Ben Levett reviews Craig David’s return to form on ‘Following My Intuition’, his first album in 6 years, proving that his resurgence in popularity is certainly not unfounded
After wild success with his first album ‘Born To Do It’, which went six times platinum, sold 7.5 million copies and produced 6 top 10 hits (including UK number 1 ‘Fill Me In’) at the tender age of 19, Craig was the poster of boy of the year 2000 music scene and largely responsible for bringing the garage sound to the masses.
However these levels of success and credibility were not to last. With each consecutive album sounding increasingly unoriginal and disappointing, Craig’s sound, once fresh and innovative, began to sound like almost everything else (not to say he didn’t release any more great songs: ‘Rise and Fall’, ‘What’s your flava’ and ‘6 of One Thing’). This certainly wasn’t helped by Leigh Francis turning him into a renowned joke on his sketch show ‘Bo Selecta’, a title taken directly from a Craig David lyric. His demise was confirmed when his 2010 album ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’ only reached 13 in the UK charts and its lead single charted only at number 76.
In 2012, Craig decided to relocate to a penthouse in Miami where he hosted and DJ’d at parties every Sunday branded as ‘TS5’ which, due to their increasing popularity on Soundcloud, were broadcasted on Kiss FM. However it wasn’t until last year that the resurgence in his popularity truly began. His performance of ‘Fill Me In’ over Jack U’s ‘Where Are U Now’ on Kurupt fm’s 60 minute takeover on 1xtra going viral which was swiftly followed by surprise appearances at Fabric and Major Lazer’s show at Alexandra Palace reminded us how great Craig once was. Supported by the ever-popular power of nostalgia and a choice selection of clever collaborations, Craig was catapulted back into the limelight.
‘Following My Intuition’ begins with a Sigala collaboration ‘Ain’t Giving Up’ and Big Narstie featuring ‘When the Bassline Drops’, songs I’ve now heard so much they no longer sound like music, which is a testament to how catchy they are. Both of these tracks have Craig’s signature sound, but with the addition of tropical house and grime themes respectively, Craig makes a strong connection with the current top 40. These additions have perhaps cleverly made his music more accessible for younger listeners, those who may not be aware of his former popularity. This is followed by the Drum and Bass infused track ‘Don’t Go’, co produced by jungle veteran Shy FX. Craig’s inclusion of multiple genres reminds listeners of his musical diversity and willingness to remain relevant. Despite this, Craig remains true to his roots on classic R&B sounding tracks, interestingly his self proclaimed favourite songs on the album, ‘Couldn’t Be Mine’, ‘What If’ and ‘Like a Fan’, all kitted out with modern polished productions.
Despite all this elaborate production and genre blending, Craig’s true raw talent shines through on standout track ‘Better with You’. With just a simple acoustic guitar and clicking for accompaniment we are reminded of Craig’s pitch-perfect unique vocals and his talent for writing insanely catchy tunes.
A slightly odd inclusion on the album is ‘16’, his viral ‘Fill me in’ vocals over ‘Where Are U Now’ followed by rap where he manages to rhyme ‘sixteen’ with ‘sixteen’ more times than he sings his own name on the album. Although what this does show is the timelessness of his classic hits and how they can still sound fresh in today’s chart.
Having been lucky enough to have witnessed his acoustic album launch set at HMV 363 Oxford Street, I can confirm that Craig proved himself to be the real deal; with a transfixing stage presence and a voice that sounds as pure as on record. His ability to perform acoustically as well as in a club setting is truly admirable and something that very few artists every fully achieve.
Even after two hours of signing CDs and meeting other fans, Craig was charming and friendly when I got the chance to meet him. I wasn’t convinced by Craig’s assurance in interviews that he really enjoys meeting fans until I experienced it first hand. He seems genuinely grateful for his success and, if this album is anything to go by, it won’t be waning any time soon.
Other standout tracks:
‘Change My Love’, ‘Louder Than Words, ‘Here with Me’.
Make sure to check http://www.hmv.com/hmvlive for the chance to see and meet other great acts live in store.