Having walked up six flights of stairs to her management team’s swanky Central London offices, it’s hardly surprising to find some time N-Dubz chanteuse, full-time X Factor judge and solo starlet Tulisa laid out on a sofa. “Do you mind if I lay down for the interview?” she asks us, looking unsurprisingly shattered. “It’s not being filmed is it?” There are two gaping holes in the bottom of her tights. At one point a big toe makes an indiscrete appearance.
Tulisa has every right to need a bit of a lie down. In-between furiously prepping for Spotify’s grilling (ahem), she’s also been rehearsing for her maiden performance on The X Factor (this interview happened a couple of weeks before this weekend’s final) in support of her solo album, The Female Boss. With Dappy and Fazer currently pursuing solo projects, this is now Tulisa’s time to shine. First though, we need to find out how much she’s been missing Rylan Clark…
So, how has The X Factor been for you this year?
It’s funny because even though I’ve not been that successful with my acts, as a person, and my level of confidence, are a lot better than I was last year.
There was a lot of focus on you last year, wasn’t there?
Definitely. I think there still is [laughs]. Not in a big-headed way, but in the sense that I’m always being caned by the media.
What was it about Ella Henderson that the audience didn’t connect with?
I don’t think they didn’t connect with her, I just think she’s one of those acts that people assumed would get through. I think people assumed she was safe and she was one of those acts where people would wait until the final to pick up the phone. It was a case of having to get her to the final and unfortunately it was just one week where the votes slipped. It was on the week of her best performance as well.
Are you sad that Rylan’s gone?
People forget that pop’s meant to be fun sometimes don’t they?
Yeah. He was the fun part of pop. He’s fun-pop. Some people complain about it, but if he wasn’t on the show they wouldn’t have had that much fun watching it. That’s the truth, whether they watched it to love or hate.
What do you make of the state of pop in 2012?
I think it’s been altered so many times. You know when something just gets diluted again and again and again? I don’t really know what pop is anymore. It’s become a combination of pop, urban, old school and dance – there’s a little bit of everything now. I think ‘urban’ has come forward a lot more. It’s funny, what our idea of urban was how ever many years ago is now more commercial, but if we were to go over to America with what we call urban music they would look at us and go, “but this is cheese pop!” I remember going over to America with N-Dubz and they were like “what do you do?” and we said we were an urban British act and they’d hear our music and go [puts on American accent], “you’re not urban.”
R&B is going through quite a weird phase at the moment too, with a lot of R&B singer turning to Guetta-esque LOL-pop now.
Yeah. Dance is really the big thing at the moment isn’t it?
Would N-Dubz have ever auditioned for The X Factor if it had been around then?
No. Because we started off as a grime and garage act and that is always how we wanted to come into the industry and there’s no place for grime or garage on The X Factor. I think maybe if The X Factor was around in twenty years it might be possible, but the state of the industry as it is now there’s no way they’d accept it.
Do you think a rapper could win?
I think someone that sings and raps might have a chance.
You had quite a difficult childhood – did you ever seek solace in music?
All the time.
What kind of things did you listen to?
I listened to everything. I was very urban. I loved my old school R&B but at the same time I loved garage, I loved grime, I loved hip-hop, just pretty much everything urban. Up until the age of 11 it was all Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, Backstreet Boys, Eminem and then after 11 it just took a transition into everything urban.
Who were the strong female singers that you were attracted to?
I loved Aaliyah. I loved Lil’ Mo, vocally. I really loved this rapper called Ms Jade.
What Mary J Blige?
Oh yeah, I brought the No More Drama album.
That would have made a great Tulisa album title.
[Laughs] Good one! Yeah it would, you know. 2013 is my year of no more drama.
What was the first single you ever bought?
I didn’t ever buy singles, but I know my first album was Michael Jackson’s Bad.
What was the last album you brought?
These days I tend to download individual singles. I don’t really download albums anymore. The albums I buy are more likely to be old school ones that I haven’t heard for years. This is a bit random, but Lily Allen’s The Fear was like that as I saw the video on TV and I thought, “I remember this song, I can relate to this right now!”
What song would you put on to ‘get the party started’, as P!nk once said?
My motivational song is Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch up. That’s what gets me going.
Does the perfect song exist?
Yeah – and it’s the Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up! It’s my favourite song of all time. That and All Saint’s Pure Shores. Two random ones and yet funnily enough, two of them ended up married.
What’s your favourite musical note?
Oh God, I don’t have one!
You know people are always banging on about people being in the wrong key on The X Factor: do you have a favourite key?
Okay, so my key is… How could you put it? Right, if you had five keys, five being the highest and one being the lowest, I would probably be at four. That’s where I’m comfortable.
Can you go up to five?
I can go up to five but not in falsetto, in power voice. I don’t have much of a falsetto, but I have a full voice.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’ve always wanted to do a tune with the Prodigy because I’m such a massive fan.
If you could be any band for a week, which one would you chose?
Good question. I’ve never been asked that before, wow, you’re good. I’ve never, ever had that before, I love it when I get a good question.
Tulisa, tell me, are you being sarcastic?
No I’m not, I swear to God! I get really excited when someone asks me a new question. You’re making me think. Any band? Well, I’d like to be in Swedish House Mafia. Just to hang with them and do all the Ibiza parties.
Why do you think they’re giving it all up?
I guess it must get pretty crazy after a while. Well, even I know that [laughs]! I do it every summer and I have to have interludes and breaks.
If the Government imposed a law stating you could only own one album for the rest of your life, what would yours be?
That’s hard. You evil man! The thought of it makes me feel sick. It would have to be something old school. Let me think of my favourite albums… Well, Michael Jackson’s Bad is one of them. Destiny’s Child The Writing’s On The Wall. And Michael Jackson’s HIStory.
Maybe they’d let you have three, bearing in mind you’re a popstar?
Because I’m a musician I get Brownie points? So I would say Destiny’s Child The Writing’s On The Wall, Michael Jackson’s HIStory, because it’s got a bit of everything on it, then I’d say Ms Jade, Girl Interrupted.