Single Review: James Morrison ft. Jessie J – ‘Up’

“It plods along with an air of nonchalance about it”

2 STARS

Digital Release: December 4, 2011

Physical Release: December 5, 2011

It would take someone with an enormous problem against James Morrison to him the mastery he commands over his productions. Soft, simple and understated, his gravelly tones are perfectly suited to drag weeping lyrics about bereavements, the complexity of love and all other manner of adult contemporary topics. Often though, it becomes the case that he’s far too comfortable resting on those assets rather than look beyond what appears most obvious and naturally-occurring to him. Even when he collaborates, his songs sound like safe, cocooning blankets of cotton wool despite the collaborators having the potential to do much more. It’s like whomever collaborates with James Morrison instantly becomes as colourless as his grey, dulcet tones; perfect for background music and a stab at pop sophistication, but ultimately the experience of listening to the finalised product is a forgettable one.

This is proven with new single ‘Up’, a modest, slow-burning ballad dedicated to the memory of his father. As with most James Morrison affairs, his pleasantly rustic growl croons out some unremarkable lyrics, but you still get the feeling he’s far too settled, like it’s become entirely natural to him to deliver a song with such melancholic solemnity and it’s potency has was thin, and that‘s without considering that his the sum of his emotions produces nothing more than the solution that “the only way is up”. It sounds like any other James Morrison song with it’s gentle guitars and string section, and even with the inclusion of Jessie J – it’s nice to hear her mercilessly cleave her listeners’ ears off in such half-arsed attempt to generate soul – the song fails to venture outside Morrison’s comfort zone, surrendering the usually bombastic and brash Jessie J into an equally depressive morbidity. 

It’s always nice to hear the bleak but optimistic outlook synonymous with Morrison, but that’s just it – the song is nice and nothing else. It trundles along pleasantly, to the point about two-thirds in when you realise it’s hard enough for him to convey emotion as it is – hardships like this appear to be daily occurrences – and so there’s very little tangible conviction evident. It’s serious-faced production pretty much fails at creating any sort of dramatic urgency either. Instead, it plods along with an air of nonchalance about it.

In James Morrison’s world, this song is textbook, but when it’s taken away from that microscopic niche and presented to the real world, it just doesn’t hold any water and ends up a tedious collaboration between two artists whose voices sound pleasant enough, but there’s no real emotion to be found here. 

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