Nicola Roberts was kept pretty much in the background for the first few of Girls Aloud’s 21 singles, given so few lines to herself that the considerably less able Kimberley Walsh probably couldn’t believe her luck. But as time went on it became apparent that, actually, she was right up there with the Nadine Coyles (the Nadine Coyles being, uh, Nadine Coyle) as a rather impressive vocalist.
But however good she seemed in the band, she really does benefit from branching out on her own. Even going by the two singles – the gloriously bonkers ‘Beat Of My Drum’ and the pseudo-60s ‘Lucky Day’ – she sounds strong, confident and, most importantly, like she’s having the time of her life.
It’s a feeling that continues throughout the album’s twelve tracks, and in snagging the genius of producers Dimitri Tikovoi, Diplo, Dragonnette, Metronomy and The Invisible Men she’s able to craft some of the cleverest, forward-thinking pop music we’ve seen in quite some time. Marina And The Diamonds may have slagged off Girls Aloud on her brilliant Family Jewels album, but actually it’s that very record to which Cinderella’s Eyes can be easily compared.
To pick out just three highlights: ‘Porcelain Heart’ somehow manages to ace both vulnerability and power, ‘Say It Out Loud’ is the most incredible hands-in-the-air dose of euphoria you’ll hear in a very long time, and ‘Take A Bite’ tackles head-on her reputation as a standoffish “ginger bitch” when she first rose to fame aged just 16.
Cheryl’s solo material may have been put together by world-class producers, but it brought with it an inescapable sense of conveyor belt will-this-do crowd-pleasers. Nadine’s, on the other hand, showed off her impressive pipes but was, frankly, a load of crap. Nicola has it just right. “Baby in the corner, learning quick” she says on ‘Beat Of My Drum’, a lyric that can sum up the whole LP rather nicely. She may have been the Girl Aloud with the lowest profile, but bloody hell does she know what she’s doing.