When Geri left the Spice Girls, I was 9 years old. I was a huge fan of the all that was Spice. I had the book, the VHS, the platforms, the body spray, the CDs and the tapes. The week that Spiceworld: The Movie came out, I had the worst flu I’ve ever had where I was throwing up constantly, but I still made it out to see an afternoon showing, even managing to go two hours without spewing. Like a lot us, I have cringe-inducing memories of being Baby to my friend’s Posh, Scary, Ginger and Sporty in front of family friends. I think it’s safe to say that I was a fan. However, I don’t really remember Geri leaving and the eventual split of the band ever being a big deal. I must have heard about it and quickly gone on with my life, probably going out to learn the latest yo-yo trick while keeping that lump of pixels alive on my Tamagotchi. I wish I was this care-free today, because at 24 years old, the split of the only serious contenders to the throne of UK’s best girl group, Girls Aloud, has hit me hard. Really hard.

Girls Aloud were never meant to stick around this long. Ten years ago, they won Popstars: The Rivals in the very early days of reality talent competitions, years before The X Factor. Here were five normal British girls, plucked from obscurity, fresh meat in the industry, to take on the world? They could have been over quicker than you could say Hear’Say. But they were given “Sound of the Underground” as their first single, starting the genius partnership between the girls and the amazing production team Xenomania. This was pop music, but this was pop music that didn’t take itself seriously, which in turn made proper bonafide music critics take Girls Aloud seriously. By their second album, What Will The Neighbours Say, Girls Aloud cemented themselves as saviours of pop music that had the average pre-teen screamer girl and the most jaded of music critics agreeing with each other.

And these girls weren’t just simply puppets backed by Xenomania, one of the best production teams in the business. By the second album they were co-writing songs and the growth of the girls both together and independently became apparent with each next album. Their personalities shone through and you could find something identifiable in each one. The prime example being Nicola Roberts, the shy, confidence-lacking 17-year-old when the group was formed, addicted to self tanning and uncomfortable in her own shoes has grown to be one BAMF. Her solo material has been the most critically acclaimed out of the five and she has launched her own make up range to bolster in pale shy girls the world over, even going to parliament to speak out against sunbeds. Each of these ladies, whether they wanted it or not, became role models for young girls and women around the world, stepping up to the plate despite their own mistakes. The friendship of Chimola (just look at the tumblr tag) is inspiring and despite a lot of tabloid noise, I genuinely believe all five enjoyed spending time together. Sometimes there isn’t drama, so stop looking for it and just enjoy what you’re seeing: five powerful and lovely ladies just having a good time.

So why has the split of Girls Aloud hit me so hard that I’ve spent today watching endless YouTube videos of interviews and even a fan made video soundtracked to Florence + The Machine? Why am I so genuinely sad that I won’t get to hear another genre-bending pop behemoth like “Biology” or “Sexy! No No No”? Why is it I feel like I’m losing some good friends despite having never met them (though I did work on promo for Kimbo’s latest album and Chezza did fall over in front of me once…)? Because I grew up with these girls. From that first guitar twang in “Sound of the Underground”, I championed and kept an eye on these girls right through to the closing moments of “The Promise” when I caught them on their London leg of their farewell tour. As Girls Aloud bow out, they leave behind a legacy alongside those who made the way before them – girl groups like The Supremes, The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Banarama and The Spice Girls. Ladies who made no bones of who they were, what they did and what they wanted. Please say the next girl groups at least have a hint of that. Otherwise, I’ll worry.

These five ladies made me smile, dance around my bedroom, be gobsmacked by how FIERCE they could be and really fine tuned my appreciation for pop music. And what more could you want, really? I mean, it’s gonna be tough to say goodbye to all that, so thanks Kimberley, Cheryl, Nadine, Nicola and Sarah.

P.S. This is me on Instagram, finding it hard to let go.