Sunday, 18 March 2012

Marcus Collins debut album Review

While Marcus's first album isn't a complete failure it simply makes me sad for him. It unfortunately seems his career has been screwed up before it even properly began. When I watched Marcus on the X Factor every week I imagined him to become a George Michael-style pop singer. A younger, tinier, prettier version, with slightly different musical leanings. But that wasn't to be. Marcus's love for Motown-y music got translated as cheap British imitation of the Bruno Mars brand of retro pop. Cheap being the key word.

If there's one big minus which I could apply to most of the album, it's the production. The production just feels sloppy. Now, The Beatles recorded their debut album in one day but that was material they've been playing for - in some cases - years. Marcus worked on this album for a month (today's equivalent of the 60's day I suppose) and it shows. The production is generic and soul-less, and so are Marcus's vocals in most cases. I wish Mark Ronson could get his hands on these songs (none of them is a real stinker). The album as a whole could do with a lot more balls and a lot less sonic mediocrity.

While the arrangements and sound needed the work of someone like Ronson, Marcus needed to have some time with these songs, make love to them for a while and figure out what works and what doesn't. It's astonishing how little he seems to know about the strengths and weaknesses of his own voice. He wasn't some innocent flower plucked from his hairdressing salon when he entered The X Factor. He'd been singing for years. Also I would've thought the vocal coaches on the show, and Gary Barlow would help him with this. He over-uses his falsetto, strains his voice but at the same time doesn't seem to give much of himself while doing that.

The album features eight original songs (seven of which were co-written by Marcus), and three cover versions. One of them opens the whole album and was also an unfortunate pilot single: Seven Nation Army. It's actually a cover of a cover, and it is not a complete tragedy. It's catchy as fuck and in the past month or so it almost managed to make me hate the song. I'm a White Stripes fan, even after the (original) song being almost everywhere at one point I never wanted to cut my head off when I heard it. It managed to be not only catchy but also raw and still damn interesting after the millionth listen. I used to love the riff so much. This version makes me wanna dance but I also hate it for it. I wonder if Marcus even knows what he sings in this song because he sure as hell makes me forget. I'm glad he (or was it Ben L'Oncle Soul?) had the sense to omit the part about bleeding before the Lord.

The other two cover versions on the album - Higher & Higher and Tightrope - are not as controversial but also feel unnecessary. We've already seen Marcus perform Higher on the X Factor twice. And the inclusion of Tightrope I get even less. Why would you put an almost exact same copy of the original song on your debut album? I only hope no good song got kicked off the final selection for the album for these two.

It's not easy trying to determine if you'd like a certain song when you hate the way it was arranged and produced. Still I did manage to find a couple of stand-outs in the underwhelming mass. Don't Surrender is the stand-out track on the album for me. A really good song, probably the best one on the album from the song-writing point of view. Here you have proof that a good song can't be completely destroyed by lacklustre production. Then there is Mercy, a probable second single. It seems to me more work might have gone into this song than to the rest of the album. It's quite memorable right on first listen, it has a bit of attitude and its own personality. If only the rest of the album had balls at least as big as these!

Love & Hate, That's Just Life, Feel Like I Feel (Gary Barlow-penned, not good enough for Take That?) and Break These Chains are all good-enough songs which would benefit from better production and more passion from Marcus, and everyone else involved. Retro does not equal cheap 70's disco, please!

Innocence (has anybody heard a hook here?) and It's Time (is it over yet?) are the weakest points of the album. Thankfully they are placed within a respectable distance from each other.

Marcus Collins's debut album is 34 minutes long but feels much longer. It's supposed to cheer you up but its shallowness only mainly manages to wear you out.
It's actually quite like cheap chocolate: it serves its purpose but it doesn't quite satisfy. It leaves you wanting a proper praline. I hope Marcus will get a chance to make a proper praline for us in the future, he does have the potential.

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