Cheryl Cole: Messy Little Raindrops (Album Review)

by Bradley Stern

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.

  • http://kcobra.tumblr.com LaShaundra

    I’m so disappointed by this album. If they’re gonna take time away from GA, I would appreciate if the stuff they put out is worth it.

    When I first heard the snippets I thought everything was so boring. The 2nd listen I felt a little better, but I haven’t moved past that stage. *sigh* 3 words wasn’t the greatest overall, but it had a few really catchy songs on it. I can’t even say that for MLR.

  • James

    Ha, I have just listened to it and I love it, funny thing is that I’m neither a die hard fan of Cheryl Cole nor a 14 year old, I’m in my thirties

    Happy Tears, Better to Lie, The Flood and Yeah, Yeah are my favorites

  • http://www.freshyesh.com Shan

    I’m glad to see you giving this an honest review. Being such a big Cheryl Cole fan you could have sugar coated it. I have to disagree though, although Happy Tears is one of the “soggy” songs on the album, I love the beat and it stands out as my favorite.

  • http://www.facebook.com/notAfrce2recnwit David

    After giving the album a few listens, it grows on you. It is SLIGHTLY an upgrade from 3 Words but it definitely could have been bettered. I feel like she needs to work with better producers and she needs to find her sound. The album indeed is “Messy” and there is no real flow to it. She needs to stick with the dance/R&B sound, it suits her best. I hope that she drops her record label after this and finds an American one that would promote her and give her a better offering of producers and songs.

  • http://www.twitter.com/seeser209 @Seeser209

    I cant get past the first paragraph because I. Cant. Stop. Laughing. Great review as always!

  • http://aerosolde.tumblr.com ERIC

    I do agree the lyrics are shite.
    I do agree the album is generally shite.
    Yeah Yeah is 95% not shite.
    Album gets catchy if you listen to it as background music.

  • laura

    at first i wasnt sure but after a couple of listens it is realy catch y i love it..the flood is amazing and live tonight is too u go chezza nadine obviously hasnt got the personality for stardom!were is she?? everyting we hear of her shes sayin ders no competition with cheryl?obviously cheryl is on her second album released a book performed her songs…wat has nadine done but winge??

  • http://www.facebook.com/notAfrce2recnwit David

    She has the potential to be the next Madonna…I know its not her fault, she needs to drop her record label and find one that will want to put her to the top, not want to sabotage her career!

  • Mikey

    I agree with a lot of what you wrote.

    Songs like “The Flood” and a few others on the album remind me a lot of Geri Halliwell’s solo career. Geri never had the best voice, but she’d nonetheless try her hardest at songs that were just too big for her (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRAjP2td1Ss). And as I did with Geri, I privately like a lot of songs on “Messy”, but I’d never play them for my boyfriend or my friends because they’re embarrassing!

    That said, I can’t wait for your review of Nuhdeen’s album. I feel like it’s going to be just as “bad” as Cheryl’s album, but for different reasons.

  • Martha

    i LOVE the coloured bracelets from carolina bucci that she is wearing

  • raymond

    Ok, this is a dreadful record, your review is fair… isnt this just so sad. I also love Cheryl. I love GA more though and agree with a former comment, if they are just going to release shit they should reform sooner rather than later. I hate the sound of this record, it sounds thin and busy and unsophisticated and generally very b-side, all of it, even the title of the album. I mean what were her people thinking. Its a crying shame that with the platform this girl has been given they couldnt have teamed her up with better songwriters. Fight For this Love was a fantastic song, and classic songwriters like Steve Kipner rarely receive the credit. Credit fell on Wayne Wilkins the producer, and programmer who went on to work with her on this second album. Its all style over talent right now. I look at Starmaker the guy who wrote on Kylies album (BTW – that was the best fucking album this year – perfectly A&R’d) and I actually want to believe all the hype but cant help feeling its all a bit soul less and these programming guys are taking over.

  • calder

    “With the budget Cole has been afforded”

    mmmm, how do you know that? I’m sure this never happened, her record label spends more money on other acts destined to flop than on her, and the sad thing is that she’s the only one who brings money to Fascination.

  • miguel

    I discovered cheryl coles music online and after buying her 3 words album i felt in love with her. however after expecting this album for months and having felt in love with “promise this” i honestly was expecting another great album, but i didnt. this album doesnt seem to connect in any way. it feels like the connection between this album and 3 words is about 360,000 miles apart. theres too much going on with beats and it just doesnt sound like a great album. im still having to pick her best songs and im sorry but i always stop listening after her 3rd song, thats if i make it there. Can I get My Money Back?!!

  • Maria

    Music and feelings have always gone together… Cheryl is a music artist and this album is her at this moment: Nothing as good or as bad as your own taste can dictate you. No album will ever please all fans. However, I do love it: I did love the previous one and I find this one a continuation of a process, of a biography and a great discography!!
    Well done Cheryl!!

  • samantha

    ok i dont no what everyone is on about i loved this album its very cheryl i love her and this album made me love her more.

  • marina

    ummmmmmm ok people goign bonkers this album is perfec much much bettre than 3 words more vocal use and more emotional – couldnt ask for more love it evry minute

  • snail

    sorry…smacks of desperation

  • snail

    she can/should sing….but on this album she trying to hard……get of these reality/t.v shows n get back to singing…u know u wanna….xx

  • Pop listener

    Have to say this album is trashy, tacky, chavvy and soulless. I skipped most tracks, I was so bored. Doesn’t sound like she means them, no real melody. It all sounded so much like Atomic Kitten! Not original. Cheryl won Popstars: The Rivals to sing and look pretty in a girl group. That she does well, but not as a solo artist. Hasn’t got the vocal range or strength to be a international artist. And needs to stop hetting garish tatooes!

  • lollllling

    she cant sing … they showed a clip of her without auto tune god it was awful….