Remi Nicole - Barfly, Birmingham

It was about this time last year when Lily Allen seemingly came out of nowhere and brought her brand of lyrically barbed summer-ska pop with her. She's been quiet of late though, touring the US and answering back to Cheryl Cole's put-downs via MySpace, neglecting to release any new material for the Brits. There's a petite female-shaped hole to fill then, and I was lucky enough to witness one of the contenders in a live forum. This is her:

Remi Nicole. She sings about dates from hell and the 'tabloid queens' who thrive on press coverage of all their sordid activities. You can't imagine Nicole partaking in any of the Spears/Lohan/Hilton bullshit though, and this is why her brand of spiky pop-punk is sure to be a hit with Lily Allen fans. This gal is more than just a pair of skinny jeans and a pork pie hat; she has attitude, innit? A pleasant stage presence, promising she won't bite if the shy crowd moves closer toward the stage, Nicole's lyrics are witty and biting enough to contrast with her friendly demeanour. The best track, Rock and Roll, sees her taking a swipe at those who believe a young female mixed-race musician would automatically opt to perform urban music rather than Nicole's own brand of guitar-driven ditties; choice lyric is 'Did you not see me dancing the other night like the girls on Channel U?'. Meanwhile, fun is the watchword when it comes to New Old Days, a nostalgia trip for anyone who grew up in the late '80s/early '90s, namechecking Pat Sharp, Byker Grove and Naf Naf jackets during its zippy three-and-a-half minute running time. Anyone who has heard her MySpace demos should really check her out live, for the songs sound much more layered and complete with her three-piece band. Fed Up, however, remains a delightfully stripped-back affair, Remi sounding like a cheekier Corinne Bailey Rae on this largely acoustic number.

Pick your corner now, fans of left-of-centre pop conjured by bright young things. Kate Nash vs. Remi Nicole. There might be blood spilled but surely, in a musical landscape where Cascada exists, there is room enough for both to win fans, maybe without taking Queen Lily's crown in the process. With a single out in August, we can only wait and see whether Nicole wins the commercial success she deserves. I'd put money on it, though, and if I were Jamie T or Jack Penate, I'd be starting to feel a little intimidated by all the talented feminine firecrackers hitting the scene. The more, the merrier? We'll soon see...

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