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Alesha Dixon

Rock/Pop

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About Alesha Dixon

Alesha Dixon refuses to put a foot wrong. Self-assured, smart, stylish and focused, Dixon grew up looking for energy and inspiration in the popstars she idolised and in 2008 she's paying it forward with a scorching album as rewarding to extended home listening as it is to high octane blasts of pleasure during a night out on the tiles. With an effortlessness rare in superstars on either side of the Atlantic Dixon skips her way though world class ballads, frenetic dance tracks, loopy party numbers and instantly hummable hits-to-be. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats: the curtain's coming up on The Alesha Show...

At three years old Alesha Dixon was chatty, independent and creative. At 13 she was bunking off school to go and see pop groups in concert, and by her 20s she was one third of Mis-teeq, hurling hits in the direction of the Top 10 with alarming frequency. Now nearly 30, and having spent much of the decade in the charts, Alesha Dixon is back in the driving seat with her incredible debut album release. ‘The Alesha Show' is Alesha through and through: stylish, fun, bright, chatty and reflective, held together with that unique voice, a wicked sense of humour and a dirty laugh that would put Sid James to shame.
 
Alesha's been a busy woman since signing to Asylum Records earlier this year and is blasting back with ‘The Boy Does Nothing', an irresistible, undulating smash-in-waiting which ranks at 5.5 on the mambo Richter scale and is simultaneously one of the most unabashed and most perfect pop singles for years. It's certainly one of the few whose lyrics reference both washing up and sweeping the floor. At the centre of the song is an inept, two-left-footed fella whose experience of rug-cutting begins and ends with a Saturday job at Allied Carpets. "I adore the line ‘if the man can't dance, he gets no second chance'," Alesha says. "I love to be impressed by somebody's dance skills." Alesha describes the song as "bottled happiness"."The song is super sassy and uplifting. I think some people thought I might come back with a song that was moodier, but that's just not me." It's the sort of excitable jamboree we've come to expect not just from Alesha but from the song's producer Brian Higgins and his Xenomania team - pop maestros behind artists like Girls Aloud ,Gabriella Cilmi and The Sugababes - but while it hits the pop bullseye it's also a brilliantly left of centre, effervescent introduction to an album which dips its toe effortlessly across a plethora of music styles from 60s R&B and perfect pop, right through to classic ballad, while documenting life's ups, life's downs and life's sideways bits.
 
Alesha grew up in Welwyn Garden City, a prototype new town famed, Dixon notes, for Shredded Wheat and Nick Faldo. Down the road from London but surrounded by Hertfordshire hills this was the perfect stomping ground for a girl who'd end up making an organic, modern but classic sounding album like ‘The Alesha Show'. Back before having quite a nice barnet played a part in making her one of pop's most stylish singers Alesha's hairbrush would be a microphone as she sang along to Madonna, Janet Jackson and a pre-American Idol wobbliness Paula Abdul. "I was fascinated by this fantasy world," Alesha recalls. "To see women like that back then was huge - it was a big deal, and I wanted to be like them. Neneh Cherry was a massive influence for me. I remember seeing her on Top Of The Pops - that ‘Buffalo Stance' appearance everyone remembers - and turning to my mum and saying, ‘she looks like me!' I had never seen a mixed race singer from the UK before her - it was important to have someone like her that I could identify with as a kid."
 
By the time she was 19, Alesha had formed Mis-teeq with friend Sabrina Washington; eventually a three-piece they scored seven Top 10 singles, released two albums and even had US success with their signature hit, ‘Scandalous'. When the band split in 2005 it wasn't long before Alesha was invited to appear in N.E.R.D's "She Wants To Move" video, and by God did she pull it off. Choreographed by Missy Elliott's Hi-Hat choreographer, Alesha's presence helped propel the record to become the band's biggest hit to date. Hot property, Alesha signed a solo deal and set about writing and recording with producers like Paul Epworth and Richard X, but something wasn't quite right, Alesha says today. "It was probably a bit too predictable. It was all a bit ‘girl leaves girl band, girl gets a solo deal' - and there wasn't really much of a narrative to it." However all was not lost. Brian Higgins, having been drafted in to work on the project at the 11th hour, was totally bowled over by working with Alesha. As a result he invited Alesha to join his X-Men style squad of writers and producers. "By then I had lost my deal and I was also going through a lot of personal crap," Alesha remembers, "but Brian Higgins called me out of the blue and asked me to write some bits for Girls Aloud and maybe for myself."

The sessions were interrupted when Alesha took her place on Strictly Come Dancing - but it was not a decision Dixon took lightly. "I nearly said no to Strictly because I was worried about what people would think," she recalls, "and I was worried about how it would affect my next record. I ended up saying yes because I genuinely wanted to learn how to dance - when I was younger I always wanted to go to stage school but my parents couldn't afford it. What I didn't expect was that it gave me an injection of energy and picked my spirits up - it was a hugely self-affirming experience. For the first time in my life I didn't care what was going to happen next - I was just so caught up in the moment. Before Strictly there had been moments before when I felt a bit lost and was socializing too much. Strictly structured my life again and gave me focus."
 
One of the first pieces of music to come into focus was ‘The Boy Does Nothing'. "I was presented with the chorus idea which I changed a bit and then I wrote the melodies and finished the rest of the song," Alesha says. "Then Xenomania built the track around that and the melodies that I had come up with. I'm pleased with that song - it came out really naturally. I always start a record thinking there is going to be a particular sound to it, but being a fan of lots of different styles, I end up with different styles on the record because that's me." Alesha's drive, talent and ambition clearly massively impressed Brian Higgins, who sang her praises as both a performer and a songwriter so much to Asylum Records that it helped clinch her record deal with them.

So here Alesha is right now - not only a household name (with some billing her as the nation's sweetheart) with a wonderful, empowering story, but also an artist at the top of her game, an electrifying dancer with Formula One levels of va-va-voom and an accomplished songwriter and singer with her own unique sound. In other words, one of those rare UK talents with the true potential to scale the giddy heights of global pop. ‘The Alesha Show' showcases this perfectly.

At the opposite end of the scale from ‘The Boy Does Nothing', ‘Do You Know The Way It Feels' is a wonderfully subdued belter from the grande dame of massive balls-out pop ballads, Dianne Warren. Shivers up spines are easy to achieve with liberal use of production Ralgex,  but Steve Lipson's work on ‘Do You Know The Way It Feels' is the real deal, cleverly understated and a fantastic example of a versatile voice suited as much to soaring emotion as to in-yer-face pop moments. For Alesha, the prospect of a world class ballad from the woman responsible for ‘Unbreak My Heart' (amazing) and ‘I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' (amazing) was as terrifying as it was thrilling."I was really scared to sing it and I thought it was going to be the hardest song on the record to sing, but I went into the studio with Steve (Lipson) and tried to sing it with real deep emotion and we managed to do the vocal in a couple of takes. I've co-written most of the songs on the album - including those with Steve Booker (writer/producer of Duffy's uber-hit ‘Mercy') and The Underdogs (writer/producers of the world's biggest airplay hit, Jordin Spark's ‘No Air'), so for me to take a song in its entirety it had to be something special - and that's what I've got here. If I can identify with the lyrics and make an emotional connection to the song then I thought, why not?"

Another of the jewels in this album's crown is ‘Breathe Slow', a world class R&B ballad you might place somewhere in between ‘No Air' and ‘Umbrella'. "It's about those moments in life when you want to kill someone but you don't because shooting the gun would empower someone else, so instead you empower yourself by staying cool."  As the song says: "I am gonna breathe slow, count from one to ten with my eyes closed, 'cos ladies take it in and get composure, ladies never lose composure "

"I don't think I could have written this album five years ago," Alesha says. "There is definitely something about having experiences - good and bad - in life that makes your emotions stronger and you really find who you are. In Mis-teeq I used to say in interviews that writing lyrics was like writing a diary, but now I realise that only as a solo artist can you write something truly personal that's sometimes even healing. I've just tried to be honest about things that have happened in my life."

Sometimes it's all about holding your nerve. Keeping your poise. It's about standing still while others jump up and down, keeping your mouth shut when everyone else screams to make themselves heard. It's about playing the long game. Sometimes, it's all about composure. One of those times is right now. Alesha is here.