Review: James Blake – ‘Say What You Will’

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'Say What You Will' is a lovely ballad, and reason to be excited for Blake's upcoming album.

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After months of teasing, James Blake’s fifth album Friends That Break Your Heart finally has a September release date. Led by a music video starring producer sensation FINNEAS, lead single ‘Say What You Will’ comes two years after 2019’s wonderful Assume Form, and thankfully does not deviate in sound.

The song acts most notably as a showcase for Blake’s vocals. His pillowy delivery is put to great use, with initial croaking carrying the song into a glorious “how is he still going?” long falsetto note. The lyrics sound biographical and, as usual, carry a nice sentiment; finding peace with yourself and your critics. It should come as no surprise that the production is also great: equal parts velvety and powerful. It stands a little above some of Blake’s other cuts, which can sometimes kneecap performances by over-prioritising softness. I especially like the ticking hihats, as well as the strings in the final leg of the tune.

‘Say What You Will’ feels like it’s 5 minutes, thanks to a slow pace and repetitive hook (not a bad thing!). On first spin, this is great, as it feels like a weighty and significant listen, but can weaken replayability. It’s a minor gripe, but worth noting; I haven’t felt this way about ‘Don’t Miss It’, for instance.

Regardless, ‘Say What You Will’ is a damn good sign of things to come from Blake’s forthcoming album, and it deserves a listen. Here’s hoping he goes from strength to strength.

‘Say What You Will’ is out now via UMG Recordings. Listen here:

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