Review Summary: Much-maligned Idol survivor saves the last dance and gets the last laugh.
The fact he persists in making music when his career could have crashed and burned following his 2003 Australian Idol victory deserves kudos. The trouble for Guy Sebastian, however, is that he hasn’t found a sound he’s comfortable with – until now.
Ironically, after attempts at mainstream pop, modern rnb, rock and piano ballads, Sebastian came into his own with the release of The Memphis Album
in 2007 – a covers record, no less. Working with musicians of the Motown era and surrounding himself with its sounds, Sebastian was inspired far more than the passable dross of songs like "Out With My Baby" and "Angels Brought Me Here".
So when it came to creating his fifth album, Like It Like That
, Sebastian knew he could throw something at the wall that would finally stick. As a result, Like It Like That is easily his most consistent record of original material. This is a slick, smoothly-arranged album that will please the followers of his pop roots as well as fans of his newer soul-infused sounds.
By now, you’ve most likely heard the album’s title track, which opens the record with a twist and a bang. Hands down the best single of Guy’s career, the song gallivants through surf guitar, Bo Diddley rhythms and that stupidly catchy chorus in a whirlwind three-and-a-half minutes. Despite being a highlight of the album, one can view the song as the exorcising of Sebastian’s pop demons – the majority of Like It Like That
makes its home in self-penned homage to Motown, soul and doo-wop.
For the first time in Sebastian’s career, we have an album on our hands that, whilst flawed, can easily be listened to start-to-finish. While previous original material efforts felt forced and uncomfortable, Guy has never sounded happier to be singing his own stuff. "All To Myself" streamlines close harmony and tight, funky drums underneath a fantastic vocal delivery. Meanwhile, "Attention" sees the horn section storm through in the limelight as Sebastian himself schools the neo-soul movement with pizzazz and class.
Indeed, the best songs here are the upbeat, highly danceable numbers that, whilst obviously derivative, present Guy as the most relaxed, and subsequently confident, he has ever been. This isn’t to discredit the moves into ballad territory entirely, though. Sure, the head-scratching modern rnb of "Art of Love" (complete with AutoTuned backing vocals) was very much an ill-advised move. And the ballads dedicated to his newly-wed wife – "Fail to Mention" and "Perfection" – are far too sappy for their own good, despite the best of intentions.
For what it’s worth, however, "Bring Yourself" proves to be a powerful highlight of the album. A soulful 6/8 ballad in the spirit of Sam Cooke or Nat King Cole, Sebastian takes the lyrical role of a lover disinterested in the monetary and materialistic gains of his lover. “Just bring yourself,” he simplistically pleads as the string sections soars and sweeps. Forget the faux-romantic lines of Guy’s back catalogue like, “I’m out with my baby” or “I’m addicted to this elevator love”- this is genuine baby-makin’ music right here.
It’s taken three albums of style over substance and a career-defining covers record to get Guy Sebastian to the point that he needs to be in his career. Finally, an Australian Idol winner has made good on the promise of their potential. Erase your premonitions and enjoy.