After the huge success of '3 Words' last year, the UK's favourite Girl Aloud has wasted no time putting out its follow-up. An increased dance influence makes this a more club-friendly record than Cheryl's debut, but it's still one of those pop albums with a few banging singles and a lot, a lot of filler.
For her second solo album, Cheryl has worked mostly with Wayne Wilkins, who also helped pen her #1 debut single 'Fight For This Love'. The pop songwriter and producer is behind five of these twelve tracks, leaving plenty of space for some big name collaborations and of course, Chezzer's good friend Will.i.am is back on board for the straightforward pop of 'Live Tonight' and the more electro-heavy 'Let's Get Down'. Elsewhere former Gym Class Hero Travie McCoy lends his writing talents and vocal stylings to the Starsmith-produced 'Yeah Yeah' and Dizzee Rascal drops in to add a bit of Brit-rap to 'Everyone', a hit in waiting with its vacillating bass and sharply harmonised chorus.
With so many Americans on board, it's difficult to reconcile Cheryl's public personality with her music, and thus even more difficult to get invested in these already only vaguely catchy songs. To hear a notorious Geordie refer to a mobile as a "cellular" or to give a shout out to all her ladies, "all my girls, all my honeyz, all my birds, all my bitches, all my ladies" draws uncomfortable attention to the creative (or in this case, commercial) process. True, some will tie the opening line of 'Happy Tears' ("I cried when I heard you were cheating, I cried when I said I was leaving"), to Cheryl's recent marital misfortunes, but its nonspecific and clichéd lyrics could as easily apply to any number of troubled pop stars.
Putting that to one side, 'Messy Little Raindrops' has sporadic Saturday night potential. The oriental flavour and light, rickety beat of 'Amnesia' make it one of the catchiest, and indeed quirkiest, numbers on offer, its Auto-Tuned backing vocal reminiscent of Rihanna's R&B tinged pop. Sadly, it's one of few to measure up against the fast-paced rhythms and memorable melody of lead single 'Promise This'. Most of the remaining tunes are likeable though entirely forgettable, leaving just a couple of poor relations to let the whole side down. Synth-driven ballad 'The Flood' is generic drivel and 'Raindrops' is wretch-inducing in its sentimentality, both aggravating enough to send you reaching for the skip button.
Despite its few dance-floor fillers, 'Messy Little Raindrops' boasts little sass and even less charm, but no doubt its success will have more to do with the Girls Aloud star's latest tabloid antics and X-Factor outfits than the quality of these songs.