In the space of two albums, Craig David has undergone a remarkable transformation from young upstart to a maturity that seems to have arrived far too soon.
The chocolate-smooth voice remains, but where songs such as Fill Me In were high on anticipation, The Story Goes picks over relationship problems and failings – no more “bo selecta” here, as the singer makes an over-calculated bid for the US market.
This makes for soulful music, crucially lacking much of the soul. Thus the confessional Don’t Love You No More (I’m Sorry) proceeds with too little regret. One Last Dance documents the end of a seemingly dangerous dalliance with another woman, as Craig sings, “Both of us know we’ve done wrong”, and he sends his girl back with an overdone vocalise at the end. Even when Unbelievable states, “I’m in love, you complete me” it’s hard to take on face value, the song’s emotional core missing.
As you’d expect the production is smooth as silk, but unremittingly devoid of colour. Recent single All The Way helps out with a splash of melody, but too often the voice is given such studio sheen that any deeper lyrical meaning is removed.
Take Em Off, given the subject matter, should at least sound like a ‘come hither’ ballad, but ends up sounding like a wet weekend in a Milton Keynes service station. When David sings, “Take your sheets off the bed cos we’d like to go ahead”, all that encourages is laughter, I’m afraid. Far better is the soaring vocal he brings to My Love Don’t Stop, or the genuine vibe of Hypnotic. This time when he sings, “this girl, she’s so sexy” he really means it.
Too often though the album dabbles in schmaltz, and barely hits a danceable beat over the pulse rate to help David achieve anything like past glories. When he does attempt such a move, as in Just Chillin’, the move to sub-Beyoncé “oh-oh” vocals screams derivative, meaning the track dies a death before the vocals even start.
Make no mistake, Craig David remains a huge vocal talent with a voice to die for. What really disappoints here is the advanced maturity he already seems to have found. Whether it’s an attempt to reach the US market or to fend off a certain Avid Merrion, it’s hard to tell. But the music needs more life, more passion and some proper beats once again. Even if the last outing wasn’t his best, this one is dangerously close to average rather than slick.