GIRLS ALOUD | The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits | Polydor Records (U.K.)
SUGABABES | Overloaded: The Singles Collection | Island Records (U.K.)
Don’t hold Girls Aloud’s reality-show roots against them — they’re much better than the average musical act born on the boob tube. Actually, they’re better than most “authentic” pop acts too: Since springing from the U.K.’s Popstars competition in ’02, Girls Aloud have perfected the sort of infectious dance-pop confections that would dominate both Radio Disney and gay clubs if their records ever saw the light of day here. Until then, The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits offers a crash course in all the gloriously manufactured fun we’re missing. Helmed by ace production team Xenomania — who can turn everything from rockabilly to the blues into pop-candy gold — the Girls’ best songs find them livin’ la vida diva as they vamp up their sex appeal (“Something Kinda Ooooh,” “Biology”) and tout, at least somewhat ironically, their independence (“No Good Advice,” “The Show”) with fabulously cheeky results. In fact, they’re so fab that, unlike their predecessors the Spice Girls, even the dreadful ballads shouldn’t keep you from paying the album’s hefty import price.
Equally worth the investment is the Sugababes’ Overloaded: The Singles Collection. Given how effortlessly the group seems to churn out electro-thumping anthems and slow jams that stand alongside Destiny’s Child and TLC’s finest moments, it’s no wonder the trio, with help from producers like Xenomania, Richard X and Dallas Austin, has landed in the U.K.’s Top 10 more than any other girl group since the Supremes. With odes to puttin’ on their freakum dresses (“Easy,” “Red Dress”) and snarky, disco-pop disses like “Round Round” and “Hole in the Head” — boasting the classic kiss-off “Just because you made me go ‘hoo!’ doesn’t mean I’ll put up with you” — the CD is a smart and ridiculously addictive soundtrack to a ladies’ night out on the town. Moreover, along with Girls Aloud, the ’Babes make it obvious that Americans, who are currently stuck listening to the wretched mewing of the Pussycat Dolls, are given serious short shrift in the pop-fluff department these days.