You’d imagine that sometime in the annals of pop history the idea of a member of a popular boy or girl band ‘going solo’ was met with genuine anticipation and not a whole heap of trepidation that they’d teamed up with David Guetta or something.
As we leap over the solo pop corpses of the likes of Mel B, JC Chasez and Brian McFadden is it possible that a solo pop star could re-awake from the coma of a pop past chiefly remembered for chucking it in due to a disagreement over a jacket?
It seems unlikely. Obviously there are heroes like Justin Timberlake or the occasional Top 40 ‘moment’ from the likes of a Mel C or a Robbie Williams, usually born out of a slippery bitterness at the memory of having to ego clash with the ‘other four’.
In Girls Aloud case, we’ve had Nadine Coyle’s Tesco sponsored-escapade into Commitments territory which generally flat-lined and Cheryl Cole’s passive reinvention as a modern r’n’b cipher. Neither, of course, had the spit, giggle, bloody minded weirdness of Xenomania’s Girls Aloud however. That is until Nicola Robert’s solo single.
‘Beat Of My Drum’ feels like the first exciting pop moment of 2011. It judders with a half- dancehall smile (you’re reminded of MIA’s early stuff) and a ‘Hollaback Girl’ poise. Co-written by Major Lazer, it stands out from the duo’s other big pop collaboration (Beyonce’s ‘Girls (Who Run The World)’) by wont of not subsuming the singer’s personality under layers of intricate electronic squiggles and bleeps. Roberts’ at times brattish and bold but unflinchingly herself.
It’s in her self-knowledge that you’re reminded she was the bullied one who had to constantly justify her position in the band. The lyrics of ‘Beat Of My Drum’ cleverly echo the public’s narrative of Girls Aloud’s ‘other member’. In the track she’s a ’baby’ with ’two left feet’, who manages to ’turn this whole thing round’.
There’s an insistent, almost panicky quality to the track that is reminiscent of G.A’s most bonkers/best work- a sense of seaside-surreality, a ‘British’ pop sense that has been missing from the airwaves for far too long.
Assured and a little crazy, ‘Beat Of My Drum’ is a brilliant pop moment from an unlikely source.