Album Review: Olly Murs – ‘Olly Murs’

All too often, artists these days are quick on the draw to follow what’s “hot” in music at any given time. Whether it’s the newest hybrid genre or the biggest new collaboration, if it sells, artists will want a slice of the hot pop pie. Some artists don’t necessarily follow these trends; they’re usually the ones who stick to their own sounds and suffer for it; artists who’ve gradually lost their commerciality because of their stubbornness to adapt to what’s hot right now. It’s a good thing because it shows they’ve still got their dignity and can’t be slammed for “selling out”, but it’s a bad thing because their sales nosedive.

Considering that reality, it’s a pleasing thought to think that instead of make throw-away pop/dance/R&B music like a lot of the over-exposed X Factor alumni, Olly Murs, who is also a tad over-exposed, is taking his own direction, which may influence others to bring variety back to mainstream pop music. I say “own direction” but if you think of him as a cross between Jason Mraz, Will Young, James Blunt, and Robbie Williams, you’ve got him about right.

It’s quite a decent combination, and now Olly Murs has gone and gotten himself two proper singles in his own name, he’s about to release his album, and if the contents of which are anywhere near as cheap as that album cover with it’s awfully super-imposed pictures of Olly (he can’t even think of six different poses. Pose #1 & #4, and #3 & #6 are pretty much the same), then all that effort of searching for a recording contract would be for nothing. And considering the fact that Olly has more popstar qualities than his X Factor ex-counterpart, Joe McElderry, he certainly deserves his chance, but going by his first two trailer singles, ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’, which steals it’s chorus melody from Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’, and the super-cocky-yet-awkwardly-charming ‘Thinking Of Me’, which seems to sound like a watered down version of Dodgy’s ‘Good Enough’, he needs to have better tunes locked up in ‘Olly Murs’ to counter their flaws.

Don’t be mislead, because beyond those two tracks, Olly’s “Happy Chappy” schtick does succeed at convincing it’s listener that he does know when to tone down the corny metaphors, like the boisterous album opener ‘Change Is Gonna Come’. It’s perfect lead single material, and demonstrates Olly’s more powerful, raspier vocals alongside a bluesy piano riff and more horns than a moose enclosure.

Further down the track-listing, ‘Ask Me To Stay’ and it’s Coldplay-esque piano hook succeeds at meandering aimlessly and forcing your mind and interest to follow. The tepid ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ also disappoints, not in the same way his first two singles have, but because it just doesn’t go anywhere, despite it featuring Olly’s biggest vocal performance on the album. But the biggest offender is the inoffensive-but-offensive ‘Accidental’, which may be meant as a charming little ditty to a loved one, but unfortunately it comes across as a limp, uninteresting song crammed full of cringe-worthy lyrics – “And when I trip and fall right at your feet/It’s not accidental […] You look into the stars, our names are clear/It’s not accidental”.

Another highlight is the charming little ditty that does work: ‘Busy’. It may twang more than a ukulele and start with one of the worst lyrics of 2010 – “Weekends in bed, no scrambled eggs or bacon/I just have time for you”, but it’s James Blunt-styled pop chorus works wonders after the lukewarm tracks 2 and 3.

Elsewhere, Olly manages to sneak in elements of music from decades gone by, like how he brilliantly marries a country vibe with a 1970’s-styled piano twinkle, topped off with his soft crooning on the cheery ‘I Blame Hollywood’. He even has the brass neck to sample ‘So You Wanna Be A Boxer?’ from the 1976 musical Bugsy Malone, for the charming ‘Hold On’.

As with most albums, it’s the first half that contain the majority of the better songs, with the exception of ‘Hold On’, which is listed as track eight, probably to lighten up the surplus of snoozey ballads that reside between the numbers 7-12. Olly Murs’ début album is half-expected, half-pleasant surprise, with some tracks easily standing out amongst the stale, on and off singles he’s already released (‘Change Is Gonna Come’, ‘I Blame Hollywood’, ‘Hold On’) and others dying away from your memory once you’ve moved onto the next song (‘Ask Me To Stay’, ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’, ‘Accidental’).

‘Olly Murs’ is going to sell well because of Olly’s profile here in the UK, and because of that, he’ll be injecting some form of variety back into the singles and airplay charts, hopefully broadening people’s music tastes. But of course, the two singles he’s released so far are unfortunately not up to the highest standard the material still left on his album reaches at times.

Album Rating: 6.0/10

Download These: ‘Change Is Gonna Come’, ‘Busy’, ‘I Blame Hollywood’, ‘Hold On’.

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