Cher Lloyd's eyes flash defiance, although a smile plays across her lips. "I didn't listen to Girls Aloud growing up, no way," she says scornfully. "Too cheesy, man! I listened to grime, garage, bashment." Then she bursts out laughing, one of the few times she seems to relax, knowing how ironic her comments sound.
This time last year, Lloyd's name was known only to those residents of her home town who had noticed the teenager with what she describes as the "quirky clothes and ever-changing hairstyle", as well as the producers and judges of The X Factor (including her soon-to-be mentor Cheryl Cole, formerly of Girls Aloud). Lloyd had been abroad just once, for a two-day holiday in the Canary Islands, and lived with her parents and three siblings in a council house in Malvern, Worcestershire. Now, on the brink of her 18th birthday, having spent much of the year in America working with some of the world's most in-demand songwriters and producers, she is preparing to release Swagger Jagger, a debut single that has received more than 5m YouTube views in less than a month.