Forget what you think you know about Diana Vickers. We’ve already had to – several times. In fact, despite being a mere 22-years-old, she’s reinvented herself so many times we’ve lost count.
Halfway through the fifth series of The X Factor – Disco Week – Diana transformed from a vowel-mangling, barefooted, Eoghan Quigg sympathising, be-clawed indie bore, into Blackburn’s answer to Debbie Harry, sassing her way through a belting rendition of Blondie’s ‘Call Me‘. There were hot pants, there was choreography and there were bloody rollerboots! It was so brilliant that we instantly had to re-evaluate everything we thought we knew about her. The next time she performed, she gurgled her way through authentic guitar snooze-a-thon ‘Yellow’ and we decided to concentrate on the important matter of working on our gayboy crush on Ruth Lorenzo instead.
With that in mind, we were not exactly enthused by the prospect of a Diana Vickers solo single. Two years later, ‘Once‘ was unveiled – a sassy, self-assured slab of dramatic electronic pop. It was brilliant. We had to begrudgingly admit that we might have been wrong about Vickers after all. Then, on the back of a number one album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree, Diana was dropped by her label. We were briefly outraged and we sort of forgot about her. Sorry, Vickers.
Diana found her way back onto our radar in 2011 when she uploaded ‘Music to Make Boys Cry’ to her website and gave it away as a free download. And what a song. An ode to tears under the disco ball (as the best songs usually are), ‘Music to Make Boys Cry’ is slinky and melodic – a fizzing, shimmering 80s strut. The track was co-written by Diana with the masterminds behind Norwegian mega-group DonkeyBoy‘s dÃ©but album and Xenomania’s Miranda Cooper (writer of about a million incredible songs performed by everyone from Girls Aloud and Sugababes to Kylie and Pet Shop Boys).
You’d struggle to have found a more poptastic song released in 2011, free or otherwise. And then she disappeared again.
Fast forward past two years of behind the scenes label wrangling and Diana Vickers is properly back, back, BACK. ‘Music to Make Boys Cry’ has been dusted off and polished up slightly, serving as the title track and album’s second single.
Miranda Cooper’s influence is obvious throughout the album. Vickers cites 80s Blondie as an influence for ‘Music to make Boys Cry’, but the album sounds more like an homage to a decade or so of Cooper-helmed UK pop perfection. The robotic iciness of Come and Get It-era Rachel Stevens (‘Dead Heat’), feisty sass of early Girls Aloud (‘Mad at Me’) and even the vampish strut of Holly Valance’s State of Mind album (‘Better in French’) are present and correct. They may seem like odd reference points – most weren’t exactly commercial successes – but still sound current a decade after their release and fit more neatly into the sound of 2013 than they did upon their original release.
Music to Make Boys Cry manages to take the neatly packaged pop sheen of her contemporaries and mix them with the charm and humanity that they were missing. Where Rachel and Holly were just pretty faces that fronted work by pop’s greatest tunesmiths, this album feels resolutely Diana. It turns out that old Vickers is a bit of a romantic – the album is indebted to falling in love in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, getting caught in the rain and sipping cappuccinos in quaint cafÃ©s, all liberally anointed with Chanel No. 5.
Diana’s voice is on fine form – her mangled approach to the English language is largely controlled here, swapped for a sexier coo, meaning that lyrical nuggets like ‘The look of passion in his eyes made me purr/ French kissing on the steps of SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur’ get their chance to shine.
It seems strange to be listening to an album in 2013 that is indebted to some of recent pop’s fallen heroines and alsorans, but here we are. Music to Make Boys Cry is the one of the most straightforward, melodic, carefree and yet totally accomplished pop albums in years. No misguided duets, no provocative lolling tongues and no superfluous hashtags. We’re delighted that Diana Vickers has finally unleashed her inner disco diva.
Standout Tracks: ‘Music to Make Boys Cry’ / ‘Boy in Paris’ / ‘Mad at Me’ / ‘Better in French’