As in the norm with my reviews, I usually start with something completely off-topic, and then thread it into an analogy that relates to the song in question. It’s a method I picked up from Fraser McAlpine (of BBC ChartBlog fame), and until now it’s seen me very well through nearly one-hundred reviews, but there are times, like now, when the single in question is so hard to attack that you just have to resort to a good old comparison.
I remember when the gorgeous Sophie Ellis-Bextor released her comeback single ‘Bittersweet’, and there were quite a few nay-sayers I know who thought that it sounded like ‘Untouchable’ by Girls Aloud (R.I.P.), however, that wasn’t a compliment: many claimed that ‘Bittersweet’s chorus was lacklustre and unimaginative, and that it lacked the instant grab that all Sophie’s previous choruses had: ‘Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)’, ‘Get Over You’, ‘If I Can’t Dance’ and ‘Catch You’ are just a few examples.
Now, I did think ‘Bittersweet’ was quite brilliant, but not only because of it’s chorus, but mainly because it knew what it wanted to be, and it came across as what it wanted to be and more, plus it had Sophie’s super-sexy voice gliding over the production so who could complain? The same cannot be said for the latest offering from the nation’s ‘sweetheart’’ (read: bindweed), Cheryl Cole.
If ‘Bittersweet’s introduction was boring, then ‘Promise This’ can safely be described as plain catatonic. Sampling the French nursery rhyme “Alouette”, translating as “Skylark”, it does absolutely nothing, sounding like it wants to be dance/R&B yet it ends up sounding like someone left the playback on double-time and forgot to revert the song to it’s original tempo before being released. The whole thing is like be rushed through a boring Museum exhibit: the moment you try to grin and bare it, some ditzy Stepford-type ushers you away to the next prehistoric bore.
And then you see the lyrics (you may actually have to see them because they’re near inaudible, and not just the parts in French); I’m sorry but what the fudge is she on about? “There was nothing/In the space between”… Your ears? Probs. “Before I pluck your wings/Cover me please”. Okay, so from what I can tell so far she’s mindlessly requesting a chicken to baste her before she plucks the/another chicken. Oh dear… But I don’t suppose you can say it’s entirely her fault, have you seen the lyrics to the chorus? That French nursery rhyme?
“Skylark, skylark, skylark/Spread the wings/Skylark, skylark, skylark/Pluck the wings”.
You can just imagine the board meeting at Syco HQ, can’t you? Simon will say to Cheryl – “Yeah, you’re new song is a bit naff, we need to tart it up with something catchy”, and Cheryl will say – “Ah knaw! Ah found this awld piece o’ paper, pet, in a cherity shawp from may Girls Aloud days [laughs], saw yeah this is a nursery rhiyme; could be catchy if Ah sung it liyke a rawbot? Even bet’ah: Ah could make it sound liyke Ah just copied and pay-usted it into ‘Promise This’ from anoother song, saw it doosn’t flaw into it at all. ‘Cause Ah’m so woath it”. And then Simon would give one of his pompous thumbs up and a quick wink, calling it “On the money”, as he’s so fond of doing nowadays.
Just because this is Cheryl Cole we’re dealing with, does not give her permission to stray from the standardised song form unless it is for something absolutely brilliant, so the chorus – the heart of the song; the catchiest part of proceedings – the bit that people will remember when they download it and… hmm… I’m sorry, I’m no detective but… did I just miss it? Oh wait, no… Wasn’t that another verse? When did it start!? OH YEAH! It was when that piddly little piano twinkle that’s hidden miles into the background of the production comes in! Of. COURSE! How could I have missed that? *chuckles to self*
And people say ‘Bittersweet’s chorus was weak!? At least you knew it was actually THERE. And it had an actual musical bit of musicalness where some music was played before a thundering Freemasons production took over; Cheryl just dives straight in like she wants to get it over with a bag her next unrightfully earned #1.
My theatrical idiosyncrasies aside, this chorus is so pathetic and the song structure so vague you may need to get some Post-it notes to guide you through, for fear of getting lost amongst the archaic video-game blips and the militant march beat.
Taking all this into account, I can remember when ‘Bittersweet’ got completely snubbed by Radio 1 and only charted at #25. Who’d like to venture a guess where ‘Promise This’ will chart? No, it’s not exactly a question you’d find on University Challenge is it? Or even The Weakest Link, for that matter. It’s almost a given because Radio 1 will be forced to play it. And of course there was another mimed performance (to pre-recorded live vocals) for The X Factor, I bet if they plonked a 70’s-styled Ghetto Blaster on stage and played the song from there the audience would still be falling over each other.
I laughed at the video too, especially the start because it’s sped up, and so when I first watched it, I actually did think someone had leaked the video and sped it up – which in turn made the song speed up – so to stop YouTube removing it. But then it turned out to be the right tempo and the right video, so I had another little laugh to myself.
0:05… Anyone else thinks she looks like an escaped ‘Thunderbirds’ puppet?
An auto-tuned vocal, blatantly the wrong tempo setting, a non-existent chorus, frankly the worst lyrics I have ever heard – not because they’re foreign or even because they’re simple: but because they just don’t make sense – and of course the fact Cheryl is guaranteed a #1, all add together to make this song less appealing than a used condom. ‘Promise This’ is like eating a dry salad at twice the speed you usually should.
Nothing happens, only you wish you’d eaten it a little slower.
Rating: 1.5 STARS
Download: October 25, 2010 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: ‘Messy Little Raindrops’*
*I know, right?