Lewis Capaldi is one of the good guys. He’s hilarious on social media, even funnier in person, and supplies our preening, posing, media-trained British pop stars with the goofy outsider they so desperately need.
So why is his music so boring? Debut album ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ isn’t bad per se – both songwriting and production are Of A Certain Standard – but it never truly excels. Its odd golden moment more often comes in the form of hit singles fans, and that’s the bulk of the general public by now, know inside out, back to front. They’ve probably already re-tweeted a meme of the lyric.
Opening song ‘Grace’ is so by numbers is may as well be an answer on Countdown, while ‘Bruises’ is essentially the same melody supplied with slightly tweaked lyrics and some piano chords. ‘Hold Me While You Wait’ is yet another Everyman in heart trouble, the tender verse directed into a gritty chorus in same manner of contemporaries Tom Walker, Sam Fender, or Tom Grennan.
‘Someone You Loved’ though, is complete gold. It taps into the same emotional current that John Lewis so doggedly occupy at Christmas time, with Lewis Capaldi’s lost puppy gaze truly coming into its own – hell, seven weeks at number one can’t be wrong, deserved success for a song that pulses with emotion.
With its jaunty rhythm and curious guitar run ‘Maybe’ comes across a little wonky amid the heartbreak, a little mid-album reprieve from the tears. It doesn’t last long, though. ‘Forever’ promises “no regrets” amid its tumbling piano notes, while ‘One’ – already the name of a U2 wedding dance staple – finds Lewis Capaldi dwelling once more on love lost, on relationships both propelled and wrought down by inner faults.
Indeed, the complications relationships can bring is one of the main drawbacks on Lewis Capaldi’s otherwise difficult to dislike debut. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ follows this theme, while equally ‘Lost On You’ is about mis-communication, and his ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
‘Hollywood’ meanwhile is this jaunt towards success, a kind of Ed Sheeran skip towards the promised land of being able to complain about your ex while being absolutely, utterly loaded.
It’s when Lewis Capaldi drops the “hey, I’m just happy to be here” schtick that he truly compels. Take the simple, raw ‘Headspace’, just one voice and one guitar, telling his story in a way that’s so gripping, so intense that it completely bypasses cliché, moves beyond the beige.
‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ isn’t something anyone should hate. It’s well produced, well played, and for the more part well written, if highly repetitive in its he said/she said subject matter. In fact, its refusal to be disliked is perhaps its most dispiriting, irritating aspect. Even the title is rooted in this coy, almost passive aggressive, need to shirk off criticism through presaging it, warning the world that Lewis Capaldi is his own worst critic.
He doesn’t have to be: there’s enough here to suggest otherwise, enough talent to truly shape something new, should he want it.
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