Review Summary: Quite the opposite.
Let’s get one thing straight; I, like any self-respecting music fan, despise The X-Factor, and all the pathetic ‘stars’ it has puked up since it’s inception in the UK seven years ago. It’s a plague on the earth, completely dominating the nation’s talking points and Facebook feeds, and what’s worse it seems to reappear mere weeks after we were celebrating it’s conclusion. But of all of the supermarket staples that the show has shat out, none get under my skin quite as much as 2009 winner Joe McElderry. I remember it clearly, the moment when it was announced that his debut single – a cover of Miley Cyrus’ 'The Climb' – had been beaten to the top of the UK charts by an internet campaign which had propelled Rage Against The Machine’s 'Killing In The Name' to number 1. I was beside myself with joy, for not only were RATM one of my favourite bands, but McElderry is local to me, and as a result I’d had to spend the previous few months hearing how people knew his aunt’s best friend’s house-cleaner, or whatever.
In fairness, his debut album, Wide Awake wasn’t the worst thing ever released – nor for that matter was it the worst released by an X-Factor winner. It did, however, come across as a miserable attempt to strike a chord with his new gay audience, since he’d belatedly came out in the run-up to it’s release. Even worse, the brand of sickly euro-pop he adopted failed to impress the sheep that had bought 'The Climb,' meaning that the album flopped badly and McElderry was unceremoniously dumped from Simon Cowell’s SyCo label. It seemed his fledging career as a pop star was over no sooner than it had begun, oh how I rejoiced...
Sadly, like an especially unpleasant cockroach, he’s come crawling back winning another reality show, Pop Star To Opera Star, and subsequently bought himself a second chance. This second album, rush released before interest in the show inevitably dissolves, marks this drastic change in his musical direction, not that he ever seemed to have a concrete plan laid out in the first place. Despite still having a distinct smell of cheddar, the dramatic orchestral arrangements and backing choirs are no where near as cheesy as the overproduced snot on his debut, and as a result the whole thing comes over as a far more tasteful release. Other than his wonderful
personality, the one thing his supporters always quote as a strength is his voice, and that is showcased far more effectively on this record, with plenty of high notes and pretty harmonies for him to warble along to. He even *gasp* sings in different languages in some of the songs, how adventurous.
Unfortunately, although not at all unexpectedly, these are the only minor positives which can be taken from Classic. Talent show albums rarely possess any kind of spark, but this is so utterly devoid of any form of creativity that you have to wonder whether you could count the hours it took to assemble on one hand. It’s composed entirely of covers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but every one is performed in such a predictable and formulaic way that the whole thing just seems totally pointless. What’s more the song choices are frightfully cynical, with the inclusion of 'I Dreamed A Dream' in particular doing a poor job of disguising the fact that they’re simply trying to tap into Susan Boyle’s market – aka, music for people who don’t like music.
Yes, Joe McElderry has a good voice, but then so does my ***ing Gran, and the fact that she’s pushing 70 isn’t the only reason why she’s not a global superstar. McElderry is in his element when hitting the big high notes, but all too often that can seem like the only trick he has to offer, and as a result the variation in terms of his vocal performance is practically zero. But perhaps the worst thing of all about this album is that it all seems so needless. The kid could quite easily make a decent living in the West-End musicals, which in itself would make a lot of people happy. Instead, though, he’s insisted on bulldozing on with his dream of being a pop star, and as a result has clogged the market with yet more worthless, throwaway music that his legion of obsessive followers will doubtless lap up. They don’t care that this is an album with barely a single redeeming feature, they only care about the fact that it’s by lovely Joe, who they saw on the TV and voted for a few years ago. I’ll happily hold my hands up if he returns with something decent, but I’m quite prepared to go on record and say that I hope that this is the last we hear of him.