Single Review: Cheryl – ‘Call My Name’

“The result sounds like any number of it’s European house ancestors but without an iota of the real euphoric feel that defines them”


Digital Release: June 11, 2012

Physical Release: June 12, 2012

To say that all good pop exists on the other side of the current decade or beyond might be a less mercilessly bludgeoning statement to the music industry than it first seems. It’s often the opinion that the best pop is the pop that looks like it’s not trying all that hard to look and sound great, but in today’s day and age where a pop song with two-bar piano melodies, synth refrain and drum loops can be whacked together in a couple of days, there’s the danger of this cripplingly methodical and formulaic process sitting too comfortably with artists (and the record-buying public) in that the quality of the product will suffer, meaning the pop won’t look like it’s trying all that hard purely because it’s not trying at all. It might be the case that artists and the public become numbed by this mechanistic production-line pop, or at least lose their compass for direction in the ever-changing maze of the pop world and instead turn to radio stations. And of course, if radio stations are too lazy to look beyond what is currently selling (Capital, Heart, Kiss), you might consider the industry to be in a sort of inextricable monopoly; a monopoly where quality and popularity never really align because the quality is not promoted; where we end up knowing everything about everyone in the spotlight die to media infatuations, allowing the music to merely be a side-project in the value of a modern pop star; where the greater chart success is tossed around between a very select few artists and only very infrequently trickles out of their greedy hands to people like Gotye and Paloma Faith, before it’s snatched back by those capable of buying media columns and greater radio coverage.

Taking it a step further, generic dance pop music like ‘Call My Name’ – the lead single from Cheryl’s third album, ’A Million Lights’ – in the current age is the perfect medium for turning pain into entertainment. And as Cheryl finally realises it’s time to release a song that’s been knocking about longer than bread, it’s no surprise that her comeback hit looks to be one of the fastest downloaded singles in UK chart history – a horrifically unjustified achievement. The song reeks of the bi-product remnants of a club-stomping romancer whose vitality has been long beaten out of it by breezy anaemic synths bashing out a melody so vacuous it’s impossible to hit. The result sounds like any number of it’s European house ancestors but without an iota of the real euphoric feel that defines them. Instead this is just a hollow sack of lyric and machine that makes no sense in the chronology of Cheryl’s career and can only be explained as a desire to do what everyone else is doing, again fuelling the hideously unbreakable monopoly controlling the charts. 

It’s not a bad song by modern pop’s standard (which isn’t much of a compliment). The lyrics are as featherweight as the music and carry no resonance beyond the lines they’re stuck to, but this can be expected of trashy, throwaway pop. What people shouldn’t expect with Cheryl is pop done well, as Cheryl’s music is more of a case of pop done quickly. There’s no fancy theatrics here, no epoch-defining statement about pop culture or relationship struggles being made (which is just as good really, because the song would buckle under the weight of the realism that would propose). When listening to ‘Call My Name’ and it’s staccato synth stabs with the melodic bleeping of a Yamaha sequencer, listeners must be aware they are not listening to anything but trashy, throwaway pop; that’s all house music ever has been: the forgettable theme tunes to nights of not remembering anything the following morning, which is a suiting comparison to a song that reliably floats off into the far distances of the unconscious when it ends.


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