Lewis Capaldi ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’ – Review

15 Jul

There is no doubt that Lewis Calpido is a one trick pony – a fact the self-deprecating star makes light of in any interview he gives. When he pulls that trick off, as on the massive hit ‘Someone You Love’, the results are undeniably moving. That song’s seismic pull – a giant voice belting over gentle piano arpeggios – lessens on the album, as song after song makes similar, if not identical, moves with diminishing effect. Stormy opener ‘Grace’ is probably the next best thing on here but then it’s also the first song you hear, and perhaps that’s not a coincidence. Certainly, by the time of the opening notes of ‘Fade’ and ‘Headspace’, emotional fatigue has well and truly kicked in.  Your skin can thicken to even the most potent emotions over time. 

Calpaldi is a gifted singer (who will eventually learn to rein it in a bit) with an engaging personality; the shame is that very little of that personality gets displayed on ‘Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent’ whose title manages to be the most interesting thing about it. His quirky sense of humour, distinctive Scottish twang and personable manner are largely absent from his lyricism which trades more in stock imagery and the usual heartbreak cliches. At times, as on the ill judged ‘One’, he actually comes across as a little petulant and self-absorbed. There is a fine line when you’re sharing as much as Lewis is and he occasionally trips over it. Perhaps this would be less problematic if you thoroughly believed every single word he was singing but some of the less memorable songs feel like contrived exercises with different heartbreak tropes. The rhymes are a little too neat, the sentiments a little too rehearsed. 

He largely pulls it off through through sheer, breathtaking vocal power. What he lacks in subtlety and refinement he makes up for with reach. Thick, bold emotional lines transmitted bluntly from the heart, through the voice, to your ears. It’s direct and it’s emotive. Whether he’s seeking solace in sunny climes (‘Hollywood’) grieving over unreciprocated feelings (‘Hold Me While You Wait’) or coming to terms with being a single man (‘Bruises’) he generally sells the emotion with the conviction radiating from his voice rather than the words.

Capaldi makes rivals Adele and Sam Smith seem veritably experimental in comparison. Those singers – who Capaldi will inevitably be compared to – had a handful of classics on their sad-sack breakthrough albums; Capaldi has one, maybe two at a push. That said, he’s certainly a league above other recent Adele rip offs like James Arthur, Rag and Bone Man, James Bay and Tom Walker. I find myself returning to ‘Divinely Inspired to a Hellish Extent’ and so do millions of others. There is a disarming quality to these ballads that simply breaks through my critical instincts and better judgment. It’s generic and cliched but I can’t deny Lewis Capaldi. 

6/10

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