Cheryl Cole: Messy Little Raindrops (Album Review)

Remember when you were 15 years old and your then best friend in middle school messaged you on AIM after school one day to ask you to read her ‘poetry,’ and even though you didn’t really want to, you hit accept on the transfer request for “MyTears.doc” anyway? And then you read it, and it was literally the most terrible thing you’ve ever read in your life, but instead you told her that it was ‘really powerful’ and ’emotional’ because you have no other friends and she hangs out with you during gym?

Welcome to Messy Little Raindrops.

To be fair, Cheryl Cole has had plenty to be sad about lately: She’s suffered through several humiliating infidelity scandals on the part of footballer and former husband Ashley Cole that led to a very public divorce, a severe malaria scare earlier this year that nearly led to her death, and a rigorous X Factor audition process that lead to a briefly terrifying moment in pop culture known as Diva Fever.

Sadly, with the release of the singer’s upcoming sophomore studio album on November 1, Messy Little Raindrops, it seems the Second Most Beautiful Woman of the 20th Century has something else to feel sorry about: Her music.

From “The Flood” to “Happy Tears,” it’s clear that the S.S. Cole has sprung a major leak on its solo journey–and the results are devastatingly soggy.

For one thing, the lyrics truly offer Cole no favors: That awful, obvious rain metaphor–the water, the tears, the flood–has been used for decades now in popular music, from “Tears On My Pillow” to “Cry Me A River.”

With the album’s title track, “Raindrops” (which is–if nothing else–an exercise in torture and a test of endurance for fans everywhere), the oft-employed imagery is beaten to a watery pulp.

Above a wandering guitar strum, Cole takes to the mic with literally the worst lyrics put to music this year: “You were the tree, and I was the apple that fell to the ground and turned brown / Hate was the wind, but love was the secret that blew us to where we are now,” the songstress squawks. “And now love can grow without tiny little raindrops / Tiny little, tiny little, messy little raindrops / so cry on my shoulder for love, for love.” Excruciating.

But waterworks aren’t the only cause for embarrassment.

It is no small secret that Cheryl Cole was never the ‘voice’ of Girls Aloud (Oh hay, Nadine!). Yet while the former girl-grouper’s severe vocal limitations were at least cleverly overlooked on 3 Words, the bulk of Messy‘s contents puts the spotlight on Chezza’s iffy delivery style.

Many of the songs are rife with awkward silences at the end of every nervously crooned, slightly flat note from Cole, as with the godawful “Happy Tears” and the dub-step influenced “Everyone (feat. Dizzee Rascal)”: She simply cannot compete with the song’s harder beats, stretching her thin voice along the verses until Dizzee mercifully steps in and shows her how it’s done. (And I don’t even care for Mr. Rascal!)

The album’s only redeeming moments are few and far between, coming only when Cole veers from the dodgy dramatics and finally cuts loose. Well, kind of.

“Yeah Yeah (feat. Travie McCoy)” is the album’s best offering (and probable third single), a misleadingly amazing number complete with Confessions On A Dance Floor-esque synthesizers, twinkling electronica and an extended teary-eyed piano riff. It’s unquestionably the direction Cole should have headed for the duration of the record, which makes the impending nose-dive into emotional overload that much more tragic.

“Amnesia” is another praise-worthy cut, in which Cole glides across a cool, Bollywood-tinged twinkling rhythm: “You should be, you could be, why can’t we? / You should be, you should be with me,” she sings during the infectious, winding chorus.

“Better to Lie” is good as well, if only because it’s a note-by-note rip-off of Keri Hilson‘s “Knock You Down” (and subsequently every other mid-tempo electro-R&B track you’ve heard on American Top 40 radio.)

Yet even at her best, Cole still sounds staunchly unconvinced of herself: “Five days of work, two whole days of party / Waiting for the weekend so I can move my body” she tiredly warbles above the slapping electronic beat of “Let’s Get Down,” sounding more like she’s about to break into tears rather than grabbing her stilettos for a night on the town with her “bitches.”

It’s not that I wanted to dislike this album. I love everything about Cheryl Cole. I LOVE Cheryl Cole! Fuck, I even cried along with her during the interview with Piers Morgan this weekend. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that she’s produced one of the most lackluster records of the year in Messy Little Raindrops, an album that plays more like an exercise in self-mockery of her propensity for public tear-shedding than a collection of good pop songs.

In the end, even the best tracks here would be considered merely “passable” by any other major pop artist’s standards, leading to the most infuriating aspect of Messy Little Raindrops: With the budget Cole has been afforded and the fame she’s acquired from being one of the most adored acts in all of Great Britain, it becomes all the more offensive to think that something as heinous as “Raindrops” could not only make the cut for Cole’s sophomore album, but go on to define the very campaign itself.

Quite simply: To love Messy Little Raindrops is to love Cheryl, not the music. Even the worst tracks on the record will be quickly shrugged aside in deference to her infectious, lovable personality. There’s no way that a record of this quality could be released by any other artist and achieve the sales and visibility that it will inevitably garner except under the wings of Britain’s most beloved celebrity.

Die-hards and 14-year-olds will come undone for this record, which is almost destined for the #1 spot on the album charts. For genuine pop enthusiasts, remain wary: This one is by and large a waterlogged exercise in mediocrity.

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