Review: John Newman – Revolve

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As a collection, Revolve possesses all the things we know Newman best for: soul, groove and those signature husky vocals. However, in comparison to Tribute, it's a definite downgrade.

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25 year old John William Peter Newman, born and bred in Yorkshire, blessed the charts with the release of his second album Revolve this week. Known for his chart-topping collaborations with the likes of Rudimental (‘Feel the Love’) and Calvin Harris (‘Blame’), Newman’s Memphis-soul vibes are capable of producing records for the masses.

The follow up from his 2013 debut album Tribute, opens with a distinctive monologue from an unexpected source: Idris Elba. Being the shortest on the album, it sets the scene through a dark and somewhat exhilarating atmosphere as Elba dictates that We are resilient / We are strong”. Arguably, this concept is nothing we haven’t heard before, potentially inspired by Paolo Nutini’s ‘Iron Sky’ in which he carefully juxtaposes his ballad with an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).

The album then appears to get into its stride, continuing with ‘All My Heart’, a bouncy karaoke-worthy record that is reminiscent of Newman’s husky vocals and old-school decorum. Despite its infectious nature, the track is very similar to much of Newman’s previous work, simply with a change in lyrics.

‘Something Special’ attempts to offer an added texture within the layered hook, however the vocals are occasionally weak in the absence of its musical components and could not by any means be classed as Newman’s best work. ‘Lights Down’ is similar in its vocal structure, however sets itself apart from its other contenders via its slower pace and acapella-esque finishing.

Regardless of the albums’ vocal anomalies, ‘Come And Get It’ is the track we’ve all been waiting for. With a quirky introduction and harmonious composition, it effectively showcases Newman’s vocal capability and redefines it with an edgier vintage pairing. It presents a sound with more depth, more confidence and ultimately more soul. (We didn’t think it was possible either).

‘Never Give It Up’ begins almost weakly, presenting a bland and partially strained vocal at the start and appearing susceptible to Newman’s usual nature, however through its continuation, sounds almost darker, rawer and grittier. Newman voices an aspect of himself with more conviction, an aspect that we as an audience can most certainly get behind.

Similarly, ‘Give You My Love’ opens with a disappointing vocal, setting our expectations relatively low for the remainder of the track. Potentially the least stimulating on the album, it is arguably not a true portrayal of Newman’s capabilities.

The winning collaboration of Revolve goes to Charlie Wilson, for appearing on Newman’s latest single ‘Tiring Game’. Albeit dangerously reminiscent ofLove Me Again’, this track is soulful, eclectic and relentless.

The album undertakes a change of pace for ‘I’m Not Your Man’, a track devoid of all prior electro-dance rhythms and head throbbing beats. Instead it adopts a more sombre tone, and showcases a more gentle side to Newman that his audience had yet to experience. This addition saves the album from being too similar to past releases and with its deep gospel affinity, paints Newman’s vocal range in the best possible light.

As a whole, Revolve isn’t entirely an upgrade from Tribute, however with releases like ‘Come And Get It’ and ‘Tiring Game’, you can be assured that it’s not all bad (and it’s likely that those less exhilarating tracks will be tucked away safely in the confines of HMV shelves rather than on your radio).

Revolve is out now via Island Records.

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Head of Relations for The Edge and Fashion Marketing student at Southampton University. P.S. I tweet - a lot (@naviwbu)

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