Or so we said when Victoria Beckham's 'Not Such An Innocent Girl' stalled at - gasp! - number six in September 2001. The future's looking rosier for Cheryl Cole, whose first solo offering, 'Fight For This Love', is set to become the year's fastest-selling single. Of course, her Spicey predecessor never had The X Factor as a launch platform, but the disparity in performance can't solely be explained by one of them having licence to lip Simon Cowell in front of ten million viewers. Even Posh's staunchest supporters wouldn't claim she's "The Nation's Sweetheart", a title that rests remarkably comfortably on Chezza's glossy shoulders. Whatever may have happened in that Guildford nightclub, and despite the looming threat of over-exposure, people really like the Geordie girl made good.
This affection will come in handy when they hear 3 Words. It's not a bad record, but nor is it a modern pop classic to rival the best Girls Aloud albums. Buffed by a boss team of knob-twiddlers, including Will.i.am and Soulschock & Karlin, it's a collection of cool, contemporary pop-R&B tunes that takes a few plays to reveal its charms. The only instant hit is 'Stand Up', a Taio Cruz-penned club banger, but it's easy to see why Cole dithered on the other track he offered her. 'Break Your Heart' may have gone on to become a No.1 smash, but its Europop stomp would seem a tad flashy in the present company - like a WAG at a charity polo match.
However, there's no denying that several tracks do reward repeated listening – just like Fight, Fight, Fight… of course. Strings and sweet nothings make for a cute combination on 'Parachute', 'Rain On Me' is a glorious slice of heartbreak disco, and the clubby throb of the title track is pretty infectious once you get to grips with its unusual, 'I Gotta Feeling'-style song structure. (Hearing Will.i.am sing about "having some babies together" may prove a little harder to handle.)
Then again, even when the music is less compelling, the intense, relationship-focused lyrics tend to hold your attention. Listeners who nod knowingly when Cole sings "Love ain't no walk in the park" on the single will lap up lines like: "I can't take this s**t any more" and "Why should I stay here when you're always gone?" elsewhere on the album. Even love songs like 'Parachute' and 'Don't Talk About This Love' have an intriguing hint of paranoia to them. "The less they know, the less they judge," Cole sings on the latter. She didn't write it, but you can see why she'd want to sing it.
Still, you'll need a lot of affection for Cole to overlook the album's cringier interludes - the way she sings "with you" as "witchu" on 'Heaven', 'Happy Hour's array of ropey couplets, the shameless plug for Taio Cruz's Rokstarr sunglasses that sullies 'Stand Up'. Then there's the singing. She's never going to be Shirley Bassey, and Auto-Tune is used judiciously throughout, but an identifiable voice does emerge by the end. It's a little bit husky, quite a bit sexy and incapable of sounding anything less than 100% sincere. Just like the Cheryl we know and love, her fans will be happy to note.