It's a telling sign when you're warned no less than three times not to ask someone about their personal life. It means something is up. Or someone's been naughty. As it turns out, Alexandra Burke recently split from her footballer boyfriend Jermain Defoe. The tabloids reckon he cheated. And we're not allowed to talk about it. Not that I have any interest in the matter. Besides, I have more important issues to discuss with the 2008 X Factor winner. Spilling water over phones, for instance.
"Oh yeah, I've basically not got a phone at all," says the 23-year-old singer, "they're in a pot of rice at the moment at home, and if they eventually work, great, but if they don't, then I've basically decided not to have a phone!"
Five minutes later, we're strangely interrupted by a ringing mobile. Which is fair enough -- it's not like I don't make mistakes myself.
When we finally get around to talking about her new album, Heartbreak on Hold, I explain to Alexandra that I'm surprised to hear her making use of Auto-Tune on the record. I mean, it's not like the girl can't sing ...
"You know, there is no Auto-Tune on this album whatsoever?" she replies. Okay then. I must be hearing things. "There is a really big difference between Auto-Tune and just using effects," she continues, "and Auto-Tune is something I've never used. Like you just stated yourself, I've never felt that I needed it. What I find really bizarre is that people mistake a little studio effect for Auto-Tune ... "
That's me put in my place, so. Of course, Burke's career as an X Factor winning pop star has, for the most part, gone according to plan. Debut album Overcome sold more than 1.5 million copies -- not bad for a girl whose first brush with the reality singing competition came in 2005. Back then, she didn't even make it to the live shows. Three years later, she decided to give it another shot. Smart move.
"I'm a lucky girl", she nods, "and I realise that each and every single day. I'm very blessed. I do work very, very hard. I live, eat and breathe music -- it's all I've ever wanted to do. And, you know, to be that girl that grew up in North London in a council house and to be where I am today, I am very pleased."
There's a lot going on as far as Heartbreak on Hold is concerned. Crumbling relationships; dancefloor partying -- the whole shebang. Bargain bin Beyonce, maybe, but at least it's livelier than anything we've heard from Matt Cardle. Speaking of which, the poor lad -- who also won X Factor in 2010 -- recently parted ways with his label. It's a fickle business, this pop world. Only this week, Burke's new single debuted at No 33 in the UK singles charts. Ouch.
"You don't know what tomorrow's gonna bring," says Burke. "You don't know, as an artist, if everyone's gonna love the next single or the next album. As long as you are doing what you love to do and you have no regrets, nothing else should really matter."
Try telling Cardle that. And, despite its annual TV takeover, there are signs that X Factor may have run its course. "I would disagree with that," says Burke (who was a guest judge on last year's series).
"I still think it's the biggest show to give people an opportunity and I'm a big lover of X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and The Voice, because to me, it's a wonderful way for people to have an opportunity to live their dreams.
"I wouldn't ever dream of losing X Factor from our TV screens because that would mean there would be so many talented people out there that wouldn't know what to do and where to go."
As for the incessant tabloid gossip, well, no personal questions allowed, remember? But that doesn't mean we can't tip-toe our way around it. "I just pay attention to what matters to me, which is my music," she says. "I'm not super-human, so I will get distracted in terms of what's written out there about me and it will sometimes get the better of me. But the majority of the time, thank God, the good outweighs the bad."
Heartbreak on Hold is out now