Everyone loves Cheryl Cole. That's what we're told, anyway.
She's the people's princess! The queen of hearts! The dimple-cheeked everywoman from the L'Oréal ads! And she didn't even have to die to achieve it, just catch malaria and marry a serial love-rat.
However, her status is looking shaky at the moment, having sent the Easter Island-faced, supernaturally irritating trustafarian Katie Waissel through to the X Factor finals at the expense of talented Zimbabwean teenager Gamu Nhengu, thereby inflicting the biggest blow to her own public image since that nightclub toilet incident all those years ago. So she goes into the Messy Little Raindrops campaign with something of a goodwill deficit, which is unfortunate, because it's rubbish.
How the most famous member of a pop group who have been releasing consistently brilliant records for the best part of a decade can make such dismal solo albums may seem mysterious, but the explanation is easy: unlike Girls Aloud, the writing/ production team of Xenomania aren't involved. (The less stellar Starsmith and Wayne Wilkins are.)
Lead single and opener "Promise This" is suitably bonkers, with the word "alouette" parroted so fast it sounds Japanese, but the second Cole album hits the skits immediately thereafter, with the landfill chartpop of Travie McCoy collaboration "Yeah Yeah". "Live Tonight" is a piece of sub-Lauper skinny-tie pop/rock which will have the writers of Rod Stewart's "Young Turks" consulting their lawyers. The acoustic, Imbruglia-ish "The Flood", an extended metaphor about lighthouses and shipwrecks and the natural disaster of its title, suggests Chezza's not hoping for big airplay in Pakistan. Which is for the best: they've suffered enough.
The bhangra-flavoured "Amnesia" is an attempt to recapture the magic of Missy's "Get Ur Freak On" almost a decade late. "Everyone", starring Dizzee (will.i.am must be gutted), is nothingy until the Rascal comes in with lines such as "I came from the bottom/ Underprivileged, but overly rotten", and it briefly gets exciting.
The sort-of title track "Raindrops" is about how raindrops make things grow, you see? In the garden. And in the Garden of Love, too. Or, as she unprettily bellows it, "LoOoOoOove". Whoever writes her lyrics needs to be dragged through a hedge.
"Let's Get Down", which samples "I.O.U" by Freeez and, I think, Billy Squier's "Big Beat", is a lame grab for hipness, with a guest rapper who uses the N-word (ooh, edgy), but ruins it all by approvingly referencing Sex and the City. "Happy Tears" is a slightly mental vengeance song. I hope Ashley hasn't got a pet rabbit. And "Waiting", a fast one to end, couldn't be more perfunctory if it had "keep the ratios up" stencilled across it.
Messy Little Raindrops is music for yoghurt adverts, with lyrics for people who get their emotional vocabulary from Take a Break and Loose Women.