Divinely Uninspired to A Hellish Extent – Lewis Capaldi (2019)

 

As I write this review the debut album from Lewis Capaldi “Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent” is in it’s second week at number one on the UK album chart. It went Gold in its first week of release and is the fasting selling debut album of any UK artist for eight years.

I am aware of Lewis Capaldi through his social media where his Scottish wit comes across very different from other artists and he seems funny and relatable. It’s refreshing to see a pop music artist engage with his following in such a way where he is clearly living the dream and not taking himself too seriously.

But what about his music? The sales cannot simply be about his humorous ways and funny Instagram videos. People must actually like his music, but this is where I start to question my own sanity because I cannot for the life of me understand his mass appeal.

Sure, there has always been a market for middle of the road mellow pop music where a white singer/songwriter skirts around folk music to make a pleasant pop ballad in isolation but to be the hottest property in UK Pop music in this current time astounds me.

This isn’t really a criticism of Capaldi himself as it is not his fault that people are buying his album like they are hot cakes, but it is more of a snapshot of just where the music buying public are at with pop music in 2019.

It is Ed Sheeran who has kicked this middle of the road man with a guitar thing off in terms of major popularity and this has been amplified with the likes of George Ezra doing similar things. Both these artists are now capable of headlining big music festivals yet if you had told me 10 years ago that it was this type of artist who would replace the big rock bands or progressive pop artists I would have baulked at the beigeness of what music would become.

This album from Lewis Capaldi is set out to give you the same song again and again. A heart wrenching ballad about lost love and the pain the protagonist is feeling is just replicated 12 times with the gravelly shouty voice of Capaldi making sure you know just how hurt and lost he really is.

His personality outside his music seems at odds to what we hear on this album as there is no humour or light moments. Just songs about pain and aguish and the how can I go on ramblings.

It’s bland music. So very bland and I find the rise of such bland music a horrible inditement of music in the UK today and the stunting of progressive pop music and pop artists in favour of such safe music is a sad day.

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“Grace” kicks off with Capaldi shouting about not wanting a relationship to end as he begs the other person not to take their grace away. The instrumental sounds similar to Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and there are a number of comparisons you can make to the music of Adele as the formula she perfected is shamelessly called upon.

The 2nd track is “Bruises”, and this is one of the stronger points on the album and if I had to pick a favourite song (which believe me would be some ask) I would probably give this my vote. One of the many piano ballads the strength of the song is in the chorus where his vocal and the lyrics marry up well.

Lyrically the song is about the end of a relationship which is basically the whole theme of the album.

“Hold Me Like You Wait” is a piano ballad about (you guessed it) a break up.  Capaldi explained in an interview that this song was about being with a girl for 6 months and she then told him that she wants to break up and she hates him. He said this in a perfect Scottish story telling way and was extremely funny to listen to him get across what this song was about but if you just listen to this song with out that context you will never understand that he is coming from a place of humour.

This is a just a bog-standard song about not wanting to break up with some one and laying out all your feelings in a way to keep with you. It’s another shouty song that by the end had my ears hurting.

“Someone You Loved” is the song that catapulted Capaldi to stardom. Every few years you get a song like this that middle of the road stations like Magic FM or Smooth Radio will treat as their anthems.

The tone of the piano is always a winner and is so similar to “Someone Like You” by Adele I can’t believe there haven’t been royalties paid to her as it follows such a familiar formula. Its so unadventurous and formulaic.

The song is about a past love that he misses and would like to get back with. This is the 4th song in a row that has had exactly the same story.

“Maybe” is another song where I struggle to enjoy because of the lack of singing. Unless you call the Pre Chorus and Chorus singing? Because I just hear shouting and when people have said to me “but his tone is so nice” I would point to this track as evidence to the contrary.

The theme of this song take a slight deviation from the previous four as he starts to talk about how his behaviour is the destructive force in his relationships and that it is he that gets in his own way of happiness.

“Forever” is a forgettable piano ballad but is one of the slushiest on the set with Capaldi pouring out his heart to someone he loves and that whilst he never went into the relationship talking about the future he feels he could be with this person forever. It’s like a diet Ed Sheeran track. And that is saying something.

“One” is about a breakdown of a relationship (surprise surprise) due to one of the two being generally quite horrible to the other and the song is coming from the perspective of the person who has been wrong. They are thanking the other for all the pain they caused because it has given them strength to move forward in life. I actually like the sentiment on this song without being over awed by the melody or the shouty vocal yet again.

The 8th track is “Don’t Get Me Wrong” which is not a cover of the track by the Pretenders where I actually think Capaldi may well have been able to pull off and would have given a bit of an uplifting feel to this sad and depressing album.

But alas it’s just another piano ballad about wanting to be with someone he cannot be with. At this point I’m becoming numb to hearing the same song again and again. I mean I understand that there are concept albums but offering a few more different perspectives and alternating situations might not go amiss.

“Hollywood” has lyrics such as ‘If you can hear me, does it really have to end’ which might give you an indication of what this song is about, again. It’s only 3.12m which is a blessing and the song has more of a beat than the others on this debut album. It takes from the George Ezra playbook in terms of production and melody and is certainly one of the more easy to listen to songs.

Brace yourselves because I actually like the next track “Lost On You”. Sounding so very similar to “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars the song also lyrically has a similar theme with Capaldi coming to terms that he is not the right person for this person who he loves and because he loves her so much he just wants her to be happy even if it is in the arms of another.

It’s a very pretty song and he sings this well although there is still this insistence on shouting some of the lyrics which he just does not need to do.

The penultimate song off the project is “Fade”. This is another piano ballad (and another time I have had to type those words) where Capaldi talks about being in a relationship with someone that they are now almost obsessed with and if they were to part he would miss all their traits both good and bad in a way that would almost kill him.

It’s so overly dramatic but in a way this over the top song is probably going to connect with a lot of people because sometimes being in love with someone seems so overwhelming the thought of being with out them feels as though you are being literally ripped apart.

The final track is “Headspace”. It’s another song which delves into the world of relationship looking at it in an most involuntary way where you cannot live without the other person. It’s not a very exciting song and goes on for what seems like an age. (over 5 minutes). The instrumental doesn’t really move and you are relying on enjoying his voice which I think I have put across that I just do not.

 

There are a few individual songs that if take in isolation are pleasant enough. This certainly isn’t an offensive album and it is not as though anyone will listen to one of these songs and feel repulsed because it’s all very sweet and nice.

But it is bland and it really is the same song over and over again.

There has to be more to modern pop music than this. It’s so very safe and it does concern me that pop music is going down this road where festivals will be headlined by the likes of George Ezra and Lewis Capaldi.

 

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