Is the glass half-full or half-empty? For John Newman it’s probably half-full of vodka after a row with his girlfriend has left him home alone to mull things over.
The Rudimental collaborator’s first album is a break-up record with loneliness as its leitmotif. But musically it’s optimistic: sumptuous pop with horns and trumpets wrapped in swathes of strings.
He’s already topped the UK charts twice, once with the second track here ‘Love Me Again’ – an anthemic mixture of northern soul and near-’90s jungle drumming that everyone and their nan with the dodgy hip would struggle not to dance to. And there’s plenty more cross-generational appeal where that came from.
Newman’s brilliant at fusing retro influences with modern dance energy. ‘Cheating’ (video below) is a sure-fire hit, blending big beats and a brass section, while endearing lyrics detailing a partner’s infidelities add humane depth too.
‘Out Of My Head’ is a candid piano-ballad about alcoholism that proves there are no throwaway song-writing lines, and ‘Running’ is a surging highlight with choral harmonies.
He’s no dilettante of the genres he’s playing with either. On ‘Tribute’ Newman lists iconic acts who’ve inspired him, and it is this Motown knowledge that provides a rich tapestry for the musical ideas.
One downside: things swing perilously close to Plan B’s cinematic ‘…Strickland Banks’ concept record, and Newman’s vocal tone is similar to fellow soulful singer Maverick Sabre. He’s unwittingly entering a crowded market, but this record should ensure he stands out.
Words: Simon Butcher
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Stream tracks by John Newman via Deezer, below…