The Magic Whip
Buoyed up by a couple of number one hits, John Newman's got some chutzpah.
The Yorkshire soul boy kicks off his debut album with a roll-call of the great singers of the 50s, 60s, 70s, right up to now, from Nina Simone to Beyoncé, taking in Marvin Gaye, Prince and Michael Jackson along the way and the inference is clear – Newman might be calling this a Tribute, but he wants to compare himself to the legends.
It's a grand vision, but he was always going to fall flat on his face. Newman's got a distinctive voice – that's him lighting up Rudimental's chart-topper Feel The Love last year, and repeating the trick with his own Love Me Again – but he's nowhere near got the songs to match its fruity soul power. Tribute is too one-note, slavishly reliant on synthesized strings and rainy beats, a patina of 'authentic' gloom across its 11 tracks.
Still, it's got its moments. Love Me Again is a blast, one of the singles of the year with its Supremes-like You Keep Me Hangin' On guitar and vast, pumping chorus, and new single Cheating has a rousing Northern Soul flow. Losing Sleep, a yearning, trim, gospel workout, is a highpoint too, but ballads like Gold Dust, Goodnight Goodbye and Out Of My Head plod by, apparently endless.
Peaks and troughs then, but there's nothing to suggest Newman can't do better and he'll surely be given the opportunity. He's worth the investment.