Alesha Dixon; How We Came To Love Again

Alesha Dixon's Cinderella Story

As the embers cool from her Strictly Come Dancing backlash, Alesha Dixon is fast on her way to becoming a national hero. Her recent appearance on Fearne And… cemented our allegiance to Team Alesha. She exhibited an unassuming warmth which shines like gold dust in the pinched and neurotic world of celebrity. But if you’re hoping to find any of this inviolable charm in her new single To Love Again, it’ll be a quest in vain. The single, released today (Sunday 15th of November) is likely to do well, given its timely arrival at a point when our affection for Alesha is undergoing such an ascendance. And it’s in spite of this affection that I find grounds for lament; I’m of course talking about her transition from plucky garage MC, backbone of Mis Teeq to pedlar of the musically mundane.

Let’s reflect a moment on the spirited joy that were Mis Teeq; in the early noughties they throbbed with a gritty urban Britishness, uncompromising yet without foraying into cliché. When held up against the likes of The Pussy Cat Dolls they emerge as fine exemplars of defiant female sexuality. The trio possessed an unpretentious spunk which seemed to emanate from their own personalities rather than any carefully choreographed industry mould. As an MC, Dixon’s crackling cannon fire vocals were distinctive and powerful. She was a rare gem in a market that remains almost exclusively male, especially this side of the Atlantic.

And now? Alas, her new album is almost entirely devoid of the energy and flair she brimmed with in Mis Teeq. The Alesha Show creaks half-heartedly from one genre to another with a dwindling conviction. And To Love Again signals the nadir of this slide into banality. Even co-writer Gary Barlow, a man who’s devotion to balladry could surely whip him into a piano-twinkling frenzy over the perils of lo-fat margarine, seems to have here grown bored of his own cosily furrowed niche.

Even on its fourth spin the sterility of To Love Again continues to derail me. Dixon holds neither the vocal power nor the wispy personality to work the Leona mould. Her attempts are neither stirring nor believable. Surely her lack of glassy fragility should be creatively trumpeted, not lobotomized or airbrushed into oblivion. The single is being described by critics as “dreamy”. The danger that you’ll fall asleep at the wheel is to be heeded in earnest.

We can trace the dawn of this new Alesha-lite to her victory on Strictly Come Dancing. Prior to this she’d been submerged in the kind of disappointment and heartbreak that celeb-lead reality TV gluts itself upon. In June 2005 Alesha filed for divorce, ending a five-year relationship with So Solid div MC Harvey. He’d been cheating on her with fellow R’n'B singer Javine Hylton. She was dropped by her record label inside the same fortnight when her solo album Fired Up was met with tepid reception. The naming of the album’s second single Knock Down (for the record, a commercially snubbed masterpiece) proved to be cruelly prophetic.

And so she sits Christmas 2005, encircled by snotted tissues and a rising sense of despair, when the phone rings: “Strictly Come Dancing….?” croons the silver tongued television executive on the other end. If you can berate Alesha for, venturing an enfeebled “yes” after a few anguished moments of consideration, then you’ve a steelier conviction than me.

Because when the likes of you and I are jabbed at incessantly by the fickle finger of fate, myriad options present themselves; enrol in an evening class, buy a cat, take a daring leap into the world of home bleaching… the list goes on. But when fame’s beguiling gaze has so much as winked at you coquettishly from the other side of the room, there can be only one path to redemption: reality TV. It’s a bold gamble, one last spin on the celebrity carousel. Like a booze-fuelled cartwheel into an audience of alluring strangers, you could emerge triumphant, to a chorus of applause. Or you could end up with a sprained ankle and your dress up over your head. Unlike Michael Barrymore, Vanessa Feltz and numerous other E-list hopefuls, Alesha’s gamble paid off. But at what cost?

She has been crowned the darling of light entertainment. It was on these coat-tails she was granted her wish and was able to cruise back into the fickle affections of the nation. And to this genre she will remain bound. Any cameo on the MC circuit would now be out the question. The legacy of this Faustian pact can be felt palpably, crowing its name through every creative endeavour Alesha now undertakes.

That she relinquished the rough-edged aesthetic of Mis Teeq for widespread recognition is the choice most of us would have made. And our preference for the blander flavours of The Alesha Show is far from extraordinary. But we gulp down her music by the ladle-load partly because, from My Fair Lady to Pretty Woman to the wealth of makeover shows that saturate the prime time, there are few things we love more than a Cinderella story.

We relish the transformation of the once lowly waif reborn as a swan. Alesha, who suffered a “broken home” and impoverished childhood, victim of bad rapper and his writhing harlot, cast out by the seedy underworld of the urban garage scene, was the perfect candidate. The fact Alesha would almost certainly abhor our pity hardly seems to register.

All such heroines retain the humble charm of the street urchin, now purged of the dirt, pain and poverty than once made them so unappealing. We luxuriate in the wild promise and novelty factor we ascribe their ascension, safe in the knowledge than no matter how elegant their dress or refined their manners, they will never lose touch with their gratitude for being plucked from the gutter. This gratitude is crucial. They don’t exhibit the pride or vanity of other princesses, always remaining sweetly grateful.

Our enjoyment is paramount when we can believe we’ve had some hand in saving Cinders from the scullery. Reality shows afford us this, bestowing the power to create our own heroes and villains, arbiters in our own living room. The Alesha Dixon Story is so delicious because we can congratulate ourselves for helping bring it about, for recognising the swan that lay within and through our votes, raising her up from obscurity and dejection.

For all our rampant idolisation of celebrities, we have a fervent belief in our right to de-throne them at any time. Only stars who pay due deference to their fans will be lavished with our gooey hearted devotion. Her character and Strictly salvation considered, she’s unlikely to run the risk of becoming lofty or ungrateful. A modern day Cinderella, Alesha Dixon shall go to the ball. Providing, that is that, she never gets too big for her glass slippers.

About the author, Heather Kennedy

By: Heather Kennedy, 15.11.2009 | Comments (1)
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