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Chemistry is the third studio album by British all-female pop group Girls Aloud. It was released by Polydor Records on 5 December 2005 in the United Kingdom.

Background

After the success of What Will the Neighbours Say?, which was solely produced by Brian Higgins and Xenomania, Chemistry was entirely helmed by the production team again. The album was recorded in 2005, following Girls Aloud's first tour What Will the Neighbours Say? Live. Parts of the process were chronicled by the fly on the wall documentary Girls Aloud: Home Truths.

The album was described as "a concept album which relates to the girls and what it's like to be a twentysomething girl in London". The Guardian said that the album's "lyrics sound like Blur's Parklife rewritten by the editorial staff of Heat magazine" and "holds a distinctly ambiguous mirror up to noughties celebrity." Girls Aloud came under fire for the album's allegedly "dirty lyrics". "I'm surprised that some of our lyrics have caused a stir. We're just having a laugh, and a lot of the songs are very tongue in cheek," commented Kimberley Walsh on the matter. Sarah Harding said that songs like "Racy Lacey", which "lampoons promiscuous females", are "observational rather than autobiographical." "Models" was also criticised for its use of the word "shit", while "Swinging London Town" allegedly "toys with the girls' reputation for partying a little too heartily." "Watch Me Go" also "delves into the [...] topic of bondage."

Content

The album opens with "Intro", a 42-second introduction, The end of "Intro" segues into the first full track on the album, "Models". The song "deals with men who try to assert their masculinity by sleeping with cover girls", but contains a "council estate girls made good" sub-text. "Biology" is particularly notable for being "the most faithful to this album's spirit of innovation, blending the kind of saucy cabaret you'd expect to find in a gin-soaked saloon bar with a glorious chorus of fizzing, gliding synths and deceptively breakneck beats." "Wild Horses", track four on the album, "features a mock choirgirl intro segueing into a breezy acoustic-rocker [...] like a harder St Etienne." It was also described as "a futuristic country & western club banger". The song is followed by "See the Day", a cover of the 1985 Dee C. Lee single which has been "given a glossy 21st century refurb". The version, described as "the obligatory Christmas ballad", was largely slated for its lack of creativity and similarities to their 2004 cover of The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You" (although some critics preferred it).

"Watch Me Go", co-written by former 'N Sync member JC Chasez, was described as "deliciously slutty" and includes rapping similar to Betty Boo and Neneh Cherry. The song's outro was compared to the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps". It was described by The Observer as "Eighties Boney M funk-pop." "Waiting" was described as a highlight by The Sunday Times. "Whole Lotta History" was called a "lush ballad", and it received comparisons to the Spice Girls' ballads. "Whole Lotta History" has also received comparisons to All Saints' "Never Ever". "Long Hot Summer" was called "effervescent but relatively unexciting", as well as a "well-produced, upbeat pop tune, with a great hook in the chorus" by The Sentinel. The song, like "Watch Me Go", also includes Betty Boo-esque rapping.

"Swinging London Town" received critical praise. It was called "a dark, squiggly synth pop epic a la Pet Shop Boys on the diverse characters - from wannabes to trustafarians - found in the nation's capital", and that there "hasn't been a song since the Pet Shop Boys' 'West End Girls' that captures the ugly charms of London on a Friday night, but 'Swinging London Town' comes close." It was further described as "a collision of warp-speed funk guitar riffs and distorted Giorgio Moroder-style techno-disco that unexpectedly drops into wafting movie-soundtrack ambience." The song was followed by "It's Magic", the only song on which Girls Aloud receive a writing credit. Nicola Roberts is presumably the only group member to be involved though, because she sings the song alone. "It's Magic", called "the album's hidden highlight", was labelled "weighty, sultry electro-pop [...] layered with beautifully enticing synth melodies. "No Regrets" is a solo song sung by Nadine Coyle which, according to Stylus Magazine, was "totally unnecessary to this album". The album's closer, "Racy Lacey", is "a portrait song of a young lady in the style of Prince's "Darling Nikki" or Blur's "Tracy Jacks." The Guardian called it "a kind of nuclear-powered Euro novelty record."

Release

Chemistry was released in Ireland on 2 December 2005 and in the United Kingdom on the following Monday. In addition to the standard edition of the album, a limited edition with a bonus disc was also released. The bonus disc contains Christmas music, including covers and original songs produced by Xenomania under the moniker Festiv Gifts. The songwriters also took on Christmas-related pseudonyms. In Australia and New Zealand, the album was released on 20 February 2006; however, it failed to generate much interest. Additionally, Chemistry and other Girls Aloud releases appeared on the US iTunes Store on 26 June 2007.

Singles

The album's first single was "Long Hot Summer", released in August 2005 as a "buzz" track to regenerate interest in the girls. The song was earmarked for release on the soundtrack of the 2005 remake of Herbie: Fully Loaded. The plans fell through, but the music video had taken inspiration from the movie's car theme and Girls Aloud portrayed mechanics. The song wasn't as well received by critics, and it became their first single to miss the top five. The follow-up "Biology" was critically acclaimed and saw Girls Aloud return to the top five. Peter Cashmore, writing for The Guardian, described "Biology" as "the best pop single of the last decade". In September 2006, the single followed in the footsteps of "No Good Advice" and "Wake Me Up" to become the winner of the Popjustice £20 Music Prize. Just four weeks after the release of "Biology", Girls Aloud released a cover of Dee C. Lee's "See the Day" in the race for Christmas number one. It became the lowest charting single at the time. The song won the Heart Award at the O2 Silver Clef Lunch, an annual awards honouring songwriting and performance in aid of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. The final single from Chemistry was "Whole Lotta History", which became their twelfth consecutive single to chart within the top ten. The video, filmed in Paris, Francemarker, was their first to be set on location and outside of the United Kingdom.

Critical reception

Chemistry was praised by critics upon its release. BBC Music decided that the album was "quirky, modern and dripping with attitude" and "holds no disappointments." Virgin Media gave the album five stars, saying it was "bursting [...] with invention, quirky lyrics, tongue-in-cheek sauciness and [...] appeals to grown-up pop fans and music critics as well as to the teenyboppers." Yahoo! Music concurred by declaring that Chemistry was "as devilish and quirky and downright uplifting as anything else released by anyone this year." The Guardian was extremely positive in its review, saying it "spends 45 minutes doing the last thing you expect it to." The New York Times referred to the album as "endlessly entertaining". In comparison to Girls Aloud's previous albums, Entertainment.ie referred to Chemistry as their "best offering yet". The Daily Telegraph said that Girls Aloud have "simpy got much, much better." musicOMH.com said it "achieves the almost impossible in bettering its predecessor." The Sunday Times, however, only gave Chemistry two stars out of five.

Chemistry appeared at number 13 on Stylus Magazine's Top 50 Albums of 2005 and number 35 on Observer Music Monthly's top 100 albums of 2005 list. In 2008, Slant Magazine said that "Chemistry is probably still their crowning glory".

Track listings and formats

Covers, samples and other appearances
  • The piano riff of "Biology" on the main riff from The Animals' "Club A-Gogo".
  • "See the Day" was originally performed by Dee C. Lee.
  • "It's Magic" also appears as a b-side to "See the Day".


Charts and certification

Chemistry became Girls Aloud's first album to miss the top ten when it debuted at number 11 on the UK Albums Chart. The album dropped out of the top 75 after just seven weeks, but spent three more weeks in the chart after the release of "Whole Lotta History". Chemistry sold enough to be certified platinum. Chemistry debuted at number 34 on the Irish Albums Chart, and peaked at number 31 four weeks later. However, the album was certified platinum in Ireland.

Chart (2005) Provider Peak

position
Certification
UK Albums Chart IFPI 11 Platinum
European Albums Chart Billboard 14
Irish Albums Chart IRMA 31 Platinum
ARIA Hitseekers Album Chart ARIA 12
UK Albums Chart (2005 Year-End) IFPI 74


Other notes

  • "Singapore", a track recorded during the album sessions that was not picked for the final album is now available on The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits compilation limited edition bonus disc.
  • "On My Way To Satisfaction", a track recorded during the album sessions that was not picked for the final album is now available on St Trinian's soundtrack. Footage of Sarah recording the track was shown on Girls Aloud: Home Truths. The song is registered on ASCAP under the name "Red Raw".


References

  1. In the audio commentary on the Girls Aloud Style DVD Sarah and Cheryl mention the potential use of the song in said movie.
  2. http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/23790/20060410-0000/issue836.pdf
  3. "Red Raw". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved 23 August 2007.



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