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Messy Little Raindrops – Cheryl Cole

January 15, 2011

(Originally published here on 23rd November 2010)

When Messy Little Raindrops was released in the UK a little over a fortnight ago, it was one of the most anticipated album releases of the year. Yet, in Australia, the fanfare has been less than minimal and one could be forgiven for asking – who exactly is Cheryl Cole and why am I supposed to care about this garishly dressed woman on the cover?

For the uninitiated, Cheryl Cole is an ex-girlband member, TV Personality and Footballer’s Wife extraordinaire. She’s also been the reigning nation’s sweetheart ever since her tough talking but highly teary turn as a judge on UK ratings juggernaut X-Factor intersected with her high profile divorce from love rat footballer Ashley Cole. Suddenly she was the prettiest and most relatable wronged woman since Princess Di.

Tarred by the brush of being a former Girl Group member (from those saviors of modern pop Girls Aloud), expectations have always been low for actual vocal talent, which actually does the nicely voiced Miss Cole quite the disservice. It’s often overlooked that she got herself to this point by winning a televised talent competition and has always had a lovely, soft singing voice with a real emotive, bruised tone. That being said, the title track is a vocal mess that is in dire need of a real Diva to compensate for its music box melody and cloying arrangement. Imagine Kylie’s Bittersweet Goodbye (itself already a hideous, hideous song) being mangled by an Australian Idol semi-finalist and you’d have a clearer picture of the wreckage.

The Flood does the trick much better, taking the tried and tested beats driven ballad format so popular on US radio these days (see also – HaloBattlefield and pretty much everything by Leona Lewis ever) and giving it a credible emotional gravitas. It’s understated production and nicely unfolding lyrics of not being able to ‘hold on to water’ and ‘a natural disaster love’ gently swell to almost epic proportions by the songs end. In fact, its status as the likely second single would mean we’d be looking at a slamdunk UK Christmas Number One if not for the fact that Cole’s X-Factor contract most likely prohibits her from releasing anything in the second half of December lest whoever wins this season’s competition be bested by a judge.

Lead single Promise This fares much better, being one of the catchiest and most exciting pieces of pure pop released all year. Sure, the random French chanting doesn’t pack quite the same visceral punch in a post-Gaga musical landscape, but the literal English translation – “Lark, Spread your wings” – is both fitting and endearing on an album that often eschews subtlety in favour of tabloid-baiting lyrics. Plus, the chorus is so big you could land a plane on it, and that’s never a bad thing.

Let’s Get Down finds her reasserting that she’s just Chezza from The Block and is, surprisingly, all the stronger for it. Sure, the proclamations of living for the weekend don’t ring quite as true now she’s seven years removed from being anything remotely close to working class, but it’s amazing what one bona fide assault charge (back in 2003) can do to prove one is well hard, innit?

Both Everyone and Yeah, Yeah keep their feet planted on the dancefloor much more firmly than any of the watered down R’n’B of her debut album did and Waiting is an amazing club banger co-written by recently reinvented dance diva Kelis. Live Tonight is just glorious, built on a shimmering synth line ala When Love Takes Over and the “guess who’s on the radio now” bit in the bridge is the most genuine and unaffected she comes across all album.

Elsewhere, her singles from debut 3 Words – Fight For This LoveParachute and the title track – are tacked on to the end and should clear up any doubt of how this Cheryl Tweedy-Cole woman became one of the most famous pop stars in western Europe. Overall, a good solid pop album that makes up for it’s lack of real substance with some really gorgeous pop tunes. Now, if only something could be down about the godawful cover art.

Top Tracks – Promise This, Waiting, Happy Tears.

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