Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Album Review: James Arthur – Bitter Sweet Love

2 min read

X Factor’s ninth series winner, James Arthur, returns with his fifth studio album, Bitter Sweet Love, released through Columbia Records.  A now veteran with ten years in the industry, the English singer-songwriter, who has not been without his share of controversy (one of which led to his departure from ‘Syco’ label), had already released almost half of the album’s tracks as singles before the release of the album – so to many fans there would be less surprises than in your archetypal album drop.

Kicking off proceedings with the most recent single, and also title track, Bitter Sweet Love is an up-tempo release, which flatters to deceive somewhat – though pleasant enough, it just doesn’t go anywhere.  Orchestral ballad Free Falling follows, which is heavy on the piano in a slower pop song, whilst second single release of the album Sleepwalking is as close to an acoustic track that the album has to offer.    The next song (also a release), Blindside, provides a driving melody in another upbeat track which, like piano-heavy Just Us is pleasant enough, though (for me, anyway) is not one that will likely stick in the memory banks.  If a typical soft rock ballad is your kind of jam, then “Comeback Kid” is a track you’ll enjoy, whereas following song From the Jump gives a strong country vibe, with Arthur showcasing the lower, deeper side of his vocal range.

The first song released as a single (in May ’23), A Year Ago is followed by the track Ruthless, which I believe is the track which best showcases Arthur’s solid vocal range.  Next up, New Generation is the most up-tempo pop-rock track on the album, and covers the mental strains and the events of the last couple of years, ranging from politics to war to COVID-19, and this pop-rock theme continues through to next track, My Favourite Pill.  Penultimate track Is It Alright? sees a return to the slower ballad, where Arthur again showcases his fine vocal range.  Rounding off the album, Homecoming was a further single release – an acoustic guitar leading nostalgic lyrics looking back at Arthur’s upbringing on Teesside.

Bitter Sweet Love is a mixture of some decent, upbeat tracks, a couple of tolerable country-light tracks, and a plethora of entirely adequate, yet instantly forgettable, piano-heavy ballads.  The up-tempo tracks demonstrate that Arthur can write good pop songs – without these, this album would have been one long, unendurable ballad.  Unfortunately, even with these tracks breaking up the ballads, I feel like this album doesn’t have enough X-factor to see me revisiting in its entirety, and no track will likely leave an indelible impact on my playlist.  As harmless as it was – it was just a bit ‘beige’ for me.