Ziggy played guitar/ Jamming good with Weird and Gilly/ The Spiders From Mars/ He played it left hand, but made it too far/ Became the special man, then we were Ziggy's band..."
OK, that's possibly the first time that the Blond One, the Irish One, the Ginger One and the Other One have ever been compared to Bowie's backing group, and probably the last. It is, I suppose, a bit of a stretch. But so, to be frank, is Cheryl Cole's solo career, and if there was ever any concern that the other members of Girls Aloud would become, to quote In the Loop, "meat in the room" behind the anointed one at the front, it evaporates pretty fast when you hear 3 Words.
If it's true that without Xenomania, Girls Aloud are nothing, then without Xenomania and Girls Aloud, Cheryl Cole is less than zero. She begins, of course, with a lot of goodwill in the bank. Britain's most popular professional Geordie since the heyday of Jimmy Nail, despite the handicap of being married to one of Britain's least popular footballers. Sitting behind the judges' desk, looking for all the world like the doll on Steve Martin's dashboard in The Man with Two Brains, she's difficult to dislike. It's when she steps out from behind it that the trouble starts, although the scandal over whether she was miming on last week's X Factor is secondary, in my mind, to what the hell she thought she was dressed as (Buttons from a porno panto?).
"Fight for This Love" is, at least, a grower, although what also grows with every listen is irritation at the mid-Atlantic way she pronounces the line "quitting's out of the question". The rest of the album goes in and out of your system like colonic irrigation.
Consisting mainly of R&B that stays a safe two-chevron distance behind the cutting edge, it's utterly devoid of joy, and it's very telling that the only memorable hooks are someone else's: a bit of Duran's "Planet Earth" on "Stand Up", and the looped intro from Fleetwood Mac's "Little Lies" on "Boy Like You". Just when you think it can't get any worse, Will.i.am – as ubiquitous now as Wyclef was a few years back – butts in to rhyme "OK, Cheryl Cole, let's dance/ Cos I just got my advance".
3 Words exists purely to extend the Cheryl Cole brand. You want three words? In. The. Bin.