James Arthur emerged as the winner of last year’s X Factor and despite the series hitting a ratings low Arthur has created quite the buzz. His winner’s single Impossible is one of the best-selling X Factor winner’s singles of all-time and his recent single You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You has just stormed into the UK charts at number 2. With his rough but soulful tones, Arthur has established himself as something pretty different to the usual X Factor winners and on his self-titled debut he shows us what he’s really made of.
Anyone worried that Arthur would lose his edge by the time he’s gone through the post-X Factor polish up that all winners seem to go through, will be relieved to hear that he’s come out relatively unscathed. His album feels authentically him and he isn’t trying to be like anyone else in the charts. As a body of work it’s one of the most cohesive X Factor winner’s albums yet and no expense has been spared in terms of teaming him up with the cream of the crop in terms of writers and producers. Amongst those involved in the album are Salaam Remi, Naughty Boy, Steve Robson and Biffco.
You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You opens the album and it makes the statement it needs to. Arthur’s distinctive voice cuts through the melody sliding up and down the scales and packed with soul. From this point on he’s definitely on a winning streak as he impresses with his diversity, vocal ability and unique sound. Interestingly Arthur’s X Factor winner’s song Impossible is nestled into the tracklisting rather than being reluctantly tacked on to the end, or completely ignored as previous winners Little Mix did with Cannonball.
The album as a whole is a mixture of moody beats that take inspiration from indie greats such as Massive Attack with confessional lyrics that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Plan B record. Arthur acts as co-writer on every track here, with the exception of Impossible, and thanks to his well-documented past you can understand the emotion and pain in some of these songs. The most autobiographical song here is the startlingly honest Recovery where Arthur sings of his battle to turn his life around.
Highlights on the album include the beat heavy Lie Down where Arthur sings of having a one-night-stand, the regret-filled Supposed where Arthur’s vocals soar, and the dreamy soul of Suicide where Arthur laments on the end of a relationship. Emeli Sande stops by to duet with Arthur on the rather gentle Roses which is one of the album’s quieter moments.
The album closes with short track Flyin’which indicates that rap could be a direction that Arthur chooses to pursue later in his career. Whilst he’s no Eminem he is actually a pretty convincing rapper and it seems there could be something in all these Plan B comparisons.
It’s fair to say that James Arthur’s debut effort is something of a surprise. It’s by no means a safe record and Arthur stays true to the artist we saw during his time on The X Factor. If he can just curtail the ongoing feud with former winner Matt Cardle and concentrate on his music, we’d love him even more. James Arthur is an album that is going to sell well throughout the Christmas period and it should provide a solid platform for him to enjoy a long career in the industry.