Album: Cher Lloyd – “Sticks + Stones” (2011)

I’m not sure why I decided a Cher Lloyd album would be the sort of thing that I’d like in my life. Maybe it was a shocked review that it was actually pretty good, or maybe even my own judgement after the chav-tastic Swagger Jagger first touched down last June. Either way, here we are, and the 4th place X-Factor alumni released an album to lukewarm reception at the tail end of 2011. It’s been ticking over quietly since then, perhaps not that success that management expected, but pop is more hit-and-miss than ever sales-wise, so maybe they should take this as a win and move on. It’s not half bad either…

08 Grow up – OK maybe this is what I feared this album would be like, competent rapping but childish lyrics. That said, it sides more on the pop side than any kind of ‘swagger’ (I hate that word’s rise to power). A liberal dash of Lily Allen vocals too, and a bit of ‘little girl lost’ schtick. Though I wouldn’t really go for this song on paper, it’s a pretty catchy deal, crammed full of action, even room for an inexplicable cameo of Busta Rhymes (!!). Decent start.

10 Want U Back – Now THIS is the stuff. I’m sad it got squandered as a flop third single, it’s possibly the best of the three released so far. I just love the feeling behind the song, a total anti-love song. Basically Cher has dumped a guy, maybe even purposely to upset him, but instead of having a breakdown he’s just moved on and – how dare he – found someone else and is happy again. Cher’s not standing for this, throwing childish insults about the new girl and cheerfully embracing her irrational behaviour. It’s just so BLUNT, I love it. And that’s before we even get to the music, it’s just so catchy I almost can’t stand it. You can sing Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA’ over the chorus, but that’s no bad thing. Really fantastic pop music, a total triumph. That fucking helicopter bit at the end though, I’m going to pretend it’s not happening.

09 With UR love – The second single now, and toning it down after the divisive Swagger Jagger. Might not have been a No.1 but ended up being the bigger selling I believe. Laid-back and she gets to do some actual singing too. She’s a bit limited on that front, but it’s a catchy song (again), that da-da-dum riff really is gold. It’s a warm and fuzzy song, and Cher’s wonky vocals do make it distinctive. Mike Posner’s rap might veer to the age-inappropriate side of the scale at times, but it all works together.

09 Swagger Jagger – I know a lot of people who DETESTED this when it came out, and I see why, though I think a lot of it was negativity towards her more than anything. But I think this is another fine pop song in the chavvy vein of My Humps, with a shot of Dont Cha by the Pussycat Dolls. I think is succeeds in what it was going for, maybe a little trumped-up for a debut single, but it was very ON MESSAGE. That video was fantastic too, really impressed me by how seriously they were taking this project, and a real mission statement.

07 Beautiful People – Not sure who this is supposed to be about, but a strange bit of balladeering now. Don’t recognise the male voice, sounds a bit like Ryan Tedder but I don’t think it is. Male/Female duets in this sort of downbeat song can really work sometimes (see Ricky Martin & Meja’s Private Emotion), but this one doesn’t quite get off the ground. It’s alright, memorable enough and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it’s just an inevitable comedown from the sugar rush of those three singles.

10 Playa Boi – Oh god this really shouldn’t have been a good idea but is so fucking IS! A shameless update of Neneh Cherry’s brilliant “Buffalo Stance”, with all the 21st century synths and whistles. I get why this feels like such a good fit to Cher, it’s got that same brand of bratty confidence about it. I’m sure many purists will hate this because they loved the original, but there is plenty of room for both. They really throw everything at this production-wise, and for my two-pence it totally works, LOVE IT.

06 Superhero – It’s a bit of a surprise after such an album full of hooks that this just slips past me. It’s peppy enough, but doesn’t feel like it belongs on this album though. Maybe Solange Knowles wasn’t using it (or something). A decent move in this post-Bruno Mars landscape but this time it just feels like generic filler. Quite annoying really, next!

07 Over the moon – Speaking of Bruno Mars, here’s some doo-wop pastiche action, but pulled off a little better than the previous track. Some of the lyrics really do make me cringe, with namechecks for Simon Cowell, and how happy she is doing her THANG these days. The rapping does wear a bit thin here though, like a Shampoo knock-off at times. The chorus is really memorable, but I think there are too many negative distracting factors in play too for this to entirely work for me.

07 Dub on the track – For a predominantly pop album, it’s a bit of an odd decision to have this reasonably authentic attempt at a Radio 1-courting single. I guess if the pop stuff didn’t work out, they had this up their sleeves just in case. It’s alright, obviously a pop-skewed take on the Katy Bs of the world, but it’s alright for what it is. Doesn’t turn me off in the way that a Katy B track might, but it does feel a bit too calculated an attempt.

06 End up here – A radio-friendly hybrid of a bunch of styles now, I don’t know who to compare it to, Jordin Sparks? Her vocals are a bit too wobbly, it’s a bit distracting a lot of the time. It’s a decent enough track, but a bit forgettable. That’s all I can really think of to say about it.

08 Stay – Perhaps this is just a bonus track, but it was her breakthrough moment on the X-Factor live shows, when she did a song that wasn’t showing off her ‘swagger’ (yuk, still hate that). A left-of-field but inspired choice of Shakespear’s Sister’s 20-year old hit “Stay”. Not really measuring up to the original in this case, but with a song not written for teens, she can finally just try to sing it instead of giving everything this slightly tacky persona. It’s a great song and she can’t really de-rail that. Her vocals aren’t perfect but that was never her selling point, and she performs the track well. That sounds like damning it with faint praise but it’s a good attempt.

So there we have it. A short album at only 36 minutes (even less if “Stay” isn’t on the official album), but some real gems in there that easily help to outweigh what few duffers are in the mix too. She’s an intriguing character at the very least, so I’d be very interested to see which direction they take her in now. It seems that the expected route of sassy teen jailbait hasn’t quite reached the levels of success anticipated, but I’m sure she just needs the right song at the right time to get her career going.

Keepers for the iPod: Want U back, With UR love, Swagger Jagger, Playa Boi, Stay


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