Taking its cues from disco and soul John Newman’s second album, ‘Revolve’, is an accessible collection of high-energy tracks; dripping with melodic hooks and mimicable vocal refrains, constructed with dancefloors and house parties in mind. ‘Revolve’ utilises diverse and disparate elements of the pop playbook with echoes of Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis and The News, Abba and even Frankie Valley audible.
At its best ‘Revolve’ is a strident, inviting mix of funk bass and infectious brass, which acts as the perfect vehicle for Newman’s passionate hoarse soul vocal, with tracks such as Lights Down, Come And Get It and Never Give It Up being prime examples.
At its worst moments, Newman stumbles out of soul and into the perilous surrounds of throwaway boy band fluff – see Killing Me and We All Get Lonely for evidence, with the latter evoking elements of Wham and D: ream’s Things Can Only Get Better.
The album starts bizarrely with a futuristic, dystopian soliloquy from Idris Elba. It’s certainly not your standard pop fare, in fact it’s akin to something you’d expect from Public Service Broadcasting or Air. It fails to engage the listener in any meaningful way, instead acting as a sensory mind wipe before the album proper starts with the dancefloor one-two of All My Life and Something Special. The strange introduction is soon lost to a whirlwind of disco bopping bass and earworm brass and melody hooks.
‘Revolve’ hardly puts a foot wrong with a string of potential singles falling out of the speakers – each one as feelgood as the last – with Newman’s vocal acting as a hoarse pied piper towards the dancefloor, culminating with Tiring Game featuring Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band. But by the time Newman unleashes Give You My Love you may have overdosed on ‘Revolve’s slick, disco sheen.
However, Newman has produced a very good disco pop record – perhaps his third album will be a great disco pop album. Newman is clearly not aiming to change the world with his lyrics, his mission is to make people dance and have fun. With that in mind ‘Revolve’ is a success; it’s also musically superior to most of his male contemporaries’ output in 2015 – Sam Smith included – no matter what the sales figures say.