Certain signs will tell you that a U.K. artist wants traction in the States. These signs usually read things like “feat. Mike Posner,” or better yet, “produced by Max Martin”–the two American names attached to Cher Lloyd’s the best/worst song of the summer,” a one-hit novelty.
Cher Lloyd isn’t a one-hit novelty (as of now), though. Mike Posner isn’t Snoop Dogg (feature credits this year include Charlie Sheen, Kreayshawn and names we won’t name because you won’t recognize), and Max Martin is not an up-and-comer with a pirated copy of Fruity Loops. These aren’t throwaway contributions. They, like collaborator elsewhere Busta Rhymes (his feature credit, you’ll note, managed to relaunch Chris Brown), are signs that someone thinks Lloyd could succeed. Mind you, there’s a chance she’s not really gunning for an overseas crossover–winner Matt Cardle isn’t exactly being pushed, nor even is third-place but popular boy band One Direction. There’s no chance, though, that Lloyd and her team haven’t at least considered it.
If the names involved weren’t enough to convince you, the track itself will. Lloyd could’ve easily been handed a flashy trinket left over from, say, an Avril Lavigne session, or a boshy track that’ll resonate with Popjustice and nowhere else. But “With Ur Love” resembles not a caps-intact Max Martin Song or a Europop curio but “Paper Planes” performed on a bubble machine, keeping the singsong sing-rap around one note but excising those pesky parts about guns and stealing your money. Lloyd’s said before that the track showcases her singing rather than her “jumping around like an idiot,” and “With Ur Love” tones down her vocal gimmickry outside her chirp-chanted intro and a few asides on the verses in favor of surprisingly solid vocals. (Our comparison: Rihanna, intermittently daubed with shades of Cardigans’ Nina Persson. Discuss.) Posner almost wrecks things with his “yummy” metaphor and his dating flowchart (one base rounded per outing until three, where he giggles and his date stops, frowns and leaves), but his verse is still less embarrassing than two out of three solo singles.
Even more telling are the lyrics. Writer Brad Shoup did an exhaustive breakdown of just how many hits were pulped for fellow crossover hopeful Jessie J’s “Domino“; you could do the same for “With Ur Love,” even restricting yourself to song titles. Swag makes an appearance, as do flying, shining, riding and the top of the world. Compare “Swagger Jagger,” full of weird attention grabs like clicking and tweeting and that title. “With Ur Love” doesn’t want to sound weird; it wants to fill you with that familiar first-crush feeling, familiar enough for playlists not to remember who it is.
Eventually, though, the States will need to know who Lloyd is, and have a consistent idea of that personality, for her to really take off. Pop stars–especially female solo artists–need personas. Adele’s retro and/or cathartic niche helped her, but someone like Nicola Roberts was presented here with amazing Diplo glitz but without the Girls Aloud context to bolster it. Or take Jessie J; on “Price Tag” she’s all anti-commercial and righteous, man, and hangs out with B.o.B; on “Do It Like a Dude,” she’s all tough and pantsless and post-feminist, man. On “Domino,” she’s Dr. Luke. And on the VMAs, she was that annoying person in the house-artist spot. Combined with the massive, blatant push by the British then American music industries to make her happen, it all rang false. Lloyd’s less at risk here–her guiding adjective is still basically unchanged: “fun.” It’s probably a good sign that “With Ur Love” makes us instinctively root for her, not against.