Every music journalist up and down the country tasked with the duty of reviewing Lewis Capaldi’s highly anticipated debut album is undoubtedly scratching their heads, riddled with dilemma. What’s their predicament? How can someone as wildy charismatic and beloved man as Capaldi – who’s basically something of a social media sensation in his own right – could make such a middle of the road album? Nevertheless, reviews of ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’ have been popping up and have been… less than flattering. But with Lewis’ status as a pop music wunderkin and his penchant for writing stirring piano ballads, surely it can be that bad. Right?
First things first, we open up with the grandiose ballad, ‘Grace’. OK, a slightly odd choice for an opener in terms of tone, but that’s fine. It wouldn’t be the first decent album with a iffy opening track. Plus, credit where credit is due, that chorus brings in equal measures of emotion and infectiousness. All in all, nothing too offensive so far.
The moments that risk losing the listener come later in the album. Take, for instance, Capaldi’s most recent single, Hold Me While You Wait. An interesting choice for that all-important ‘big hit’ follow up single. And by ‘interesting’, I mean wrong. The lyrical content makes for an interesting enough story, but the song as whole is boring and only serves to highlight the pitfalls that plague this album.
Many have remarked on Capaldi’s vocal style, comparing it to “A strained fusing of Joe Cocker and Hozier in the midst of constipation issues” or a “…voice [that] has more gravel than a branch of B&Q”. But if anything, Capaldi harsh yet controlled singing is where the album finds most of its character and charm. Songs like Forever and Bruises suffer from Mid-Album syndrome, as the repetitive writing style of the songs end up mixing up into one another and fail to be memorable. Then there’s ‘Maybe’ which feels a bit One Direction, with half-assed choral breakdown to top it off.
The seminal – and somewhat unexpected – hit ‘Someone You Loved’ comes in toward the top end of the album and to be fair, is still a bop, in spite of its overplayed residency on every radio station for the last few months. More than that, it showcases Capaldi’s unbridled talent for writing emotionally exhaustive ballads. It’s a talent that deserves the praise it’s received. But that doesn’t mean it should be replicated twelve times on the same album.
That’s not to say the album is a complete strikeout. ‘Hollywood’ showcases the full extent of what Capaldi has to offer. It’s probably the best song on the record; upbeat in nature with bouncy acoustic guitars and an infectious chorus. ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ and its soul influences has some potential, but even that potential doesn’t feel full realised.
You can’t deny it, Lewis Capaldi is an extremely likable man, and no-one’s accusing him on not having passion. If only ‘Divinely Uninspired..’ served the variety for a memorable debut that Capaldi is more than capable of writing
Late last month, Lizzo made a rather controversial comment on Twitter on how music journos who don’t make music should be “unemployed”. Don’t be discouraged, if you’ve liked what Capaldi’s released up until this point, you’ll like this album. Nevertheless… well, let’s just say the album’s title is ironically representative of its nature.
‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’ is available now via Universal Music. Lewis Capaldi will be headlining Boardmasters, 7-11 August. His UK Tour begins in November