All Around the World (Island)

Album review: Tulisa, The Female Boss


Cool grooves but self-help sentiment lacks the X Factor

Is it the hint of power shoulders, or maybe the Medusa stare, that makes me think of the terrifying truckers' boss from Dragons' Den when I look at the sleeve photo of Tulisa's solo debut? Whatever, it's entirely in keeping with the title, a theme further developed in the "Intro" where, over portentous drums and piano, she intones some self-help hogwash about the "inner beauty... strength and determination" that helps make women bosses.

It's one of two spoken pieces bookending the album, with the "Outro" featuring Tulisa's assertion that "The universe doesn't give you the people you want in life, it gives you the people you need, to help you, to hurt you" etc.

The latter phrase is the key here, Tulisa trying to overcome the very public gaffe of a former lover's online sex-tape which, whatever other ramifications it may have had, achieved the remarkable feat of suggesting that Dappy may not be the daftest member of N-Dubz.

Like Rihanna, Tulisa here tries to turn adversity to her advantage, employing the incident as her own version of the familiar R&B soap-opera gambit, whereby the private life becomes the subtext to songs like "Skeletons" ("I'm the target today, but tomorrow's another secret") and "Counterfeit" ("I put my trust in somethin' that turned out to be nothin'"). Which to be honest, adds a little spice the songs need badly.

Less agreeable is "Foreigner", which spoils the album's best groove, a shuffle-skank with proud horns, with a lyric seemingly designed for xenophobic misapprehension. But when she sticks to the disco-pop staples of celebrating youth and dancing and fun, in tracks like "Young", "Live It Up" and "Live Your Life", once the energy dissipates, so do the songs, evaporating as if they never existed.

More memorable is "British Swag", a patois assertion clearly aimed at the American market, and "Kill Me Tonight", whose familiar ravey synths carry perhaps the emblematic Tulisa lyric: "Fortune teller predicted/My career gonna be wicked/But my love life ain't shit/Cheers! Let's drink to it!".

Download: Kill Me Tonight; British Swag; Foreigner

This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of The Independent's Radar magazine

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