Single Review: Cheryl Cole – ‘Promise This’

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?

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  1. Gerard McGarry

    Just one small point – Cheryl’s not signed to Syco. Messy Little Raindrops is released on Fascination Records, which (I think) it the Girls Aloud label!

    We’re like chalk and cheese on this issue – I love Promise This. Probably for exactly the same reasons you hate it. I’d be interested to hear the Sophie Ellis Bextor song in comparison though.

  2. RandomEnigma

    I actually like this too. Sure, we can all groan at the inevitability of this getting to #1 but I think it’s a catchy song (not only because of the “Alouette” part) and I was really impressed with her performance of it on The X-Factor last night.

    You are dead right though, the lyrics make absolutely no sense. I’d give it 3 stars though.

  3. Coonnoor

    I’m sorry but basing a review of music practically solely on your liking for another song is ridiculous, you need to put your annoyances about Sophie-Ellis Baxter unfortunately not being popular into todays POP culture and do a review. All I learnt from this review is:

    A. You REALLY like Sophie-Ellis Baxter

    B. You think the intro is fast and the lyrcs dont make sense

    C. You like to try and be funny…………a lot…….like a used condom, ghetto blaster, weakest link, university challenge whilst eating a dry salad…im so funny…..*giggles to self*

    1. Gerard McGarry

      Not that I need to stick up for my blogging compadre, but I think what OddOne’s trying to say here is that this being a Cheryl Cole song, it’s receiving much unnecessary praise, despite being low quality, whereas a comparable but in his opinion better track got short shrift in the media because it was by a less popular artist.

      For my part, I agree that the media can often be unfair, skewing their a ttention on people who sell newspapers and not artists who make brilliant music. However, I think the Cheryl Cole single is actually pretty good and not nearly as pretentious as her previous material has been.

      I think he makes his point and makes it well. Whether his use of humour is to your taste or not is another matter entirely. The thing I can’t work out from your comment is – what did you think of the Cheryl Cole single?

    2. Dara Hickey

      The song is LAZY. That is why I don’t like it – the only parts that are remotely catchy are the parts that are sampled, nay, stolen from Mark Ronson’s ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and a French nursery rhyme called ‘Allouette’. Observe:

      “Je te plumerai laile tete”, from ‘Bang Bang Bang’

      “Plumerai les é laile”, from ‘Promise This’

      Not original at all, and the verses make no sense either.

      I see your opinion and I respect it, but don’t act like I didn’t explain my own opinion, for I did, and I justified my opinions and backed them up with facts. As Gerard said, I am merely proving that someone with little vocal talent could release anything and still expect an X Factor slot and a #1 hit, whereas someone with real talent goes nowhere these days.

      And yes, I do like Sophie Ellis Bextor. So…? I take it you really like Cheryl? Or at least this song? And if you checked my other reviews you’d see that I’m consistantly sarcastic when being negative, and positive, actually. I realise my writing can sometime be a little much but hey, I guess it’s just me expressing myself in my writing.

      Oh and to add to your “List of thing you found out”:

      D. I don’t like the song. That would be obvious.

      And Gerard, thanks for clearing that label thing up, I was sure she was signed to Syco for her first album?

  4. wordsfailme

    This song is just another blatant example of over produced and vocally tuned pop which we seem to be getting forced fed at the moment.  It’s will sell well because it’s Cheryl Cole, whose hype far exceeds her actual talent.  She’s an OK vocalist, but nothing special, the song is nondescript and the lyrics make Ke$ha’s latest offering look like a literary masterpiece.

    Good for you for having the guts to post this.  I’m sure you knew that there’d be hoards of brainwashed teens who were going to diss it.

    1. Dara Hickey

      I’m still bracing myself for when I post my review of Eminem’s ‘No Love’. After the slamming the Gerard and PeeJay received when they gave it mixed/negative reviews, and then went on to justify their reasons (both providing plenty of valid reasons to justify their opinion), I’m doubting doing it.

    2. Irina Popescu-Smith

      Right with you on that one. One exception though: IMO, saying Cheryl is an OK vocalist is an over-statement; she’s the worst vocalist that has ever released singles. You can see her on The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge videos; that should prove my point :p

      1. Dara Hickey

        Yeah let’s be honest, she can’t even sing ‘Parachute’, standing still in the Live Lounge. How anyone thinks she can sing long, extended notes like the ones in ‘Promise This’ whilst doing that choerography Live, I’ll never know.

    1. Dara Hickey

      The sole thing that makes Ke$ha much better than Cheryl is she isn’t oversung as an artist.

      She writes her own songs, which are catchy as hell, despite being nonsensical of lyrical nature and hardly ‘sung’ at all – she’s gets the success she deserves by releasing super-catchy electropop songs, unlike Cheryl who’s single releases are alikened to the invention of the wheel of the discovery of electricity despite having nothing remotely catchy about them, and sound like leftover tracks real pop stars didn’t want.

  5. jefft

    Well, I dont follow Cheryl Cole in any respect.

    Couldn’t care about the ex husband, the Girls Aloud malarky and I dont watch X-Factor. Nor could I name any previous Cheryl Cole track. In fact, to me she’s the ‘limp dull and lifeless’ girl lying on a rug telling us that some shampoo is the reason why her hair extensions look so good.

    So I can say in complete honesty that I came to this party very late and listened to the song without noticable prejudice.

    I kinda liked it. And the catchiest bit was the Alouete part.

    To those who needed the subtitles, I ask, so what? Being incomprehensible didn’t stop Police having a hit with ‘De doo doo doo De dah dah dah’.


  6. darrienrooks

    Odd one,

    I signed up for an account just to make a couple comments on your review.

    1) I heard this song before I read your review. I had to look up the lyrics online because, well, I thought she was singing about her lady parts in the first verse, then from that point on, I started to think she was starring in a adult snuff flick. “Before I pluck your wings, cover me please?” What on earth does that mean? Whoever wrote this song does not possess a gift for metaphor.

    2) I thought the chorus was the “Alouette uette uette, Alouette uette uette
    Alouette uette uette, Déployer l’aile.” Your review set me straight. I had to read a review to determine where the chorus was in a song. Then I started listening to it then went back and listened to “Bittersweet.” Hmmm. I’m a fan of pop music, life long fan of Fleetwood Mac, and I always knew when a chorus was about to come up, either musically or lyrically. The listener knows when it comes up. This on the hand….

    3) The backing track is just horrendous. It’s shrill and has a nervous energy to it. Listening to it has the aural equivalent of taking 40mg of Adderall.

    4) Her vocals… I thought she sounded like a cut-rate Rachel Stevens.

    So to sum it all up, this song is, in the purest sense, a musical abortion. Yes, it was hyped to high heaven, but in 4 or 5 years, is ANYBODY going to have this travesty on their hard drives?

    Odd one, you wrote an excellent review. When you put something out for the world to see it, you’re going to receive criticism. Some will be fair, others will be blatantly heinous, especially if you’re criticising something a fan likes. That’s the price you pay for speaking your mind. I am looking forward to your future reviews, especially for Eminem.


  7. Dara Hickey

    Thanks Darren, I’m glad you liked my review and I really enjoyed reading your comment which was both well structured and very interesting, too.

    I think Cheryl does say “Deployer les á laile” in the second repeat of the “Alouette” section, but it still fails to make any cohesive sense what-so-ever.

    -Listen to ‘Bittersweet’… ahhh. If only she could decide on a release date for her album now.

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