Album Review: Nathan Sykes – Unfinished Business
It’s been almost three years since The Wanted announced their hiatus as a band; three years in which Nathan Sykes has actively worked on his solo career, releasing singles since 2015 and keeping fans waiting. It was obvious that he was taking his solo music in a different direction, and now that it’s all come together for his first album Unfinished Business, we can see how he’s managed to pull it off. While it’s not the most groundbreaking album you’ll experience this year, there’s some definite quality material to be heard.
Unfinished Business continues the R&B trend that was shown in Sykes’ singles, channelling a variety of styles but keeping it consistent. Sykes opts for a similar style to Justin Timberlake’s most recent albums, especially in the earlier stages of the album, with his debut single Kiss Me Quick and Money in particular wearing this influence blatantly, sans the trap-influenced choruses of Money, though it’s a style that Sykes works well with. The retro soul and brass samples that cover Freedom are the high point of the album, both in its first stages and overall, not featuring any special twists or bells and whistles but pulling the style off magnificently. This early stage of the album is Sykes at his strongest, and is the most consistent in terms of quality as well.
After the first five tracks, the album starts bringing ballads and a more general, smooth style of R&B to the forefront. Ballads tend to not show Sykes at his best, whether due to his desire to oversing—this is especially noticeable on I Can’t Be Mad—or generally boring arrangements, but he does get it right on Famous as he morphs a rather general swaying ballad arrangement into a full-on throwback ballad. The songs feel more anonymous on this end of the album as well, with mid-tempo R&B tracks like More Than You’ll Ever Know and Burn Me Down fading into obscurity quickly, Give It Up suffering due to G-Eazy’s inclusion, and the solo version of Over And Over Again suffering due to the lack of Ariana Grande’s complimentary voice—which thankfully returns as a bonus track, making the solo version even more unnecessary. The superb use of falsetto in Tears In The Rain and the brassy R&B of Taken help the second part of the album immensely, but don’t help it reach perfection.
Unfinished Business features enough quality cuts to be worth your attention though, even if it does falter quite a few times. This is a style of music that suits Sykes perfectly, and when using his voice properly he helps the songs truly shine. For a debut effort after spending the early stages of his career in a boy band, Unfinished Business is a great attempt at shifting his old image and creating something new for himself, even if Nathan Sykes doesn’t attain true greatness this time.