Happy Jubilee weekend everybody! If your house is bedecked with Union Flags and you’re doffing your cap to Her Majesty, good for you. If you’re just making the most of the extra days off work, fair play to you too! Either way, you have a little bit more time to consider these new Out Of Time- The 911 Prophecy singles out this week.
‘Is This Love’ by Aiden Grimshaw (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Elliot Robinson
‘Is This Love’ is the debut single from X Factor alumnus, Aiden Grimshaw, who was a contestant the year that Matt Cardle won, finishing ninth overall, being one of those unexpected early exits. ‘Is This Love’ is co-written by Grimshaw, as well as Athlete frontman, Joel Pott.
The first thing that is immediately apparent when listening to Grimshaw’s début efforts is that his vocal affectations that were quite prevalent in his X Factor performances seem to have been generally ironed out, which is a very good thing. Whether this is a result of smart editing, cutting out some of the vocal kinks, or Grimshaw having worked with voice coaches who have taught him better, remains to be seen; the answer should become apparent when he does live performances, giving him free-rein to perform it how he likes.
However, on ‘Is This Love’, Grimshaw’s vocal performance is excellent, sounding equally comfortable at either end of his vocal range, the high notes in particular soar effortlessly without making you wince when you hear them. His strong singing rises above, rather than gets swallowed by the production.
The style of the song is both ethereal and yet agitated and you can hear the influence of Athlete’s Joel Pott on the track, which is tinged with melancholy without being depressing. It’s a highly polished and commendable first foray into solo work, and a sound that seems to fit Grimshaw like a glove. It will be interesting to see if this calibre is maintained throughout his début album, Misty Eye, which is due out in August.
‘Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)’ by Nelly Furtado (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Elliot Robinson
It’s been almost six years since Canadian singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado released her last English-language album, Loose, and three years following on from her previous album, the Spanish Mi Plan.
Furtado returns with lead single from her forthcoming album, The Spirit Indestructible, entitled ‘Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)’. Having successfully teamed up with Timbaland on Loose, it seems only natural for her to join forces with another big-hitter from the R&B world, this time in the form of veteran producer and songwriter, Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins.
‘Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)’ in some ways harks back to the sound of the early Furtado hit, ‘Turn Off the Light’, its low-register bassline reminiscent of the deep backing vocals on that particular track. Indeed, the entire song has quite a hypnotic quality to it that makes you want to stick it on repeat.
While the chorus is definitely catchy with the repetitive lyrics and pulsating bassline, it lacks the real impact that would help take the song to the top of the charts. It’s certainly a great song to listen to, with Furtado’s layered vocal harmonies pleasing to the ear.
There is a nice gear change at the end of the song too, where it appears to finish, but then Furtado chips in ‘I thought this song was over / Nope, it ain’t over yet’ leading in to a frantic drum and bass breakdown.
In many ways this feels like an album track that fans would rave about, or possibly a second or third single, but somehow not quite lead-single quality. It’s certainly good to have Furtado back and ‘Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)’ is a very intriguing window into what we can expect to hear with her fifth studio album, The Spirit Indestructible, out later this year.
‘Mercy’ by Marcus Collins (Rating: ***)
Reviewed by Young Tan
After the disappointing chart positions and sales of his debut single, a cover of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and eponymous album, Marcus Collins is now releasing his second single, this time an original song, entitled ‘Mercy’. But should we show him mercy now after the poor choice of his first single, which we rated a poor 1.5 stars? Well thankfully, ‘Mercy’ makes up for the mediocrity of ‘Seven Nation Army’ as Marcus can finally showcase what he does best – and what he did rather constantly on The X Factor - that is, by singing a soulful, Motown-influenced pop record.
Co-written by the talent show’s runner-up himself, ‘Mercy’ incorporates an old-school soul and funk flavour that harks back to the 60s and 70s, with blaring brass and woodwind instruments and gospel-like backing singers carrying the track along. Collins, like the many true soul artists he looks up to, throws in a few riffs, runs and high notes here and there, and while he no doubt is a talented vocalist, we can’t help but think he’s still way out of his depth when it comes to trying to pull off these types of songs. A little more conviction when singing them might help. And perhaps because he performed them so much on The X Factor, we’ve become bored with his style already?
The song talks about a love for someone that has been keeping Marcus ‘up in the night’ – ‘you know I ain’t been sleeping’ he even adds in (cringe at this lyric) and how great this person is, as he emphasises in the chorus: ‘Mercy, mercy / Your lovin’ is the sweetest thing / It’s crazy, crazy / You got me hangin’ on a string / Save me, save me / Loving you like this is the sweetest thing, sweetest thing / Sweetest thing!’ ‘Hanging on a string’? Oh dear, who came up with that line? But it might not all be roses. He also asks ‘Tell me, baby, tell me, baby / If you love me so / If you don’t want me, baby / Release me, let me go!’ yet then tells him ‘You work me, like no other / I can feel it, getting stronger’… Woah, steady on!
While ‘Mercy’ is not the most amazing, creative or original of songs – with really only the funky, catchy instrumental making it stand out more – it certainly would have been a smarter choice than ‘Seven Nation Army’. Yes, it may sound like a basic, knock-off version of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Ain’t No Other Man’ but these kind of soul-inspired pop songs by good singers are a rarity these days, so let’s hope Marcus can fare better this time round.