Bouncing back from a thwarted attempt to crossover to the U.S. via the American edition of The X-Factor -- she may have been a two-time winning judge in the U.K., but never made it to the air in the U.S. -- Cheryl Cole decides to shoehorn every pop trend of 2012 into her third album, A Million Lights. Unconcerned with introspection -- prior to the summer release of A Million Lights, she told all journalists to not ask her about the album's lyrics as she didn't write a word -- Cheryl (as she's billed on the art work; she's so famous in the U.K. she can abandon her last name) is very concerned indeed about maintaining her celebrity, so she tries on every fashionable sound, dabbling in dubstep, drafting will.i.am to give her some Black Eyed Peas magic, riding Rihanna's steely, defiant rhythms, bringing Calvin Harris aboard to construct lead single "Call My Name," adopting a bit of a Natasha Bedingfield hangover on the opener "Under the Sun," copping Lana Del Rey's tragic romantic balladry on the title track, then hiring the former Lizzy Grant herself to write "Ghetto Baby." Cheryl doesn't stamp these sounds with her own personality; she merely tries the personas on for size, not so much to see if they fit, but rather to see which ones will allow her entry into the charts. As not one cut crackles with personality -- they all rely on anonymous studio craft; any competent singer could sing lead and perhaps score a hit -- success is entirely dependent on which way the wave breaks, whether her timing clicks or not. Even if A Million Lights winds up not generating a big single, there is no denying that it captures much of the style and sound of 2012; it's a pop scrapbook, perhaps one that will be more interesting in the future than it is in the present.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine