Cole prides herself in her bio as a "gimmick free" artist, and she's been wise enough to make full use of her first opportunity to back up that claim without reaching the opposite extreme through self-consciously zealous eclecticism. She lets out her aggression early on, smartly not deviating too far from the "Smack You" persona she's been cultivating for well over half a year now, following a new but loyal edit of the Dance Chart hit with a trio of 125-BPM confrontational stompers that relate both musically and thematically, each one just as polished and solid as "Smack You" if not as obviously single-ready.
Once Cole has paid those dues, though, she and producer Jeeve mix things up for the album's exploratory middle third, starting with the pounding, sexy, relentless "Cherry Pop." Cole's feat on this and several later tracks is impressive and exceedingly rare, possessing as she does an admirable openness to the sexually explicit (“I'm about to break and lose it again/ you're turning back my clock/ you make my cherry pop”) - it's “Like a Virgin”/”Teenage Dream” for the dirty dance club set - and yet Cole's presentation ends up more sensual and even almost, yes, romantic than either of those famous predecessors. Cole and Jeeve, who have writing credits on all eleven tracks, exhibit a playful handle on lyrics as well as musical intricacies - see the minor sliding scales of "Pocket Rocket," (which is as much about lipstick as Katy Perry's "Peacock" is about colorful birds) which displays Kimberly Cole as rocking chick and soars on the weird fun of a singer who can sing and a producer who can play with her voice without obscuring it, the ultimate sign of respect. And Cole earns it throughout, not hitting a single sour note over lead and significant backing vocal tracks (the one potential exception - Cole can belt, but there's a definite upper limit, although it's one that another year or so of voice lessons will easily eliminate - is deftly disguised by Jeeve's elegant, spot-on production). The playful tidbits of clever harmonies or unexpected vocal asides show up all over the set, often adding a dash of extra spice that succeeds in turning already enjoyable tracks into sheer delights.
"Get Stupid," especially, shows off Cole's vocal accuracy and personality, as well as the duo's charming penchant for mixing and matching. The verse barrels in with a girlie-rock edge suited to the lyrical annoyance, but then it gives way to a funky dance chorus that reveals the thin layer of seriousness at play. It's a thoroughly strange combination of styles, but the result is thrilling. My notes as I listened to the track the first time are appropriately bewildered and scattered: "she whips out her high range, slows it down, then Jeeve pulls his stuff, then they come together on the chorus...the song has it ALL," I wrote.
The 37 minute set closes with the hilarious "Three Way," in which our heroine finds her first attempt at a menage-a-trois with two gentlemen waylaid by her guests' apparent preference for one another. She's so charming and straightforward that one can't help but empathize (even if I'd wager Cole, a Los Angeles dance circuit mainstay for a while now, would never herself be so naive in reality), and the wiser among listeners will have figured out the punch line as soon as Cole's sly "Hey Johnny, meet Jack. Jack, meet Johnny!" introduction. This is how you do a threeway song, Ms. Spears...the first half, anyway. When the inevitable punch line comes, Cole handles it with the deftest of humor, channeling her (understandable) disappointment and annoyance without resorting to inadvertent homophobic gay-bashing...the lady knows from whence she comes. Laugh-inducing lyrics ("Kinda wasted, don't know whose is what...") intermingle with more clever wordplay ("his body on my body, and my body on his body," which later becomes "his body on his body and my body with nobody") and a teeth-chattering 146-BPM tempo, and it's a just ending to a nonstop heart-pounding dance extravaganza.
Watch the excellent music video for lead single "Smack You," choreographed by Tricia Miranda and featuring Bad Girls Club alumna Natalie Nunn.
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