After serving as one-fifth of one of the greatest American girl groups of the past decade (Danity Kane–RIP), followed by a turn as one-third of the short-lived, yet briefly brilliant Diddy – Dirty Money, singer-songwriter Dawn Richard is finally, at long last, getting her rightful shine as a solo star.
In the immortal words of Lil’ Kim and Christina Aguilera: Never can, never will, can’t hold us down.
Not one to be muzzled by her all-but-defunct, ultra shady record label Blackground Records and their contractual death grip on her career, ever-talented singer-songwriter (and birthday girl) JoJo‘s decided to exorcise some of her demons this December…for free.
In 2011, Sky Ferreira released the As If EP, a bouncy collection of playful electro-pop anthems, sarcastic kiss-off tracks and gorgeous Swede-pop production by the likes of pop’s most trusted players, including Bloodshy & Avant, Greg Kurstin and Klas Åhlund.
But as an acoustic guitar comes softly strumming into the speakers within the first few moments of “Sad Dream”–the opening song from her 2012 EP Ghost, which was released last week–the electro-pop princess of As If already feels like a distant memory from years ago.
While Adele continues to conquer the world with her record-breaking 21, an honest collection of bluesy, rollicking odes to heartbreak and sorrow (which is still the best-selling record of 2012, despite being released last year), England may well have just found themselves their next humble hometown glory by the name of Jessie Ware.
How do you think Cheryl feels when you call her name? Well, for one thing: She’d like you to get it right.
To the bemusement of most media outlets (and the annoyance of OCD iTunes organizers everywhere), the Girls Aloud songstress has undergone a slight image revamp: A Million Lights is by Cheryl. Just Cheryl. After two solo albums, she’s no longer going by Cheryl Cole (her former married name) nor Cheryl Tweedy (her maiden name), but singularly Cheryl, like Madonna. Or Cher. Except, you know, nothing like them at all.
And apart from (or perhaps inspired by) the name change, there’s also been a change in her sound since her last effort in 2010: It’s (mostly) good again!
When Cheryl became the first of the almighty Girls Aloud to venture into solo territory with her debut in 2009, she came swinging: The 3 Words campaign was a solid collection of R&B-laced pop (“Fight For This Love”), throbbing dance (“3 Words”) and dramatic, waltzing midtempos (“Parachute”). Accompanied by some truly stunning videos and spotlight-stealing live performances (literally–she shut down the X Factor UK stage with her million soldier performance of “Fight For This Love,” on which she was judging at the time), Queen Cheryl utterly slayed with her first solo effort.
Then, the misfire: Only a year later, Cheryl released Messy Little Raindrops, an appallingly weak follow-up record wrought with terrible balladry, tired uptempos and way, way, way too many introspective “moments.” Sure, there was “Promise This,” another stormer of a lead single (and an equally amazing live performance on X Factor in 2010), but the album itself was a complete dud. (Musically speaking, anyway–it still managed to hit #1.) Whether a case of poor A&R or the result of a life-threatening bout with malaria (that happened), Cheryl, one-fifth of the greatest British girl group since the Spice Girls, was getting it so thoroughly wrong.
Mercifully, someone’s handed Cheryl a few tissues (and a few strobe lights) for her third go-around.