It can’t be denied that Lewis Capaldi knows his way around a pop ballad.
His two most recent singles are both sitting comfortably in the UK top 10 as of writing. The smash hit piano ballad ‘Someone You Loved’ has only just fallen off the top spot after a seven-week reign.
His knack for searing lyrical honesty is no less on display on his debut record, released on super-label Virgin EMI. But this isn’t enough to save it from its milquetoast instrumentation, or, worse, occasional dullness.
Most people probably know Lewis Capaldi through his extensive social media presence, through which he displays an easy-going, self aware sense of humour.
A recent Instagram video has him purring ‘Hello, ladies’, while strutting about in a freshly-bought tracksuit. In a billboard promotion campaign, he hilariously declared himself the ‘Scottish Beyonce’. His unkempt locks would no doubt instantly disqualify him a place in a boy band.
Describing himself as ‘Divinely Uninspired’ in his debut record’s title shows more wink-and-nudge self-deprecation.
This is at odds with the raw power of his voice, which is one hell of an instrument, ranging from spine-chilling falsetto highs to husky lows.
He’s on fine form in folky, stomp-along opener ‘Grace’, which marks a confident start. It leaves you eager to see what follows.
It’s a pity, then, that ‘Grace’ is followed by the unremarkable ‘Bruises’, essentially an inferior re-tread of the opening track which adds little to the album as a whole.
The next two tracks are the singles, ‘Someone You Loved’, and ‘Hold Me While You Wait’ which form the emotional core of the record. Both of these are lyrical gut-punches to make Adele weep, and even recall Elton John at this most morose.
‘Did we come close to having it all?’ ponders Capaldi, in ‘Hold Me While You Wait’, knowing his love is slipping through his fingers.
Wannabe Radio Singles
The album spends much of its run time trying to recapture this bottled lightning, and fails in the attempt.
The likes of ‘One,’ ‘Forever’ and ‘Lost On You’ come across as imperfect clones of the single. It’s as if they grew in the same test-tube, but were crushed against the glass.
The album’s principal problem is that it’s overpopulated by dull wannabe radio singles, all packed together and jostling for attention.
Each of them hovers around the golden length of three minutes and thirty seconds, and each of them follow the same formula.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, except that the weaker efforts draw impact from the stronger, and make parts of the album a repetitive slog.
The Roots Of Experimentation
Some of the album’s strongest moments come when Lewis Capaldi dares to tear up the pop formula.
The bluesy sway of ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ marks a soulful late-album highlight. ‘Fade’ is a beautiful, intense slow burner that showcases Capaldi’s high notes.
Divinely Uninspired…also ends on a high with the five-minute ‘Headspace’. The sparse guitar allows some of his finest lyrics (‘I can take the hit, but sorry, I can’t take the bruise’) to shine through.
This is Lewis Capaldi at his most unfiltered, and perhaps least studio-influenced. It’s almost enough to offset the inevitable, godawful EDM remixes of ‘Someone You Loved’ that have surfaced in his wake. The album’s closer promises great things from him in the future, and you should all keep an eye on him.
Browse Away From Lewis Capaldi
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