Nicola Roberts: How she got us dancing to the beat of her drum

Since Girls Aloud went on hiatus in 2009, the five members of the band have all taken on different projects. Kimberley Walsh has dabbled in movies (did you see her in Horrid Henry?) and TV presenting (4 Music’s Suck my Pop), and one-time golden girl of the band Nadine Coyle released her debut solo album Insatiable through Tesco (Oh dear). Blonde bombshell Sarah Harding went crazy and changed her trademark hair colour, and Cheryl Cole’s success doesn’t even need to be mentioned. So that leaves just one member.

Oh yeah. Nicola Roberts, who was memorably called a ‘rude ginger bitch’ by Matt from Busted in 2003, has come out of the shadows and made an album. For some, it will be a shock to the system to see Roberts taking charge and doing something without the other members of the band. Yet, without trying, her material is better than anything the other girls have achieved so far. Who’d have thought it?

Often deemed as the shy one and, more cruelly, the least attractive member of the group by the media, Roberts has made a tongue-in-cheek album that retaliates against the press’ horrific treatment of her over the years.

‘How funny that I was too young for so many things. Yet you thought I’d cope with being told I’m ugly over and over. I’d read it, believe it, said no to the shrink, I can fix it, I think…’

These lyrics come from the track Sticks + Stones, taken from upcoming album Cinderella’s Eyes, and show the honesty and feistiness that is embedded in the album’s lyrics. The album cover sees Nicola sat amongst an array of retro objects wearing a new interpretation of glass slippers, reworking the Cinderella fairytale and challenging conventional beauty. As the listener, you will be rooting for her as she hits back against her haters.

This new, ballsy Nicola Roberts was unveiled in June this year with Beat Of My Drum, the debut single that demands we give her our attention, with its stomping military beat. After listening to this, it’s clear that Roberts’ sound is far removed from the radio-friendly vibe of Cheryl Cole, instead sounding a bit like Robyn and MIA, with the quirky blips and bleeps of electronica being combined with elements of rap and hip-hop. Although these quirky sounds can be heard in other, more commercial tunes, they don’t have Nic’s powerful, yet charmingly imperfect vocals to grab the listener.

The downside of her musical vision is that, at times, things can get a little atonal with a lack of melody, and the shouty cheerleader vocals heard on Beat Of My Drum will grate on some people. As well as this, the singer can appear to be wallowing in self-pity, milking the ‘victim of the music industry’ idea to make people like her. It is a story that people can believe, however, as the insults of her celebrity name-callers have been emblazoned across the pages of newspapers and gossip magazines for some years now.

Anyone who has heard the debut single, and the follow-up Lucky Day will know that Roberts’ brand of pop is happy, playful, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. With a music industry that is being dominated by unoriginal and dated club tracks, Nicola’s album is most welcome.

Word by Martin Ward

Cinderella’s Eyes is released 26th September

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