Review Summary: Potential, typically scorned.
So just what can you expect from singer songwriter Tom Odell on his debut album? If you’ve listened to the Brit awards then you’ll be expecting fireworks, but if you've taken any notice of the capricious NME then you’ll be avoiding him like the pestilence. After any artist enjoys excessive hype, the inevitable media counter-attack follows to restore parity and reset our expectation equilibrium. In reality, any artist who finds themselves in this position usually lands comfortably in the middle of these two extremes – and in this regard Tom Odell is no different.
The backlash Odell received however was more brutal than most – receiving a less than paltry 0/10 from the aforementioned music magazine. There is however, at least some
substance to the detractor’s arguments. Pop music is rarely lauded for its lyrical depth, but even when it is predictably shallow, then sincerity is sometimes nearby to fill the gap instead. Cringe worthy lines such as “Make me hot, make me come” on album opener “Grow Old With Me” and “All my tears have been used up on another love” on “Another Love” highlight Odell’s juvenescence, and they fail to compliment the often stellar piano work hiding underneath. Odell’s lyrics reek of cliché and shock factor – and it’s a negative stereotype that the young Brit has unwisely, and probably unwittingly, encouraged.
The highlights on Long Way Down
occur when Odell flaunts his expertise as a pianist. It’s impossible to deny the 22 year old one thing, he can craft a solid hook by tinkling those ivories, and his potential to grow is evident. Although repetitive, “I Know” undeniably strikes a catchy chord, in part because it refuses to be vulgar, but more so because it is simply content to bounce merrily from start to finish. The brilliant “Can’t Pretend” embraces the major as well as the minor, expertly switching dynamics as the chorus fades into the verse and back again, and what’s more, it’s also one of the rare occasions when Odell’s voice genuinely connects with the listener – bridging the gap that exists on many of the other songs here.
It’s safe to say that at this point in Odell’s career the hype was premature, but the doom mongering and quite frankly volatile critique by NME can equally be ignored. There’s undeniably talent lurking beneath Tom Odell’s flaws, and if the British media can for once decide upon a reasonable middle ground, it might just allow him to flourish without either the burden of expectation or the fear of failure looming over him.