Sticks and Stones (stylized as Sticks + Stones for its European release and Sticks & Stones for its United States and Australian release) is the debut studio album by English recording artist Cher Lloyd. It was released on 7 November 2011 through Syco Records. The first official release from Lloyd since finishing fourth on The X Factor a year prior. Lloyd worked with various producers and songwriters for her first full-length release, including The Runners, Kevin Rudolf and Savan Kotecha, among others. Lloyd co-wrote five songs on the tracklisiting. Lloyd herself called the album a "jukebox."
The album was released on 2 October 2012 in the United States through Epic Records.Sticks + Stones debuted at number four in the United Kingdom, selling 55,668 copies and number nine in the United States, selling around 33,000 copies. The album received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. The album has sold over 300,000 copies in the United Kingdom, and over 168,000 in the US.
The album was preceded by lead single for the album, released 29 July 2011. The single peaked at number two on the Irish Singles Chart and topped the Scottish and the UK Singles Chart. "With Ur Love" was confirmed the second single from the album and was released on 30 October 2011, and became the Lloyd's second consecutive top five single in both countries, peaking at number four and five in the United Kingdom and Ireland. "Want U Back" featuring American rapper Astro was released as the third single on 19 February 2012.
Critical reception for the album has been mixed. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 51, based on 8 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
The Sun stated: "It's a real mixed bag of an album, with some solid pop songs on the tracklisting. Cher's sound works best when it's light and poppy on songs Grow Up, End Up Here and Superhero – which remind you of early Lily Allen." Allmusic gave the album three out of five stars, they said: "When Lloyd stops trying so hard, she's actually a pretty compelling pop star. "Want U Back" and "End Up Here" are both infectious examples of cutesy pure pop that recall Britney Spears" adding "At times, Sticks + Stones sounds like such a calculated effort to copy everything that's hot in 2011 that it's likely to feel utterly irrelevant by the time the clock strikes 12 on New Year's Eve." BBC Music gave the album a positive review, they said: "Cher has a natural and charismatic vocal presence throughout" and ultimately called it "A sassy, splashy modern pop album that's much better than its dodgy lead single". Digital Spy awarded the album 4 out of 5 stars, they said: "Want U Back", "With Ur Love", "Playa Boi" and "Grow Up" are all tracks worthy of downloading, and went on to praise "Dub on the Track" as "loaded with attitude that few could pull off". Virgin Media gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, they said: "Sticks + Stones is a very pleasant shock. It's sparky and restless and sustains Lloyd's mini rapping firebrand/cute crooner aesthetic through a quickfire run of 10 top-notch songs." MSN Music gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, they said: "first single 'Swagger Jagger' seems like a deliberate invitation to ridicule." "Current single 'With Ur Love', a plaintive slice of R&B-infused pop with a big fat shiny chorus, plays to her strengths far better. 'Beautiful People', a collaboration with Swedish pop-rockers Carolina Liar, similarly showcases her strong vocals, Cher Lloyd could yet emerge as a pop star with real longevity." NME gave the album two and a half out of five stars, they said: ‘Grow Up’, a grossly irritating slice of tweenish ragga-pop driven home with are-we-there-yet insistency,still-hideous ‘Swagger Jagger’ and bulldozing dubstep territory on ‘Dub On The Track’ but when Sticks + Stones stops charging about the place, there’s evidence to suggest Cher is actually quite good at this pop malarkey. ‘Want U Back’ is a sassy bit of bubble-drunk pop, while ‘End Up Here’ finds Cher adopting a Beyoncé-aping vocal style with not-at-all-bad results.
In the US, the album was met with generally positive reception. Idolator awarded the album 3.5 out 5, praising tracks "Superhero" and "Playa Boi" as "exciting and fresh" and calling "With Ur Love" "deliciously light and sweet, buoyed by Max Martin‘s razor hook". They closed the review by saying "This reviewer has watched Lloyd’s The X Factor audition video dozens of times without ever getting bored of it. That means I’m a big fan of Cher Lloyd, but it also means I have unreasonably high expectations".The Daily Californian gave the album a positive review, saying that the album "s delightful confirmation that she’s the freshest, not to mention spunkiest pop artist around". They then laid heavy praise on the song "Grow Up", stating that it is "the album’s best moment" and went on to say that it "sees Lloyd rapping her verses a la Nicki Minaj before showcasing her singing in an extraordinarily charming chorus". They closed the review saying "Cool as can be and sassy to boot, Lloyd is here to stamp her small yet authoritative footprint on pop music’s world stage".Entertainment Weekly also gave the album a positive review, awarded it a B grade. They wrote "With her manic lowbrow sass — tiresome at length but lovable on singles like Want U Back — she makes these street-laced pop tracks her own in Sticks & Stones". Discussing Lloyd herself, they said she "has enough charisma for both sides of the Atlantic". They also declared "Swagger Jagger" and "Want U Back" the best tracks.Glamour also praised the album. They said that "While Sticks & Stones isn't an album that will change the world, its radio-ready dance-pop and high-spirited energy is harmless and infectious enough to earn her an army of new fans in America", and laid heavy praise on "Oath" and "Behind the Music".
In the United States, the album sold 32,948 copies in its opening week, and was ranked at number nine on the Billboard 200. The album has sold 168,000 copies in the United States so far and more than 600,000 copies sold worldwide.
"Swagger Jagger", the album's lead single, first leaked onto the internet on 15 June 2011. The single was released on 31 July 2011, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart on 7 August 2011. As of December 2011, the single sales have exceeded 220,000 copies.
"With Ur Love", the album's second single, features vocals from American singer Mike Posner. The single was released on 30 October 2011. The single peaked at number five in Ireland, number four in the United Kingdom and number three in Scotland. It has since sold well over 200,000 copies. A solo version of the song without Posner was the third single from the album in US, and a different video was filmed for it.
"Want U Back" was released as the third official single from the album. It has sold over 120,000 copies in the UK. The British single version features vocals from American rapper Astro. The single was released on 19 February 2012. Parris directed the video. A solo version of the song without Astro served as Lloyd's debut single in the United States, released on Epic Records, run by her manager, L.A. Reid. The song sold around 2,000,000 copies, being certified double-platinum in America. 'Back' is Lloyd's successful single to date.
"Oath", produced by Dr. Luke and Cirkut, will be released as the second US Single in 4 October 2012. The track features American rapper-songwriter Becky G (known as Rebbeca Gomez). It's sold around 500,000 copies in the US, being certified Gold. The track was released as single in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand only.