Thursday 24 October 2013

John Newman - Tribute

Soul music has certainly had something of a renaissance over the last few years, with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele and Plan B at the forefront.  More recently, Rudimental fused soul with dub-step on their album 'Home' - an album that introduced us to singer John Newman with lead singles Feel The Love and Not Giving In.  Now he's going solo with his debut album, 'Tribute'.

The title is a fitting one, this being a tribute to the artists that inspired him.  That's made immediately apparent with the opening title track, which lists the great soul singers through the ages from Nina Simone to...Newman himself?  Whilst it's far too early to place Newman within this pantheon of singers, it's certainly a brave move that reveals his ambition.

For the most part, however, the album appears to be a tribute to Rudimental - the group who 'made' him.  Lead single Love Me Again features a dynamic beat beneath the horns and dramatic strings, even descending into a dub-step style drop in the middle eight.  Sadly, this formula is repeated frequently throughout 'Tribute': from current single Cheating, to the Emeli Sande-esque Gold Dust and the trip-hop beat of Goodnight, Goodbye to name a few.

Within this disappointingly repetitive approach lie a few standout tracks.  The yearning chorus melodies and heartbreaking lyrics of both Easy and Out Of My Head are stunning, whilst piano ballad Down The Line shows a softer side to the singer.  As the only ballads on the album, they present the strongest evidence as to the potential of Newman's soulful vocal.  Try, meanwhile, might follow the same approach as previous releases but the house piano riff and catchy chorus hook suggest this is surely the next single.

The major sticking point with 'Tribute', however, is Newman's vocal.  Quite possibly the most marmite vocal in the current charts, his voice is something of an acquired taste with his unique, rough tone.  Over the course of the whole album, his bleating definitely grates with a general lack of dynamic range, although the production is partly to blame, rarely allowing Newman any degree of subtlety.  It's this that separates the great from the greatest - something Newman will need to develop if he's to be remembered amongst the artists he so dearly covets.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Love Me Again
* Easy
* Out Of My Head

Listen: 'Tribute' is available now.