Craig David released his 6th studio album in September 2016 and his first album of original material since 2007.
Since he has been away UK black music has soared with acts that would have been greeted with much amusement back in 2000 (when David was at his peak) riding high in the charts.
Craig David will never be considered anything more than a joke to many because of the parody on TV show ‘Bo Selecta’ but I have always seen him as much more than that. I like artists who lead the way and Craig David led the way for UK garage (in the mainstream) and UK R&B at a time where there were no other successful UK based Male R&B singers.
He is now revered as a pioneer of this music and rightly so. He should be given the up-most respect for what he achieved with his debut album “Born To Do It” and the smart follow up “Slicker Than Your Average”.
Yes he did start to go a bit middle of the road after that as he attempted to appeal to a more Magic FM/Heart FM listener but what this new album shows is that Craig David is back and he can make good quality dance, R&B and 2 step garage music just as well as anyone out there today.
This is clearly exampled on the first track “Ain’t Giving Up” which is with dance artist Sigala. This is a slice of 90’s influenced piano laced dance music. It is probably my favourite track on the set. It may be a little predictable in it’s structure but David sounds so comfortable as he croons over a really smart track and one of my favourites of 2016.
In 2015 David dropped his comeback single “When The Bassline Drops” and it was met with a massively positive reaction. It was like we had been transported back to 2000/01 as it sounded as if it came from that time when Craig David was on the top of his game. When I first heard the song I could have sworn I was already aware of it but in fact it was a brand new composition.
It was no surprise that he did include it on this album as it fits perfectly. It’s a pure garage club track that is meant to get you dancing and that is exactly what it did for me.
The albums strength continues on the third track “Don’t Go”. I cannot find much information about this tracks producers as it sounds like a Wilkinson track with Becky Hill doing some backing vocals but there is no evidence to support this at all.
Regardless it is a stunner of a song. It’s more drum and bass in it’s instrumentation. The backing vocals act as the chorus and it creates an atmospheric and ethereal dance tune. It transports me to a club environment with my hands in the air getting lost in the music.
Earlier in 2016 David had made an appearance on BBC Radio 1xtra with a live performance doing a remix of Justin Bieber’s “Where Are You Now” with his own track from 2000 “Fill Me In”. This grabbed a lot of peoples attention because the then new rap spin he put on the song seemed extremely fresh. On this project it is simply called “16”.
I was surprised to see this included on this album and whilst it doesn’t pack the same punch as it did when you see him do it live for the first time it is still a welcome inclusion.
The production on the Bieber track from Skrillex was always one I liked and I said this much in my review of Bieber’s album Purpose – Justin Bieber (2015)
Again this is Craig David appealing to the new audience that has appeared in his absence with a snapshot of his own song “Fill Me In”. Lyrically his rap comes across a little naff which I always felt his rapping did. His switch from crooning soul man to street thug is a little difficult to get past but I still did some head banging when I heard this track. It’s so lyrically hollow yet I find myself excited by the whole thing.
“Couldn’t Be Mine” is the first track which is non dance. It’s the first time we have heard him sing an R&B track for quite some time. The feel of this track really takes me back to his debut album. He has never been a very clever wordsmith but his tacky way of putting lyrics together sometimes work and overall it doesn’t sound too badly on a song which talks about a girl he has slept with a few times and she is now pregnant.
What if it turns out I was wrong? (No baby, no baby)
And I’ve been fooling myself all along (No baby no no)
This couldn’t be happening to me, No no no baby
But we can’t talk about this on the phone
“One More Time” was the second single released upon his comeback. It follows the same tried and tested garage formula but overall just isn’t a great track. David has used the number counting thing before and starting any song with “1,2,3,4,5” seems a bit lazy.
Again the rapping is a little cringe-worthy and the lyrics are all meaningless. The weakest track up until this point.
Track 7 is “Change My Love” sees David go back to the acoustic guitar backing that he used successfully on tracks such as “7 Days”. But this track doesn’t have a great hook like that particular song and this is just all a bit boring. It is as tepid as you will hear from David as the lyrics are all so very tired about how even if things get hard nothing will change his love for this person.
“Nothing Like This” was released as a single by dance group ‘Blonde’ who themselves had been on a streak of chart hits with “I Loved You More” and “All Cried Out”. What this album has shown is that the top dance production teams of today are perfectly suited to the style that David has. I can only imagine what would happen if he teamed up with Disclosure.
As for ‘Nothing Like This’ the songs structure is what I have heard from Blonde before and David is able to effortlessly sing in his quick style whilst breaking things down to create complete control.
“Got It Good” is a song that was released under the producer “Kaytranada” with David providing vocals. A more hip hip inspired beat with some Asian female backing wailing filling the space in the back ground. David again sounds more than happy to be on a track such as this and certainly shows he can give the American R&B singers a run for their money.
The song starts off well but soon becomes tiresome and never goes anywhere.
“All I Needed” is the most stripped down song on the album. The instrumentation goes for a more classic feel with a piano and string section playing over David’s ballad. It’s too lukewarm for my lacking and lacking any soul.
“Louder Than Words” is a bit of a mess. It starts off so bizarrely I had to listen to it twice to get my head around the change in tact. Then a big beat kicks in as David spits out some angry lyrics about a girl. So many of the lyrics all sound the same and the chorus sounds terribly out of place. More tired themes of actions speaking louder than words doesn’t really move things forward.
“What If” sees some scatters Timbaland sounding beats as Craig David shows his more street R&B side again. Quick lyrics then slowed down for the Pre chorus is a trait of his music. Again the song suffers from originality but David works it well.
The penultimate track is “Feeling Like A Fan”. <sigh>. The song starts with a more moody production which perks my interest. David sounds clear and a little bit more youthful on this track. He begins to tell a story but by the chorus the whole thing falls apart as he is moaning about having a one night stand and dealing with the fact that it is the girl that has just got up and left without saying goodbye when it is usually him that does this.
He actually questions whether he is a man anymore because this girl has simply just left. It is quite remarkable that lyrics like this exist.
“Better With You” is the final cut on the album. Again it’s lyrically weak and very old hat.
The trouble with a song like this is that you would expect it more from Olly Murs which would be acceptable as this is the type of track he is trying to make but with Craig David one moment he is doing “When The Bassline drops” as he puts out a club banger then it’s “Better with you”. It’s not just showing his sensitive side it just goes in a confused direction.
So was this album worth the wait? Tracks 1-8 are mainly very strong especially the first three which are among some of the best Dance tracks I’ve heard this year.
When David gets it right he makes superbly infectious tunes but sadly the rest of the album is filler and bad filler at that. It’s the wrong side of corny and the lackluster production and weak lyrics just make it all a bit painful to listen to.
But as I say the first half of the album is a real winner and if he had cut it down to 8 tracks he would have released one of my favourite albums of the year.
Still, i’m glad Craig David is back.