There’s an unfortunate issue that faces James Arthur. For those who may not be acquainted with Arthur, the singer-songwriter became the shock winner of last year’s UK version of hit TV show The X Factor. Shock not due to his talent [Arthur was tipped for the top early on in the series], moreso due to Arthur being the first winner to constitute positive opinion from not just fans of the show, but also industry critics. Being tainted by that brush is hard to come by in today’s day and age, especially a reality show contestant (Aiden Grimshaw and Rebecca Ferguson are two who have had a long struggle, but seem to finally be getting there).
It’s therefore encouraging to hear that the critical excitement that surrounded Arthur continued long-after the show’s finale in December 2012, and even moreso encouraging to know that some of the finest (and most acclaimed) of UK talent in the industry were eager to work with the star.
The stigma of being an X Factor winner seems to have bypassed Arthur, with much of his self-titled debut effort featuring writing and production talents from the likes of Naughty Boy and Salaam Remi, along with duets with Emeli Sande and Chasing Grace, whilst Arthur has ensured his own writing and co-writing efforts are contained in almost every track of the LP.
For the sake of this review, we’ll only touch lightly on Impossible, Arthur’s ‘winning single’, and the only track on the album where the singer was not included in the creation, bar his vocals (the track was written for Barbadian singer Shontelle in 2010). The singer’s ‘first’ mainstream track however, the insatiable You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You, intended only as an album-filler, gives further insight into the star’s intention to avoid the generic EDM/dance route that the charts seem to be ‘enjoying’ over the past few years. It’s an impeccable effort as a debut track, and whilst he may not have reached the coveted No 1 spot in the UK charts (being beaten by Lorde’s breathtaking Royals), it’s clear that Arthur is a genuine talent and not an ‘off-the-production-line’ generic X Factor winner. Listeners will instantly be drawn to tapping their toe to the heavyweight percussion whilst singing along to the gritty, soulful vocals. The quality of You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You drives home just how accomplished, and mature, an artist Arthur is.
As does New Tattoo, a track the singer introduced three weeks ago as a free acoustic download. Written by Salaam Remi along with Arthur, the raw passion in the artist’s voice stays firmly in the forefront, whilst big-balled Roses, co-written by Emeli Sande, adds further stature to the credibility of Arthur as not only a chart-star but also an artiste.
However, the issue of finding that all-important second single does spring to mind, and whilst James Arthur (the album) is an accomplished record, there are times where the album can become often convoluted. Though once you hear the spectacular hook on Recovery, the listener becomes completely immersed back into Arthur’s world; one would hope label Sony seriously looks at the track as a strong contender as the follow-up for YNTSLY’s.
Surprisingly, for such a powerful artist (both in vocal ability as well as musical aptitude), the album seems to be far too sprawled too close to ballad-city, though the saving grace is the supporting big percussive stances that seem to support a fair majority of the tracks.
It takes almost 45 minutes to hit the final track, Flyin’. There’s a strong disappointment that the song is less than two minutes long, however it does leave a satisfying taster of what album number two could sound like. Similarly Flyin’ also leaves an ideology of the impact James Arthur’s live shows will provide, and if his recent promotional performances have shown anything, it’s that this man is an all-round artist. Yes he writes music, yes he has a satisfying debut album, but the showmanship and strength in his live shows are what will help him achieve longevity.
James Arthur is set for release on Monday 4th November; hit the iTunes link to preorder as well as listen to the live stream for a limited time too.