Review : Cheryl Cole - 3 Words
SputnikmusicLet's just briefly re-wind to my review of the year 2008, where I listed Girls Aloud's terrible Out of Control as the worst album of the year.
"It's their Forever, their "Tubthumping", their Neither Fish Nor Flesh, their "Earth Song", their Sgt Peppers OST. Expect solo careers soon."
So here we are, not even 11 months later, and the most obvious candidate for a solo career has stepped out from the band into the spotlight. Hate to say I told you so.
In fairness to Ms. Cole, her timing could barely be more perfect. The goodwill generated by the first three Girls Aloud albums still remains, even after the band entered a seemingly endless slide toward mediocrity - yet that slide means that people won't hate Cheryl for breaking the band up. Almost as crucially, Ashley Cole's recent performances in an England shirt have started to turn the tide of opinion against him - Cheryl is no longer tainted by her association with a man who is now the ex-most hated man in football (thanks, Marlon King!). And that's before we consider the way she's positioned herself as the voice of the people during her stint as an X-Factor judge. The upshot of all of this is that, despite the serious lack of quality on the last two Girls Aloud albums, even the hardened haters find themselves rooting for her to do well.
Good job that all our prayers are answered, then. Plenty has already been made of the similarities between "Fight for This Love" and "Lil' Star", a collaboration between Kelis and Cee-lo Green dating back to 2007, and while it's definitely a point worth making, it doesn't really matter - "Fight for This Love" isn't just the best single of the year, it's probably the most mind-bendingly brilliant pop song since Justin Timberlake's "My Love". It shares plenty with "My Love", actually - the waves of synths and and simple, direct pleading generating a remarkably similar emotional effect. Yet it's a far smarter song than, perhaps, anybody involves realizes.
Pop music, particularly in the UK, has been defined in the past few years by shameless revivalism, but save for a few acts making '60s pop (the Noisettes and Duffy particularly), it's all been aimed squarely at an audience that entered their teens during the '80s. Those people are now at least 39 years old - is this really pop's target audience? People in my age range - I'm 23, so let's say 19 to 27 - simply don't have fond childhood memories of The Human League or Eurthymics. But Jodeci? SWV? En Vogue? Now we're talking. And that's where "Fight for This Love" aims itself squarely. It's not just a matter of sonics, either - the ironic co-opting of the '80s has tended to lend itself to lyrical abstraction ('music in the poison/dancing is my remedy' is about as direct as it gets), but this is direct. There's no coyness about this song - it's as direct as pop music has been all year.
If the rest of 3 Words had done the same, we'd be looking at a seriously great album. It sort of does, to be fair, but not often enough, and in a completely unexpected way - the album's other highlight, the opening title track, sounds like Everything but the Girl in their mid-'90s downtempo house period. It's a pretty startling opening, both because the opening guitar lines sound like the quiet parts of a Maps & Atlases track, and because it's the darkest and best thing will.i.am has ever been involved in. There are a few other tracks - "Make You Cry", "Stand Up" - that draw the mind back to sun-kissed dance tracks like Modjo's "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)". It's not quite what you expect, but hey, it's still '90s nostalgia, right?...full text
GuardianIn July 2006 the demise of Girls Aloud was a tabloid splash. "They just don't talk at all. It's all over," reported the News of the World. The villain was Cheryl Tweedy, her head supposedly turned following a World Cup trip to Germany with the England squad "Wags". So far, so predictable – the surprise came when the split didn't happen. The group enjoyed further hit albums and critical adoration. And Cheryl Tweedy is now Cheryl Cole, tearful nice-cop of Saturday evening TV and – since the kiss-and-tell stories involving husband Ashley – Britain's favourite wronged woman.
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The shift in the media's presentation of Cole has been remarkable. From a Geordie brawler and apprentice Posh Spice she has turned into a beloved young star, forever "in torment" on weekly magazine covers but still able to tap limitless reserves of empathy. "In these times of doom and gloom," the editor of Grazia said last year, "all we want is a hug from Cheryl."
Few need that hug more than record industry executives, and the Dianafication of Cole means this debut album is the most high-profile pop record of 2009 – flop-proof in a way girl-group solo records rarely are. Lead single Fight for This Love – set to be the fastest-selling single of the year – bears this out. Initially it's underwhelming: hollow drum sounds and a shuddering keyboard create a subdued backdrop for Cole's flinty vocal. But it has two big commercial advantages. First of all, it's deceptively catchy. Second, people can easily imagine it's about Ashley Cole.
Cheryl Cole's public profile is based on her playing heroine to two pantomime villains. Often the moustache-twirling rogue is Simon Cowell, and the nation applauds; the rest of the time it's her own husband. Certainly, 3 Words is being presented as a response to those experiences. For watchers of "tormented Cheryl", there's plenty more doggedness on offer, besides the single. "We argue a lot no matter what we do," she hisses on Make Me Cry, adding: "Careful what you're saying 'cos I'm trying to stay with you." On Rain On Me she snarls:"I won't run … 'cos if you think I'm weak then that makes you strong." At times like those, 3 Words seems a co-dependents' manifesto: on the jaunty Happy Hour the metaphor for a relationship is that classic romantic standby, alcohol addiction....full text
YahooL'Oreal model and popular WAG Cheryl Cole has only gone and made an album. Of course, she's also one fifth of the most consistently virulent and credible UK pop band of the decade, but then that's little more than incidental detail. As a group, Girls Aloud have been an effective conduit for fearless production team Xenomania's skewed songwriting genius, but they were never designed to function as unsupported solo units. Even in that context, Cole is far from the likeliest candidate; gossip page regular Sarah Harding or even quirky band mis-shape Nicola Roberts seem more naturally predisposed to solo remoulding.
What is more to the point though is that she now has a celebrity - owed in part to aforementioned factors but primarily to her judging residence on the "X Factor" - that begs to be exploited. With a now established juggernaut brand and the largest audience on British television behind her she'd be barking not to. But then considering how easy it should have been to put out a set of textbook tunes, bullet-proof (or even shower-proof) to the kind of criticisms dispensed each week from the judging desk, whilst building on her brassy, metropolitan 21st century girl-next-door image, some of the decisions taken for her debut solo album are spectacularly wrong-headed.
Her performance of brisk, enjoyable lead single "Fight For This Love" on the TV programme was over-described by a gormless, wide-eyed Simon Cowell as "incredible" in his ongoing bid to drive down the nation's expectations. In reality an excessive production overwhelmed her and she wasn't aided by an anaemic Bambi vocal that buckled at its knees - an impression that weakly straddles this whole album. Over 11 tracks she fails to pull in a single noteworthy vocal, that's if you can even locate it beneath the waves of effects designed to disguise how very little is actually there....full text
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