Carrie & Lowell
It's very easy nowadays to forget that Cheryl Cole is a popstar.
From her bitter separation from Ashley to her unceremonious dumping from the US X Factor, the Geordie lass's soap opera-like life is such public property that you have to be reminded that she is actually quite good at the day job.
Quite good – but not great. A Million Lights, her third album, is a slick and polished summary of the state of the art of current chart-pop but it lacks the indefinable alchemy, personality and touch of magic that makes for truly great pop.
The single Call My Name is the best thing on here and sets the album's tone of glossy but somewhat generic rave-pop. Cheryl apes Rihanna on Sexy Den A Mutha and Beyoncé on the closing powerhouse ballad All Is Fair, and sounds exactly what she is – a plucky disco diva – on Ghetto Baby, the duet with brooding femme fatale Lana Del Rey.
Although Cheryl didn't write the songs, it's tempting to look for autobiography and it's not hard to find. Under The Sun finds her bidding a scornful farewell to an unfaithful lover: Screw You sees Wretch 32, as the love cheat, proclaim: "Now I'm left back, feeling kinda col'" For the sake of our Euro 2012 chances, let's hope it doesn't get too many pre-match plays in the England dressing room.
There's none of the casual, offhand genius Xenomania used to bestow upon Girls Aloud, then, but as a classy-not-classic pop album, A Million Lights just about passes muster.