“We’re seeing a more focused Vickers here”
Digital Release: December 9, 2011 [free download]
Physical Release: N/A
You couldn’t say that Diana Vickers, like most of The X Factor alumni slowly eroding their appeal as they expire from public relevance, has had an easy trip. First being booted off The X Factor most probably because the majority of the general public practically have epileptic seizures the minute they meet any contestant with some distinct qualities – judges too. They struggled to define her, tossing Coldplay, Take That and even Avril Lavigne in her general direction without so much care as to what they actually wanted her to do with it, hoping that she’d be able to pick up the frayed pieces of ideas and stitch them into something listenable. Much like this year’s competition, then.
Of course, that’s a perilous danger in the music industry, and the gaping chasm upon which Simco and ITV builds their money-making steam-roller, unaware that any day now, the whole operation will be rendered defunct when people realise that somewhere, deep inside the not-very-deep internal logic of the cogs that turn The X Factor, there’s very little dedication or incentive to carve people into something new. New is not good for The X Factor, because new means different, and different people are hard to stereotype and understand. So instead the judge’s just threw hopeless adjectives and tired critiques at little Vickers; adjectives like “quirky” were the favourites – a word almost as recurrent as the theme of Guilty Pleasures. An obscure word, the definition of which is an umbrella term for the accusation of intangible silliness, safe-guarding the judges from bluntly saying that most of her attempts to be someone else fell flat (vocally as well as performance-wise) with scarily off-centre descriptions.
But this problem was not solved the instant Vickers had departed from The X Factor cruise-liner. She continued to meander about, not really conforming to any kind of genre, singing like a little lost girl with a voice so slight she would be drowned out by the passing wind. Circa. ‘Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree’ we got a vague grasp of who she was, but rather than achieving the aspiration of the slick and original, slightly feisty mistress of electropop music, we ended up with an annoyingly immature ingénue to add to the collection of blonde bombshells buoying into public consciousness for about five minutes before disappearing beneath the surface forever (cough cough, Little Boots, Ladyhawke). The fiasco surrounding the pop-on-poppers car-crash of ‘My Wicked Heart’ and it’s blatant plagiarism didn’t help: at best it only recalibrated her image onto a completely different tangent, further obscuring her identity. That kind of versatility is appreciated when you’re participating in weekly karaoke with an audience of millions, but not when you’re trying to appeal to a fixed demographic.
And so, the image of Miss Diana Vickers is shifted once more, with arguably more conviction and eagerness this time, because it just about uses all the best bits of what she was before ‘My Wicked Heart’. And even though new single ‘Music To Make The Boys Cry’ features pop lyrics brimming with meaningful/meaningless messages (the title being a shining example) and plenty of 80s-esque nods to any of Vince Clarke’s projects, we’re seeing a more focused Vickers here, a sort of proto-Bonnie Langford and backed up with a brilliantly constructed production from Donkeyboy, redolent of Robyn or Bright Light Bright Light. Even when she’s groaning in that breathy voice of hers, the backwards logic of the line “Don’t need to make you love me”, is just one of the few nuances that colour in her personality far more effectively than we’ve ever seen before.