I first came across Raleigh Ritchie through watching Game of Thrones in which he plays the fearless slave warrior Grey Worm. However, one day a friend of mine pointed out that he was also a recording artist, and a great one at that. The first song I heard from of his was ‘Stronger Than Ever’, and while he wasn’t the greatest vocalist ever – the songwriting and production were impeccable and left me wanting more. So I kept tabs on him. I watched every YouTube video he released, I listened to every song I could find on Spotify and Apple Music, and even saw him live at No Tomorrow Festival joining the small crowd of 20 raving right at the front whilst everyone else sunbathed. So when I heard that he was ready to release his debut album I waited patiently. When it finally dropped I was not disappointed.
You’re A Man Now, Boy begins with ‘Werld is Mine’, which opens with an aery high pitched note with a recurring vocal sample, followed with a repeated piano chord which gives the song a bit of momentum. The song has an extremely strong hook, but somewhat loses momentum during the verses, and only ending so strong thanks to the addition of a horn section, which adds a very fun element to the track. The quality takes a steep upward turn on second track ‘Stronger than Ever’ though, which is possibly the strongest track on the LP. The epic nature allows it to feel more introductory than the other tracks on the record, and possibly would have made a better intro track than ‘Werld is Mine’.
Quite traditionally Raleigh has placed the arguably biggest cut on the album ‘Bloodsport 15’ third in the track listing. This song is beautiful. I challenge you to listen to this song more than three times and not finding yourself singing along. The single first appeared on the Black and Blue EP but was re-worked for this album and compares Raleigh’s relationship with someone to a bloodsport. ‘I Can Change’ is extremely soulful, Raleigh hits some beautiful falsettos, but on the chorus I feel there isn’t enough power in his voice and his vocal is somewhat overshadowed by the background gospel singer.
‘Keep it Simple’ sees the only feature of the album through two time Best Grime MOBO award winner Stormzy. Upon first listen I didn’t like the song at all. I thought the chorus was boring, the instrumental was basic and Stormzy was just doing his best Tinie Tempah impression. But once again eventually the song clicked. The chorus became beautiful, I saw the genius in the simplicity (if you pardon the pun) of the instrumental, and I realised how great Stormzy’s feature verse was. ‘The Greatest’ is another song I was familiar with prior to the album release which wonderfully captures the mood of a great house party with cool people hoping that you’ll be young forever (he wrote realising he has just over a year left of uni). Raleigh is almost chanting rather than singing which gives the song a fun pop appeal.
After this point though the songs become quite forgettable and I began to lose interest with ‘Never Better’, ‘Cowards’ and the title track ‘You’re a Man Now, Boy’ being songs that I found quite boring. There are no glaring flaws, but these tracks didn’t stand out at all and have very little replay value. The album picks up momentum again with ‘The Last Romance’, an ode to an extremely unhealthy relationship similar to the one mentioned in ‘Bloodsport’ and ‘Birthday’, leading me to me believe all three are about the same relationship. ‘Never Say Die’ meanwhile is what I’d call a perfect song. Soundwave absolutely outdid himself on production and the song is lyrically excellent. The choice of melody is wonderful and the break done at the end left me speechless upon first listen.
“‘Life in a Box’ is possibly one of the most awkward love songs I’ve ever heard…”
‘Life in a Box’ is another wonderful song, which is possibly one of the most awkward love songs I’ve ever heard which kind of reminds me of ‘Thinkin Bout You’ by Frank Ocean lyrically and in terms of its simple instrumentation. There is also genius in the simplicity of Raleigh’s vocals, where I’m sure a lot of other vocalists would have added unnecessary vocal techniques. Closing track ‘Stay Inside’ still feels somewhat underwhelming – but I have a feeling it will grow on me. I feel like ‘Birthday Girl’ would have made a much better closing track, leaving the album on a darker note.
All in all, this album is a great listen, though held back by a couple of unnecessary tracks. Whilst upon first glance I felt the album had way too many pre-released songs, they all fit perfectly within the album. That being said, there are only a few new songs that have been released with the album that I like. All in all I would definitely recommend this album to fans of UK music in general, R&B, electronica, house, pop… pretty much any fan of good music because this album manages to incorporate many different elements from different genres of music wonderfully.
Josh is currently listening to ‘Blue Lights’ by Jorja Smith.