en: 3 Words [info]
Before we even begin, consider your own expectations for this, the first solo album from a member of Girls Aloud. Its lead single Fight For This Love might be breaking sales records at the time of writing, but surely nobody's fooling themselves into thinking 3 Words will stand up to much scrutiny.
Cole might be something of a national treasure these days, a bona-fide celebrity beyond her music career, but few would ever single her out as the driving vocal force in Girls Aloud. The Newcastle-born singer can't compete with the natural ability of bandmate Nadine Coyle - soon to follow in Cole's solo deal footsteps- so has wisely surrounded herself with fine collaborators here, most notably will.i.am of global superstars the Black Eyed Peas. Also on board are Taio Cruz and a spread of hugely successful writers including Chris Braide (Kylie Minogue, Will Young) and Steve Kipner (Christina Aguilera, Kelly Rowland).
Producer and rapper will.i.am - real name William Adams - appears on three tracks here, and his own Cole-featuring single Heartbreaker is tagged on as a closing bonus track. His vocals complement Cole's well, most effectively on the title track, soon to be released as a single. The lyrics might leave much to be desired - essentially the whole album is concerned with love: finding it, winning it, embracing it and losing it - but the surprisingly restrained arrangement, where heavy beats are balanced with light piano-style motifs and acoustic guitar elements, is a treat. Heaven isn't as engaging, its sickly sweet vocal lines sure to elicit a chuckle or two, but at least the sentiments don't stray over the album's course.
Stand Up is a Cruz co-write, and it shows - the track's smooth synth lines and sparkly production are echoes of the singer's own Rokstarr album - and Boy Like You, another will.i.am collaboration, lifts a loop from Fleetwood Mac's Little Lies to good effect. Parachute's military percussion is similarly memorable. Mid-section numbers Rain On Me and Make Me Cry - Cole makes out like she does that a lot - are relative throwaways, but honestly: there was no way this was going to be a success from start to finish. The main ingredient is simply too imperfect to be polished to a flawless shine.
But 3 Words does exceed pessimistic predictions, and easily so, packing enough peaks to make Coyle's inevitable follow-up very much the uphill struggle.