Rating: 3/5 pitchforks
Part of the 2010 “The X Factor” class that also produced One Direction, British pop singer Cher Lloyd has enjoyed pretty extensive success across the Atlantic. As a whole, however, her debut album, the 2011 release “Sticks + Stones,” struggled to gain any real traction here in the U.S.
The singles that topped the U.K. charts, “Swagger Jagger” and “With Ur Love” weren’t promoted here, while releases like “Want U Back” and “Oath” sold well in the states but didn’t achieve the kind of total societal permeation that would have solidified Lloyd’s spot as a member of music’s A-list.
So, the question is, will her sophomore album, “Sorry I’m Late,” bring Lloyd that kind of success?
Released on Tuesday, “Sorry I’m Late” features a less brash and aggressive Cher Lloyd than her previous album. While “Sticks + Stones” featured heavy dubstep accents and a legion of British rappers, the singer’s new album is unapologetically pop, with several high-flying power ballads (see: “Just Be Mine,” “Sirens,” “Humans”) and a generally more positive outlook.
While old Cher Lloyd sounded like she might leap straight out of her music to punch listeners in the face just to prove a point, new Cher Lloyd sounds like she may have reigned in that teenage exuberance a bit and come out a tighter, more poised artist.
The album’s “Bind Your Love” highlights the singer’s unique vocals with an addictive hook and an unexpected slide into a summer road trip-ready chorus. The track is a standout hit on an album that is home to several solid, if not particularly creative, pop ballads.
For those in need of a new post-breakup anthem, check out “Sweet Despair.” Only a few seconds into this sparse, experimental track, it’s already clear that Lloyd and her fellow songwriters have rejected the idea of a loud, wailing anthem in the vein of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” Lloyd’s take on heartbreak features clean vocals and a lean music track, her verses supported by a stripped-down synth and little else.
Apart from being incredibly catchy, the song is completely unexpected and impossible to stop playing.
Unfortunately, the album is weighed down by the schizophrenic “Dirty Love.” A strong opening gives way to weak lyrics underwritten by repetitive music that sounds as though it was cut together at the last minute. The whole thing is a tired reiteration of what radio-friendly pop “should” be.
The album’s second high-energy track, “M.F.P.O.T.Y.,” is another disappointment. Though it tries to capitalize on Lloyd’s old brazenness, it ends up sounding more like a reject from Avril Lavigne’s last album. All bark, no bite.
When Lloyd stops trying to recall her younger self and steps into the artist she’s grown to be, the album shines. Her biggest single, “I Wish,” features a jazzy, big-band intro and Lloyd’s signature R&B-inspired; attitude. Guest rapper T.I. certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
The final verdict: If you’re a fan of the genre, but tired of the sickly-sweet, insincere bubble gum-pop coming from the likes of Katy Perry, give this album a try. Lloyd has a harder edge and a better hook, nine out of 10 times.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @discoanddessert.