Here’s a hot take you didn’t think you needed today – Cheryl Cole’s Fight For This Love is a really, really great pop song. This Friday, Cheryl (she’s dropped the Cole) is rumoured to be releasing her first single in four years and while her pop record is patchy, it reminded us to revisit Fight For This Love, her debut solo single from her first album 2009’s 3 Words.
Cheryl wasn’t an obvious choice for solo stardom after graduating from Girls Aloud, one of the UK’s most successful girl groups ever. Her public profile, boosted by a judging spot on The X Factor and a celebrity relationship, was the largest of the group but many doubted her ability to carry a career with her voice, arguably one of the weakest in the group.
2009 was a weird year for pop. EDM had well and truly infiltrated the charts with some of the biggest records of the year coming from a dancefloor focussed Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta and Kelly Rowland’s When Love Takes Over and Lady Gaga’s dance-influenced pop music. With will.i.am as a close collaborator, Cheryl could’ve easily taken the EDM path but instead she gave us a sleek RnB/pop crossover Fight For This Love.
The song was written by Steve Kipner (Xtina’s Genie In A Bottle) and Wayne Wilkins (Beyoncé’s Sweet Dreams) almost guaranteeing it would be a passable radio hit if Cheryl could carry it on her own. Cheryl often got a little lost in the thick production of Girls Aloud but to the surprise of many her gentle voice, when given a little space, really cut through.
“Vocally it’s a big surprise. It’s so usual to hear Cheryl through the Xenomania filter. As it turns out, she sounds really great – strong, confident, direct. Like a proper pop singer,” wrote Popjustice at the time of release and they were right. Fight For This Love is a proper pop singer song. It’s confident with an almost militant power and yet it’s caressed by these tender verses undercut by a wobbly, wavering synth. It doesn’t try too hard and yet its repeat appeal is endless. Nearly a decade after its release it sounds like it could still compete on radio alongside Ariana Grande’s breathin or Camila Cabello’s Never Be The Same.
In 2009, the song was a huge success. It was one of the fastest selling singles in her home country of the UK, nabbing number one and helping propel her debut album to the top spot too. It was criminally ignored both here and in the US with Australia choosing rather to support the far less superior second single 3 Words.
Any doubt surrounding Cheryl’s popstar ability was shredded when she took to The X Factor stage to perform the single. With hip-hop dance classes behind her, she brought to the stage a fierce dance routine which ended in a dance break that solidified her as a superstar, at least for the time being. The video is also iconic even if those sunglasses timestamp it in the late ’00s.
Fight For This Love is one of the undeniable moments of pop pleasure that sinks its way into anybody’s ears. Even Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig who has never really forayed into the commercial pop world called the song “awesome” before covering it for the BBC.
“One day we were in the car driving to the airport and we heard a song that reminded us of K-Ci & JoJo’s All My Life, which is a very important song for people our age. We were like, ‘This song is awesome’,” he said, alluding to potential plagiarism but praising all the same.
Cheryl has never really matched the greatness of Fight For This Love (even though she’s come close) but we’ll always have this 2009 slice of perfection. It’s a big call but Fight For This Love is one of the best pop songs of the millennium and we’re going to need a moment of respect for it.