The X Factor UK winner's first record is an overwrought and largely forgettable debut.
These days, aspirant stars don’t meet the Devil at the crossroads; they have contractual obligations to The X Factor supremo Simon Cowell. This month, that dubious honour falls to Middlesbrough, England’s James Arthur, another gutsy-voiced simulacrum of bona-fide pop talent. Arthur’s overwrought and largely forgettable debut sounds like the work of a dutifully jobbing collective chasing the quick buck of evanescent sales. Impossible, the hit single that helped Arthur win the 2012 X Factor UK competition, has decent hooks behind its ham-fisted lyrics, but the bombastic, overproduced R&B of Lie Down and You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Loves You have few, if any, redeeming qualities. On New Tattoo, replete with an old-school R&B arrangement that’s clearly an attempt to court the Amy Winehouse demographic, the lyrics are also clumsy, not hitting the bullseye as intended: “I wear you like a new tattoo / And I’ll be so happy that I’m stuck with you.” Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Or an inked image that I might one day pay to have removed?