Pop Essays #17: Diana Vickers, ‘Cinderella’

Welcome to this week’s Pop Essays, our series bringing a fresh polishing up of a lost pop music diamond for your eyes and ears. This week: the first single from the second album of an X Factor legend…

  • Artist: Diana Vickers
  • Song: Cindrella
  • Release Date: 19/07/2013
  • Writers: Diana Vickers / Miranda Cooper / Simen Eriksrud / Simone Larson
  • Producers: Simen Eriksrud
  • Chart Run: 76

I shall start this week’s essay by being honest here: of the 2008 series of The X Factor (arguably the beginning of the three golden years it enjoyed post Leona Lewis), I wasn’t really much of a Diana Vickers fan. For 2008 me, it was all about JLS, whilst also having an equal fondness for Ruth Lorenzo, the power voiced Spaniard who was in Dannii Minogue’s Over 25s category that year.

But as can also be attested, sometimes the act that a contestant is established as on the show was rarely the same sort of artist that came out of it by the time they were actually releasing their own music. Diana proved this in spades when her debut album, Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree, was eventually released in the spring of 2010, yielding the Cathy Dennis penned electropop banger and number one hit ‘Once’ in the process, as well as boasting collaborations with Nerina Pallot and Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion to name a few.

It was certainly a million miles away from the barefooted, hippyish performances she had given during her time on the show – her signature ‘claw’ move never being too far away. For me however, whilst I liked that album, my true road to Damascus moment with Diana came two years later, when I saw her supporting another fellow X Factor alumni, opening for Olly Murs at his big homecoming show at Hylands Park in Chelmsford in September 2012.

She was supporting him at that show along with Pixie Lott, who I did love up to that point and owned the first album of. But then something unusual happened, certainly from my standpoint. Rare has been the time for me in all my years of gig going where I have enjoyed the support act as much as the main act. Pixie was, to put it frankly, a bit of a shouty and dull disappointment despite my initial enthusiastic hopes.

Diana on the other hand, was an absolute dream, and confounded all my expectations. My exact memories of that day nine years ago are more hazy than my brain remembers at the time of writing this (blame that on being over a year in on-off lockdown), but she really got the crowd going and was nothing short of a delight. At the time of the gig, she had just signed to an independent label, So Recordings, and was working on her second album, and this was one of the first shows she was playing the new material at.

Something instinctively told me just from the few songs I heard that Music To Make Boys Cry was an album I was going to be obsessed with provided it reached an actual release. Fortunately, even with a few commercial hiccups to get there, it did. Cut to nine months later, and I saw Diana supporting Olly Murs again, this time at another outdoor show of his at the Embankment in Peterborough.

This was again a wonderful day; it was on the second May Bank Holiday of 2013. Also supporting were terrible short lived girl group Stooshe and the actually brilliant Ed Drewett (more on whom in a later essay). Diana was on just before Olly. By this point, she had just released the video for ‘Cinderella’, the first single off the album which I’d first heard at Hylands. I had binged replays of it quite heavily, so I was met with a series of perplexed looks by Peterborough’s Murs Army contingency, but in the glorious late May sunshine I do remember getting my actual life as I sang along, and also when she sang another track from the album ‘Love Sounds Better In French’ as well as delivering an excellent cover of ‘Erase / Rewind’ by The Cardigans.

The Music To Make Boys Cry album was and still is a revelation in so many ways; it’s a perfectly formed and executed pop record that is almost bordering on the brilliance of Rachel Stevens’ Come And Get It. Little surprise then that one lady who had a hand in that record – Xenomania’s Miranda Cooper – was heavily involved on this one also, including as a co-writer on this single.

Sparkly, dream like and utterly addictive as its fairy tale source material, her vocal is perfectly matched and is a bit like the pop music equivalent of leaping on clouds: ‘If Cinderella was here tonight / She wouldn’t walk out the door leaving you behind / Midnight calling but she don’t care, she’d be a fool not to follow you everywhere’ which then segues into this skippy and bright second chorus: ‘Because for you, I would lose / Both, both of my shoes / Stay all night, see the light / That’s all I wanna do’.

That it failed to trouble the top 75 when it was finally released that July is perhaps no surprise; for more close minded audiences, it was maybe too far away from what they associated Diana with from her X Factor days (it was somewhat telling that around the same time of its release, the song she was more readily associated with was her version of ‘My Favourite Things’ which was being used in an advert for One Direction’s perfume). But still ‘Cinderella’ remains a magical listen as it did back then.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new Pop Essays playlist on Spotify, which includes all the songs we’ve written about. What are your memories of this week’s featured song or band? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or message us on our Instagram.

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