Single Review: Matt Cardle – ‘Starlight’

“It’s salvaged in light of an impressive middle eight and final crescendo”


Digital Release: December 4, 2011

Physical Release: December 5, 2011

Up to now, the serious and credible artiste Matt Cardle’s solo campaign after leaving behind the warped, unrealistic sanctuary of The X Factor hasn’t exactly had that many heads turning, unless it’s to rudely discredit any residual claim to his supposed “real” music after ditching his band and selling himself short. It’s not that his music is bad, it’s more of an issue that his music isn’t what you’d expect to hear from a “real” rock artists’ albums. Instead of the as-promised thought-provoking lyrics and dulcet sentimentality of Snow Patrol’s grumbling guitars, we’re instead delivered a whimpering pussy-rocker with less bite than Chris Martin’s soppiest moments. Mind you, it’s a great improvement on him singing Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ in bright yellow trousers live in front of millions.

But even still, everything that could have possibly gone wrong for Cardle has done so, and not unnoticeably. It’s as if this whole launch into stardom thing The X Factor promises only to it’s most marketable products has gone wrong. Somebody, somewhere up in Syco HQ made a spectacularly ill-advised decision and let Cardle run the gauntlet himself. It’s not impossible to produce your own music when you’re from The X Factor, but it does set the bar so high it’s merely a dot in the sky. Of course, Cardle received the first mile or so simply by singing on a weekendly basis under the glow of a million dazzling lights, but regarding the quality, Cardle can only be expected to loudly knock the bar off it’s posts and come crashing face-first back to the ground, and then, before anyone can giggle, blusteringly pretend that that was what was supposed to happen all along. The problem is, when you’re launched at breakneck speed into something you’re not prepared for with the amount of eyeballing scrutiny Cardle was exposed to, it’s hard to do that and get away with it, especially seeing as The X Factor’s omnipotent grip over the charts is gradually sliding away; people want to have a reason to dislike it and it’s conveyor-belt stars. Cardle is merely the fall-guy that makes it easier.

Falling prey to practically every possible typicality in music, ‘Starlight’ is trapped, as soon as he breathes out the first line, inside a claustrophobic little box in Cardle’s mind that tells him the best and most innovative way to describe love is by using elements of space. There’s an pleasant enough production at work here, with meaty guitars backed up by a thumping piano chime, and there’s an almost tangible sense of optimistic anticipation for the chorus. When the chorus arrives, the tightly rounded verse structure is thrown up into the air with the arrival of raucous guitars and a soaring vocal from Cardle, but he takes his time getting the stride right. It’s like he spends the first few attempts chasing all the ends that have been frayed by the guitars, whose unnecessary volume drowns out even Cardle sense of place, and by the time “Like a shooting is star/That’s just who we are” trundles around it does feel like a project worth abandoning, but it’s salvaged in light of an impressive middle eight and final crescendo, even if it’s clunking start and Cardle’s apparent inexperience leads him to wander astray for a while.

So whilst the power and excitement gradually drains out of anything with the tag “Cardle” beyond resignation, in the meantime, you can at least enjoy the fact that this time, he managed to clear the bar he’d set, regardless of the fact he landed about a mile away from the crash-mat.

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