Everything about Lewis Capaldi’s rise is incongruous. Looking en masse at the pop landscape, its endless cavalcade of BRIT School kids, with their model looks and perfect choreography, he sticks out a mile. He’s an outlier, someone who doesn’t quite fit in – and yet he does, undoubtedly, to a record-breaking extent. Debut album ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ smashed its way to the pinnacle of the charts, its global inferno lit by Lewis Capaldi’s earnest songwriting, and his phenomenal social media persona. People believed in the songs, but they also believed in Lewis Capaldi.
So, where does he go next? ‘Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent’ – a tongue twister if ever we heard one – plays it safe, doubling down on the formula that made his debut so beloved by fans, while making only subtle changes. He’s the master of the First Dance Song, an expert at the messy break-up cry, and that fine line in self-deprecating humour remains intact. There’s a lack of daring, but this second album certainly delivers on fan-pleasing trickery.
He is, undoubtedly, a master at what he does. ‘Forget Me’ raced to No. 1 within seconds of its release, its colour and vitality charming fans. It’s straight down-the-line Sheeran pop, delivered with real panache, and no small degree of emotion. Songs like ‘Pointless’ and ‘Wish You The Best’ drop the tempo, returning you to that familiar Capaldi stumble – they’re affecting, but don’t add anything new to his story.
Where the album does dare to be different, Lewis Capaldi shows a genuine intrigue in the inner workings of songs and sonics. The buzzy electronics that open ‘Heavenly State Of Mind’ are a scarily accurate mirror to anxiety, while closer ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is a rousing, Springsteen-esque piece of stadium bombast. That the lyrics are so carefully, explicitly hewn from his own life simply makes it all the more affecting.
It would be churlish to say that everything here hits home. Clash isn’t the target audience, for one, and this isn’t a record that takes overt chances. ‘The Pretender’ is perfectly pleasant, but doesn’t eclipse his debut; ‘How This Ends’ meanwhile is a dulcet strum-along that never quite ignites.
Maybe the reason Lewis Capaldi is successful is the reason he’s so easy to mock – hell, he does it often enough himself. He’s a pop interloper, someone who puts his feelings right out there, for better or worse. It’s impossible to deny such a likable, human figure his success, but this feels slightly too close to his debut to be truly considered a further chapter.
Words: Robin Murray