Five minutes into Only Human, the 4th solo studio album from Cheryl, I’m writing music videos in my head with Nadine Coyle throwing vases at her manager while drowning in an oversized Tesco bargain bin filled with her iconic failure of a debut album.
On paper it doesn’t make sense.
Nadine’s the one that sings.
Sarah’s the one who parties.
Nicola writes great songs.
Not those three or Cheryl does musicals.
Cheryl marries footballers and get’s kicked off of high profile US reality TV shows.
But here’s the rub.
She also sings on bangers of the highest calibre.
These songs are not the first collection of solo tracks from the Geordie-done-good and her previous albums have fared pretty well, spawning three number one hits in the process.
So far, Only Human, which is for some insane reason performing terribly (debuting at No7 and dropping to No28 the following week) has birthed two best selling singles, and I’d be genuinely surprised if the title track doesn’t bother the top of the charts for a few weeks at the start of 2015.
This really is quite a surprising album.
As far as pop stars go, there are 3 significant albums where they need to prove themselves.
- The debut, where they are thrown to the lions to prove themself.
- The follow up is the ‘make or break’ album for the record deal – can they deliver better? After that, there’s less pressure on the third. There’s a fan base and so long as they don’t go all Geri Halliwell they should fare ok.
- The fourth album however is where most artists renegotiate their contracts. They have more creative control and they want to prove themselves as artists. Fame and fortune isn’t quite enough. Think Madonna’s Like a Prayer, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation. Lady Gaga’s ArtPop and Kylie Minogue’s Let’s Get To It (sorry, had to mention it –it was definitely a brave move).
From the get go, Cheryl sets out to let the listener know she means business.
Fame and fortune is no longer enough.
She wants to be happy.
So much so that she gives over her intro to philosopher Alan Watts asking:
“What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like? Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, “we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do”. So I always ask the question, “what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?”
Only Human sets out to answer this question, and it would seem that wor Cheryl really enjoys spending her life singing, dancing and experimenting with her sound. Indeed, half of the album gives Cheryl a writing credit and she’s in fine company with ex-bandmate and bestie Nicola Roberts, The Invisible Men, George Tizzard and Wayne Wilkas – as well as heaps of others.
Live Life Now, the second track is pretty special. Reminiscent of Mirwais’ collaborations with YAS and Madonna at the turn of the century, she’s bringing her soldiers a new sound. You’re not going to hear this down the Metro Centre. Well… you might now, as it’s just the sort of thing that could make a brilliant fourth or fifth single.
It’s About Time is a high-octane floor filler, upping your heartbeat and warming your muscles just in time to throw yourself around the room to the first single release Crazy Stupid Love.
It’s a good start that stumbles slightly on Waiting for Lightning , feeling slightly like a step back to the previous album – but that would only be a problem if the last album wasn’t awesome. Which it is. It was awesome. You’ve just found a bonus track to an album you love so shut up. Why are you trying to find fault?
You’ve heard I Don’t Care. It’s pop magic.
Stars has the makings of a brilliant nightclub anthem. It’s a little thin to be a single, but I’m sure there will be some great remixes and eventually footage of foam parties in Ibiza set to it.
From here in, the album’s more of the same, maybe a few tracks too long, but definitely worth checking out.
And when you do, let me know what you think.
In the meantime, here’s where it ALL began…