Vickers has a voice to stand out from any crowd.
Mike Diver 2010-04-22
Of all the new voices to fall from the X Factor/Pop Idol production line, 18-year-old Diana Vickers’s is certainly the most interesting. It’s not conventionally good, that’s for sure. A stack of her syllables seem misshapen, noises unlike anything else in pop running rampant, butting into glottal stops left, right and centre. She sounds like Shakira, if the Columbian was born and raised in the British north-west; or like Ellie Goulding if the Brit-winner was slurring her way through SingStar. Yet these parallels stick for only brief passages. She’s utterly unlike any other artist to have received a Simon Cowell-shaped seal of approval.
Cowell described Vickers’s singing voice as “Marmite”, and the adage is employed accurately enough here. Suffice to say she will not be spawning a slew of sound-alike imitators, as no vocal coach could coax these squeals, shrieks, shouts and sighs from any other set of chords. It’s a voice oddly older than its owner, deeper than a girl of her delicate years should manage; a voice that defies detracting assessments through virtue of being so weird. When it’s sliced ‘n’ diced on You’ll Never Get To Heaven, things get stranger still – imagine a chattering Smash robot impersonating Alvin of The Chipmunks fame. On Once she creates a massive chorus out of just two words, such is the tumultuous timbre of her bombastic bleating. On a first listen it's not clear whether the song’s amazing, an overdue successor to the pop-rock crunch of Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground, or awful in the extreme.
It’s lucky for Vickers, though, that her voice will be the subject of much debate. The music here, assembled by a vast team of contributors (including writers who’ve worked with the likes of Britney, Kylie and, erm, Lee from Blue), is forgettable without the blinding colour the vocalist brings. Replace her with some Irish crooners on Four Leaf Clover and you’ve got a Westlife hit; scrub her breathy confessionals from Notice and it’s a track that Dolores O'Riordan could have written in her sleep. And Once, while impressive when contrasted with the majority of X Factor stars’ debut singles, could have slipped onto any Sugababes album between 2000 and 2005. It’s initially striking, but actually fairly ordinary.
Vickers has a voice to stand out from any crowd, but the first impression she seeks to leave with this debut is compromised by songwriting by committee. A little more compositional guile, appropriate for this artist, could have considerably improved proceedings.