The musical rehabilitation of Craig David is complete. The Southampton –born producer never fully disappeared, but there was a definite dip in his songwriting form as he explored slower, more soulful forms of music and retreated from the limelight for a while.
Now, getting on for 20 years on from the Artful Dodger collaboration ‘Rewind’, he finds his music has come around again, going hand in hand with pop’s current penchant for a Spanish-influenced beat or two. To his credit he has shown immense durability to take this opportunity, not quite along the Rick Astley line of comebacks, but definitely a renaissance of some note.
The Time Is Now, apart from namechecking a white watch bought three years ago with that logo, recognises this aligning of the planets once again. It also shows how effective Craig David can be when bouncing off other creative minds. He marshals a small crowd of collaborators here, but while he uses them to give a rich variety to the album, he manages their contributions well, ensuring his is always the loudest voice.
The Bastille collaboration I Know You is a good example, bringing forward the best of both worlds if channeling a rather strange, skeletal vocal. Talk To Me finds its ideal match with Ella Mai, whose tones are a sharp hit alongside David’s smooth, caramel voice. Get Involved, meanwhile, whips up a flurry of lyrics in a sparring session with JP Cooper over a busy RnB beat.
The songs fit into contemporary pop outlines with relative ease, and are recognisably the work of a seasoned hitmaker. They are also sly in their occasional resemblances to other songs. Love Me Like It’s Yesterday has a main riff updating Architechs’ Body Groove to good effect, while the smooth-as-silk Focus, a deeper, four-to-the-floor based cut, brings in a touch of Show Me Love by Robin S. Brand New is a distant enough relative of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, David’s smooth vocal compliments making it his own: “Senorita, I know every time that I need ya, just complimenting your features,” sings the rejuvenated vocalist, “cos you’ve got a way of making me feel brand new.”
When Fill Me In came out we loved David’s up-to-date ability with technology, and while you could never hope to achieve that in these rapidly moving times, there are some amusing and relevant references. For The Gram is the best of these, talking emoji with fidgety, short-attention beats that bounce around like ping-pong balls. “We do it for the Insta,” he proclaims through increasingly jumbled up vocals. “When she’s done takin’ pictures, don’t forget the hashtag.” On the flipside, Going On and Heartline deal with weightier matters. “I’ll fight for us strong like a soldier” proclaims the former, while the catchier latter track stamps his colours to the mast, longing for a relationship with time and feelings fully invested.
While undoubtedly a bit too long, The Time Is Now reaffirms Craig David’s standing as a fine and flexible pop songwriter with all sorts of hooks up his sleeve. He is a more versatile singer these days, able to home in on an urban style, but moulding himself into different shapes, sizes and speeds. We should value him more than we do.