Stevie McCrorie is the acoustic-guitar wielding, firefighting, Scottish singer-songwriter who won the 2015 season of ‘The Voice UK’. If, knowing this, you think you know all you need to about McCrorie’s first major label release, Big World, you are probably right.
Big World, as a pop album, is competent and polished, though one would expect nothing less from a winner of ‘The Voice’. But perhaps it is too polished. As is often (always?) the way with commercial talent shows, rough edges and imperfections are smoothed out over to course of the competition, to the detriment of character: the loss of that which made a performer immensely compelling in the first place. In McCrorie’s case we have not only his performances on ‘The Voice’ to judge this shift by, we also have the self-released 2010 mini-album These Old Traditions which demonstrates a greater range in vocals and composition.
When compared to his earlier effort it is clear that Big World is calibrated to tick all the boxes to ensure maximum airplay and make it the de facto soundtrack to days spent working in the office, or wiling away time shopping. With one exception, all songs play for 3 to 4 minutes, the goldilocks zone for pop music and commercial radio play. The fact that the exception to this rule, Save It For Me, is a single alongside the eponymous Big World, and album opener My Heart Never Lies, goes to show that there were at least some brave decisions made with regards to the record. Save It For Me concludes in under two-and-a-half minutes and represents the clearest connection between the McCrorie who released These Old Traditions and took to ‘The Voice’ stage, and the McCrorie present on Big World. It is truly a shame that there isn’t more of the former on this release.
Don’t be surprised if Cannonballs becomes the fourth single from the record, or is picked up for high rotation by radio, as it is the strongest track while still having a little something to appeal to everyone: a catchy blues inspired guitar riff, a strong backbone provided by the rhythm section, gentle synth and hand-clap backing tracks, and enough earnest emotion to appeal to angsty teenagers.
With Big World McCrorie has amply demonstrated that he can do commercial pop with aplomb. It is not clear if McCrorie is driving the commercial focus of the album, or if the label is pushing to quickly capitalise on ‘The Voice’ victory, but it seems that if McCrorie can reconcile with his earlier self he may just become an artist with a sustained and interesting career.