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"The Promise" is a song performed by British all-female pop group Girls Aloud, written and produced by Brian Higgins and his production team Xenomania. Released as the first single from the group's fifth studio album Out of Control on 19 September 2008, the single became their fourth number one on the UK Singles Chart. "The Promise" won Best British Single at the 2009 BRIT Awards, Girls Aloud's first win at the prestigious ceremony.

Background and release

The backing track for the song was composed by two Australian musicians, Jason Resch and Kieran Jones, who would later play the song for Higgins. Higgins and Miranda Cooper, afraid they'd "ruin the moment", waited weeks to write the song's lyrics; they wrote the song in seven minutes. Higgins said, "We knew that was the piece of music Girls Aloud needed to announce them as a supergroup in this country, so we knew we couldn't drop the ball melodically or lyrically." He elaborated, "Girls Aloud's records were more driving and pumping and innovative then than they are now because that's not what's required [...] "The Promise" was the sound of a big group, a group about to be huge. They needed the theme tune to the biggest girl group on the planet". As soon as Girls Aloud heard the song, they decided it should be the first single from Out of Control. The day before the song was due to be delivered to Fascination Records, the entire backing track was ditched and replayed.

"The Promise" premièred on Switch on BBC Radio 1 on 14 September 2008, and has been described by the band's website as a "stormer of a track". Originally scheduled for release on 27 October 2008, the release was inexplicably brought forward a week. Girls Aloud performed "The Promise" on Jo Whiley's Live Lounge, as well as a cover of Timbaland and OneRepublic's "Apologize". Nadine Coyle was not present, as she was ill with shingles. Sarah Harding had originally wanted to perform "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon. "The Promise" was also remixed by Dave Audé and Jason Nevins. The album version of "The Promise" is around fifteen seconds longer.

The song was released in Germany on 16 January 2009 as a digital download.

Critical reception

The song is notable for its 1960s influence. "The Promise" has been called "a 60s-influenced pop gem given a contemporary Girls Aloud twist", and "more interesting than the average retro-pop nugget." Digital Spy referred to the single as "a cute, wistful pop song" with "some nice Spector touches in the production and a lovely, classic-sounding melody" that "grows more persuasive with every listen." It was criticised for being "a shameless attempt at trying to cash in on the Duffy and Winehouse favoured 60's femme pop." On the other hand, Slant Magazine said that while it "suggests the girls have [...] shallowly jumped aboard the retro-soul bandwagon led by Duffy and Amy Winehouse, [...] the song's go-for-broke, very modern re-imagining of Spector's Wall of Sound proves to be more authentic and entertaining than most other recent attempts". Peter Robinson stated in the liner notes for an official Girls Aloud singles boxset that the song "also hinted at a mellower side of 70's New York disco, as if it were some sort of long soundtrack from a deleted scene in Saturday Night Fever.

The Guardian, however, felt the song was "disappointing" because "Girls Aloud's producers have always been capable of making exciting and innovative pop music". It has also received comparisons to Girls Aloud's previous single, "Can't Speak French". Terry Wogan has also claimed that the tune features the melody from the theme song of Blankety Blank, a British TV quiz show from the 1980s.

Music video

Girls Aloud in the music video for "The Promise" (2008).

Filming for "The Promise" music video was on 15 September 2008. The video premièred on AOL's website on 25 September 2008. The music video was filmed by Trudy Bellinger for Merge @ Crossroads Films, and produced by Golden Square. They had just over three days to produce an open air drive-in movie theatre using Flame and studio footage of five cars. Girls Aloud also reportedly auditioned the male actors/musicians in the music video, one of whom was guitarist Rene Woollard.

In the music video, Girls Aloud are at a '50s and '60s drive-in movie theatre. Cheryl Cole has a loose beehive hairstyle, while Nicola Roberts has a bouffant style and Sarah Harding channels the famous '60s model Twiggy. The drive-in is actually playing a black-and-white film of Girls Aloud performing "The Promise" in shimmering sequined dresses which are extremely similar to dresses The Supremes wore in 1966 for a televised appearance at The Hollywood Palace. They are performing with a band and imitating girl groups such as The Supremes. Meanwhile, at the drive-in, other male customers flirt with Girls Aloud. Sarah Harding gets out of the car and walks in front of the screen to sing her "Here I am... walking primrose..." verse, while the other girls laugh and Kimberley Walsh sounds her horn at Harding. Girls Aloud occasionally sing along with their lines as well. The music video features flickering and flashes to emulate films of the time.

Chart performance and sales

"The Promise" entered the UK Singles Chart at number one, knocking off Pink's "So What" from the top. Early midweek figures suggested that the song was outselling "So What" by nearly two to one. "The Promise" is Girls Aloud's first original number one single since their debut "Sound of the Underground" (although the charity singles "I'll Stand by You" and "Walk This Way" both peaked at number one). "The Promise" sold 77,110 copies in its first week, making it Girls Aloud's second best first week, beaten only by "Sound of the Underground" back in 2002. The single became the fastest selling single of 2008 until "Hero" - a charity single by the finalists on The X Factor - sold in excess of 100,000 copies two days after release, and 313,244 copies overall. Cheryl Cole, who is also on The X Factor, joked, "I don't mind being knocked off number one - for this cause only!" Additionally, the song entered the Irish Singles Chart at number four, their first time in the top four since 2004's "I'll Stand by You". In its second week in the Irish Chart "The Promise" had risen two places to number two only being kept off by The X Factor Finalists who were at number one. In its second week on the UK Singles Charts, "The Promise" went down one place to number two (behind "Hero"). In its third week "The Promise" stayed strong at number three holding off popular artists like Britney Spears and Leona Lewis from breaking it into the top three with their new singles.

On 28 December 2008, the UK Singles Chart listed "The Promise" as the number 17 best-selling single in their year end countdown.

Track listings and formats

An exclusive remix of "The Promise" by Jason Nevins was available as an iTunes exclusive, while the CD single featured a brand new b-side entitled "She". A limited edition picture disc was made available exclusively through Girls Aloud's official website, featuring a live performance of "Girl Overboard" as the b-side.
UK CD (Fascination / 1788035)
  1. "The Promise" — 3:46
  2. "She" (Cooper, Higgins, Lisa Cowling, Tim Larcombe, Shawn Lee, Paul Woods) — 3:24
UK 7" picture disc (Fascination)
  1. "The Promise" — 3:46
  2. "Girl Overboard" (Live at The O2marker) — 4:31
iTunes Exclusive digital download
  1. "The Promise" — 3:44
  2. "The Promise" (Jason Nevins Remix) — 6:51

Versions and appearances

These are the official versions and remixes and the release they appear on, of:

Version Release appearance
Album Version Out of Control
Radio Edit "The Promise" single
Now 71
Brit Awards 2009 Nominees Album
Flip & Fill Remix Clubland 14
Jason Nevins Remix iTunes exclusive
Jason Nevins Dub Mix "The Promise" club promo
Jason Nevins Radio Edit
Dave Audé Club Mix
Dave Audé Dub Mix
Dave Audé Radio Edit

Live performances

The band performed the track live at the following events:


Chart (2008) Peak


UK Singles Chart 1
UK Chart of the Year 2008 17
Irish Singles Chart 2
Lebanon Singles Chart 1
Croatian Singles Chart 3
European Hot 100 Singles 8

Chart procession and succession

Release history

Region Date Label Format
Ireland 15 October 2008 Polydor Records CD single
19 October 2008 Digital download
United Kingdom Fascination Records
20 October 2008 CD single
Germany 16 January 2009 Polydor Records Digital download
27 March 2009 CD single


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