Tuesday, November 29, 2011

HEAR THIS: There's A Parade Coming Through

Leave it to the UK to give us girl groups worth their salt. Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, Sugababes, The Saturdays. There's enough star power in that non-sentence to fuel any number of rambling squee blogs here on Melismatic. It's pretty much to the point now that when it comes  to quality pop girl groups (who sing in English -- I got you, Japan & Korea), there's really no point looking anywhere but the UK.

Enter Stage Left, the five ladies in Parade, signed to Asylum Records, an imprint of Warner Music Group. They've toured with Ellie Goulding, Shayne Ward and Alexandra Burke. One member is a former member of another girl group, the UK X-Factor merger that was Hope (Phoebe Brown, of the now-deceased Girls Can't Catch was also in said group). Their debut single, "Louder", sparked a lot of noise and hype across the pond -- so much so that it went Top 10 on the UK charts. 

While "Louder" is likeable enough, it lacked any kind of spark or sass for me to want to pay attention.  Despite the lyrics suggesting to "turn it up louder", something about Parade just seemed too...vanilla to me. There is something to be said for a girl group in 2011 that doesn't totally rely on synth and AutoTune for their debut single -- even when it's said by someone like me who unabashedly digs that kind of thing. It reminded me of a lot of the (American-based) girl group fluff of the early 00's, and that's certainly not a bad thing, but it was missing a kind of urgent catchiness that I look for in the girl group's I stan. The hype for "Louder" came and went, and the group released their second single, "Perfume", and I lost interest completely.

Still, many of my UK friends are very insistent in their suggestion that I give Parade a second look, and after perusing two album "mini mixes" (1, 2) that have recently popped up on YouTube, I began to realize why.

Ballad cuts like "Pretty Ugly" let their vocal talents shine through but they still sound very much like a group and still relatable minus the layers of makeup and stage glitz. "RokStar" is beautiful in its epic crescendo, layering and building as the seconds progress, beginning with deep, rich string quarter notes before the whole group comes in with an unrelenting marching snare drum. "Like You", a gem of an up-tempo that sounds like the Ronettes with its hand claps, was co-written by Herbie Crichlow, one of the collaborators from our generation's Swede-Pop Power Period with Max Martin and Denniz Pop, crafting hits for Backstreet Boys and Five.

Why "Stars" wasn't chosen as a single, especially in Europe/Australia, is completely beyond me. I have my fingers crossed that this is something that is currently in the pipeline. The main synth hook is very Darude's "Sandstorm" mixed with hand claps and dance floor cliches. It's what The Saturday's were wanting to achieve with "Notorious".

I'm convinced that if they put out a slightly harder, urban-twinged remix of "Ticking On It", it might fly at American radio, especially given the winter penchant for slightly wistful ballads like this. After "Stars", of course. What a dancefloor gem!

Good on you, Parade -- you've crafted a pretty balanced and popalicious debut album. I find myself really enjoying the entire album for its sheer, unadulterated happy vibe it gives off. I miss when girl groups like these were a dime a dozen, and can appreciate Parade's 2011-spin on it. Listen to the mini mixes below, featuring in order: (1) "Perfume", "Stars", "Knock On My Door", "Yes You Are", "Just A Girl", "Like You"; (2) "Louder", "Shoes", "Weatherman", "Pretty Ugly", "Ticking On It".

No comments:

Follow Me on Instagram via @melismaticdiva