Alistair Griffin was the funny one from Fame Academy, we all know that. If this is why we remember him, should we expect his music to be any good? Well, he made it into the Academy in the first place, won various songwriting accolades and made it to the final few contestants. In short, Bring It On should be pop music at its best… But is it?
By now, unless you live on Mars, you’ve probably heard the album’s title track and eponymous first single. It is insanely catchy, and even the most cynical of us have to tip our hats to this Northern upstart – he’s already penned what promises to be the most memorable / irritating song of Winter 2003/2004. Painkiller follows similar lines, though Alistair turns the sincerity up and the volume down. It’s very much Chesney Hawkes for the 21st century, being so cheesy that it is actually cool somehow.
Songs on Bring It On are invariably vocal-led guitar pop, often catchy and lighthearted, and sometimes, just sometimes, unbearably corny. Griffin has clearly practised his songwriting long and hard, and his practice looks set to pay off with a commendable effort. You And Me Tonight, for instance, is agreeable enough to withstand several repeat listens, whilst Hungry For Love, shock horror, suggests Alistair is willing to be somewhat left-field in his approach (left-field in the loosest sense – all I’m trying to say is that he’s far less mundane than most recent pop balladeers).
The album shows hints of varied influences, from David Gray to Turin Brakes, incorporating the mandatory mainstream giants like Westlife and Robbie Williams. It doesn’t seem to be as repetitive as production line pop always promises to be, and even boasts an appearance from Bee Gee Robin Gibb on the stomach-churningly soppy A Lover’s Prayer which, somehow, managed to make it as double A-side with Bring It On. Griffin also proves some intestinal fortitude in his handling of John Lennon‘s classic Jealous Guy. By that I mean that he refuses to change the song to any significant degree, but he covers it nonetheless. It won’t knock you off your feet, but I’d guess it won’t make you tear your hair out, either.
Bring It On is polished pop, and it won’t appeal to everyone. The purist in you wants to banish the thought of buying an Alistair album, but that little angel on your other shoulder is saying, “Come on, just try it. You might like it!” Either way, it can’t be denied that the guy has talent, not to mention a nice voice. If you’re looking for a pop album in the near future, you could do a heck of a lot worse.