Cheryl “Only Human”

Can we have a fair assessment of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini‘s new album?

Cheryl Only Human deluxe

Only Human is the ex-Girls Aloud siren’s fourth solo offering, another piece of the ever-expanding Cheryl brand which includes a high-profile role as a judge on the X Factor, a signature fragrance and autobiography. While she is unquestionably one of Britain’s hottest celebrities, Cheryl is quick to remind folks that she’s got all the makings of a proper popstar. This has been her bread and butter for the past 12 years after all. Naturally, Only Human is predicted to debut somewhere in the Top 3 as Cheryl has never had problems getting decent first-week sales. But beyond that, what will this album reveal and add to the Geordie entertainer’s oeuvre?

First thing’s first, as a body of work, this is Cheryl’s most cohesive album since her 2010 debut 3 Words. The vocals on the album are some of her most consistent yet and sonically it keeps her in the safe equilibrium of pop with electronic and R&B leanings. Only Human‘s main shortcoming is being a tad heavy on mid-tempos, even though most of which are pleasant enough and carry some form of life-affirming message. On one hand it borders on being too prosaic, especially since we know Cheryl is capable of dishing proper bangers like ‘Call My Name’, but at the same time it is quite a pleasant switch after her last album’s peppery break up themes.

The first single ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ (featuring Tinie Tempah) is surprisingly the album’s most rhythmic and addictive tune. The blaring horns, handclaps and merry ‘la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!’ bits seem to light up the album in ways unmatched by any other track. The song is produced by Wayne Wilkins, who was behind Cheryl’s first #1 hit ‘Fight For This Love’, and is his only involvement in the project. It’s a pity there isn’t nearly enough of this energy pulsating through Only Human.

 

The only other moment we get this burst of vitality is in ‘Firecracker’, a track co-written by Sia and produced by Greg Kurstin, who has done huge records for Lily Allen and Kylie. The track is a wig-snatching and semi comical index-finger waving alert to women eyeing up Cheryl’s man. She warns in about 100 words per minute: “He love a girl who can dance, not a girl with implants and a fake tan, wham bam thank you ma’am! Now I’m lit up like a firecracker. Don’t do well with a man highjacker. My man’s so cool, you know he just flattered. But you better run girl before I catch ya, catch ya!”

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Lykke Li “I Never Learn”

Swedish indie pop songstress Lykke Li returns with I Never Learn, her personal Book of Lamentations.

Lykke Li I Never Learn

This is Li’s third studio album and also her most concise.

The collection breaks off at just 33 minutes after nine power ballads, as if it were conscious of brooding too much but to paraphrase a Kelly Rowland ballad, when Li makes pain look this good – it never wears out.

I Never Learn was inspired by a colossal break up that drove Li to move from her home country Sweden to Los Angeles. It was here that the singer took two and a half years to heal and – rather cathartically – write. The album is a reflection of not just Li’s brokenness but also coming of age and coming into her artistry.

The 28-year old has dismissed the mousy, coquettish vocals that coloured her first album Youth Novels. Today she reveals herself as an earnest singer/songwriter, who no longer overcompensates to fit with rigid definitions of what an indie pop starlet should sound like. She saves all the impact for her lyrics and heartfelt vocal delivery.

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Lily Allen “Sheezus”

It may have been five years since Lily Allen‘s last album but the sharp-witted English artist is still pop’s MVP for a reason.

LILY ALLEN SHEEZUS REVIEW

After taking a few years off to start a family, Lily returns with Sheezus: a grown ass woman’s album that shows her in her finest lyrical fighting form yet but, disappointingly, also her most musically apathetic.

Lily sounds completely in her element addressing issues in pop culture that are personal to her and relevant to us. Sheezus nails it all on the cross for you to see: sexism and desperation in the music industry, internet trolls, and – whether you’re ready for it – domestic bliss. Continue reading

Shakira “Shakira.” Album Review

Colombia’s most truthful hips returns with a sonically diverse album of mature pop tunes.

SHAKIRA ALBUM DELUXE ARTWORK

It has been four long years since Shakira‘s last album and I don’t think she’s under any illusion that she can just dance her way back into the Top 10.

You get a sense that she’s trying to take her music to different audiences with Shakira. (yes, annoyingly stylised with a period that ain’t nobody got time for) and a result, we’re faced with a mixed platter that serves a taste of folk country, reggae and Latin rave pop.

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