Nicola Roberts: the forgotten girl
- By Matthew Laidlow -
- Jan 16, 2013
This March sees the returns of the UK's premier girlband, as they grace arena’s up and down the country. For those who know and care about brilliant pop music, they’ll have snapped up their tickets and already begun work on a glittery banner. A three year hiatus has seen no new Girls Aloud material but plenty of individual work from the various members of the group.
Film, theatre, fashion, high profile TV appearances and of course solo material has associated itself with Sarah, Kimberly, Nadine, Nicola and Cheryl but it’s been the latter member of Girls Aloud who’s been in the headlines the most. In some respects it feels like the nation has been through everything with her; marriage, divorce, hiring and of course the very public firing over in America with X-Factor and Simon Cowell.
And due to the almost fanatical coverage of Cheryl Cole, it almost feels that her bandmates have had to play backing singer to the supposed nation’s sweetheart. But you have to applaud Cheryl for what she’s done, this isn’t a criticism of her what so ever but only until recently, the solo work of Nicola Roberts had completely passed me by. Why? Perhaps my attention has been drawn to the front page banner headline in The Sun that told us all about her crash near a McDonalds with Will.I.Am after a late night recording stint. Knowing another member of Girls Aloud had gone solo would have much more interesting.
After listening to the Nicola Roberts album ‘Cinderella’s Eyes’ it’s been remarkably hard to draw parallels between her and Cheryl Coles solo material. Some are more obvious than others such as Cheryl churning out three records and Nicola with her debut in 2012. As artists, they showcase their vocals, thus proving why they were voted through the various stages of Popstars The Rivals but there is something that little more emotional with Nicola’s album.
Is anyone saying any of the Cheryl Cole albums are bad? Not in this article, but looking at her the way her life has gone, you can strongly here the influence of hip-hop and R&B with her friend and manager Will.I.Am. Songs such as ‘Call My Name’ are big and catchy but it could easily have been Kylie, Rihanna or even Britney singing. The point here being that it doesn’t have any personal depth or warmth associated with it.
With her third album ‘A Million Lights’ Cole only appears as a writer on one of the eleven tracks, therefore allowing writers and producers to fill in the spaces. Calvin Harris for example, who famously recorded ‘We Found Love’ with Rihanna supposedly offered the track to Leona Lewis; well, that’s according to her anyway. On Cinderella’s Eyes, Roberts contributes to eleven of twelve songs with only her cover version of The Korgies ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ alluding her the full list of writing credits.
But why should people care where their slab of pop comes from? From personal experience a record that brims with success is down to the person or group putting their heart and soul into something they passionately care about. Even Nicola Roberts' work with the government can be seen in Cinderella’s Eyes. Granted there isn’t a skit about MPs and expense scandals but more relating to her experiences with tanning. Horribly labelled as the ugly and lazily targeted for having ginger hair and pale skin, Nicola directly spoke about this in the recent ITV documentary about Girls Aloud. Forced to wear fake tan to look supposedly more attractive on TV, it empowered her to work with the government to set minimum age restrictions in tanning salons and develop a specialist makeup for those with fair skin so they didn’t have to bow to peer pressure and damage their body.
Remembering that all of Girls Aloud were teenagers when they formed the band, taunting a person for the way they look has seemingly sparked the inspiration for some extremely personal songs. The one that stand out in particular is ‘Sticks + Stones’ which doesn’t hold back in the outpouring of grief, loneliness and hurt. This is far from a depressing collection of songs that some may think is little more than a rant set to music. ‘Yo-yo’ is less direct than the former in terms of how direct Nicola is addressing personal issues, however she’s able to pen a track which doesn’t scream “me, me, me” and instead calls for repeat listens with its solemn piano chords and uncomplicated hooks.
There probably isn’t enough material for a solo tour yet, given the busy Girls Aloud schedule this wouldn’t realistically happen until the Autumn even it was in the works. ‘Beat Of My Drum’ which features production by Diplo would cause a few raised eyebrows if sung live, especially for the heavy hip-hop and electronic influence and Nicola trying something completely bold with rapping. It could be M.I.A for all you’d know.
All Girls Aloud fans will be aware of the work of Cheryl, but more are yet to hear the fantastic album by Nicola Roberts. She’d easily be able to hold her own as a solo act.
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