Beverley Knight MBE has been a mainstay and an icon in the world of Soul for nearly two decades now, and whilst her longevity has never been called into question and is rightfully recognised as one of the greatest Soul singers ever, it can be a massive challenge to continually deliver gold standard music to an already staggeringly successful repertoire. With her latest effort The Fifth Chapter however, Beverly Knight shows that it was a challenge she was more than up to surpassing, not just facing
The album has a perfect opener with Last One On My Mind, as it’s funky bass and solid rhythms serve as a backdrop to sever lyrics about a disingenuous lover: “You held me on through the highs, oh yeah, but ain’t got time for the lows”. It’s hooky chorus and high energy, along with the choice of theme sets up the rest of the record extremely well, and yet still manages to stand alone as a strong track in it’s own right. Following on from that is the self-empowering anthem The One I’m Gonna Love. From the title, you may be expecting a ballad dedicated to a special someone, yet it focuses more on the love you owe yourself before al others, and has a sassy, in-your-face style that gives it a fierce attitude.
Cold World is the first of three songs on the record to feature the immensely talented London Community Gospel Choir, who saturates the song with hauntingly rich harmonies that add a truly massive depth of emotion to what is already an uplifting and yet somehow also humble song. The skill of the gospel choir is also welcome on the infectious I’m On Fire, which lends it’s glorious contribution to some of the catchiest melody lines on the entire record. But it’s not just the vocals that make this song stand out, as its wonderful use of syncopated rhythms, pulsing bass and staccato vocal lines make it a groovy standout.
Beverley takes a more seductive angle on the sultry Not Prepared For You, it’s instrumentation almost teasing the listener and it’s lyrics beckoning you in with lines such as “Look at my hands, they just cant stay off you”. Coming on it’s heels is the Todrick Hall-esque Queen Of Everything, which is a straight up club banger that is sure to get the venues bouncing and the fans moving. After this, the track list takes a slightly different direction with the surprising but refreshing Nostalgia, which is aptly named as it employs Paramore style, Indie infused instrumentation, with full sounding chorus harmonies and solid hooks giving the album a welcome lift and interesting diversification from what’s come before.
A muted synth intro belays the pounding rhythm and massive choruses of what follows however, as Systematic Overload shakes up the dynamic and brings up the energy with crowd-chanting vocals that is sure to get people singing along. The album reaches a perfect conclusion with Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. This song may feature three different features (with London Community Gospel Choir making a triumphant inclusion yet again), but the mashup of styles and the come-together theme making it feel like a culmination of the entire journey the album has been, as well as a celebration.
The Fifth Chapter serves as a stunning contribution to the rich and evocative world of Soul music, standing on it’s own as a towering achievement in her career as well as fitting in with her already sparkling discography. Beverley Knight is truly one of the biggest treasures of the British music industry.