Carrie & Lowell
If you were asked to predict one X Factor survivor who was likely to break America with a top 20 album, Cher Lloyd would not be your first guess.
Four years ago, when Lloyd finished fourth in the show’s seventh series aged just 17, she was close to being a national figure of ridicule. Her helium vocal, teenage strops and potent mix of angst and attitude left her resembling a musical take on Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard.
It’s amazing what a voice coach, a stylist, a team of crack songwriters and producers, and growing up can do. Lloyd’s second album, a set of essentially generic but spirited and palatable pop-rap, is about as far from her brattish, schoolyard-chant 2011 number 1 Swagger Jagger as you can imagine.
Her record label, Syco, were rumoured to have dropped her but have instead pulled out all the stops, fixing her up with songwriters and producers as venerable as Swedish hit factories Max Martin and Shellback, and the Gossip’s Beth Ditto. The latter’s lyrical fingerprints are all over Sweet Despair, a yearning ballad with a nice line in heart-on-sleeve heartbreak.
Lloyd remains a valiant rather than virtuoso vocalist, often sounding shrill when she tilts at high passion. Despite her slick makeover, she is still best when her cocky, take-no-shit nature breaks through the glossy production: I Wish finds her longing for ‘a butt and a rack’ while Dirty Love bids an unequivocal farewell to a dreary lover: ‘You’re so nice, I’m getting bored.’
The New York Times, no less, recently described Cher Lloyd as ‘the future’. We never saw that one coming…