Cheryl Cole: Three Words
Cheryl Cole: Three Words
Also In The News
By Michael Younger.
Tuesday, 27, Oct 2009 03:05
By Louise McCudden.
Polydor, out now
In a nutshell..
The 'hot one' from Girls Aloud brings us her inevitable solo album.
What's it all about?
No one will be surprised to learn that Cheryl Cole's album is chart-friendly R 'n' B-lite, (or at least, what people mean by R 'n' B these days; in having a brief granddad moment, I feel compelled to point out that it obviously bares no resemblance to actual rhythm-and-blues whatsoever). One of the 11 songs is a recycled Will.i.Am track from last year. She also sneaks in the obligatory delicate love song Don't Talk About This Love. I smell a possible Christmas number one.
Who's it by?
The woman cleared of a racist attack on nightclub attendant Sophie Amogbokpa (although she was convicted of ABH) and for marrying a talented but seemingly quite unpleasant footballer somehow manages to remake herself as a popular R&B singer, and - some would say depressingly - a role model to women and young girls everywhere. Oh, and she used to be on Pop Idol and she's now on X Factor.
As an example...
"Just know that you're not in this thing alone/There's always a place in me that you can call home/Whenever you feel like we're growing apart/Lets just go back (back, back, back, back) to the start." - Fight for This Love
"Please don't talk about this love/The less they know the less they judge /Don't talk about this love to anyone/I don't want the world to know/Until I'm sure that you're the one/Don't talk about this love to anyone/Don't talk about this love to anyone (to anyone)." - Don't talk About This Love
Likelihood of a trip to the Grammys
A lot of people are going to pay attention to Three Words simply because it's Cheryl Cole, the darling of the British press, beloved by women and men alike. She's already very famous, incredibly gorgeous, charming, stylish, and fairly talented. She's not going to be ignored.
Some Girls Aloud fans might be nervous about some of the more beat heavy Will.i.Am production, but rest assured there is enough insipid beige across the board to keep everyone - from middle-aged gossip magazine readers to kids and teenagers who envy Cheryl's fabulous 'you-know-you-want-to' eyelashes - happily in their comfort zone.
What the others say?
"Too tentative and slight to be more than a footnote in Cheryl Cole's unstoppable celebrity story." - Tom Ewing, the Guardian
"If it's true that without Xenomania, Girls Aloud are nothing, then without Xenomania and Girls Aloud, Cheryl Cole is less than zero. You want three words? In. The. Bin." - Simon Price, the Independent.
"Easily exceeds expectations despite some throwaway moments." - Mike Diver, BBC Review.
So is it any good?
There's something about Cheryl Cole that makes it very, very difficult not to like her. It's not just that she's startlingly beautiful, it's that she's simultaneously girl-next-door and red carpet. She looks like a movie star but talks like she's an extra on Byker Grove. She's gorgeous, but in an attainable, ordinary kind of way. Ugly men secretly believe they could, maybe, in some happier version of the universe, have a chance with her, and women believe they could look like her if they spent long enough fiddling with their eyelashes and, well, probably not eating very often.
So it gives her a head start over a lot of her contemporaries. Other solo female acts like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus start right off by seeming like a total a pain in the rectal cavity. Their music would have to be mind-blowing for their personalities to be tolerated. Cole's music, on the other hand, would have to be truly awful to be a complete flop. And it's not truly awful. Her voice isn't awful, her lyrics aren't awful (well, occasionally they are), none of the tunes are awful and the production isn't awful. But neither is any of it particularly good.
If Boy Like You or Stand Up were played in a club, the dance floor would probably stay comfortably full, but if you asked me to sing you the chorus of either track more than five minutes after hearing them, I'd be utterly stumped. Similarly, Make Me Cry might get you stomping your foot along in pulsing rhythmic anger at Ashley Cole, but he's unlikely to be bothered by her half-hearted assertiveness, switching with schizophrenic speed from growling "If you're trying to lose me, you're going the right way" to whining "I don't want to lose you, are you trying to make me cry? Are you trying to make me cry? Are you trying to make me cry?"
Naturally, there are some good moments. Parachute has possibly the most lyrically mundane chorus I've ever heard, but this well-calculated song has been cleverly written to do all anyone wants it to do; make people want to dance, and get horribly stuck in everyone's heads. The lead off single Fight for this Love is also inexplicably memorable, and the pretty, warm, plink-plunk harmonies almost detract from the repetitive and annoying words. And Rain on Me is the closest thing on the album to a proper R&B track. It could almost be Jamelia.
The problem is, you kind of wish it was. Cole's voice sounds horribly flat and shouty as she bellows out the chorus, drowning out almost everything workable about the track. In fact, all of these songs could have been sung better by other artists. If I was one of the songwriters credited on these songs I might be seriously regretting my choice of recording artist when listening to the playback of the final mixes.
Elsewhere, the album ranges from mediocre to weak. Happy Hour is melodic and funky but is lodged firmly in painful extended-metaphor territory; her voice sounds pleasant on title track Three Words but the song itself is too long and becomes tedious fairly fast, while 'Heaven' is pure vomit-worthy dross. Don't Talk About This Love is enjoyable in a guilty pleasure sort of way, (incidentally, I'm intrigued by how many pleas for, and promises of, romantic secrecy there are on this album. Seems mildly ironic from a woman who sold her wedding for £1 million), while Heartbreaker is a year old already.
Also, surely, someone needs to tell Cheryl that she cannot, cannot, cannot pull off the 'A girl like. what?' vocal tussle with Will.i.am on Boy Like You. It's kind of like the scene in Save the Last Dance where ballerina Julia Stiles puts a bandanna around her head and tries clumsily and nervously to dance to some hip-hop. While clicking her fingers. In other words, it kind of hurts.
So although Three Words isn't terrible, when you think how much love there is for this woman, how much I for one truly was hoping to (although not necessarily expecting to) enjoy this album, and - most importantly - how many smart minds must have got together to turn Cheryl Cole into a brand and turn her mediocre voice into that of a proper R 'n' B diva, it's surely a pretty severe indictment of her talent that it still manages to all sound so below average. There is absolutely nothing here to stand out or stick in anyone's mind, and for that reason alone don't expect the wheels to come off the Girls Aloud project anytime soon. Luckily for Cheryl, she doesn't really need to do that. She's a celebrity, not a creative artist. I suspect, as the money and the fame continues rolling in, that's probably all just tickety-boo by her. And why the hell shouldn't it be.