Jonah Nilsson
Now Or Never


3.5
great

Review

by HelloJoe USER (8 Reviews)
October 31st, 2021 | 3 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Jonah Nilsson wears his Michael Jackson influences proudly on his sleeve but takes on the challenge with powerful vocal delivery and complex musicianship.

Now or Never is the debut solo album from Sweden’s Jonah Nilsson, keyboardist and vocalist of the group Dirty Loops. Nilsson’s vocal style and mannerisms call to mind immediate comparisons with the king of pop himself, Michael Jackson. It’s an unavoidable comparison and not one that Nilsson dares to shy away from. In fact, throughout his career, and on his solo album, he embraces his influences wholeheartedly while demonstrating the unique qualities he brings to this particular style of soul pop and funk.

Maximalism is the key word here. That is very obvious right from the album’s opening ‘Diamond Ring’, boasting a technical and over-the-top guitar solo from Steve Vai and laced with instrumental complexity and layers of robust vocal harmony. While the song, and much of the works here are lyrically simplistic, they more than make up for that in elaborate musicianship and tasteful harmony. There’s no pocket of sound that Nilsson and his group won’t exploit here to maximum effect.

This opening song highlights just a taste of what’s to come with smoking basslines and blazing keyboards. Boasting his classically trained background at the Royal Academy of Music, he interjects inflections of jazz into his music with wild chord progressions, such as a tasteful keyboard progression at 03:13. Nilsson’s voice dives up and down with ease. His control and range is exceptional such that the obvious comparisons can always be challenged by simply pointing to his undeniable talent.

But one maximalist isn’t enough. Enter Jacob Collier. Following on from an already explosive open track, ‘Independent Girl’ introduces a harmonizing Collier for the absurd vocal layering that he is known for. It’s all very excessive but also so tasteful, like the harmonic dissonance at 02:12 as Nilsson and Collier find two ends of the same line to sing; creating a tension that is released as the chorus bursts into frame with another thunderous drum fill. It’s a match made in heaven for fans of over-the-top, musically dense pop.

This is followed by a direct address to the elephant in the room. As I mentioned previously, I get the impression that Nilsson is honored and proud of his most direct influences in MJ and proposes his own version of the Jackson classic ‘Bad’. It’s a great highlight of the differences between Nilsson and his predecessors, and shows that despite the vocal mannerisms, there’s more to Nilsson than an impersonator. This version of ‘Bad’ is filled to the brim with the same bombast enjoyed by an increased tempo and an outro that brings it all down for a gnarly punch.

Where the album loses me a little is in its lyricism. ‘Coffee Break’ is perhaps the most difficult to stomach - a cheesy song where Nilsson casts himself as the would-be hero ready to sweep a barista away from the pretentiousness of coffee culture. It’s cheesy but also represents a mild distraction in an otherwise enjoyable collection of songs. Much of the material deals with love but there are exceptions such as ‘Borrowed Time’ that finds Nilsson reflecting on what he will leave behind when his time comes.

“ When I'm gone remember I came
Pretend I matter
Hear this song, if only the echo
I'm on borrowed time”

The song in question is a theatrical ballad performed by the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra. A beautiful piece which demonstrates Nilsson’s impressive vocal range and affords the album a break from its bombast of grooves and hooks. I really like how it captures the wonderment of theatre, bolstering the protagonist as this lone artist looking to make his mark on the world, be it however small.

The song that follows is ‘I Just Need’. One of my favourite pop songs of the year and sounding as though it were plucked out of Thriller, it’s a tender love song composed of the album’s more simpler elements. Okay, there’s still a handsome filling of bass lines and some playful flirtations on drums but it shows that even when these compositions are paired down, they work effectively - delivered by Nilsson’s excellent voice and ear for melody.

It’s a confident debut album for a well-established musician who has filled out his own niche in a space that has no shortage of preceding legends. I’d love to hear Nilsson explore more territory and expand his focus on lyrics, however effective they are, to create their own distinct flavour. All the same, I thoroughly enjoy this album. It’s a fun 30 minute spin of excellent musicianship, melody and vocal prowess.



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user ratings (3)
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
HelloJoe
November 2nd 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

For anyone interested, Nilsson has recently released a video exploring the production of his version of 'Bad'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixlXnFSOvDE

Snake.
November 3rd 2021


25268 Comments


cover looks like the OST to a really terrible albeit high budget war hero film

HelloJoe
November 3rd 2021


1097 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha! That would be the craziest war film of all time.



"World War II - The Musical"



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