The Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, All Saints, Sugababes, Girls Aloud, The Saturdays and Little Mix: this is the exhaustive list of every truly great British girl band that’s existed over the past two decades, in this writer’s opinion. This list may be amended in future (hopefully at some point to include Four of Diamonds who deserve your goddamn respect already!), but I’m afraid I’ll have to be consulted before someone earns a place on that definitive and, quite frankly, iconic list.
There’s a reason why that troupe of girl bands have made it to the top and stuck around for long enough to prove their worth, though, and it’s this: the rigid structure of that culture has remained pretty much unshaken for the past two decades. A great girl group, in the eyes of the public, must have three to five members, each one bearing a different (often stereotyped) personality: the bolshy one, the sweet one, the one who can actually sing pretty well. They must maintain an inoffensive public presence, sign deals with big fashion or cosmetic brands in order to capitalise on their idealistic image (no shade girls, get that coin!), and perform absolute fucking bangers on primetime television shows, usually written by Xenomania pop god Brian Higgins.
That very man has played a key part in the history of British girl bands. Pretty much all of the aforementioned artists – particularly Girls Aloud, for whom he produced all but one of their albums – have utilised his impeccable knowledge of pop songwriting to garner hits. But that man, the very one who helped build the girlband zeitgeist, is about to tear it down.
Enter, Unperfect. Discovered by Higgins through an old school audition process, Chloe, Siobhan, Soipan and Tiah are the four women at the helm of his brand new girlband. They might just become some of the key faces of pop’s more open-minded and exciting new chapter – not by squeezing themselves into the pre-set mould though, but by stamping it to shit and giving it the middle finger.
You see, Unperfect has taken the traditional girl band DNA and twisted it. Their name is indicative of a new pop entity that prides itself on being flawed rather than prim and proper (already a major no-no in the eyes of major label bigwigs). And on top of that, they’ve all lived actual lives! Instead of being plucked straight out of adolescence, naive and unaware of the world, the quartet have been toiling away with real world jobs (models, office workers, mothers and biomedical science students) while waiting for the group to lift off. With the new single though – another aspect of their off-kilter brilliance – that’s set to switch things up a bit.
‘Gots To Give The Girl’ feels like a risky move, for sure. The killer middle-eight and breezy RnB that washes over this smooth and languorous debut track feels like the antithesis of pop success in this day and age. Gone is the four-to-the-floor relentless beat destined to spawn iconic dance routines for fans to replicate. Instead, this feels a little more flirtatious and restrained, and it’s really fucking fascinating. If girl bands to date have existed to appease young girls and gays of any age, could it be that ‘unperfect’ become the ones that revive that wide-reaching beauty of groups like The Supremes and The Ronettes? Or is this merely a decoy for a conventional, perfectly crafted banger that’s sitting just around the corner? Either way, we’re listening closely.
Homogeny has given us greatness in the past, but if ‘unperfect’ are careful with their next few steps, they might just become the first in a very long time to be wildly different, risk-taking and critically successful. Things are looking promising. Maybe that master list of brilliant British girl groups might need amending sooner rather than later.