“This wasn’t supposed to happen” sings Diana Vickers on her romp through her cover of The Sugarcubes‘ 1991 hit, Hit. A lot of people are probably nodding back at her in agreement. The current gluttony of talented British female singers wasn’t supposed to result in a former The X-Factor contestant coming out on top. But she became the first of them to earn a Number 1 single this year with her slice of electro-drama, Once.
A lot of songwriters were involved in the creation of this album. Songwriting is a trade. As mothers everywhere will tell you, it’s always good to have a trade to fall back on. Without that ability, singers can end up over-reliant on other people and have to concentrate on the skill of “being a pop star”. And it’s not yet clear how good Vickers is at being a pop star. It would be a risky strategy.
But we don’t have to worry about that because it turns out that Vickers gets songwriting credits for most of the content. While that in itself isn’t definitive of how much of her is in these songs, it should be taken as face value evidence that she’s part of the creative process, and that’s a good thing. It certainly puts her ahead of fellow The X-Factor alumni Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis.
She also manages to steer clear of the overblown r’n'b-lite and bland balladeering of those competitors, and instead encroaches on the territory of the likes of 2010 tips Ellie Goulding and Marina And The Diamonds with a more on-trend collection of synthesised pop nuggets. Goulding herself, with Guy Sigsworth, provided a couple of tracks, although their contributions of Remake You & Me and Jumping Into Rivers are two of the weaker fillers.
Others who helped put these 13 tracks together include The X-Factor mainstays and pop assassins Chris Braide and Cathy Dennis side-by-side with established artists Lightspeed Champion and Nerina Pallot. The question is whether she’s employed too many cooks, and whether they’ve turned it into a big soupy mess. The answer is a resounding “no”. It’s impressive that while the choppy Once has Dennis’s prints all over it and the sweet acoustic lullaby nature of Me & You is unmistakably down to Dev Hynes, Vickers manages to achieve a consistency throughout so that the album sits comfortably as a fluid piece of work.
That consistency might be down to the fact that a lot of the material is fairly run-of-the-mill mid-tempo pop; songs that are easy on the ear but don’t really excite. But there are occasional moments of vision that save the album from being written off as just another example of turgid pop-by-numbers. Her take on Hit is entirely enjoyable. And there are corking hooks on the well-titled The Boy Who Murdered Love, and Put It Back Together.
Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree is better than what could have been expected. But it’s still not visionary enough to stand out as having any real cultural significance. By taking Once to the top spot in the charts, Vickers sent out a strong signal that she’s not someone to be taken lightly. While not groundbreaking nor perfect, this is a solid start to her recording career. Don’t underestimate her – she might come to be the proof that not winning The X-Factor is one of the best things that could happen to you.