I almost did a separate post for Cheryl Cole’s fabulous new video for her smash single “Call My Name,” but I somehow managed to control myself and wait until the new album came out so I could discuss that as well. I have previously elaborated on her fierceness in my Crash Course in Cheryl Cole but this time I’m just focusing on “A Million Lights,” her third album which is quite a departure from her first two.
First, watch the Call My Name video here without my commentary so you can get a feel for her new sound. If it takes you a little while to recover, I’ll understand.
Cheryl has always been a phenomenal dancer. When she gets the chance to show those moves off, it is good for everyone. In fact, during a Girls Aloud tour, they released a video that was just called Cheryl Cam and focused on her for the duration of an entire song. This was done for good reason – she is amazing to watch. She is talented and fluid, but not so incredibly controlled that her dances are stilted. She adds something new every time she performs a routine because of her energy and talent. Her performances of her various singles over the past few years each had a different theme and dance, and I expected nothing less for Call My Name – though how you top perfection, I don’t know. She’s already delivered by swan-diving onto the stage when she performed on The Voice UK. After the song, she explains “I was looking for the quickest way to the stage, it’s been a while.” Adorable. This song and the attitude she displays singing it set the tone for her new album.
A Million Lights is everything you could want. Definitely more clubby than her previous albums, but that isn’t a bad thing. It matches current trends while still retaining that thing that is uniquely Cheryl. She just goes by “Cheryl” on the album art, having dropped the “Cole” ostensibly for aesthetic reasons. Very few people can pull off just one name and Cheryl is undeniably among their ranks.
There are a few different versions, including a standard, deluxe and super deluxe meant especially for her fans. For now, I’m going through the regular vanilla edition track by track, but if there’s any interest I can go back and review the extra content as well. I might anyway because I love giving my opinion on things. Because I did it song by song, this is LONG. This is your one warning. Long. I’m not joking.
Even before the release of the album, Cheryl had been panned by some for admitting that she didn’t write many of the songs. The reason this is a big deal is that it means they weren’t written with anyone in Cheryl’s life in particular in mind. I’m sure people who wrote tracks knowing they would be for Cheryl utilized her tabloid dramas as a jumping off point, but she did not personally ascribe any meaning to any of the tracks. Everyone likes to latch on to gossip and think “Oh she must be talking about _____” but she is quick to dismiss all such rumors. Honestly, since I know which songs she did and did not write, I much prefer this up-front method. I love that at this point Cheryl has the level of fame to be able to speak her mind and not worry about album sales. Her attitude and sarcasm are some of the reasons she is such an icon, so I think it’s smart of her promo team to let her be herself. This album is all Chez and is being promoted as such.
Since Cheryl didn’t pick these songs with someone specific in mind, I’m going to go ahead and cite who I think they should be about after I discuss each song. Clearly, the same types of celebrities the tabloids would hook her up with, but mine is coming from a place of love and humor. There are no gender or species boundaries I will not cross. Fair? P.S. I don’t know her personally, duh, so all of these are meant to be humorous guesses… what is it they say at the beginning of movies? “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” Now, on to the review!
Under the Sun is airy and catchy. The best summer songs often just have clever repetition, and “know oh oh oh oh” and “oowweeeooooo” will be playing through your mind on repeat. The lyrics are easy to relate to and easy to sing, making this a sure summer smash. The chorus of Under the Sun was one of the first that struck me when I was listening to album samplers weeks ago, there’s just something about it that sticks in your head. It’s been rumored this will be the next single, and it would be a totally appropriate companion to the clubby Call My Name, showing a different side to the album. This song is about fresh starts, so I’m going to dedicate it to the 800 men she has been linked to in various tabloids. She doesn’t need any of them! Stop attaching her to every person she is spotted with.
Call My Name is fun. Once you’ve seen the video, certain refrains and beats will bring to mind Cheryl’s killer moves. It’s authoritative and sassy and is a perfect representation of the album’s overall tone. It’s the kind of song you yell along to and perhaps secretly create your own dances you can bust out whenever you hear it. I’ve already discussed how I think it’s a good representation of Cheryl’s strengths and it was perfect for a music video. This song is clearly about America. Take note, Americans. Maybe if we all call her name at the same time, she’ll be able to hear it and she’ll tour here. Or maybe we have to say it three times in a row like Beetlejuice. Either way, we need to try. It will hopefully be like that episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch where Britney Spears just shows up in Sabrina’s room and is crazy confused but does a song and dance for her anyway.
Craziest Things. The switching between Cheryl and Will.I.Am accentuates the theme of the song, which is that limbo of love/hate relationships. I could see it being a sequel of sorts to one of Cheryl’s previous singles, 3 Words, which follows the creation of a relationship. This song exists in those moments before a relationship is really over, when you’re still going back and forth. I am not crazy about this song… ha. But, seriously, on an album full of hits, this one just doesn’t do it for me. I’m hoping that makes the rest of my opinions more legitimate – I don’t love it just because it’s Cheryl! 3 Words had to grow on me though so I’m hoping this will be similar. Craziest Things is probably about Rihanna because she seems kind of like a bad apple but in a fun way, so I can see why Cheryl would feel confused. They would totally have a volatile relationship. Rihanna is clearly a charmer… and a little demoralizing, so no wonder Cheryl feels such mixed emotions!
Girl In The Mirror. Oh my, how British is it when she says “cahnt” and “littuhl”?! Too cute. Cheryl does not really evoke the contemplative feelings that band mate Nicola Roberts brought about in her introspective album, Cinderella’s Eyes, but Girl In the Mirror is sure to be an anthem for many of her younger fans. Cheryl promotes self acceptance in a way that is inspirational and appears more genuine than the over-kill often heaped on by artists such as Lady Gaga. Girl in the Mirror isn’t patronizing, it’s uplifting and catchy. It’s a great balance of having a message and being fun to listen to. This is the song that has been stuck in my head most often, it has several great beats. This is the perfect song for her adorable pups, Coco and Buster, who probably have some image issues after spending all day in the shadow of Cheryl’s greatness.
A Million Lights, the titular track, is a little slower. Reminiscent of previous single The Flood, Cheryl’s delivery and rhythm are hypnotic, lulling the listener into a pleasant haze. I’m imagining listening to this song while on a boat. At night. And maybe there are some swans but they’re not making those horrible swan noises, they’re being quiet so it’s all very relaxing. This one is definitely about Kimberley Walsh, another Girls Aloud band mate. They are the cutest BFFs ever and Kimba totally lifted her from the dark and she misses her and it’s just too perfect.
Screw You was rumored to be the next single as well. I enjoy it, but it’s definitely one of the weaker songs on the album as far as I’m concerned. It features a guy named Wretch 32 which is a really intense name. His part is good, but it feels like it was just shoehorned in there to add a rap. It’s definitely catchy in its own way, but I don’t know that the two fit together perfectly. I do love how the chorus seems to build and build, it feels as if everything is increasing until BOOM it starts over again. There’s something very musically satisfying about it, you’re kind of left hanging and anxiously anticipating the next bit. I can see this one being great performed live, based on the G-A-Y performances I’ve already seen (that’s a place and not an adjective, FYI). I think this song is about Prince Charles. He clearly turned her down and then backed her wonderful charity as an act of good will so she wouldn’t feel too embarrassed about putting herself out there like that. It’s okay Cheryl, he has Camilla. You can’t compete with that.
Love Killer is a killer track, plain and simple. It’s slow and not incredibly exciting in terms of the music but something about it resonates. She almost speaks the words instead of singing them. The lyrics are some of my favorite that I’ve noticed on the album thus far: “You (ooh) have got better options but you (ooh) are all that I want.” Cheryl’s got that R&B swag where she just repeats “yeah” a bunch of time and sounds like a total badass. It sounds like she’s throwing down the gauntlet here to a terrible ex. It’s sung with some self-deprecation, and I’m sure we’ve all had that moment where we’re asking ourselves “WHY do I love this jerk?!” This song is about Katy Perry because she seems like a love killer. She still hasn’t followed Cheryl on Twitter (as of this article being published) which is an incredible affront to Chez’s honor. Strike two Katy. You and I already have beef so you already have one strike though I don’t recall why. Follow Cheryl and your slate will be wiped clean.
Ghetto Baby was written by Lana del Ray before the world really knew who she was. It’s unique; it has a little bit of that spacey Lana feel which Cheryl uses to her advantage. The chorus of this song makes it for me. The very quick and breathless “come on over ghetto baby” set against the background “show ‘em what you’ve got girl” makes for interesting listening. The rest of the song is pretty standard. Thumping background bass with some spoken word, though Cheryl hits some higher notes in this track than on the rest of the album. After leaving this review for a bit and returning to it, this song improved ten-fold. There really is something inexplicable about its draw, it’s just very ethereal and odd and after a few replays you get over the weirdness and just enjoy. I love the way she says “boo” and also “pumpin’” because that is a word Cheryl says well, as evidenced in Sound of the Underground. This song is about Prince Harry. If anyone meets the criteria of being a ghetto baby, it is clearly him.
Sexy Den A Mutha… what to say, what to say. The name… I can’t even. I love Cheryl. She is ridiculous. I just love it. I can’t even say anything else about the name without simultaneously laughing and crying tears of joy. Sorry, let me compose myself. Cheryl is sexier than everyone, mutha or not. The name of this song tells you everything you need to know about it really. I’m going to repeat parts of this song forever… namely “SEXY DEN A MUTHA, MUTHA. SEXY DEN A MUTHA, MUTHA.” This song is about herself. End of.
Mechanics of the Heart is sad but beautiful. After listening to the previous track, it was a bit of a shock to the system. With soaring lyrics and what sounds like bells or some other instrument a fairy might use, this song is definitely one of the heavier ones on the album. The spoken word vibe found in other songs is again present and it really works here, contrasting nicely with the desperate vocals and tambourine (or bells or whatever that is). This is going to be one of those songs I’m going to sound terrible singing along to but that I will definitely be belting in my car. There are way too many sounds in the background, though, it’s a little distracting. This song is almost certainly about Simon Cowell. His heart is probably difficult to mend since it is encased in ice. Cheryl did what she could, though, with her bright smile and cheery attitude on The X Factor. But you’re not a miracle worker, Cheryl, and that’s okay.
All Is Fair starts out much differently than anything else on the album. I love the way that the instruments come in individually to build up the overall sound. Cheryl sounds like she’s singing her battle cry as she proclaims “This is waaaaar, they don’t really care about usssssss” and it’s enthralling. Passion comes through in this song very clearly. It is both fatalistic and strong. When she goes “ooooooooh” (which sounds much better when she sings it than it looks typed, it’s very hard to convey typed) it gives me chills. Since America wouldn’t call her name, I’m assuming we are also the ones that she has now declared war on. I can’t blame her.
I will address one “bonus” song because I’ve already listened to it a bunch – Make You Go. With lines such as “I’ll make your jeans vibrate like a Nokia” and “Pound me like a drum” there is no doubt what Cheryl is singing about. She is rarely so forward in her raunchiness and so there is something charming in it… it’s so in-your-face that it’s almost adorable. She is so often sly smiles and quick quips so it’s funny to hear her straight up say “My sex will make ya spend all your pesos.” Cheryl could probably sink the Central American economy single-handedly if she was indeed offering such a trade. I’m going to pretend this song is about me.
In the interest of unbiased reporting, I will address the major problem I have with this album. It’s censored across the board,which is ridiculous. Censorship shouldn’t be mandatory. It can be an option, but it shouldn’t be all that’s available. It makes me feel like I’m listening to some illegal radio download or Kidz Bop or that version of Hollaback Girl with airhorns and school buses or whatever. It is certainly Cheryl’s right as an artist to censor the songs, but in my opinion you either need to use the word or don’t. If I still know what you’re saying, the censorship is pointless and annoying. It’s possible the issue will be rectified in one of the other releases of the album, so for now I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
As I listen to this album again and again, I’m sure my opinions will change a bit. I’ll develop new favorites, realize things about certain songs that I may have previously missed, and develop new appreciation for songs I may have initially passed over. Either way, this is a very solid release that will make a great summer CD for nights out, road trips and lazing on the beach.
You can buy a copy of A Million Lights on iTunes in some countries, Amazon or in her official store. Go to her site for all your varied options! Then let me know your favorite track or any alternate theories on who these songs should be about over on Twitter.