Cheryl Cole is something of a sensation. Since joining the X Factor’s judging panel two years ago she has never been far from the front page of a glossy magazine, tabloid newspaper, or fashion bible. Everybody loves her – tweens, twentysomethings, and even the notoriously difficult-to-please Simon Cowell himself. Cheryl Cole has the x factor, that certain star quality that makes her shine. She has been through it all – an underprivaleged childhood, a spectacular rise to fame after gaining a place in Girls Aloud, on the X Factor’s predecessor, Popstars: The Rivals, the triumphant rise to the top with the other 4 girls by her side. She has the likeability factor, created by the fact that we all know she’s not perfect – punching a toilet attendent (oops), bitching about Lily Allen and other popstars. She also has that tragic aspect to her which people love – divorce, malaria, she’s ‘Poor Cheryl‘ and this makes people love her.
But as good as she is at being a celebrity, Cheryl has always insisted that music is her first love. Girls Aloud redefined the girlband and made outstanding pop music that made them a massive success – and even made them darlings of the critics, something relatively unheard of for a pop act. Cheryl struck out on her own after the band announced their ‘year long’ break, and considering the size of her celebrity, and undoubtedly how much money she (and her label) have to throw at her solo material, her debut album, 3 Words, was passable, but only ‘alright’ – certainly not what was expected from the UK’s current Nation’s Sweetheart.
Seeing as Girls Aloud show no sign of getting their arses back into gear again, Cheryl is having another go at solo stardom with her new release Messy Little Raindrops. First single Promise This kicks off the album – it’s a bizarre, hyperactive song, with bits in French and lyrics clearly hoping to make you think of Cole’s fight with malaria, despite being written before her battle. It was a strange choice of first single when the rest of the album is so different, and not a patch on Fight For This Love. But then, nothing on the album is.
The problem with Cole is not that she can’t sing (as many people like to insist). Sure, she relies far too heavily on autotune, and sometimes can find it hard to grasp the notion of being in tune, but we know from her work with Girls Aloud on their albums and tours, that she is not a bad singer. She has a lovely tone to her voice and is instantly recognisable, as many of the best popstars are. Cole’s problem is that no one around her and on her ‘team’ really seem to care about just how dull her music is, it sounding merely like a by-product of her celebrity. From the name of the album to the artwork to the songs themselves, the whole campaign gives off an air of ‘will this do?‘ which is a shame because we all know what Cole can do (see: Tangled Up tour).
Raindrops, the song from which the laughable album title comes from, is probably the worst song on the album – closely followed by Happy Tears, a song that is so insipid and cliched it makes you wonder how it even gained a spot on the album, which surely should be crafted to perfection rather than sounding so unbearably churned out. Live Tonight is also cringeworthy – a will.i.am track that tries to do what [the single] 3 Words did but misses the mark completely, with a grating overuse of autotune and an embarrasing ‘di di dum di did de dum dey…HEY!’ bit which does not mesh well with the rest of the boring track at all.
There are a few glimpses of Cole’s potential on tracks such as Yeah Yeah, which sounds very disco and very 90s. Everyone features Dizzee Rascal and has his stamp all over it – a pulsating bassline, infectious chorus and a brilliant rap from the man himself. But it is Waiting that has really captured the imagination of most fans. Despite sharing its name with a Girls Aloud track (which is infinately better, by the way), it’s really quite wonderful, with a sample of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles making it go from run of the mill to amazing.
I’d say that this marks a progression for Cole, that with this album she is growing as an artist, but she is not. She has taken the worst parts from 3 Words and ran with them, creating something that, bar a few tracks, just sounds like she’d rather be doing anything else. If, god forbid, she gets a third solo album, lets hope she wakes up and creates something that matches the excellence of her celebrity.
Download: Everyone, Waiting, Yeah Yeah, Amnesia