Arriving almost exactly a year after her debut 3 Words, you may wonder just how Cheryl Cole found the time to make a follow-up alongside life as an X-Factor judge, gossip magazine staple and survivor of a near death experience. One listen to the unfortunate Messy Little Raindrops reveals the reason – she didn’t make it. Written and produced in the US by the now standard committee of music industry professionals, Cole’s input is as great as that of Elvis Presley’s on his new album and nowhere near as engaging. A couple of tenuous co-writes with will.I.am aside, her only contribution is the succession of soulless vocals that lie buried deep amongst the expensive production.
It could have been, should have been so very different. 3 Words, helmed by the magnificent ‘Fight For This Love’, was a genuine surprise and not a bad album at all; far too in the thrall of US production techniques for sure but still showing some of the spirit that has made Girls Aloud such a pure pop thrill over the years. There’s none of that here, just a succession of spiritless urban dance tracks that rapidly fade from the memory. The odd hint of Cole’s undoubted personality slips through at times (when they tone things down on ballad ‘The Flood’ for instance) but she is largely anonymous, slipping even further into the shade when Dizzee Rascal – a proper, interesting pop star – arrives for a turn on ‘Everyone’.
Who’s to blame? The quick turnaround (she recorded it while recovering from malaria) can’t have helped and it wouldn’t be surprising if making music hasn’t been high on her list of priorities this year. Yet in Cheryl Cole we have a megastar who we know can be magnificent. When the album does allow her escape from its sterile surroundings just once on the penultimate track ‘Happy Tears’, it is quite, quite brilliant. The words may not be her own but you believe every single one of them. On that kind of form, Cheryl Cole is all that we want her to be. For the rest of the time she can do so much better than this.