Setting the pace for X Factor runners up when he came second in 2009 (seriously, One Direction came third the year after and look at them now), Olly Murs has stuck around the scene as pop’s resident nice guy. Back when Robbie Williams was almost still a bad boy and less of a national treasure, Olly Murs sailed out with cheeky Essex charm and a clean-cut grin and enjoyed a slew of number one records, huge sales, and radio hits. Marry Me is his first record in a little while, bar a long slew of remixes and best hits, and it jars slightly because it feels like it’s missing those best hits.
From the upbeat swing of ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ to the earworm groove of ‘Troublemaker’, Olly Murs knows how to do catchy in a way that doesn’t follow trends. He’s a pop star, in the most classical sense of the word, and has long stuck to his guns and stood by his classic pop songwriter sound. And so it goes on ‘Marry Me’, as well – throwing in a bit of extra sparkle in the form of instrumentation from steel drums on sunny opener ‘Die Of A Broken Heart’, a bit of extra edge in the spiky riffs on ‘Do Me Like That…’ but ultimately keeping it straightforward, chorus-led goodness. What Marry Me lacks, though, is any sort of standout charm.
Nowhere is this more evident than on the title track – ‘Marry Me’ could almost, almost be a cheeky, self-confident love song with swagger. But where it almost rings endearingly, it doesn’t quite get over the edge, with “I think it’s time you marry me” playing more like the bloke you accidentally made eye contact with in your local than the winning, puppy-dog bravado we know Olly has. Somewhat more frustratingly, he comes far closer to achieving this on follow-up ‘Best Night Of Your Life’, which nails down its own tone with much more conviction.
And by no means does Marry Me lack catchy pop bangers either – they abound, in fact. ‘I Hate You When You’re Drunk’ is a toe-tapper (that wouldn’t feel out of place on a One Direction record, to be fair), stopped in its tracks by the awkward lyrical overtones. The most annoying thing the subject of the song seems to do is ‘take photographs’ and do shots, and a delightful hook is turned sour by the lyrics, which are inexplicably followed up by a bombastic LA LA LA LA bridge. What could have been a fun song is instead permeated by how little fun Murs seems able to have when the person he’s out with is enjoying themselves. Other honourable mentions to catchy bangers, fortunately less marred by grumpiness, include the airy ‘Go Ghost’, the actually quite Nothing But Thieves-y ‘I Found Her’ that interests just because it’s different, and the reggae buzz of ‘Die Of A Broken Heart’.
A reprieve almost comes on the album’s only slow jam, closer ‘Just Let Me Say’. It’s heartfelt, intimate, and pleasant – until the chorus comes and starts with what, after the rest of the record, feels like the equivalent of “shut up, I’m talking, just one more thing, I still love you tho, do you like this song I wrote!” Sonically, it is quite pretty, packing in a few strings and lovely crescendos, and it’s a nice note to end on because Murs does sound pretty heartfelt. ‘Marry Me’ is brought down by the fact that most of it lives in this middle grey area – none of the bangers bang enough, none of the moody dance tunes hit hard enough, the singular ballad doesn’t strike an emotional chord despite Murs’s impassioned vocal performance. Whilst a valiant effort, ‘Marry Me’ just lacks whatever secret ingredient injected the rest of Murs’s discography with its listenability.
Words: Ims Taylor