Forget Born This Way, 4, and, uh, Jedward’s Victory, Cinderella’s Eyes is far and away the pop album of the year so far. If the Diplotastic Beat of My Drum and the footloose and trousers-free Lucky Day might have been flukes on the road to a middling album effort, by the end of Yo-Yo, track three on the Ginger One’s debut, little question should remain as to the anomalous nature of the Nicola Roberts Project. Roberts’ solo effort follows a rockist approach to breaking out of the stifling environment of a band – she uses her platform as a vehicle for self-expression rather than the grab for stratospheric, money-spinning brand-building Cheryl Cole and her ilk plump for. Most probably a result of being the self-dubbed ‘baby in the corner’ in the Girls Aloud roster, Cinderella’s Eyes has the swagger of a newly-single teen on a girls’ night out. Her vibrancy carries off what might otherwise be perceived as a watered-down attempt at indie cachet and her sometimes-clunky lyrics provide more laugh-with than laugh-at moments (nothing touches BOMD b-side Disco, Blisters and A Comedown’s classic “the lights in the kebab shop make this guy look less hot, he’s looking like John Prescott”, mind).
There are moments of genuine vocal eccentricity here (not to mention her success in carving sartorial independence from both her tango-tanned Girls Aloud sisterhood and the increasingly fantastical costume drama Gaga and sub-Gagas play out on Vevo-promoted videos on a near weekly-basis), without Roberts’ relatively-limited vocal abilities ever diving into the deep end. Her tasteful choice of Metronomy and Dragonette, acts that fall neatly in the middle of NME and Popjustice territory, as her songwriting and production team means a welcome eschewing of the current trend of trance-saturated while still sounding au courant. Only a poorly-conceived cover of Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime sticks out as a label-enforced lame duck – there are at least 6 tracks here with a loud shout for the next single (though the not-very-fragile Porcelain Heart and the more delicate confessional I are front-runners). It’s been far too long of a wait, but finally pop has begun to weave a narrative worth watching. Fairy tale stuff.
Words: Daniel Gray