At the tail end of 2007, cultural commentator and all-round pop music oracle Bruce Forsyth announced live on national television that he had discovered the “British Beyoncé“.
He was talking about Alesha Dixon, former member of pop trio Mis-Teeq, a woman whose private life had been dragged through the mud the year before and whose debut solo album had been scrapped at the last minute following the failure of her first two singles.
Such was the euphoria on the night of Dixon being crowned winner of Strictly Come Dancing that anything seemed possible and even Bruce’s unscripted announcement allowed us all to dream.
Twelve months later and Dixon is back and ready to prove that Bruce Forsyth’s comments weren’t mere hyperbole. To her infinite credit, Dixon has spent those twelve months co-writing and recording fourteen brand new songs, ignoring the temptation to simply re-package or re-name her debut-that-never-was, Fired Up.
Add to that the fact that said album featured production work from Paul Epworth, Johnny Douglas and Xenomania and you have a pretty persuasive argument for simply releasing it and hoping no-one notices. Luckily, The Alesha Show is able to match that production calibre, with the brilliant Xenomania climbing on board (amongst others) for another bash at making Dixon the pop star her enthusiasm and tenacity demands.
First single, The Boy Does Nothing, you’ve probably heard by now. If you’re like me, your reaction to the song might have gone something like this: ‘God, this sounds just like Mambo No. 5…why would you want a song to sound like this…it’s actually pretty catchy… that guitar break is amazing…I don’t mind if this song is played on rotation until 2010’.
Needless to say, The Boy Does Nothing is one of the eight songs that Xenomania produce on the album, and much like their work with Girls Aloud, they’re able to turn the seemingly unpalatable – the way Cinderella Shoe starts like the theme tune to an awful daytime quiz, for example – into something far more then the sum of its parts.
The brilliantly titled Italians Do It Better finds Dixon cooing about the relative merits of a new man, I’m Thru sounds like a sped-up version of Can’t Speak French, whilst Don’t Ever Let Me Go strips away all the production bells and whistles and allows the melody to soar. It’s only on Ooh Baby I Like It Like That where things come undone, the dated production making Dixon sound like Dannii Minogue. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Another nadir comes in the shape of the Diane Warren-penned Do You Know The Way It Feels, a simpering ballad that strips away all of Dixon’s personality. You can only hope it wasn’t included simply to evoke the tabloid headlines that greeted Dixon’s split with former husband MC Harvey, especially as Hand It Over does it far more successfully. The towering Chasing Ghosts is another autobiographical admission, showing Dixon’s vulnerable side to perfect effect: “I’m just a girl that dreamt of singing…what am I trying to conform to, why am I making friends with ghosts?”
So, Bruce was half right. Dixon may not have Beyoncé’s vocal ability, but what she lacks in range she more then makes up for in personality. The Alesha Show contains at least five songs that could easily crack the top ten and while it does occasionally dip below perfunctory there’s more then enough to keep any pop fan happy. She may have taken the obvious route back into the public eye, but for once a celebrity talent show has given someone deserving a second chance.