this fabulous cover of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth, recorded in 1974 by The Voices Of East Harlem Choir (that's them pictured at the top of the post). It features the bounciest bassline since Bootsy Collins played a rubber guitar on a trampoline during an earth tremor on Mr Blobby Day. Amazing stuff.
Even dreams that glitter have to come to an end: Girls Aloud are no more.
Dear Alouders, we just want to say from the bottom of our hearts Thank you!! This tour has been an amazing experience and the perfect chance to say thank you for being on this journey with us through a decade. It has far exceeded any of our dreams and we hope we are forever your inspiration and reminder that dreams really do glitter!! Your love and support will stay with us forever but we have now come to the end of our incredible time together . Love you lots.
The thing is: I agree. Pop shouldn't outstay it's welcome, and Girls Aloud have had an extremely successful, and particularly lengthy, run at the top.
As the band approach their 30s, it would have been unseemly for them to keep singing about margarita-fuelled one night stands. On their recent tour, lines like "should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear" felt especially awkward. And, let's face it, if they'd started making another album, Cheryl would have insisted on Will.i.am producing half of it. And no-one in their right minds would have wanted that.
So, thank you, Girls Aloud. You were awesome. And we're looking forward to Nicola's next solo album like you wouldn't believe.
And here, as an animated gif memorial, are the band's best bits.
Cheryl "Tweedy" is first to become a Girl Aloud.
Disco Dancing with the lights down low.
The Show: A rousing anthem of female empowerment.
Rise and shine, Nicola.
"The hair toss" - Girls Aloud's signature dance move.
And once you've hit on a good idea...
... Exploit it for all you're worth.
Biology: The moment the world went: "They're not too bad. For a girl band".
Really? Oh my god.
A failure to grasp the rudiments of a foreign language was parlayed into a hit single.
Alert: High heels can be hazardous to your health.
I'm sad to hear that you're still shook up.
Over the course of decade, Kimberley would refine the pout into an artform.
The very first tear Cheryl shed on X Factor started the countdown to the band's demise.
From top to bottom, I'm all woman, sunshine.
Winning a Brit.
Chasing a wasp.
Riding a bottle of champagne.
"It's not pervy, it's a visual metaphor or whatever".
A good friend pointed out to me yesterday that life is too precious to be wasted on "really deep thoughts" about music and such. "I used to have opinions," she said of her (excellent) blog. "But now I kind of go HERE IS A SONG - THIS IS GOOD. The end."
So, here are two new songs from Vampire Weekend. One is slow and one is fast. I'm off for a poo.
With the honourable exception of Crazy In Love, Beyoncé has never been particularly good at choosing the lead single from her albums.
Ring The Alarm (from B'Day) and Run The World (from 4) were both noisy, brash statements of intent - but they were practically poison to radio. It took Irreplaceable and Best I Never Had to put the respective album campaigns back on track.
For her fifth album, she's hedging her bets by putting out two songs at once. Bow Down / I Been On, released on Soundcloud over the weekend, is a mash-up of two album tracks. The former is produced by Hit-Boy, while the latter bears the mucky fingerprints of Polow Da Don, Timbaland and Planet VI.
Has Beyoncé learned any lessons? Apparently not. Both tracks are uncompromisingly tough. I Been On finds our heroine pitch-shifted and rapping about Pimp C over ghetto electro beats (and bicycle bells, for some reason).
The message of Bow Down is all women were created equal, but some are more equal than others. "I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world," Beyoncé trills. "Don't forget it... Bow down, bitches."
As a calling card, the mash-up is fantastic. Three thrilling minutes of intergalactic sonic adventure, with Beyoncé displaying more bite than a crocodile. Just don't expect to hear either track on Heart while you're eating your cornflakes.
Ahem. Last night, Sir Justin of Timberlake rounded off his week-long stint on Jimmy Fallon's US Chat Show with the fourth installment of their increasingly amazing "History Of Rap" medleys. This time they squeezed in The Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Nelly, Eminem, A Tribe Called Quest, Salt-N-Pepa and even Macklemore's recent number one Thrift Shop.
Surely they've got enough material now to stage a tour. I'd be there. How about you?
Some party music for the weekend? Don't mind if I do.
1) AlunaGeorge - I Wanna Be Like You
After Bruno Mars covered The Little Mermaid in the Live Lounge last year, AlunaGeorge have plundered the Jungle Book to record the scat jazz classic I Wan'na Be Like You. Unexpectedly, it's a perfect fit for Aluna's supple, slightly nasal voice. And, as it was originally a duet between King Louie and Baloo, can we temporarily rechristen the band BaloonaGeorge? No? Oh, alright then.
2) Justin Timberlake - Let The Groove In
The loose, unhurried grooves of JT's comeback singles lack focus. But, having read a few reviews, it sounds like the 20/20 Experience makes more sense as a suite of songs. Music for making out to, but not necessarily falling in with. It's up on Spotify today, so you can judge for yourself. My favourite so far is Let The Groove In, which Timberlake performed with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon's chat show earlier this week.
3) The Strokes - All The Time
They don't really get on any more, so why force them into a TV studio for a promo video? Here's 10 years of archive footage from The Strokes (and Lou Reed), to accompany their new song. Doesn't it look like fun being in The Strokes? Anyone?
I introduced you to promising young singer-songwriter Lauren Aquilina last month. Wanderlust, a desolate piano ballad, is her latest single - and it's raising money for Comic Relief. If you don't buy it, all the children will die.
5) Little Boots - Motorway
Little Boots first played this track two years ago... God knows what happened in the meantime. Maybe the motorway in question was the one Cheryl Baker and Rizzle Kicks got stranded on earlier this week. Anyway, it's arrived now, and it's rather beautiful in an ambient St Etienne kind of way. Motorway is a free download, and a new Little Boots album follows in May. Welcome back, Victoria!
Once in a while, you see a perfect gig. A charismatic singer, an incredible band, a receptive audience. This was one of those shows.
Like her music, Jessie Ware spent much of the night in the shadows. She didn't have (or didn't want) a follow spotlight, flitting in and out of the dark - encouraging us to follow her voice around the room. And what a voice. She's equally comfortable with a Nutbush rasp or an operatic crescendo. Sensuous, gorgeous, striking, beautiful.
Playing a second sold-out night in her home town, Ware was understandably giddy. "I'm in heaven," she told the audience. "I saw my first ever gig here - Another Level!" Later, she spotted a couple at the front of the crowd who'd been following her tour around the UK. "You're crazy!" she scolded. "You've been to Manchester, Birmingham... You're going to get bored!"
There was no chance of that. Irresistible on record, Ware's music is even more seductive in concert. Her three-piece band added a touch of warmth to the polished grooves of Night Light and If You're Never Going To Move, while Ware playfully cued up backing vocals on a sample pad. Drummer Dornik Leigh won a few fans of his own, as he subsituted for Sampha on the sweet soul duet Valentine. "I have a fabulous singing drummer," noted Ware, "just like Phil Collins".
Other highlights included new song Imagine It Was Us (inspired by Janet Jackson, although it sounded more like Cherelle to me) and No To Love, backed by the 40-piece Goldsmith Vocal Ensemble, which transmogrified into Marvin Gaye's I Want You.
Several times, the 28-year-old stopped to point out people who'd inspired her - including best friend Sara, the subject of Wildest Moments, and brother Alex, responsible for Taking In Water. During the latter, Ware choked on her hair ("don't you just love it when you get hair stuck in your throat when you're doing a really big ballad?") but it was tears she was choking back at the end of the night.
"You're making me cry!" she said. "My dreams are literally coming true."
"Oh my God, I sound like Gwyneth Paltrow. Shut up!"
Still Love Me
If You're Never Going To Move
Imagine It Was Us
Taking In Water
What You Won't Do For Love
No To Love / I Want You
Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s new album has been gestating longer than a baby giraffe. This either means (a) it'll be brilliant or (b) it won't. [You can't put a price on insight like that - Ed].
There's no way to tell how it's all going to pan out, because we've got nothing to base our opinions on. The list of collaborators is simultaneously hooray (Dev Hynes, MNEK, Richard X) and handle with caution (Cameron McVey, Shaznay Lewis, William Orbit – all great, but with poor track records of late).
Still, there is hope, and that hope comes in the shape of a song. Posted by Dev Hynes on his Soundcloud page earlier today. It's seemingly a throwaway track, a new melody performed over the instrumental to Kendrick Lamar's Drank (Swimming Pools) - similar to how Freak In Me was constructed 11 years ago. "The girls felt like having a bit of fun at the end of the last session," wrote Hynes. "Enjoy!"
There's a moment around 2'30" into the song, just a simple piece of backing vocal harmonising, that just kills. The rest of the song is more perplexing – the tune's only ok, and the stoner R&B vibe is a bit disappointing, harking back to Mutya's solo aspirations more than the sultry pop brilliance of the Origibabes.
The main thing, as Popjustice pointed out, is that it shows they’re capable of finishing a song. Let's hope this is the trickle that proceeds the flood.
As Plato so correctly observed "Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand." And never has that sentiment been more true than when examining the lyrics of unparalleled wordsmith Taylor Swift. Using the literary techniques of juxtaposition and assonance, she paints a vivid portrait of the perplexing turbulence of the teenage experience in 21st Century America.
"We're happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time," she observes - a heartbreaking depiction of a generation that has everything, but feels disconnected. Freedom from responsibility does not bring us joy, she has discovered. Technology disengages us from the spiritual world. We increasingly connect with our fellow man in isolation. Material wealth is all around us, but the soul isn't nourished by the accumulation of possessions. Yet, the thrill of acquisition gives us fleeting moments of satisfaction; an all-too-brief adrenalin rush that echoes the vitality of our ancestors. "It's miserable and magical," concludes Swift, "Oh, yeah."
If you were lucky enough to catch Jessie Ware's show in London last night, and you got there early enough, you'll have been blown away by Lulu James. (She was the one wearing a pair of pyramids on her shoulders).
Born in Tanzania, raised in South Shields, the singer operates in the same genre of post-dubstep soul as Ms Ware. She calls it 21st-century soul. "Some people concentrate on keeping in the same genres of music," she explains, "but I'm just experimenting with loads of different things. It could be any style of music, as long as it's got soul."
For her new single, Closer, those experiments come with electro and techno. There's a deep house vibe that reminds me of Roisin Murphy's overlooked but incredible Overpowered album. Have a look, have a listen.
The 22-year-old says she didn't speak a word of English when she came to the UK, aged seven. The sense of loneliness and isolation is chanelled into some of her lyrics - especially last year's unsettling, haunted Halfway To Hell.
"Tears don't often fall, my face never cares," her voice echoes over a sparse, rumbling chant. "Everything about me is dry, even when I've bled."
Signed to RCA, and recently added to the playlist at 6 Music, I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from Lulu in the coming months. If you want to find out more, there's a charming, funny interview with her on the Amazing Radio website... The Geordie accent is mint.
Everything Everything's Arc is one of my favourite albums of the year so far - full of surprising twists and exciting hooks - and Duet is possibly the best song on it.
Inspired by Eleanor Rigby, the song is punctuated by the syncopated stabs of a chamber orchestra. In fact, it was originally supposed to be just vocals and strings, but the polymath musicians got a little carried away and added a few guitar licks and a stuttering drum pattern. Nonetheless, it's their simplest, most direct song to date.
When I first heard it, one lyric really stood out: "Of all the dead volcanoes on earth you just happened to wretch and roll through mine". In my mind, the song became a love story between 007 and a Bond Villain. Let's face it, there was always some latent sexual tension in Goldfinger - one could envisage Auric running his spiders' touch up and down Bond's leg after one too many vodka martinis.
Sadly, despite further Bondian lines ("there were acres of screens before me"), singer Jonathan Higgs shot down my theory in flames when I interviewed him in January. The dead volcano lyric was lifted, he said, from Casablanca's "of all the bars in town you just happened to walk into mine."
He added: "It just came to me as a suitably arresting way of setting up a romantic relationship that was clearly in a dystopian, smoke-filled scene; but which was playing on this romantic, Hollywood nature of it but it was in this ridiculous volcano that was erupting."
Ah well, you can't have everything. I'll just have to channel that idea into a filthy piece of fan fiction. In the meantime, here's the video for Duet, which comes out as a single release on the 25th March.
After a week walking around the various arrondisements of Paris, there are bones poking through the soles of my feet. So what better excuse to sit back and listen to all the music that's been unleashed on the internet over the last seven days? Grab a cuppa, crack open the chocolate digestives and gather round the screen for an audiovisual treat.
1) Russ Chimes - Turn Me Out
I love this. I love this a lot. Courtesy of internet enigma Russ Chimes (he doesn't even have a wikipedia page!) it's the latest entry in 2012's rapidly expanding catalogue of '90s house revival tunes. Chunky bass line? Check. Handclaps? Check. Wailing diva vocal hook? Check x3.
The story goes that Russ churned this song out as a filler for his DJ set, but it went down so well that DeConstruction asked him to put it out as a single. Good call. You can buy it from 29 April.
2) AlunaGeorge - Attracting Flies
In which Aluna stars in a series of fairytales, directed in the style of Shane Meadows. The three bears are particularly grisly. I hope she didn't eat their porridge.
3) Agnetha Fältskog - When You Really Loved Someone
It seems strange that the woman who once asked "without a song or a dance what are we?" would shun music for nine years, but Agnetha Fältskog has never been one to conform to expectations. As she told me in this interview, she was only coaxed back into the studio by megafan Jorgen Eloffson (Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears), who'd written an entire album for her.
The comeback single - like the rest of the album - is more in the style of Eloffson's Westlife ballads than his Clarko megastonkers. When You Really Loved Someone is basically a Radio 2 crowdpleaser with a predictable key change. It's Faltskog's voice that sells it. Pure and clear, it's lost none of it's power over the years. She's still the A in Abba.
4) Lana Del Rey - Summertime Sadness (Ryan Hemsworth remix)
Fun fact: If you were to play all the remixes from Lana Del Rey's debut album back to back, the playlist would not finish until May 2047. This mix of Summertime Sadness, from Canadian beat machine Ryan Hemsworth, is one of the better ones, though. As sultry as they come.
5) Phoenix - Entertainment
This is one of the most cinematic music videos you'll ever see. Sumptuously shot, the Korean-set story is packed with romance and bloody violence. It must have cost an absolute fortune to make, and it's a must-see.
I'm taking a quick break from the blog to send some time in Paris. I've already seen their version of X Factor (awful, gaudy, just like the original) and a dubbed version of House MD (where Hugh Laurie is apparently voiced by a lisping French Syd Owen).
While I'm off, here are a few videos I've added to the holiday playlist.
1) Marina and the Diamonds - State Of Dreaming
It's amazing they still let Marina make videos for the Electra Heart album - but I'm pleased they do. This is decidedly low-budget, focusing almost entirely on a single shot of Ms Diamantis lip-syncing to State Of Dreaming, one of the more "bells-and-whistles" tracks from the album. She looks gorgeous, though, and they even splash out on some confetti for the climax. Lovely.
2) Arlissa - Sticks and Stones
Finally out this week, Arlissa's "proper" debut single still sends shivers up the spine. Worth 79p of your hard-earned cash, surely?
3) Chloe Howl - Rumours
According to our Dulux colour wheel, orange and green are opposite but complimentary, so well done to Chloe Howl for the striking colour scheme on her debut video. The low-key performance reminds us of early Sugababes appearances - but the shifty eyes suit the song's subject matter to a 't'.
This one's also available now, as a free download on Chloe's website. Well, I say free, but you have to surrender your email address so Chloe can email you incessantly with "news" about "product". Hopefully the mailing list will also have one of those birthday form letters so we can get a personalised email greeting from Chloe next to the ones from Shane Ward and Bucks Fizz.
...and that's it for a week. A bientot, mes petits choux-fleurs.
I'm now a veteran of six (!) Girls Aloud tours, with the glowstick burns to prove it. As anyone knows, the main task upon leaving a Girls Aloud concert is to decide which girl is the best girl in Girls Aloud. Here's how it worked out last night.
1) THE SINGING
Oh dear. The vocals were decidedly wobbly on Sunday night. There were missed cues, sharp harmonies, and ad-libs that sounded like a plane full of mating cats going into a nosedive (I'm looking at you, Sarah). In the band's defence, their voices were a bit fragile after performing four shows in three days - as Nadine explained on Twitter, there'd been an extra run-through for the cameras on Saturday afternoon, as the show was filmed for a DVD.
Poor Nicola could be seen clutching her throat in between her lines - but when she let rip, she was incredible. A vampish "always thought you were so cool" in Wake Me Up was an early highlight, but when she practically burst into tears during Beautiful Cause You Love Me, it sent shivers up my spine.
Verdict: Nicola wins.
2) THE COSTUMES
Top marks to the designers on this tour. Gone were the spangly bikinis and luminous unitards of previous outings, replaced by elegant-yet-sexy basques and Oscar-worthy ballgowns. The bulk of the credit goes to Vicky Barkess - a wardrobe mistress on Strictly - who designed the costumes for the feather-tastic carnival section (the one where Cheryl had angel wings) and the Supremes-inspired 60s outfits. And who wore it best?
Verdict: Nicola wins.
3) ON-STAGE BANTER
Girls Aloud tours are not known for their Wildean repartee and quotable bon mots. There was a lot of thanking the fans, and saying how "unbelievable" it was to have spent 10 years together. Sarah made a good start, screaming "Big Mouth Is Bloody Back", but then lost her nerve.
So it was up to Nadine and her garbled Derry accent to give us the night's best lines, including the she-actually-can't-speak-French classic: "Wurr gonta take it back for youse to circa la 2004".
Later, as she introduced Call The Shots, Nadine inadvertently revealed her opinion of the band's back catalogue, declaring: "Now, this one's a really good one."
Verdict: Nadine wins.
Weirdly, the show made no use of Cheryl's athletic body-popping or Kimberley's Strictly dance chops, but there were a few nice touches - especially during the b-stage section. Constricted to a smaller space, the girls performed a complicated interweaving routine for Untouchable focused around some pleasingly intricate hand choreography. The line "we're beautiful robots dancing alone" led to a brief outburst of robot dancing. Nice.
Verdict: Group win.
For all of the tabloid stories of inter-band rivalries, Girls Aloud have always seemed a closely-knit unit. Nowhere is this relationship more evident than with Cheryl and Kimberley. Ms Cole was constantly trying to distract her bandmate, giving her a hefty wallop on the bum during one of her solo lines, and pulling stupid faces while she talked to the crowd.
Then, during the encore, the band sang I'll Stand By You. When they got to the line "I’m a lot like you", Cheryl And Kimberley turned and gave each other a big hug. Ahhhhh.
Verdict: Cheryl and Kimberley win.
The Ten Tour is a jaunt through Girls Aloud's greatest hits and, by that token, it probably has the best set-list of their career, taking a vaguely chronological run through their biggest singles. Interestingly, the early hits all seemed to be in a much lower register than the likes of Call The Shots and The Promise, which certainly didn't help with those aforementioned vocal problems - but it was interesting to see how the lead vocals got divided up as the media focus on the band members changed (ie Cheryl got to sing a lot more in the X Factor years).
The band, led by the brilliantly-named Paul Beard, took an organic approach to the arrangements, with a loose, live band feel that freshened up some of the more familiar numbers. There was even *gasp* a jazz guitar solo in Can't Speak French.
The usual suspects provided the highlights - Something Kinda Ooooh is a perfect thump to the middle of your chest; Call The Shots made 20,000 people swoon; and, after all these years, it's still impossible not to jump to Jump. The band kept alive the tradition of throwing in a recent cover song (Call Me Maybe) to prove how much better their own material is, and Wake Me Up still provides ample opportunity for the quintet to toss their hair in front of a wind machine.
Music is the real winner here, but I'm giving the prize to the only Girl Aloud with a writing credit for last night's set.
Verdict: Nicola wins.
So there you have it. Nicola Roberts is currently the best girl in Girls Aloud. But it could all change, depending on when and where you see the show (NB: nobody sees the show unless their hearts say so). If you're at any of the subsequent dates, put your verdict in the comments box. Or just look at the pretty pictures. It's entirely up to you.