Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Miserable Ugly Rude Ginger Bitch

Nicola Roberts is many things to many people. For some she's a fiery haired porcelain skinned chick from Lincolnshire. To others she is the successful entrepreneur behind the Dainty Doll Company that develops makeup for women with pale skin and vehemently advocates a total ban on sunbeds and minors. For the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom Nicola Roberts is simply one fifth of the world's most successful reality television girl group, Girls Aloud.

Nicola Roberts isn't the most well known member of Girls Aloud. She was often labelled "the ugly one" or "the miserable one" or "the rude ginger bitch" during her time in the group. Radio 1's Chris Moyles, who is no oil painting himself, nastily referred to Ms. Roberts as a "sour faced cow".

While fellow Girls Aloud members like Nadine Coyle, and more infamously Cheryl Cole, have ascended the celebrity runway only to crash and burn (even Kimberly Walsh was sacked from her presenting stint on Xtra Factor), Nicola Roberts has stayed well below the gossip radar, diligently working on her solo material.

This month sees the release of Nicola's first single Beat of my Drum. Her debut album Cinderella's Eyes will hit stores sometime in October 2011 (I wonder what compelled her record label to release it so close to Christmas?) and will reveal the fruits of an LP that took Nicola and staff a year to record.

The reason why I'm talking about Nicola Roberts has less to do with respect and more to do with admiration for how she's gone about structuring her new solo career with aplomb. Cinderella's Eyes features some of the most hippest music producers money can buy. They include Dimitri Tikovoi (Goldfrapp, The Horrors), Diplo (M.I.A), Metronomy (Roots Manuva), as well as Canadian electro-pop mixers Dragonette. The girl has done her homework and if any former member of Girls Aloud has the capability of cracking America, and maybe some equally lucrative territories, then your money should be on Nicola Roberts. (I can imagine Americans reading this post will scream out "over my dead body!")

The snooty UK music press has already bowed to Nicola Roberts genius, with The Guardian and NME falling over backwards to interview the singer about collaborating with so many of the world's most sought after music producing talents; desperately trying to figure out what they all saw in her that the rest of us couldn't.

So how has this girl who was relegated to ginger wallpaper in a manufactured pop band reinvented herself as a credible artist the music press now confidently assumes will generate big success? It has everything to do with placement. Nicola Roberts may be a competent singer the way that most of us are competent at cartwheels but she is by no means an extraordinary talent. What strikes me is that she is an ambitious young woman who took note of credible music zeitgeist trends and put in place a plan of action to create an album that is, in her words, "different to anything else around".

Dimitri Tikovoi (aka: Dimitri From Paris) and Diplo may be too cool for school music producers who'd scoff at the idea of working with manufactured pop figures, but even they have now been caught sneaking into the schoolyard to surreptitiously smooch a blandly ordinary pop princesses like Nicola Roberts. The truth is that both of these superproducers have slyly sold out on previous occasions by producing pop tracks for other generic mainstream performers. Dimitri has produced a few songs for British pop starlet Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and Diplo shamelessly agreed to hand Beyonce use of his Major Lazar track Pon de Floor which she then turned into an absolute pig's ear with Run the World (Girls).

 Pon De Floor by Major Lazer
Run The World (Girls) by Beyoncé

One can argue that music producers have to eat too and limiting yourself for credibility's sake is not always the most prudent business decision. Therefore, by selling out, these guys are in fact merely communicating the versatility of their talents―talents that straddle both music experimentation and pop perfection with ease.

It must be pointed out that Nicola Roberts is by no means a certifiable pop star. Sure she was part of a successful group that was well liked by even the most hipster folk but she was hardly the most sellable component of Girls Aloud. There seems to be something noteworthy to Nicola Roberts' collaboration with such an assortment of credible music production talent and that must be to do with her attitude towards both music and the industry. In Rebecca Nicholson's interview with Ms. Roberts in The Guardian, the latter was very clear about how much she felt out of place in Girls Aloud and being thought of as ugly; knowing full well the band's management was less than happy with the public's decision to vote her into the group. Roberts claims that when Girls Aloud parted ways with their first manager, Louis Walsh, the girls looked after themselves, forcing them to learn as much as possible about the vicissitudes of a post-Napster music industry. The knowledge she acquired meant that she knew how best to negotiate with producers to work on Cinderella's Eyes, effectively executive producing her own record.

There is a good deal of goodwill for Nicole Roberts. If her attestations are true then she is a remarkable music fan who rampantly consumes good music and wants to release a record that will not necessarily rely on her celebrity status to sell, which let's face it hasn't worked particularly well for the rest of her old colleagues. Instead she's made an album that looks to promote itself on the basis of quality, which is a risky move in today's music market. The fact is that other than hardcore music aficionados, the consumers that purchase records have no idea who either Diplo or Dimitri Tikovoi are (with Metronomy and Dragonette drawing even bigger blanks). If the goal was to incorporate music producers with star power then Nicola Roberts was better off hiring or Pharrell Williams to put together her record. That's not something she wanted to do. The singer's aim is to create an album that will be remembered for having a semblance of integrity. It can be done. You just have to look at Siobhán Donaghy's post Sugabages career to see how she changed tract and went from singing insignificant pop tunes to writing solo material about personal Catholic guilt and corrosive fame.

Don't expect anything as deep from Nicola Roberts (she's already said her album is a "fun record... everyone can sing and dance along to"). It looks like this self-proclaimed "ugly rude ginger bitch" has something to prove, but there is a strong chance that her ambitions may outreach her grasp. Sometimes it doesn't always pay to be too clever, but other times it can pay off in ways you had never imagined.


  1. I must admit I don't like Nicola's song. It has no melody, no chorus, the beat is to simple and to brutal, and her singing is at the level of a 12 year old girl. But I do like her paleness :)

    When it comes to Beyonce's RUN THE WORLD, it's probably the worst song she ever did, if we don't count RING THE ALARM, and I knew it was gonna be a huge flop even before it really happened. She just didn't learn anything from the success of her previous album which marked her best chart scores with HALO and IF I WAS A BOY. Instead of going pop, she let Jay Z's influence bring her back to horrid hip hop.

  2. I meant too simple and too brutal :)

  3. Excellent post. I don't much at all about Nicola Roberts, but you give an intriguing commentary on how someone segues into a successful career by positioning and image rather than actual talent. Kind of like a certain boy named Justin. I have to admire his team's marketing moves, even though I find him quite annoying.

  4. I was enjoying that music video until the chorus kicked in. She kind of sounds like Kei$ha :|

  5. Nice breakdown. That chorus made my ears bleed though.

  6. A lot of information I didn't know about someone I've never heard of. Normally, I pass that right on by and click the next thing, but I actually found myself interested in the story. Thanks!

  7. great blog! looking forward to more, +followed

  8. i really like the white girls and like jesse said gingers can be so hot!

  9. Since I do not follow english music scene this was all new to me. Nonetheless, I learnt something new! :)

    P.S. In regard to your question (comment) on my blog - If you had read the post, you would have known that I had worn that outfit during my recent India trip and not in Texas.

    ♥ from ©

  10. I always learn something new when I come here. :) I had no idea about the girl group or any of the people you mentioned.

    But it just proves the music industry is no longer about music. It is simply a marketing money-making machine. Blurg.

  11. Kim wasn't sacked from the Xtra Factor though, she declined to accept the job in the first place...