Nicola Roberts - “Gladiator”
I don’t have much truck with the generally understood idea of “authenticity” but Nicola Roberts Cinderella’s Eyes feels terrifyingly enjoyable in a way that is difficult to describe but as authentic. Superfically, the songs on the album may appear to be generic diva pop. But listen to the album the whole way through, and it feels like you’ve had a disco-powered crash course in the oddest parts of Roberts’ psyche. Roberts’ lyrics crossbreed the giddy wtf-ness of the best of Girls Aloud with lacerating autobiography. And her big, nasal voice bosses and inflates the quirky work of producers into anthem-sized dance floor annihilators.
Take “Gladiator.” Much of the album makes reference to the way Roberts was pilloried in the British press in the beginning of her career. While this could be irritating - and on the weaker songs, it is a bit tiresome - on “Gladiator,” it becomes the source of her conquering might. You’ve held her down, she says, but now she’s going to fuck you up real good. Sounding like a sped-up remix of “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead,” “Gladiator” pummels and trills, squelching its enemies under high heeled boots. Roberts capably commands through the verses, riffing out lines like “Make up is make believe/so slap it on/be my best friend” and advising you that if her “balls of steel” (not making this up) get stuck in your “pipe” she’s got some “K-Y” to ease it out. (The lyrics are unsummarizable - you should probably check them out here). It leaves me speechless - its carnival-esque, apocalyptic heights feel like being machine-gunned by an army of marching drag queens. This may not sound very authentic, but queerly, that’s exactly what it feels like to me. ”Gladiator” is a representation of the underestimated’s electric joy as she grabs all that she deserves.