John Newman – Revolve

John Newman - RevolveThe sound on John Newman‘s second album Revolve is so effortless with melodies that roll without a second thought. The energy he exudes feels limitless, like he could go on forever showing no signs of slowing down. He goes from 0 to 60 like it’s nothing, and he has anthems for days.

But like the way a person who can juggle four flaming swords while riding a unicycle on a tightrope can stop being impressive after seeing it enough, the same kind of applies here. What John does is impressive but Revolve is like taking another trip around the same track Tribute was built on.

After a dramatic opening from Idris Elba that builds a case for Revolve, John jumps right in with his big voice, horns and massive drums leading up to the explosive chorus on All My Heart. Something Special‘s delightfully effortless melody leads up to an explosive chorus. Lights Down brings strings into the mix that lead up to, you guessed it, an explosive chorus. And it goes from there. John has mastered the explosive song.

It’s impressive really, when you realize that even with the high-pace and everything else going on at nearly every moment, John’s voice still shines through. Nothing is lost in the mix.

John’s raspy vocals still ooze with grit and soul that comes through on every track – still the most admirable quality of his music. Even when the songs themselves begin to feel structured and lined with what has become the Newman-formula, his performance is anything but restricted.

It’s what separates him most from fellow British blue-eyed soul singer Sam Smith. While both emerged around the same time on EDM collaborations with Rudimental and Disclosure respectively, it was Sam who became the global phenomenon while John’s success stuck close to home. Sam’s performance was very confined and restrained despite his capabilities, while John takes ownership of the mic and anything goes. Sam is english breakfast tea, easy and relaxing, John is 25-year-old scotch. Sam got a Bond theme song, John would have killed the Bond theme song.

But John might be an acquired taste for some. The dramatics in his lyrics and vocals can be overpowering for those not willing to take a 20-something in 2015 seriously, and as strong as his singing is, his voice can still be polarizing in an age where smooth vocals rule. This is most evident on the ballad I’m Not Your Man, as his vocals tremor over the piano in the album’s most hushed moments.

Revolve covers the same ground as his debut album in showing what John Newman can do, except this time John has taken the lead as producer, only sometimes sharing that duty with Greg Kurstin and Jack Splash on just over half the album. It’s confirmation that John rules his work, but we already knew that. Where Revolve seems to be doing what it claims and redoing what he has already done, the hope is that his next album drops the ‘r’ and moves forward.
Three stars

1. Revolve [featuring Idris Elba]
2. All My Heart
3. Something Special
4. Lights Down
5. Come And Get It
6. Never Give It Up
7. Tiring Game [featuring Charlie Wilson]
8. Give You My Love
9. I’m Not Your Man
10. Killing Me
11. We All Get Lonely

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