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29/07/2012 Cheryl Cole - A Million Lights Review 04/11/2010 Cheryl Cole 'Messy Little Raindrops' Review 10/07/2010 Cheryl taken to hospital 01/02/2010 New video, Fight For This Love 08/12/2009 Cheryl Cole: 3 Words Review
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|Cheryl Cole - A Million Lights Review|
|29-07-2012 10:33 | 0 comment(s)|
| Of all the records granted a second lease of life as a result of the diamond jubilee concert, perhaps the least likely is Need You Now by Nashville country-pop trio Lady Antebellum. It's currently nestling just outside the top 20, enjoying its second-highest UK chart placing a full two years after it was first released. Need You Now was the song subjected to a prolonged and vicious assault early on in the show at the hands of Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole, not an experience you would have thought anyone in their right minds would feel like being reminded of: normally when you see something that distressing on primetime television, it's followed by a helpline number. Perhaps people are curious to hear what it sounds like sung in tune.
More likely they're buying it precisely because it was associated with Cheryl Cole. She's currently the only member of Girls Aloud with anything resembling an ongoing career in pop. Solo albums by the more vocally adept Nadine Coyle and the more critically acclaimed Nicola Roberts headed straight to the bargain bins; Cole's have gone straight to No 1. The first, 2009's Three Words, contained a genuinely great pop single, Fight for This Love, but the second, Messy Little Raindrops, didn't, raising the suspicion that her records sell as a result of the apparently endless public fascination with her celebrity: like the awful gossip mags, they shift copies because they've got Cole's photo on the front and the promise they might feature something illuminating about her private life, rather than their actual contents.
Anyone interested in the actual contents of A Million Lights might have felt their ears prick up at Cole's recent suggestion that it contained "a lot of dub". Perhaps her recent tribulations had led her on a spiritual quest culminating in a secret conversion to Rastafarianism, and her third album would thus largely consist of echo-laden riddims and Geordie-accented execrations of Babylon's downpressors and Crazy Baldhead Ashley Cole. Alas, she meant dubstep, which crops up on Screw You and Love Killer, an addition to the panoply of current pop styles A Million Lights samples.
There are a couple of moments when the album hints at the kind of musical risk-taking indulged in by Girls Aloud producers Xenomania – opener Under the Sun offers a weird and hugely enjoyable cocktail of tinny synthesiser, vast Chemical Brothers-style breakbeat and football-terrace backing vocals, while Mechanics of the Heart takes a standard stadium-rock ballad and piles on the electronics until it sounds thrillingly chaotic – but for the most part, it sticks to a script. You variously get Auto-Tuned vocals and rave synthesisers, a British pop-rapper (Wretch 32), Coldplay piano balladry and Lana del Reyish breakbeat-heavy melodrama, both on the title track and Ghetto Baby. The latter is actually the handiwork of Lana del Rey, who, in a volte-face designed to confound critics who've noted that all her songs are about exactly the same thing – doomed love for a beautiful bad boy on the run – has alighted on the radical new topic of her doomed love for a beautiful bad boy on the run.
You can't fault its box-ticking efficiency, but it's hard to ignore the variable standards. The single Call My Name is written and produced by Calvin Harris, and on the surface sounds exactly like every other song recently written and produced by him, save for the fact that it lacks the spark that powered Rihanna's We Found Love. By contrast, Girl in the Mirror uses pretty much the same sounds to a more striking end. It's just a superior song, which might tell you something about pop's pecking order: perhaps the industry's less well-known producers and writers are more inclined to give Cole their best stuff.
Manufactured pop stars are usually keen to emphasise their heartfelt personal involvement in their records: rather than simply turning up and bashing out a vocal over whatever songs their record company choses, they like the public to believe they're giving something of themselves. It's a measure of how famous she is that Cole can get away with suggesting the exact opposite, safe in the knowledge it's not going to affect her sales: she recently announced there's no point journalists asking about how the album's lyrics relate to her private life because she didn't write any of them, and indeed doesn't actually know what some of its songs are about. It's both appealingly honest and a little disingenuous: you get the first lyric that she must realise plays on her image as a publically wronged woman about 40 seconds into the album, and the last about 10 seconds before it ends. What comes in between is sometimes interesting, often generic, with a few decent songs among the will-this-do numbers. But that's not going to affect sales either: its success feels like a foregone conclusion.
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