Review Summary: Craig David climbs out of a rut by book-ending his 4th album with 2 attention-seeking highlights & filling most other tracks with subtle variation to add complexity. Is it too late to save David from musical oblivion though?
No matter what industry someone is in, there will always be a pivotal stage of one’s career where opportunities will present themselves. In order for the person to progress, they will have to grab that opportunity then and there as such an opportunity may never present itself again. For talented English singer-songwriter Craig David, that opportunity occurred back in 2002 when he could have practically conquered the musical world with the release of his 2nd album ‘Slicker Than Your Average’. Unfortunately that inconsistent and weakness-exposing album failed to live up to the fantastic standard set by David’s debut offering ‘Born To Do It’, due to the edgier cuts simply failing to hit the mark.
Thankfully, ‘Slicker…’ was not a total disaster though, as its highlights made it passable. One such example was considered by some cynics to be a shortcut as David used the distinctive vocal talents of Sting on hit single ‘Rise and Fall’. Well, to put it bluntly, if David were to have taken more “shortcuts” such as this, the album would have been less of a commercial disappointment than it ended up being. Five years and two albums later, David was to once more return to the art of the “shortcut” in order to make a splash in the musical world. In fact, on 4th album ‘Trust Me’, he arguably does so twice with the album’s 2 bookends. But is it too little too late to save David from musical oblivion?
Heavily sampling David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, 1st single and album opener ‘Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance)’ kicks things off with a bang here in the kind of attention-seeking manner which has arguably been missing from David’s career thus far. Adding a sufficient amount of his own strengths to a classic track from the past, the result is a thoroughly involving and memorable track. Its bookend closer ‘This Is The Girl’ is a collaboration with English rapper Kano where David simply provides the harmonies to the chorus while Kano does most of the work. While this cut is not exactly hip-hop perfection, it fits perfectly on this album by providing excellent variety and further standout attention-getting qualities.
‘Trust Me’ is not all about shortcuts though as is proven by 2nd single ‘6 of 1 Thing’, which nicely continues the momentum provided by the opener via immediately kicking off with its simple, repetitive and contagious chorus that is effectively backed by horns. And therein may lie the major strength of this album as compared to David’s previous 2 releases; The inclusion of subtle musical variations to not only add something new to the artist’s tiring formula, but also to add greater complexities to his songs. Follow-up ‘Friday Night’ also cleverly uses horns to help create a smooth feel-good party anthem, while later on ‘Don’t Play With Our Love’, synths are used to assist a much more vigorous-sounding David attack another dance tune with impressive conviction.
It isn’t just the up-tempo dance cuts where David successfully attempts something different though, as can be seen on the impressive ballad ‘Awkward’. Instead of re-hashing past slower performances that he could perform in his sleep, David gives this song an almost jazzy-like feel to add character and distinctiveness. Also adding David’s trademark smoothness and catchiness, this track is nicely topped off by female vocal accompaniment performed by Rita Ora.
The middle section of ‘Trust Me’ is a little more typical of David’s past, with tracks like ‘Just A Reminder’ being a little too predictable and ho-hum. There is also a tendency to fall into overly corny lyrics at time, such as on the sure to be wedding night favorite (3rd single) ‘Officially Yours’ and the tried and true content of ‘Kinda Girl For Me’ where he spouts out lines like “She’s so sick like a dope melody”. The thing is that David does so in such a personable and likeable manner that it is difficult to dislike too much.
Of course, there are exceptions and not even the most talented vocalist throughout the history of time could save the penultimate ‘Top of the Hill’. Awful lyrics plague what is supposed to be an acoustic and motivational call-to-arms, which isn’t exactly helped by ill-fitting vocals that simply result in an embarrassingly awkward track that should never have been able to make the final album release.
‘Top of the Hill’ aside, Craig David’s strike rate of hits compared to misses is impressive on ‘Trust Me’. Yet it is the fact that he does not achieve this by playing it safe which is the album’s most admirable, and ultimately satisfying, trait. Sufficient variation (whether musical, vocal or structural), is added throughout, while the singer’s trademark strengths are also on show during the majority of songs. It is just a shame that David was unable to pull out some of these cuts 5 years ago when the opportunity to make his mark was there for the taking.
Recommended Tracks: Hot Stuff (Let’s Dance), 6 of 1 Thing, This is the Girl & Awkward.