Messy Little Raindrops 

Messy Little Raindrops

Cheryl Cole

Impressively managing to achieve what every solo Spice Girl, All Saint, or Sugababe has failed to do, permanent tabloid fixture Cheryl Cole scored a number one album with her debut solo release Three Words, not to mention a huge-selling chart topper and a loyal fan base obsessed with her fashion style as much as her music. Of course, her success has been helped by the national treasure status she's been bestowed by the British press since taking a judge's role on the hugely powerful TV series, The X-Factor. But appearing in front of 15 million viewers every week isn't necessarily a platform for chart success (just ask Dannii Minogue), so to give her credit, Cole has convincingly grasped the opportunity to become Britain's most successful female pop star. Like her previous effort, the clumsily titled Messy Little Raindrops eschews the spiky pop of Girls Aloud in favor of anthemic dance and synth-led R&B. With regular collaborator will.i.am back on board ("Let’s Get Down"), productions from Shux (Jay-Z) and JR Rotem (Jason DeRulo), and a duet with Travie McCoy ("Yeah, Yeah"), the album certainly appears to have one eye firmly on the U.S. market. With her increasing transatlantic profile, it's a smart move, which unlike Craig David and Natasha Bedingfield, avoids the mistake of alienating her own native audience in the process. Indeed, alongside the Ciara-esque synth heavy "Better to Lie," and the dancehall-infected "Amnesia," there's ambient dub-bass (the Dizzee Rascal-featuring "Everyone"), pulsating David Guetta-style floorfillers ("Waiting"), and Kylie-influenced Euro-pop ("Live Tonight"). Not exactly known for her vocal prowess, the ballads are thankfully kept to a minimum. The stripped-back, piano-led "Raindrops" exposes her limited singing ability, however, the Ryan Tedder-esque clattering rhythms and Coldplay-inspired riffs of the majestic "Happy Tears" surprisingly provides the album's highlight, alongside the Gallic-fused dream pop of lead single "Promise This." A much more inventive affair than her sometimes formulaic debut, Messy Little Raindrop is a cohesive and adventurous follow-up that will undoubtedly continue her ascent into pop's premier league. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

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