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Cheryl Cole bowled over by success

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Cheryl Cole: Fight For This Love

By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The lines have now closed, the votes have been counted and verified and it's official: Cheryl Cole is the nation's sweetheart.

Nearly 15m people watch her every week on The X Factor; her single is the fastest-selling record of the year; and the tabloids know that putting Cole's face on the cover guarantees a sales spike.

The star speaks to the BBC on Friday morning, shortly before setting off for The X Factor's studios in Wembley.

Cheryl Cole
Fight For This Love sold 290,000 copies in its first week of release

Unexpectedly, she sounds neither stressed nor impatient as she waits for the car to arrive. Rather, the 26-year-old is relaxed and charming - pottering around in the kitchen and pausing to let her pet Chihuahua, Buster, out the back door.

There is also an agreeable humility to Cole's conversation. She talks about pop stars like they're alien creatures, as though she's forgotten she is one-fifth of the UK's most successful girl band. On more than one occasion, she seeks my "honest opinion" of her debut album, 3 Words - luckily, I like it.

It's as if Cole can't quite believe that the girl who grew up on an impoverished council estate in Newcastle has really made it to the top of Britain's A-list.

Before our conversation starts, there are a few key points to clear up: No, she doesn't hate Dannii Minogue; No, she hasn't quit Girls Aloud; Yes, she finds Simon Cowell annoying.

But, with that out of the way, it's down to business:

Cheryl Cole
Cole's album features songs by Will.i.am and Taio Cruz

Hello Cheryl! The last few weeks must have been overwhelming for you.
Absolutely. I can't believe it's only been two shows. It feels like it's been on for months.

And another 10 weeks to go.
Another 10? Oh, God.

Do you eat or sleep at all over the weekend?
I don't sleep very well. Not at all. I have a really bad sleep pattern. And my heart's beating constantly, so it doesn't matter what I eat. It just disintegrates.

Is the catering good, then?
The catering is lovely. Really nice. A bit too nice at times. They make amazing cakes, banoffee pie, and paninis and different meals every weekend.

When I told people I was going to speak to you, everyone wanted to pass on a message - just saying hello, or congratulations on last week's show. It's like everyone feels you're their friend. Do you get that in public, too?
[Laughs] Yeah, I think people feel like they know me. People just talk to us like I'm from up the road. But I love it.

That's unusual for a pop star in your position.
I think that's because if you think of people like Beyonce, they don't seem approachable. They seem like "pop stars" but I suppose with my role on the X Factor, people get to know me more as a person. What do you think?

Girls Aloud
Girls Aloud's The Promise won best British single at this year's Brits

I agree, you come across like a normal, likeable person on the show. I think a lot of it's in the eyes.
I really believe that about people's eyes. When I meet somebody, I look straight at their eyes, and if they're shifty I don't trust them straight away.

Who was the last person you avoided because they had shifty eyes?
I don't dare say! I'll keep that one private.

Now, we're here to talk about the album. When you decided you were going to make a solo record, what were the ground rules, the conditions you gave to the record label?
Well, it started off with the programme Girls Aloud did called Passions, where we all went off and pursued interests we had outside the band, and mine was street dancing. And it ended up that the final of the whole show was going to be me dancing in the video for Will.i.am's Heartbreaker.

Then I'd hear him on the radio, or once on MTV News, and they'd ask: "Who do you want to work with?" Now don't laugh, because I did, but he said "U2 and Cheryl Cole!"

Was it a conscious decision to make the record sound completely different to Girls Aloud?
Well, everybody knows that I'm a fan of R&B music. So from the off, really, they knew that that would be the route I'd want to go down, and that I'd want to work with Will.

How do you get on with Will.i.am? I've interviewed him a couple of times and he's a bit intimidating. You get the feeling he's always two steps ahead of you...
I find him fascinating. Fascinating. He's so intelligent and quirky and peculiar. But that's why I love him. We get on like a house on fire.

He features quite heavily on the title track, which is such an unusual and brave opener for a pop album - it starts very gently, almost like a ballad, but by the end it's a full-on house anthem.
That's my favourite track! It was the last thing we wrote, and I didn't know how it would sound when Will had put the finishing touches to it. So that was a shock.

Cheryl Cole
What three words would I use to describe the album? Funky, fresh and fun... All the Fs!
Cheryl Cole

Are you proud of the record?
I love it. And the whole thing was, I wanted to make a record I would listen to at home. I love the Girls Aloud stuff, and I love being part of the band, but I would never come home and put on the record on repeat - but I find myself doing that with this record.

Are you able to listen back to your own vocals? A lot of people hate doing that.
I don't with Girls Aloud, but with this one it's kind of like it's a different person. I zone out and just listen to the music.

I think you sing in a lower register for the solo stuff...
I do. Generally, I have got a low voice that I wouldn't use with the type of music we do with Girls Aloud. So it's been nice to do stuff that's in my key.

The lyrics on the album are very melancholy. Rain On Me is about hiding your tears from your partner. One of the lyrics on Make Me Cry says: "We argue a lot no matter what we do". Is there an element of autobiography in there?
For me, when you hear a song you have to relate to the lyric of it. In general, life is up and down. It is a bit bittersweet, so I think that reflects in the songs I've chosen and the things I've written.

How does it feel to be number one?
It feels weird. Really weird.

I always try to think about the worst-case scenario - like I wouldn't make it into the Top 40, how would I deal with that? But this has gone past anything I've ever expected, and I don't know how to deal with that either.

Did you realise that in one week, it has sold nearly half as many copies as Girls Aloud's biggest hit, Sound Of The Underground, did in total?
[Goes very quiet] ... Hmm.... That's crazy. How do you get your head around that?

I suppose you have to be pleased.
Yeah. I mean, I'm over the moon. I'm gonna have to be peeled off the ceiling.

Does it help to calm your nerves about the album?
I just can't wait for the album to drop now. I just think if people love the single this much, they're going to love the album.

Cheryl Cole and her X Factor finalists
Cole is mentoring the boys under 25 category in this year's X Factor

Shall we talk about the X Factor now?
Yes, okay.

Here's the one thing everyone wants to know: Is there any real tension between you and Simon?
There is on the actual Saturday night, when he starts getting annoying and saying nasty things. It gets quite heated backstage, and quite competitive. I don't feel like I'm a competitive person. I feel like the best person should win The X Factor, whether they're in my category or not. But he's so competitive and so rude sometimes that I find myself getting caught up in it.

I see you clenching your fists sometimes.
Honestly, he's really annoying. Really annoying.

You should just lamp him.
I should, shouldn't I?

You're looking after the boys this year. Does it worry you that no boy has ever won The X Factor and gone on to have a proper career?
I've told the boys that. I've told them to expect that. If you go out soon, you could still have success and if you win you're not guaranteed success. Certainly not.

But I think that happens anyway with people trying to make it in the music industry. This is not a career card, this is a platform. It's after the show that you actually prove yourself as an artist and the career kicks in.

Three Words by Cheryl Cole is out now on Fascination/Polydor records.



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SEE ALSO
Cheryl Cole's debut is number one
25 Oct 09 |  Entertainment
Cheryl and Leona unveil singles
07 Sep 09 |  Entertainment
Girls Aloud star takes 20 prize
09 Sep 09 |  Entertainment
Cheryl Cole to record solo songs
24 Apr 09 |  Entertainment
Three more albums for Girls Aloud
13 Feb 09 |  Entertainment
Girls Aloud go Out of Control
29 Sep 08 |  Entertainment

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