Pop Song Review: Cheryl – “I Don’t Care”

So the current UK number one single is a Cheryl ex-Cole song, the week after she performed it on The X Factor which she recently returned to as a judge. That’s amazing, it really is – people still watch The X Factor? Anyway, today I’m reviewing “I Don’t Care” by Cheryl Fer… uh, Fernaver, er… Veranda? No that’s not it, er… Fandango-Vindice? Eh, Cheryl will do.

First impressions: A summery club-jam with whooshy synths and an Ibiza beat, perfect for those July nights on the beach with your friends – and assuming people still have this song on the brain in eight months’ time when it actually is July again, it’ll be perfect. Meanwhile, who else is looking forward to Christmas?

The music: Didn’t I say a while back that I was done reviewing club-pop songs? And here I am reviewing two in a week, not long after I said I was also done doing that?  I guess demand was just too high for me to remain retired on that front, wasn’t it? “This can’t be so,” cried out a generation in unison. “What must we do to resurrect the Archbudgie’s bi-weekly critical interest in these mindless club jams? Must we purchase the new Cheryl single in our masses? If it must be done, let it be so!” And so they did. Or, you know, they just liked the song and it had nothing to do with me. Whatever.

So this is another club-pop song, released at a time when people are probably even keener to head into a club full of warm bodies than stay out on the cold, rain-swept streets. Not me, mind – I love the rain and you should too – but it does serve a purpose, like hot chocolate mixed with vodka. Does it work? Mostly, yes. The song, that is, not hot chocolate and vodka.

There’s a big, fizzy beat to get you moving and grooving, because apparently I can only describe current music like an old man now. The melody is well-constructed and Cheryl’s in good form, especially in the chorus where she just belts out the title with an energy we don’t normally get in her music. The song itself isn’t my bag but I like the little elements that make it up, particularly the bass – nothing special in the actual notes, but it seems to my ears to be much thicker and more prominent than in other pop songs of its kind and, because of that, the music actually feels like it has some proper support for a change. There’s also a nice, subtle groove to that synth-riff that I appreciate – you know, the “duh-duh-duduh” part? Look, even if you don’t, just nod your head so we can move on.

It’s the sheer vibrancy here that works the most, though. It certainly elevates it above her other singles: for once she actually sounds like she’s enjoying her work. There’s something to put on the Pros list for 2014: a fun Cheryl song. Frankly, given the sucky year this has been we need all we can get.

The lyrics: Cheryl’s ex-man is going out with somebody else but she doesn’t care, so much so that she wrote a song about it. Well, co-wrote. Typical pop song fare, I suppose: the jilted lover moving on with a flick of the wrist, a shake of the hips and a crack of the whip. Also, about a metric ton of ice cream, if sitcoms have taught me anything.

“Waking up diagonal like an animal / in a cold and empty bed.” But she’s in it – how can it be empty, I ask you? Sense: not being made here. I guess the whole diagonal sleeping implies she’s in a double-bed that used to be occupied by two people and now isn’t because relationships are hard guys, but the “like an animal” part throws me. Are animals known for diagonal sleeping arrangements? Missed that one in biology lessons. I know cows have been known to sleep in alignment with the north/south axis for some reason, but Cheryl isn’t a cow. I noticed that, you see. I’m observant like that.

“I heard you brought that girl around in half a gown / and asked if I’ve been there.” I’m not all that in tune with fashion trends, but are half-gowns a thing now? What even is that, a gown with half the material cut away? That doesn’t seem like optimal club-wear, personally. Also, why is he asking if you’d been there? If “there” is the abode where he’s bringing this young lady of his, is there a chance you would have been there? Do you have a tendency to creep back into his house? I think I need more information here. Who is he asking, too? His landlord? His cat? The woman he’s bringing around? What a weird lyric this is.

“I don’t care / and it feels so fucking good to say I swear / that I don’t care.” Eh, eh, get it? She says “swear” just after she drops an F-bomb. Geddit? Yeah, geddit? Do you fricking get it already?!! Yeah, there’s cursing, but that doesn’t really surprise me anymore: casual swearing is pretty commonplace nowadays (hence the whole “casual” part of the equation) which, on the one hand, removes its taboo value and arguably frees up our speech. On the other hand it dilutes the potency of the form: swear words are used less these days as true curses and more often as overly-enthusiastic modifiers, such as the aforementioned Cheryl usage, so whatever edge they might have once had has largely been lost. I still refuse to use them, though. #prudeandproud2k14

“Everyone is saying now, just slow it down / or I’ll get hurt again / when these things are feeling me, it’s healing me / and I’m screaming, I don’t care.” Let’s pick this line apart a bit: “everyone” – friends, loved ones, presumably unloved ones too – is telling her not to rush into another Ugandan discussion so quickly, I’m guessing because this relationship ended so recently they expect her to still be getting over it. But nope! R Cheryl’s off again because “these things are feeling” her which… I…

Okay, what does that actually mean? What things? The fingers of strange men? Whatever it is, it’s “healing” her, so supposedly there is still a wound and it’s fresh enough to need medicinal care (in the metaphorical sense, natch). She doesn’t care, though, because it’s R Cheryl! Except… anyone feel like she should? Or is this the prudish old man speaking up again?

Basically it’s like Tove Lo’s “Habits”, except we’re supposed to see her post-break up hard-partying as a positive thing. She’s actually screaming – full-throated cries to the night – that she doesn’t care, often a clear indication that you do in fact care a little bit. It sounds like the pits of desperation and denial to me which, obviously, isn’t what the free ‘n’ easy music is trying to convey, but now it’s all I can hear. By the way, I know this has a pointed message in that it’s directed at someone she used to know, but if this turns out to be some closet “haterz gunna hatez” song I won’t be happy. I have cannons and they will be fired.

“I can see the Milky Way and it seems so far away.” Hm. Anybody want to dive in here and update her with some basic astronomy?

Verdict: Eh, I guess it’s not all that bad. It’s upbeat, it’s catchy enough and it has a vim to its breezy bounce that a lot of club-pop doesn’t. 3 out of 5.

Today’s double-up is “Movin’ On” by Bad Company. Sure, they’re not technically about the same thing but, in another sense, they are. Besides, it’s Bad Company – what are you complaining about?

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