Well then. If you told us the new Cheryl album would start with an Alan Watts speech about money and desire, we’d have laughed in your face and then probably slapped you for being so ridiculous. Putting aside the irony of a multi-millionaire popstar telling us not to chase money, Only Human yields a surprising – and quite frankly brilliant – bolder step for Ms Cole-Tweedy Fernandez-Versini.
Not that she has a back catalogue to be embarrassed about, given Promise This, Parachute, 3 Words, and Call My Name illuminate quite the illustrious pop career. But the minute her Intro segues into Live Life Now, it already feels like a great leap forward in quality. Put it this way: it’s a Robyn-esque spoken-word electronic jam that, if the Swede herself had decided to release it, we’d be creaming all over it. Yep, that good.
There’s very little dip in quality throughout. Nicola Roberts co-write It’s About Time is single-material from the get-go, All In One Night sees her matching the likes of Tinashe beat-by-beat for modern trap-backed R&B-pop, and her lead singles have already been super-smart choices. While the ballads aren’t quite Mechanics of the Heart level, and feel like they could benefit from a voice sturdier than Cheryl’s, they still make an impact. (Except sad-banger Yellow Love, which we’re assuming is not about her old illness and should probably be forgotten about asap.)
Essentially, this is Cheryl at her happiest and most carefree, trying her best to relate her music to that bold speech at the start of her album. While it might not provide any great revelations for our lives, it’s still relentlessly enjoyable pop, an acceptable standard for a woman purported to be one this country’s biggest stars, and proof that only good things can come from extricating oneself from the company of will.i.am.