Cher Lloyd, X Factor finalist and pop starlet made an incredible pop record - hard to believe huh?. I say this because I clearly remember a bratty Cher bragging about 'haters' and random stuff right over the end of 2010, which left a bad taste in my mouth.
After a couple of months, she finally unleashed what would be her exquisite debut: 'Swagger Jagger'. The track oozed confidence and, fronted by a colourful image and catchy semi-hip hop beats mixed with heavy synths it definitely won my heart over and the UK's too - scoring herself a #1 smash hit on the back of it. 'With Ur Love', the album's -which was yet untitled back then- 2nd single was a creamy, pastel painted song that features US's Mike Posner, adding some extra flavour to it. Think a bump and grind background track with a carrousel tune and pulsating beats and there you have it - Cher, yet again, managed to captive the public whilts continuing her range of Top 5 hits with it. By this time, I was in complete love with that unnamed and soon to be released album. Gagging for it, her record company unleashed the rightly titled 'Sticks + Stones', addressing Cher's media criticisms and making some contrast with a playful, almost cartoony, album cover.
I remember the day I first got the album in my hands, I was excited and I didn't know what to expect besides the already released singles and found out some true pop gems in this particular listening journey. By that time, I was going to graduate from Med school, so I highly associate the bittersweet undertones of the record with that particular time of my life. I put the record in my car and 'Grow Up' came up, a sizzling semi-rap with a playful tune which is easily hummable and memorable after the very first time you hear it. Busta makes a brief and whirlwind-esque appeareance but his presence takes it to a next level and leaves you wanting some more, even by this casual rap fan. One of the album's highlight 'Want U Back', the 3rd single and Cher US' debut is bubblying up as Track 2 in 'Sticks + Stones'. It includes a catchy, fast handclap rhythm and a trademark 'Grrr' between all the verses - on top of that a stormer of a Chorus finding Cher beggind his ex lover to come back into her life because she's pretty jealous, ending altogether with our girl imitating an helicopter (random shizzle, but true fun is not easy to find nowadays in pop records). The 2 lead singles (Tracks 3 & 4) are followed by a guitar driven ballad coupled with Carolina Liar's feature - it is a bit slow and hard to swallow at first, especially considering the fast pace we had in the last couple of minutes - but when it sinks, it does fit inside the overall feeling of the album. Its very own highligh is Miss Lloyd's showcase of gorgeous vocals, that are commonly hidden by her for no particular reason.
By this time, I was at the middle of listening to the album, thinking the highlights were already pointed out but, oh boy, I was wrong. The sixth track 'Playa Boi' (borrowing from Neneh Cherry's Buffalo Stance) is a synth heavy, battery fueled song. Fast, aggresive and bubbly at the same time, it has a metal sound going up and down all over the song and leaves you with the desire of pressing the 'repeat' button. I say 'leaves you', because Track 7 'Superhero', stops it clear from happening. 'Superhero' is a funky, semi 60's, strings and all included, delicious song where Lloyd screams she's not even her very own heroine to save her from the fraud her man is. The ending is hopeful and with a modest fading, making you to repeat the listening experience to hear her speak either about the brief love story spoken or her highly humour filled rap bridge (I kick you with a kung fu kick!). Track 8, the theme park sounding influenced 'Over the moon' is fluffy and easy on the ears, but it somehow falls into the category of faux-christmas song - maybe because of the time it was released or its playful carole-esque sounds. Track 9 is 'Dub on the track', Cher's take on the current move of dubstep and the collaboration between some of UK's most famous underground hip hop artists - it is quick and with a dirty electro semi-synth on the background, coupled with the aforementioned dubstep influences of the times. I arrived at Track 10 and thought 'Sticks + Stones' was a mish mash at best, but 'End Up Here' flicked my thoughts and rearranged the idea of the showcase of sounds this record is. Lloyd helped to pen up this gem, an RnB crafted ship of harmonies that speaks and sings with heartache about cheating in young relationships. The lyrics might be a bit näive for a girl of her age, but if you hear the sentiment behind the vocals, you'll get my drift. The midtempo tune double teams with the gorgeous melody soaring from start to end - that and those 'I don't want to shed a tear' attitude lyrics whilts she almost sounds like crying in the chorus' harmonies is going to sell the song to the hardest of the hearts. The CD stops spinning in my record player and starts all over, while sunset was setting on me and arriving home.
Either I'm a bit biased (maybe is the feeling the album gave me through December of that year) or I was blinded by the Pop masterpieces created and performed by this little girl that gives everything she sings a bit of nostalgic factor. All I can say is, if you're willing to have some fun and sing along to some true well made Pop - this album is for you. Be sure to not miss out on this one.