Being pale and ginger is a massive piss your pants ‘lol’fest, right?
It’s a big insult-wooing pile of wank. Just ask everyone’s favourite moon-skinned ginge Nicola Roberts. Having spent most of her nine years in the public eye being verbally shat on by everyone from coffee breathed tabloid journalists to chisel jawed fuck muffin Chris Moyles, Roberts is understandably ‘a bit miffed’. Being referred to as ‘the ugly one’ in a band might have been ok for Boyzone’s Shane Lynch or Jimmy from 911, but when you’re a 17 year old girl who actually just suffers from an unfortunate case of ‘crap styling’ rather than genuine munterness, the unrelenting (and in Moyles’ case ridiculously ironic) appearance based jibes would probably start to grate a bit.
Watching Roberts’ transformation over the last few years from awkward young girl lacking confidence to self assured woman has been both surprising and charming. Gone are the days of looking like she’s just mugged the self tanning counter at Superdrug and invited Jodie Marsh to do her make-up- now she embraces the red hair and pale skin for which she’s been so mercilessly bullied in the past. Combined with a new assertive fashion sense and growing realisation amongst the public that she’s not just a grumpy moo with an attitude problem, Roberts oozes the kind of grace and quiet dignity which, in an age of gobby celebrity and classy ‘I ABORTED MARK’S BABY’ style magazine exclusives, is refreshingly different.
It’s no surprise therefore that Roberts has gained a bit of a cult following. Since Girls Aloud’s hiatus in 2009, there has been a blossoming sense of good will towards her that seems to have less to do with slick PR, and more to do with the fact that, having had the chance to actually listen to what she has to say, the public have come to understand her and what she’s endured. Consequently when news emerged that she was recording her first solo studio album, the sound of hyper- ventilating bloggers breathing heavily into brown paper bags while screaming about their love for ‘Queen Nicola’ started to reverberate across the internet. In the same way that Cheryl’s music attracted X Factor fans and Nadine’s music attracted flustered mothers in Tesco’s who were looking for the veg section, so Nicola has attracted the ‘shat on by life’ fan who look to her not just for a cheeky 20 minute ipod session on the way to work, but for actual inspiration in her songs.
It’s always difficult to judge an album that has been so intensely hyped up among fans. The line between love for the artist and love for the music can become blurred to such an extent that it’s hard to judge the music objectively. In Roberts’ case this was intensified by the continuing desperation amongst Girls Aloud fans for one of the band to produce an album which had hints of the quirky British pop that made them fall in love with Girls Aloud in the first place. With Cheryl Cole annoyingly engaged in musical fallatio with Will. I. Am, and Kimberley dicking around in a green ogre mask on the west end, it was largely left to Nicola to produce the goods.
So has the ginger one delivered? JUST A BIT. Cinderella’s Eyes is an old school pop album which reminds us what the genre can do when it’s at its best. From the carefree playground chant of Beat of My Drum, to the intensely personal heartbreak of Stick and Stones, Roberts takes the listener on an old fashioned emotional pop journey where the jaunty, piano skip beat of songs like ‘Lucky Day’ sit next to bittersweet lyrics about public rejection and craving a cheeky vodka in the back of a taxi when you’re underage. One of the most appealing things about the album however, is the sheer effort that Roberts seems to have put into it. Having co wrote every song on the album (bar the cover of Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ by The Korgis), Roberts has created an album brimming with autobiographical intimacy and a musical playfulness which have hints of early Kate Bush.
Already Sticks and Stones has been widely touted as the stand out track- the one which most succinctly sums up the ‘I’ve had a generally shit time over the last few years because everyone was unfairly calling me a minger’ theme which threads through the album. However, on reflection ‘Say It Out Loud’- a song with an infectious power pop rush and self assured, hollering vocals, seems like the more obvious choice. Electro tinged, catchy, confident and graceful, ‘Say It Out Loud’ sums up not only where Roberts has been musically and personally, but where she’s going and where she wants to be. While Sticks and Stones is the musical equivalent of hugging yourself on an empty dance floor and snotting all over your favourite top, Say It Out Loud gives a cheeky ‘wanker’ gesture while dancing its tits off on a podium and dragging people over to jump around with.
It’s clear from the quality of Cinderella’s Eyes that Roberts is in this whole music malarky for the long haul. She seems to have an intution for what makes a good pop song, along with a genuine skill for lyric writing which suggests she’ll still be writing albums when she’s 45 and getting midnight phonecalls from a pissed Nadine Coyle begging her to write a hit song and send it her way.
Poor Nadine 😦
Cinderalla’s Eyes is available to buy and download from itunes now.