Cheryl Cole, nee Tweedy, is one fifth of a British girl group (Girls Aloud), manufactured on a competitive reality show, turned celebrity/solo artist.  Cher Lloyd is a British solo artist, mentored by Cheryl Cole on a competitive reality show.  Cheryl is huge is the UK.  Depending upon your level of interest in British pop culture, you may or may not have heard of her.  She sputtered when she tried to break the market in America.  Cher is well known in the UK, but has achieved a global success that Cheryl was not able to attain, breaking the American market with a re-released single from her first album–on her first try.

This is Cheryl Cole:

This is Cher Lloyd:

They are remarkably similar physically.  Both are tiny, pretty, brown-eyed girls with sweet features, and great smiles.  They are remarkably similar as vocalists, as well.  Neither are great shakes as singers, but both have released funky, poppy, can-dance-to-them tunes, produced by some of the biggest names in the business.  Both have been taken under the wings of major rap and hip-hop artists, and they share very similar management.

So why did one work in the American market and not the other?

I would wager that the reason Cher Lloyd broke the states, and Cheryl Cole didn’t is the same reason that the Spice Girls are still US favorites, and most of the US has no idea what Girls Aloud are. 

If you head over to YouTube and listen to some Girls Aloud [this is one of my favorites], you’ll come away thinking, “Ah–obvious successors to the Spice Girls throne.” [and for fairness, my favorite Spice Girls video]  But, for all their trying, they weren’t.

The Spices (Posh having been name-linked to Cheryl Cole through shared interest in their husbands’ professions.  Posh is married to soccer god David Beckham, and Cheryl Cole is divorced from Becks’ former teammate Ashley Cole–why do I know this?!) were a manufactured girl group from nowhere, who burst onto the scene with color, and excitement, and posturing, and nonsensical lyrics, and “Girl Power, feminism, blah blah blah!”  They were all platform heels, insane hair, and performance art, comprised of one really good vocalist (Melanie Chisolm, Mel C a/k/a Sporty, sadly, also the least charismatic of the group), three decent vocalists, and Posh (the one who struggled in all areas, save looking good.) 

Girls Aloud were formed by process of elimination on Popstars the Rivals, a precursor to the X Factor (from when Cher Lloyd came), with one of the Spice Girls (Gerri Haliwell a/k/a Ginger Spice) as part of the judging panel (again, why do I know this?!)  They burst onto the scene with glorious beauty, and lip gloss, and nonsensical lyrics, and erm…lip gloss!  They were all luscious hair extensions, and false eyelashes, and wind machines, comprised of one excellent vocalist (Nadine Coyle), three middling vocalists, and Cheryl Cole (the one who struggled in all areas, save looking good.  Even Ginger Spice said so!)

The Spice Girls were in on the joke.  They had carefully and definitively cultivated images, but they weren’t just the image.  They came to work.  They came to perform.  They came to show you a good time.  And if you laughed?  Well, they were laughing, too.  Spice World, anyone?  (If you have not seen Spice World, you are truly missing out.  I mean this sincerely.)  They were successful because they came to entertain YOU.  They were focused on pleasing YOU.  They played to the audience.

Girls Aloud had little to no sense of humor.  Their carefully cultivated image was glossy video sex appeal.  Aside from Nadine’s vocals, the group didn’t have anything much different from lingere models, and their imaged was propped up for the audience to admire.  They were serious about achieving celebrity, and there was no joking about their images.  (I cannot find the interview they did with Russell Brand, where he throws them for a loop, calling the least attractive of the group the most beautiful, and ignoring the two most popular.  He negs Nadine so effectively, I expected her to climb into his lap for attention the first time I saw it.)

So which would you rather go see?  A group of middling singers who perform and engage, and work to bring you entertainment, or a group of middling singers who perform and pose, and work to look attractive, expecting that to be enough?  And don’t get me wrong, Girls Aloud are gorgeous, but no way in hell would Nadine Coyle be making Spice World.

It’s the same thing with Cher and Cheryl.  Cher, though a poor singer, is a brilliant performer.  She is engaging and energetic, and she is working her tail feathers off to bring you a good time.  She wants to perform because she loves the audience.  Cheryl is beautiful, and she clearly works at making the best of what she has vocally, and she clearly works hard at learning her performance.  But she performs because she wants you to love her.

Spice Girls/Cher Lloyd=Want You to Love the Show They are Doing for You

Girls Aloud/Cheryl Cole=Want You to Love Them

And you know what the American market loves?  A good time.  You show us a good time, and we will love you.  We will zigga-zig-ah your socks off with appreciation, no matter how goofy your hair is.

That’s how to break the American market.  Just like a helicopter!