Cheryl Fernandez-Versini is definitely someone who divides opinion. The former Girls Aloud star turned solo superstar and X Factor judge seems to have as many detractors as she does fans. In 2009 Cheryl released her first album 3 Words which hit number one and was certified 3x platinum off the back of the success of number one single Fight For This Love. Since then Cheryl has scored an additional 3 number one singles (Promise This, Call My Name, Crazy Stupid Love), a second number one album (Messy Little Raindrops) and a number two album with 2012 album A Million Lights. Now Cheryl is back on The X Factor and about to release her fourth studio album Only Human.
The signs suggest that Cheryl could have the biggest album of her career to date with Only Human. It has already spawned the number one smash Crazy Stupid Love and tonight second single I Don’t Care is expected to sail to number one giving Cheryl a record breaking 5 number one solo singles. Ahead of Only Human Cheryl has been teasing fans by releasing several songs as instant-grat tracks for those who pre-order the album.
Only Human is a different proposition than previous albums from Cheryl. For the first time Cheryl has applied more of a concept to the album and Only Human explores fame, love and battling the negativity that she faces daily. The album opens with Alan Watts’ iconic ‘what if money was no object’ speech which moves into Live Life Now where Cheryl echoes Watts’ wise words over electro-beats. It’s certainly not the opening we expected and it prepares you for a much weightier release from Cheryl than anything she’s done previously.
After that point Cheryl goes on a journey which musically and lyrically is new ground for her. Looking at the album credits this is easily Cheryl’s most personal album to date and she’s been much more involved with the creative process and songwriting. The album kicks off properly with It’s About Time, one of the four tracks featuring her former Girls Aloud bandmate Nicola Roberts on co-writing duties. The track talks about Cheryl’s renewed passion for life after taking time out following her burn out after her fight with malaria, her X Factor US humiliation and the intense public scrutiny she faces daily.
Current single I Don’t Care definitely heralds the arrival of Cheryl’s new outlook. The swearing on the track, which has divided fans and critics, shows that Cheryl is doing what she wants, her way and that no one is going to rain on her parade. Whilst we don’t overly love the effing that peppers the album we admire Cheryl refusing to compromise and doing what she feels she wants to in this moment. I Don’t Care is actually one of the best songs that Cheryl has released yet.
Something Cheryl often gets criticised for, unfairly we must say, is her vocal prowess but if her detractors actually bothered to listen to Only Human they would discover that Cheryl actually has a great voice. Title track Only Human is one of the album’s most emotive moments and it’s one of Cheryl’s most honest and passionate vocals on the record. She reminds you that like everyone else she’s just a person behind the make-up, the fame and the money and that’s something that is often forgotten when it comes to celebrities.
The album’s most surprising moment comes on the rousing Fight On which has a Lion King-esque feel to it. Cheryl pushes herself vocally on the track and she delivers something completely different to anything she’s done before. The track is about battling through adversity, finding your inner strength and coming out the other end smiling. No one knows that journey better than Cheryl and Fight On is affecting and poignant.
Elsewhere on the album Nicola Roberts provides Cheryl with something a little off-beat on the cute Goodbye Means Hello, chunky beats combine with a powerful chorus on the ‘grab life by both hands’ anthem Waiting For Lightning, and Cheryl inspires her fans to achieve their dreams on the uptempo Stars. One of our favourite moments comes on the breezy R&B number Throwback which is as catchy as it is feisty.
Only Human has a couple of moments that fall into the filler category but overall it’s the most solid album that Cheryl has recorded yet. Inevitably her detractors will speak a lot of nonsense about the record without actually bothering to listen to it but we suggest you ignore them. Only Human is a body of work by someone who has been through the mill personally and professionally and has come out the other end a stronger and happier person. Just hurry up and tour the record Cheryl so we can see these songs performed live!