James Arthur – Back from the Edge
“Disgraced” X Factor star James Arthur is convincingly back from the brink of obsoletion in this bona fide comeback album, proving that despite having been born of the sickly pop-making machine that is the cringeworthy show, his is a voice that holds a unique and worthy-listening-to edge.
Opening title track Back from the Edge has a James Bond aura about it, with some glitzy drama and gumption. But the record takes listeners in reverse – the start is the end, the rest of the album charting the darker, volatile journey the artist has taken to reach this self-confident, honest new place, singing “Back from the dead / Back to the start / Back to my heart”.
In fact, it is a melancholic thread of a struggle with depression, anxiety and soul-searching that runs through each of the tracks. They are not downbeat – but this gives what are ostensibly run-of-the-mill love songs an unexpected edge. In Prisoner he is caught in the clutches of a self-destructive lifestyle: “I moved down to London and sold my soul”; Stoner further delineates the whirlwind of new found fame: “I feel like a rolling stoner”; and the emotive Trainwreck seems to be a barely veiled reference to hitting rock-bottom, with Phoenix’s connotations of rising from the ashes then made manifest through a euphoric feel and a climactic high reached in the unashamed I am. Through delving into his own personal experiences, there is an authenticity to Arthur’s songs that capture emotions with the same frank realism Adele has done so powerfully again and again. The singer also brings light and shade, moving through stripped-back acoustics to bigger brass and strings sounds, his voice is at times deep and clear, at others, loud and satisfyingly gravely, effortlessly spanning an impressive range.
But it’s single Say You Won’t Let Go – released on 9th September and sailing straight to number one – that is the stand out track. A play-on-repeat guitar ballad with earnest and pitch perfect vocals, where Arthur seems to nail his own sound in a heartfelt and addictive love song that just resists becoming twee.
Though firmly mainstream, Back from the Edge is a credible, musically-tight album whose strength lies in the compelling tone and texture of Arthur’s voice, and seems a marked move away from the killer-whale, rap-mishap-filled experience that his time in the limelight has been blighted by thus far.
Back From The Edge is released on 28th October 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Say You Won’t Let Go here: