Nicola Roberts
Cinderella's Eyes


4.0
excellent

Review

by Iai EMERITUS
October 14th, 2011 | 76 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: We knew it would be interesting. We didn't know it would be this good.

Forgive me the smugness, but after certain Girls Aloud forums reacted to this review by trying to drag Sputnik into a flame war, I think I'm entitled. Here's the last paragraph of the review I wrote almost three years ago for Out of Control, Girls Aloud's utterly terrible fifth album.

A career killer. It's their Forever, their "Tubthumping", their Neither Fish Nor Flesh, their "Earth Song", their Sgt Peppers OST. Expect solo careers soon.

Hate to say I told you so....

From the group's (apparently temporary) implosion comes Nicola Roberts' Cindarella's Eyes, the fourth solo album by a member of Girls Aloud, following Nadine Coyle's already-forgotten Insatiable and Cheryl Cole's two efforts. At first glance, it may seem bizzare that Roberts is the third member to release an album, beating both Kimberley Walsh and Sarah Harding to the punch - she is, after all, the girl we know least about, the one that seemed happiest to stay out of the limelight, the one that would rarely fight for her chance to speak when all five appeared together on talk shows. And yet, those are exactly the same reasons why the prospect of Roberts going solo is infinitely more fascinating than any other members (sans perhaps Cole at the height of her marriage troubles).

What Nicola Roberts has that the party-loving Harding and the outgoing, stage-trained Walsh don't is a sense of mystery. We simply don't know very much about her life, her opinions, or her personality beyond seeing her as 'the shy one'. And yet, she probably has the most interesting stories to tell. Being Nicola Roberts can't possibly have been easy - some of the attacks on her by the British media, perhaps in retaliation to her shyness and the fact that they couldn't get any stories out of her, has been vicious. More than one national newspaper has called her 'the ugly one', or some variation on that phrase, and fashion magazines were hardly much kinder in the band's early days - I distinctly remember an article introducing the band as 'the four sexiest women in British music (and the ginger one)'. How can that not hurt you" For years Roberts was treated as a spare wheel, as if she was only part of the band because they needed a fifth person and it didn't matter who it was. After years of suffering through being ignored, attacked, belittled, and patronized, she must have had a lot of pent-up emotions to let out on this album.

It sounds like it, too. Cinderella's Eyes is unmistakably a pop album, but it's a leftfield, confessional, deeply personal one that frequently feels more like the work of a singer-songwriter than a pop star. Although it's not in the same ball-park soundwise, it echoes both the very best and very worst of Robbie Williams in the effect it has - even within one listen, you feel like you've got to know her through her songs.

You might not have been expecting that after hearing the debut single "Beat of My Drum", a Diplo-produced barnstormer that sounds a little like a child got loose in a recording studio and decided to press every button and see what happens. It sounds like an absolute mess on first listen, but it just grows and grows until you realize that it's probably the best pop song of the year - and you realize how defiant it is, too. 'See how strong you've made me now.....don't it make your heart go wild, how I've turned this whole thing around"' It's an opening statement that slots nicely onto an album that deals with her personal destruction and bold rebirth at the hands of the haters (and for once, I think that word is appropriate here).

The album is full of soul-searching. "Say It Out Loud" opens by asking 'how many tears can you count on your fingers" How many diets can you do to get thinner"' and arguably gets darker from there, hinting vaguely at an abusive relationship. "Sticks + Stones" similarly starts with 'couldn't you tell lies to me" Couldn't you say I'm pretty"' before opening up about being bullied at school and again hinting at something much darker, this time mental instability. "i" skips the hints altogether and opens with the line 'I'm scared of dying', before going on a messy, freeform rant about all her fears that's reminiscent of Bilal's "Sometimes", and contains the line 'I don't like the people that leave comments on the internet/They preach they're perfect while they're ***ing you with intellect' - honestly Nicola, you're giving people like me way too much credit. This is what Cindarella's Eyes is all about - it's about being battered, sneered at, depressing yourself over it, and then lashing back out at the people that hurt you, and importantly, it's unafraid to be lyrically sloppy as long as that emotion comes across; something that makes the whole thing that much more touching and believeable.

And the songs themselves are strong, too, strong enough to work without their message. "Lucky Day" is a house-inflected breezy pop track Kylie Minogue would have been happy to call her own, "i" has a percussion track and an exotic plucked arpeggio that suggests, incredibly, that Tom Waits was a big influence, "Gladiator" is a stadium-sized stomper with a naggingly familiar chorus, and "Take a Bite" is a whirlpool of noisy retro synths and tinny, insistent guitars that's very difficult to place; but "Sticks + Stones" is the most impressive at all. It would have been very easy and very tempting to turn this into a soaring radio-friendly ballad, a la Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" (or A1's "Caught in the Middle", which has a very similar chorus melody), but instead it's left as bare as possible, with the atmosphere piled on thick, and it's all the better for it. Roberts deserves huge credit for this too - she has a writer's credit on every song on the album, and her imagination when it comes to picking an unexpected collaborator (Metronomy and Dragonette both feature) and a cover ("Everybody's Got to Learn Sometimes") suggests that she could have a long, successful solo career in front of her if she wants it.

Girls Aloud have a couple of seriously good albums under their belts already, but Cinderella's Eyes beats them all. Concise, consistent, both melodic enough to be instant and deep enough to be well worth repeated listens, packed to the brim with charisa and personality without ever being brash - her occasional attempts at rapping are a little dodgy, but aside from that, I honestly cannot find a single fault. That one in Girls Aloud you probably never really noticed before has just made the pop album of the year.



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user ratings (30)
Chart.
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
taylormemer
October 14th 2011


4961 Comments


How many more reviews do you have stashed?

Iai
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My personal rating for this is actually a high 3.5, but I can't look at this objectively without thinking it deserves higher than that.



@taylor - they're not even stashed, I'm writing them as I go along. I just go through phases like this sometimes.

taylormemer
October 14th 2011


4961 Comments


I love your work.

sspedding
October 14th 2011


5192 Comments


having heard that heap of shit single she released I very much doubt I'll agree with your rating. Great review mind.

defjaw83
October 14th 2011


1805 Comments


Intersesting! I'll definitely check this out. I always thought that she had the best voice in Girls Aloud, she was just shunted to the background because she's ginger. It's a sad state of affairs when the press are labelling her 'the ugly one', just because she's not as pretty as the rest (who is?).

mvood
October 14th 2011


818 Comments


she was always my favourite

conradtao
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dammit, I wanted to review this..

MO
October 14th 2011


22046 Comments


Everytime I see your username I think of Lil John saying "YEAHYUH"

jrowa001
October 14th 2011


8752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah this is good. one of the better pop albums, but her voice at times gets annoying

AliW1993
October 14th 2011


7511 Comments


Ok, you've got me interested.

Valerius
October 14th 2011


1137 Comments


Bach's Toccata and Fugue is average, but this album is excellent? Tool's Undertow is average? This album is equal to Rage Against the Machine's debut, Alice in Chain's Dirt, Deftone's White Pony, Mazzy Star's So Tonight That I Might See, Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Pearl Jam's Ten? I applaud you for trying to be objective across different genres, *but* you are wrong.

There's a reason Toccata and Fugue has survived 300 years and has been used in many things. It's because it's a timeless masterpiece that requires incredible skill, and it will endure another 1000 years, no problem.

Hell will freeze over and Satan will be wearing long johns before this cliched talentless product is put anywhere next to Bach, let alone higher than him. And to be objective within the genre, Lady Gaga is much better than this. I really have no idea where you are going with your ratings. It isn't popular opinion, nor is it by musical talent.

conradtao
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's Nick Butler we're talking about here. Chill.

Iai
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Everytime I see your username I think of Lil John saying "YEAHYUH"


I used to tell people it was pronounced like Robert Plant's yell at the beginning of "Immigrant Song".



Bach's Toccata and Fugue is average, but this album is excellent? Tool's Undertow is average? This album is equal to Rage Against the Machine's debut, Alice in Chain's Dirt, Deftone's White Pony, Mazzy Star's So Tonight That I Might See, Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Pearl Jam's Ten? I applaud you for trying to be objective across different genres, *but* you are wrong.



There's a reason Toccata and Fugue has survived 300 years and has been used in many things. It's because it's a timeless masterpiece that requires incredible skill, and it will endure another 1000 years, no problem.



Hell will freeze over and Satan will be wearing long johns before this cliched talentless product is put anywhere next to Bach, let alone higher than him. And to be objective within the genre, Lady Gaga is much better than this. I really have no idea where you are going with your ratings. It isn't popular opinion, nor is it by musical talent.


LOL

Iai
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Anybody else notice that, for probably the first time in Sputnik history, we've got a clean sweep of female voices in the 4 featured reviews? (This, Bjork, Tori Amos, and Evanesence)

conradtao
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Except that one of those four sticks out like a fetid stick in the mud

defjaw83
October 14th 2011


1805 Comments


Clearly Valerius knows nothing about context

Knott-
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


10198 Comments


really?

also add feist to awesome new female vocal albums

Valerius
October 14th 2011


1137 Comments


Context? As in Pop music?

Elton John, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, The Bee Gees, The Cars, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Prince, just to name a few that completely blow this album out of the water and into deep space.

Iai
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So if you've absorbed this album so thoroughly that you can have such an unshakeable opinion on it, why haven't you rated it?

Iai
Emeritus
October 14th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Except that one of those four sticks out like a fetid stick in the mud


True. I also just noticed how Tori and Nicola look like mother and daughter when the covers are put together too, which is quite cute.



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