Lucy Spraggan

Top Room at the Zoo

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Despite The X-Factor's insistence that it's committed to discovering and nurturing new talent, it's become common knowledge that most of its auditionees have been scouted by producers, presumably with the promise they will, at the very least, be fast-tracked to the Judges' House stages. Sheffield singer/songwriter Lucy Spraggan is perhaps the most obvious example, having already finished runner-up at the Live & Unsigned competition, supported Razorlight, and released this debut album, Top Room at the Zoo, a year earlier. Responsible for the Susan Boyle moment of the 2012 ninth series, the 23-year-old found herself in the unique position of having both a Top 40 single and album before the live stages had even started, after her rendition of self-penned "Last Night" inspired viewers to investigate her previously unknown back catalog. Cowell's staff has since instructed download sites to remove the record, claiming its high-profile exposure would put the other contestants at a disadvantage. But that's not the only instance which leaves you wondering why on earth she just doesn't ditch the show and go it alone. Top Room at the Zoo is as far removed from the over-produced pop that its winners are usually lumbered with as you could realistically expect. Indeed, the majority of its 11 tracks feature little more than Spraggan's spoken-sung heavily-accented tones and an acoustic guitar, whether it's the nursery rhyme/lullaby of "Til Death," the romantic folk of "91," or the '90s indie pop balladry of "Someone." Those who feel that The X-Factor is pushing "real" music to the sidelines may be momentarily enamored with its simplistic charms, but it's all been done before. "You're Too Young," a stark warning on the consequences of violence in youth culture, echoes the socially conscious acoustic hip-hop of Ed Sheeran, while "Last Night" is a jaunty ska-pop number which recalls both the stream-of-consciousness delivery of Kate Nash and the musical comedy of Victoria Wood. Top Room at the Zoo, therefore, contains little you wouldn't hear at any local open mike night up and down the country. But it does prove Spraggan has her own idea of where she wants to go. Which makes it even more baffling why she's chosen to awkwardly shuffle around to "Moves Like Jagger" instead.