Album Review: John Newman - Tribute

on Monday, October 21, 2013
John Newman - 'Tribute' (UK Release: 14 Oct '13) // Words: Rajan Lakhani

John Newman has enjoyed a meteoric rise into the charts. He achieved a number one with his brilliant debut single 'Love Me Again' and his debut album 'Tribute' also duly reached the summit of the charts. Has a new great homegrown talent arrived or does 'Tribute' fail to match the buildup?

On the very first track, it’s apparent that Newman is very much in thrall to his influences. The title track lists the various artists that have influenced him, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Tina Turner and Jay Z. If you were being particularly critical of the record, you could say the only act that should be included on this list is Plan B. While 'Tribute' also heavily alludes to a classic soul era, this would be a disservice to Newman, especially given the richness of his vocals.

It is these vocals which mask some of the more basic, unimaginative arrangements of the songs. After a strong start, the songs become predictable and more challenging to follow by the fact that they are inspired by a break-up - there is sadly little respite as many of the tracks wallow in the singer’s despair.

It is with much relief when the final song 'All I Need Is You' plays. It is a far more upbeat piece and provides the record with a much needed light to counteract the lyrical gloominess of the most of the previous tracks. Equally memorable are the singles which provide the highlights of the record. As well as the infectious 'Love Me Again', 'Cheating' featuring soaring trumpets bounds along with similar energy. 'Gold Dust' with its easy refrain is surely the next single in waiting, closely matched by 'Goodnight Goodbye' which showcases well the strength of Newman’s vocals.

John Newman in a recent interview said ‘I study pop but I don’t follow formulas’. Disappointingly, his debut album is rather formulaic, following the tried and trusted, albeit commercially successful, path trodden by Emeli Sande before him. There is enough in the debut, in particular the singles, to suggest that Newman will outgrow his influences and find more regularly the songs to match his vocal talents. For now, 'Tribute' has just enough about it to warrant the hype.


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