After hits with Rudimental and a UK number one single with ‘Love Me Again’, John Newman quickly established himself as ‘one to watch’, all whilst coolly exhibiting his blonde-streaked quiff and his smooth dance moves on the likes of VEVO Lift and Radio 1 Live Lounge. And, it’s made clear very early on, that his début album, Tribute, lives up – no, exceeds – this potential that Newman already shown.
Tribute somehow metamorphoses painfully sad emotions, such as adultery and losing the one you love, into a lighter, more luminous portrait through his cheerful pop-soul sound. It’s like a massive ‘Fuck you, I’m fine’ middle finger to everything that’s hurt him. It’s not until halfway through the album that Newman finally succumbs to revealing a layer of sensitivity with ‘Out Of My Head’. The lyrics are skilfully crafted and reminds us that this album is human – it’s not just a colourful parade of happy-go-lucky tunes.
There’s a whole load of experimental, innovative tunes: although ‘Love Me Again’ and ‘Cheating’ are some of the strongest songs with their feel-good pop sound, there’s shifts to more soulful, darker songs with ‘Running’, filled with melancholic violins and a fast paced snare drum. ‘Tribute’ is another triumph – a cinematic, empowered song dedicated to musicians that Newman could well live up to.
As the album progresses, you’re pulled along a multi-coloured spectrum of moods, gently tugging you from glorious empowerment to beaten and blue sadness; yet it’s all done quite smoothly. Each song makes up a long storyboard narrative of Newman’s many experiences – all of this is painted out in intricate detail through soulful song-writing. Even if soul or pop is not quite your thing, Newman will still tempt you in – Tribute is almost flawless.