Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Cheryl Cole - Messy Little Raindrops (Polydor)

Whether you’re violently sick at the sight of her, or excitedly rushing to Superdrug to turn your dull, limp, lifeless hair a Geordie shade of plum, it’s fair to say Cheryl Cole, in her day job as popstar, isn’t too shabby at what she does. Her debut outside the tired Girls Aloud bubble, 3 Words, proved there was substance beyond the dimples and the headlines, a feat she’ll need to carry off for a second time on sophomore release Messy Little Raindrops.

Where much of 3 Words displayed an understated sophistication, Messy Little Raindrops is a far shinier affair, all day-glo pink pop songs and shameless dancefloor ditties. It's no one-woman Steps record, by any means - the harder beats and electro-twanging certainly provide an edge, but it's an edge on a par with round-ended primary school safety scissors.

Clearly, the twisted genius that is Will.I.Am is keeping all his sinister, monster-mashing experiments for the Peas' upcoming record, so it's a largely more sensible affair on Messy Little Raindrops. And yet, his two contributions here, Live Tonight and Let’s Get Down, boast an energy the rest of the album – save for perhaps the Vanessa Carlton-sampling Waiting – is generally bereft of.

Hummingbird is all xylophones and twee nature metaphors, but quite plainly tackling the issue of a cheating partner (“he took his eye off the sparrow, flew out after the nightingale”). It’s essentially Owl City interpreted by a woman scorned.

But aside from the occasional veiled reference to Ashley, mosquitos and gay as the day ballroom dancers, it’s all very nonspecific stuff sonically. Somewhat peculiarly for a woman so staunchly in the public eye, Messy Little Raindrops doesn’t tell us much about Cheryl Cole: The Person. While her daily laying-bare courtesy of the media may not be intentional, the generic quality of the record doesn’t provide much more of an insight. 3 Words was a Cheryl Cole album; Messy Little Raindrops is merely an album.

Messy Little Raindrops won’t change the face of music, and won’t give Cole any kind of noteworthy career progression. But it does continue to cement her as a valuable British pop star in her own right, and stands up as a fairly harmless, generally passable pop offering. And hey, at the very least, she's no Nadine Coyle. And right now, that's about as big a compliment as anyone can get.

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