Release Date: Oct 2, 2012
Record label: Epic
The battle plan is familiar by now: British talent-show star wows on TV, storms the U.K., then calls in the black-ops pop production team for a siege on the U.S. charts. Sometimes it works (One Direction, Leona Lewis); sometimes it doesn’t. (JLS, we never even knew ye.) U.K. X Factor finalist ….
Forget Jedward, Chico, Wagner, or the several other novelty acts that The X Factor has foisted upon unsuspecting viewers across the years, fourth-place finalist Cher Lloyd appeared to polarize audiences like no one else in the show's short history. Where some saw a confident demeanor, others saw a brattish attitude; where some viewed her as a voice of the streets, others believed she encapsulated everything that was wrong about today's youth; and where some marveled at her rap/singing versatility, others argued she was a jack of all trades but a master of none. It was always unlikely, therefore, that her debut album, Sticks + Stones, was going to be a shy and retiring MOR affair designed to appeal to the masses à la series winner Matt Cardle.
It's hard to know how to react to the advance publicity for Cher Lloyd's Sticks + Stones emanating from her management company and record label, Syco. "I have never worked an album which polarised public opinion to such an extent", offered Syco's managing director, Sonny Takhar. That's a remark that could give you pause for thought.
Sounding as crazed as a kid in a sweet shop or, rather, a scrappy, hip-hop-loving teenager let loose in a recording studio, the X Factor contestant's first album is an exhausting, if lovable mess of cartoon-bright, turbo-charged grime-pop. The typically irrepressible "Over the Moon", for example, begins with Christmas bells and then explodes in a splatter of doo-wop, robo-voiceover and, of course, rap. She's plainly indebted to her beloved Nicki Minaj (particularly on the monster "Dub Pon The Track") and though she lacks much of her wit, tracks such as "Grow Up" remind us that 18-year-old Lloyd is not yet the finished article.
I like [i]The X Factor[/i]; it’s like wanting to be touched in the worst possible way. With apologies to our editor, Krissi Murison, who once went on telly to explain why she thought the programme represented everything that was wrong with the UK music industry, it’s a fucking great programme, thanks very much.The merciless editing, the crocodile tears, the APOCALYPTIC! PRESENTATIONAL! STYLE! – there’s something about the show that defies all notions of taste and makes suckers of us all. Trouble is, though, the crown looks to be slipping.
In a recent interview, boy-band JLS revealed how devastated they were that, after finishing runners-up on 2008’s X Factor behind Alexandra Burke, Simon Cowell passed up the opportunity to sign them, despite the fact they practically begged him to. “As soon as the show finished, we asked him to give us a deal,” said the sensitive one; “he just point-blank refused,” cooed the non-threatening one, non-threateningly. “But,” pouted the pretty one, while simultaneously doing a backflip and lifting his t-shirt to show a sculpted six-pack, “it turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to us!” “…”, added the one who no-one outside of his immediate family realises exists.
A sassy, splashy modern pop album that’s much better than its dodgy lead single. Nick Levine 2011 Cher Lloyd's Swagger Jagger is perhaps the most unloved number one in recent memory. Understandably so – it's not just a clunky bunk-up between Black Eyed Peas-aping beats and the melody from Little Donkey, but also strangely defensive for a debut single.