Cheryl Cole: 3 Words (Album Review)


When Cheryl Cole announced her plans to take a brief break from powerhouse girl group Girls Aloud and embark on a solo outing, my mind was wrought with fear as usual: Fear of an Aloud split (not true in the end), fear of wannabe-rapping (a little true in the end), and above all, a feared repeat of the faux-R&B horror that was Victoria Beckham‘s solo album (not including “Let Your Head Go,” obviously).

As it turns out, the fears were somewhat justified–but for entirely different reasons.

Cheryl Cole’s debut, 3 Words is a producer’s potpourri, featuring tracks backed by Syience, Taio Cruz, Wayne Wilkins, and most prominently (albeit unfortunately), five tracks mixed by, including his own 2008 semi-international hit, “Heartbreaker.”

The problem with Mr. is not that he’s a bad producer (“Make Me Cry”), nor a particularly good one (“Boy Like You”), but rather that he’s a complete and utter microphone hog. Containing five tracks that feature more than a fair share of’s lyrical stylings, 3 Words suffers the most in that half of its own “words” aren’t even spoken by Cheryl Cole.

As for the words the songstress does speak, they often seem to reflect the media barrier she’s built up after the flurry of infidelity allegations published back in 2008 against her husband, Ashley Cole.

This includes the album’s ballad, “Don’t Talk About This Love,” which, although featuring no writing credit from Cole herself, echos what’s been said in recent interviews: She’s not letting anyone in on her personal affairs (“Please don’t talk about this love / The less they know, the less they judge / Don’t talk about this love to anyone”).

On a side note, doesn’t that second line in the first verse sound like she’s singing “Feels like I could drown in syphilis”? I swear to God, that’s all I hear when I’m listening.

“Parachute,” builds off of the very same theme (“I won’t tell anybody / Won’t tell anybody / They want to push me down, they want to see you fall”) while earning points for being the album’s most readily accessible track, as well as its catchiest. Backed by a militant, marching drum beat and a twinkling mid-tempo piano melody, Cheryl repeatedly purrs in a low growl: “I don’t need a parachute, baby if I got you / Baby if I got you, I don’t need a parachute.”

Aloud fans will most likely sing their loudest praises for “Stand Up,” a disco-tinged, Taio Cruz-penned club track that finds Cole coming close to acknowledging the Hi-NRG Euro sound of the mega band from which she hails. “‘Cause I came here to dance, I’m going to put up my hands, so stand up,” she sleepily coos through a fleet of violins and glittery synths.

“Make Me Cry,” another highlight, proves equally danceable, although more of a moody boogie-down track than an outright celebration. “Are you trying to make me cry? / Stop trying, ’cause I’m die-die-dying,” Cole barks along a series of funkified synth pulsations that, put together with Cole’s scattered riffs, results into one hell of a nasty beat. If any track could count as’s redemption for slathering himself all over this album, “Make Me Cry” would be the one.

There are, of course, some real stinkers mixed into the bunch as well, including the draggy, go-nowhere “Heaven,” the soggy strutter (pun!) “Rain on Me” and of course, “Boy Like You,” which features–hands down–the greatest misuse of a Fleetwood Mac sample ever.

The problem is, simply speaking, that these songs lack in both personality and punch. Anyone could be singing these songs (in fact, “Happy Hour” was a demo originally scribed for Rihanna if I’m not mistaken), and their appeal only goes so far as the listener’s loyalties to both Girls Aloud and the Cheryl Cole brand are concerned.

Cole’s delivery is frigid and thin, though not in the “Ice Disco Princess” way (a la Lykke Li or Sally Shapiro), but rather in the disconnected, phoned-in performance sort of laziness. This disconnect is especially apparent on the final “club” track, “Boy Like You,” as the squaky synthesizers clash harshly with Cole’s soft coos.

I suppose it could be said that 3 Words proves why Cheryl is a superstar, but as awful as it sounds, that would be to miss a crucial half of the assessment: 3 Words proves why Cheryl is a superstar member of a girl group.

For any other artist’s debut, 3 Words would probably not rank as high as it will for this review, and especially not as high as it’s expected to perform on this week’s album charts. This is Cheryl Cole we’re talking about however, the subject of an almost unhealthy English obsession. As a result, this entire campaign has been cushioned with a certain degree of forgiveness. Sure, she’s got a decent vocal range, a gorgeous face, and enough of a winning personality to carry her though this effort. As it stands though, 3 Words would be a barely passable debut if sung by anybody else.

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Purchase 3 Words on iTunes UK | Official Website

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