John Newman is bringing a Motown flair to mainstream music with his chart topping singles such as ‘Love Me Again’ from his first album ‘Tribute’ and ‘Come and Get It’ from his recent second album Revolve. Newman featured in Rudimental’s single ‘Feel The Love’ which showcased his unique soulful voice and style reminiscent of Plan B, overshadowed by Sam Smith and clearly influenced by soul legends such as Sam Cooke.
Revolve peaked at number three on the charts and includes a cheesy intro song featuring Idris Elba and the single ‘Tiring Game’ featuring vocals from RnB singer Charlie Wilson. On first hearing the album, it’s difficult to distinguish between non-single tracks. Each song is undeniably catchy, but only because the chorus is repeated tirelessly. ‘I can’t feel it with the lights down baby with the lights down’ for example is the lyric that makes up most of the track ‘Lights Down’. It feels like this song, as well as others such as ‘All My Heart’ and ‘Never Give It Up’ are just album fillers, created as a sassy yet lax background to the spectacles of the singles. They’re made up of a continuous loop of the same lyric, but each song, especially ‘Something Special’ is tremendously energetic and feel-good. If only the song titles weren’t the mantra that dooms that song to a monotonous cycle of refrains.
“Each song is undeniably catchy, but only because the chorus is repeated tirelessly”
Tracks such as ‘I’m Not Your Man’ are dramatically heartbreaking, a slow song needed to balance out the ecstatic vibes of the rest of the album. ‘We All Get Lonely’ is possibly the best example of Newman attempting to resemble 60s soul with the background chorus singing, the fast tempo, tambourines, clapping and a heavy beat. It’s loud and flamboyant and euphoric, summing up the vigour of the album overall. Though the lyrics aren’t all that imaginative, it could be forgiven with Newman’s distinct voice. It stands out as husky yet effortlessly soulful, far different from the indistinguishable voices of popular music currently. Then again, some have likened it the noise of a ‘dying goat’ rather than a revival of Motown. It’s easy to see it from both sides.
Though it’s not traditional, Newman’s dramatic attempt at a modern take on soul in Revolve, and his previous ‘Tribute’ may make you interested in the 60s mod scene and the Northern Soul movement, much to the utter distaste of real original mods who would deem Newman’s mainstream music as detrimental to original soul, due to it’s popularity. The album is hit and miss, it maybe more bearable than some monotonous chart music and more easily distinguishable, and it’s certainly ‘danceable’ if not a bit meaninglessly repetitive.
Emily is currently listening to ‘Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.