"Sound of the Underground" is the debut single by British all-female pop group Girls Aloud, later featured on their debut album of the same name. The song was written by Miranda Cooper, Brian Higgins, and Niara Scarlett, and produced by Higgins and his production team Xenomania. Following Girls Aloud's formation on the ITV1 reality television show Popstars: The Rivals, "Sound of the Underground" was released just sixteen days later on 16 December 2002. It became the year's Christmas number one. The single spent four consecutive weeks at number one, achieving a platinum certification from the British Phonographic Industry.
"Sound of the Underground" was one of sixty songs that Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper had written with the aim of launching their own girl group. The song was originally recorded in 2001 by Orchid, a London girl group that included singer and actress Louise Griffiths and who disbanded before gaining a firm record deal. It was chosen by Girls Aloud's manager Louis Walsh as their debut single. The six finalists of the ITV1 programme Popstars: The Rivals rehearsed the song a week before the finals.
Girls Aloud were formed through the show by a public vote on 30 November 2002. The concept of the programme was to produce a boyband and a girlband who would be "rivals" and compete for the Christmas number one single in 2002. Girls Aloud competed against One True Voice, managed by music producer Pete Waterman. Both groups were sent on huge promotional tour. They used a combative "Buy girls, bye boys" slogan to persuade the public to buy their single. A cover of One True Voice's single "Sacred Trust" appears on the special edition bonus disc of Girls Aloud's greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud.
The single was released on two different CD single formats and on cassette. The first CD included a cover of East 17's "Stay Another Day" and Brian Higgins' remix of "Sound of the Underground", while the second CD included the instrumental of "Stay Another Day" and an interview with the girls. In some countries, a Flip & Fill remix of the single was featured.
Pete Waterman caused a media frenzy after accusing Girls Aloud of being unoriginal and not singing on "Sound of the Underground" (after they claimed it was better to release a new song than a cover as the A-side). Many articles falsely claim that this track was then "stolen" from Orchid by Girls Aloud. The track was actually owned by Xenomania (the producers) and the original version was used as a "session singers" version, making it Girls Aloud's and not a cover as some articles suggested. Due to the press attention, the members of Orchid are credited on the single release and remain backing singers on the single. Sarah Harding explained that this just pads out the track and is not uncommon in the industry.
"Sound of the Underground" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart on 22 December 2002. Girls Aloud sold just over 213,000 copies, while One True Voice's "Sacred Trust" sold only 147,000. Girls Aloud stayed at number one for a second and third week, the final chart of 2002 and the first chart of 2003. The single spent another week at number one, bringing "Sound of the Underground" to a total of four consecutive weeks at number one in the UK. It spent two weeks in the top five at numbers three and five respectively, before slipping to number nine. The single spent fourteen further weeks inside the UK's top 75. It was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry in March 2003 for shipments of over 600,000 and sold over 653,000 copies.
The song had similar success on the Irish Singles Chart. "Sound of the Underground" debuted at number two behind Eminem's "Lose Yourself", while One True Voice only managed to chart at number nine. They held on at number two for a second and thirdweek. In the song's fourth week on the Irish chart, "Sound of the Underground" managed to rise to number one, finally dethroning Eminem. It spent two weeks at the pole position. The song peaked inside the top twenty on Belgium's Ultratop Flanders chart and the Netherlands' Single Top 100 chart. The song also charted in Australia and various European countries.