In a music industry saturated with young female singers, there’s a wonderful, almost indefinable quality to Diana Vickers’ voice that manages to draw you in. Play any of her songs – be it her debut single, Once, which peaked at Number One in 2010, or anything from her debut album, Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree, which also went straight to Number One – and that voice will stand out through sheer force of personality, coiling round lush pop melodies like there’s no tomorrow. In the three years since her debut, Vickers has continued with acting (starring in the forthcoming film ‘The Perfect Wave’), launched her own fashion line and dipped her toe in the modeling world, but all this has been extra-curricular; she’s also been writing and honing her second album, Music To Make Boys Cry, a sophisticated collection of 80s-tinged electro bangers and featherlight, synth-lead love songs.
While she didn’t follow the usual path of releasing an album immediately after The X Factor – there was the little job of performing the lead role in the west end version of Little Voice to take care of first – Vickers still feels that her debut was rushed. Something she was keen to rectify on this new album. “I came out of The X Factor and there was quite a rush to get something out and I thought a year was quite a long time to do it, but when I actually think about it I’ve spent about two and a half years writing this album and that feels just about enough,” she says with a giggle, fully aware that her fans, especially on Twitter, have been clamouring for new material for the past year or so.
Having completed two sold-out tours in support of her debut album, Vickers soon decamped to LA to start working on songs for what would be her second album. Collaborating with David Gamson – formerly of Scritti Politti – they immediately came up with the gorgeous, synth-heavy Boy In Paris, a song which highlights a shift in sound from guitar-lead indie pop and into what Vickers describes as pop music that has a “Kylie feel to it with bits of Blondie and Annie.” This move into forward-thinking, unapologetic future-pop was galvanised by an introduction with Xenomania lyricist and all-round pop genius Miranda Cooper, whose relaxed approach to songwriting immediately fused with Vickers’ vision for the album.
That initial session created the album’s first single, the shimmering, instantly catchy symphony that is Cinderella, a song that takes the idea of love’s obsession and takes it to a whole new level via a chorus that features the line, “for you I would lose both of my shoes”.
Music To Make Boys Cry, the song, is no less amazing, featuring a lyric that starts downbeat but soon morphs into a very modern empowerment anthem. As with all great pop, it’s desire to make you both cry and dance simultaneously was no accident. “I love melancholic chords. I love it when my voice has got a sadness to it in a way. I love it when it’s a pop song and you want to dance but it kind of hits a nerve.”
With some songs already started she and her management team decided to plunge head first into creating an album she could be proud of. Once songs such as the fantastically Parisian Better In French and the Blondie-esque 80s stomp of Mad At Me had all been completed and the album was ready, it was only then that she started looking for a new label, eventually deciding to go with independent, So Records. “When we played the album to So Records they were just like ‘oh my god’ and they realised that I sound so different and that I’ve grown,” she explains. “They weren’t expecting it, I don’t think. To be with people that just get it is so great. The freedom that I get now and the input that I can have is a massive thing. The head of my label, my management and I are all looped into the same emails and because it’s such a small team I can speak to them directly. They really get it.”
It’s this sense of freedom that permeates much of the new album. Co-written entirely by Diana, and with a cast of pop’s great alchemists, these are songs that mix all the elements of Vickers’ personality to create songs that make you want to laugh, cry, dance and, let’s be honest, have a bit of a snog underneath the Eiffel Tower. It’s a romantic, youthful take on pop music from a former bare-footed singer who has grown into a six inch heel-wearing pop superstar. It really shows how far she’s come and the hard work has all paid off brilliantly.