Revolve – John Newman (2015)

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“Revolve” is the second studio album from Yorkshire born British singer/songwriter John Newman.

Newman shot to prominence after featuring on the track “Feel The Love” with Rudimental and then a massive solo hit “Love Me Again” from his debut album.

Newman’s style is taken from the Northern Soul sound with the instrumentation being heavy with horns and all round Motown flair.

The formula used on the debut album is pretty much followed with perhaps the use of the backing singing choir used on a number of tracks the slight difference.

Newman’s voice is certainly suited to these feel good, danceable, sometimes shouty and repetitive numbers. My problem with the album I liken to cooking a meal. If every day you have the same ingredients no matter what different meals you will make essentially you are consuming the same thing and that is how I feel about “Revolve”.

But that’s not say I don’t like it. If the ingredients were good then you’re naturally going to enjoy what you are given and Newman delivers to the best of his ability.

The opening track “Revolve” is an intro which has British actor Idris Elba addressing the public with a speech about how people are resilient and strong. It’s a little cringeworthy and seems a little out of place on such an album.

We then go straight into “All My Heart” although Newman sings it as “All My Arrrrrt” as his diction continues to be an issue.

The voice that Newman sings with can’t be his real voice. I can never believe that he woke up one day and just naturally sung like that. Similar to Welsh songstress Duffy, the retro put on vocal runs it course and this is why Newman and other British singer Sam Smith have moved further and further apart despite having the same basic starting point.

“All My Heart” is a typical Newman structured song. It’s upbeat and sounds like “Love Me Again”.

“Something Special” starts off with a piano, finger click and Newman coming in with this anthemic lyric of “Something feels kind of special”. Lyrically the song is a tad anaenmic with the verse of:

“I can’t give you what you want
I know that we can not move on
Something feels kinda special
So tell me why”

I’m not interested in why but to what the hell you are on about John. Something feels kind of special is the chorus yet in the verse we seem to be talking about a relationship breaking up.

“Lights Down” is a solid track. It’s production style again is “Love Me Again”. I know if something works then you might well revisit it but he seems to really be flogging this one.

Like a number of songs on the album the first minute is interesting but then the repetitiveness nature of the lyrics kick in. On this one we have Newman continuing to sing:

“I can feel it with the lights down baby, with the lights down baby, no, no”

“Come And Get It” is a excellent track. It’s funky and vocally the way the song is set works brilliantly. I am a big fan of this song and immediately it makes me nod my head with it’s funky bass driven stomping vibe. The guitar rift used throughout really adds something and will get stuck in your head.

“Blame” was a song Newman did with UK Producer/DJ Calvin Harris. It was a hit and reached number one. Newman took the decision to include it on this album which artists tend to do when it doesn’t fit the style of their album (take Sam Smith with La La La on his ballad laden album “In The Lonely Hour).

It’s never been a song I was particularly interested in despite the amount of airplay the song received. It doesn’t help that I’m almost allergic to the Calvin Harris, Avicii, David Guetta sound that bastardized dance music with this regurgitated lazy euro dance sound but that’s for another blog.

“Never Give It Up” is another example of when it works it really works. This song encapsulates what Newman does well which is catchy numbers with good hooks and a little bit of soul.

“Tiring Game” is the best song on “Revolve” by such a way it dwarfs the other tracks in how good it is. It features the vocals of Soul singer and all round legend Charlie Wilson.

Having always been a fan of Wilson from his days as lead singer of The Gap Band this track was always going to speak to me. The start of the song sees Wilson deliver the lines superbly and the song then takes on a new path and goes into this funky soulful dance number.

It’s a complete anthem and was my second favourite song released in 2015. Newman really kills it on the verses and flows over the beat exquisitely. Lyrically it is much the same theme as the rest of the album which is about relationships and the frustrations they can provide.

This song immediately makes me feel good and that I think is what it was designed to do. The album will get an extra mark on the rating just for “Tiring Game” alone.

“Give You My Love” really takes from the 70’s funky blues scene. The song is bleached in retro vibes which Newman seems to make no apologies for as he clearly is a massive fan of the northern soul and american R&B scene.

This song follows the same chanting anthemic vibe which “Tiring Game” had given us.

“I’m Not Your Man” is not a continuation of “If I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars but it could be . It could simply be set three years later. In fact after a few listens I am convinced that Newman has taken from that song.

This is the only ballad on the album. It exposes Newman’s voice which is as marmite as you are going to hear in modern day pop music. For me it just sounds too put on and whilst I was pleased that this song at least offered some variation I just do not buy the desperation he tries to convey.

“Killing Me” sounds pretty much like 90% of the rest of the album. It all seems to blur into one with the identical production of big horns, guitars and chanting in the chorus. The lyrics are about frustrated love again.

“We All Get Lonely” has a more disco vibe running through it and is certainly a funky number. Its one of the better tracks on the set which has struggled to find songs that distinguish themselves from each other. This track doesn’t really do enough to change that but it’s certainly another upbeat feel good song.

 

You could leave “Revolver” on and not really have a clue what track number you were on as they nearly all sound familiar. But then if you like just one of the songs it is likely that you are going to like them all.

Newman needs to change try and find some variation in his music style otherwise he is never going to develop as an artist. There has to be more in his locker than just the diet soul music he is perpetuating. Perhaps the severley fake vocal he uses is what is stopping him?

 

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