Release date: October 2009
3 Words is the debut studio album from British pop singer Cheryl Cole released on 23 October 2009 by Fascination Records. The project is Cole's first solo release following a break from releasing material with her band Girls Aloud whom after seven years have enjoyed five successful albums and twenty consecutive top-ten singles.
Background and conception
Cole's first foray into a solo music career occurred when she featured on will.i.am's "Heartbreaker". After taking streetdancing classes during the filming of Passions of Girls Aloud series, Cole was picked to appear in the song's music video. She was later asked to sing the female vocals on the UK release of the track. Cole's version is featured on her album as it wasn't featured on will.i.am's album Songs About Girls.
It was confirmed on 27 April 2009 via MTV UK that Cole would be working on solo material. Cole reunited with will.i.am, and also worked with Syience, Taio Cruz, and Wayne Wilkins. Cruz was asked to write two songs for Cole; the first of which, "Break Your Heart", was written especially for Cole but Polydor label boss Ferdy Unger-Hamilton felt the song was too similar to Heartbreaker, the track Cole did with Will.i.am. Cruz reclaimed the song and released it as the lead single from his second album Rokstarr. The song went on to be number 1 on the UK Singles Chart. The other song, "Stand Up", did make the album.
Album title and packaging
When asked about the album's title, Cole revealed she had already contemplated an album title which contained the phrase 3 Words before the title track was recorded. She had considered titles like Three Syllables, although the strongest contender was Unveiled as Cole "felt like she didn't have any protection without the girls [Girls Aloud]" and because it coincided with the veil on the album cover.
The album's cover was photographed by fashion photographer Nick Knight. Knight said, "although she is photographed all the time by the paparazzi, she is not in front of the camera for a shoot in the same way as professional models are - she is less used to the process." He continued, "Cheryl was great to work with, though [...] - it is just a different kind of shoot with a model who is experienced."
The album begins with its title track, a duet with will.i.am and Cole's favourite song on the album. She said the song was "totally different from anything I've done [with Girls Aloud] or liked before" and took its inspiration from Cole's newly acquired love for dance music on the charts, especially David Guetta & Kelly Rowland's "When Love Takes Over". "Parachute", written by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and Marshall Altman with production from Syience, was described by Cole as "left-of-field" and "unique". She cited "you are your own worst enemy, you'll never win the fight" as her favourite lyric from the album. Cole also noted that it was a contender for the album's lead single. "Heaven", another will.i.am production, was the first song to be co-written and recorded by Cole for 3 Words and for that reason holds "a special meaning" to Cole. It contains a sample of "Is You" by D.I.M., written by Andreas Meid.
Cole revealed that the lead single, "Fight for This Love", came to her in demo form with a male vocalist. Cole said she "knew instantly it was a single", having "connected with the song so well". "Rain on Me", co-written by prolific American songwriters Sam Watters and Louis Biancaniello, was one of the last songs to be recorded for 3 Words. Cole recorded the song in Los Angeles and said the process was "emotional" as the album's recording was coming to an end. "Make Me Cry" was the first song that Cole recorded with will.i.am in Los Angeles. Cole wrote verses around will.i.am's hook, which was inspired by his girlfriend. Cole said that she listened to the demo of "Happy Hour", initially titled "Sweet and Sour", on repeat because she enjoyed the song so much. She further noted that the song, produced by Soulshock & Karlin, had a "60s sound" and was "one of those tracks that you either really love or you don't get it." It interpolates elements of Renaldo Domino's "Nevermore", written by Richard Pegue.
"Stand Up" was written and produced by Taio Cruz and Fraser T. Smith. Smith claims that during one day he and Cruz wrote the rejected "Break Your Heart" in the morning and "Stand Up" in the afternoon. Cruz described the song as an "absolute club banger". The song features an uncredited rap by Cruz, which was originally not present. Cole said it was "one of those instant tracks that make you feel good." "Don't Talk About This Love" was written by songwriter / producer Chris Braide and Nikola Bedingfield, the younger sister of singers Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield. It was originally recorded by Nikola Bedingfield as the title track for her debut EP. Cole was attracted to the song for its lyrics and vibe, saying it "felt right." "Boy Like You", featuring and produced by will.i.am, samples Fleetwood Mac's 1987 single "Little Lies", which initially attracted Cole to the song. Cole wanted to take the Fleetwood Mac sample and create something current and modern with it. The album also features the clean single version of will.i.am's "Heartbreaker", to which Cole provides the female vocals.
Release and promotion
3 Words was released in the United Kingdom on Monday 26 October 2009. A limited edition fan version of the album was released through Cole's official website. The deluxe version includes a tote bag, a Cheryl Cole calendar and two exclusive art prints, all contained in a deluxe box.
In May and June 2010, Cole toured as support for the Black Eyed Peas on the European leg of The E.N.D. World Tour. She performed Fight for this Love, Boy Like You, Make Me Cry, Parachute, Fireflies, 3 Words, Rain on Me and Stand Up. Will.I.Am has joined her on several occasions to sing 3 words. She is also scheduled to make her first solo appearances at this year's V Festival, Radio 1's Big Weekend and Summertime Ball.
The album debuted at number one in the UK with sales of 125,271. It then held on to that position for another week, just like her single "Fight for This Love". On 6 November 2009 the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certified the album Platinum, and has since sold over 750,000 copies.