Another month, another earnest singer/songwriter type going for that lucrative ‘David Gray‘ style market. This year, we’ve had The Handsome Ex-Soldier Who Makes The Girls Go A Bit Wibbly (James Blunt), The Laidback Surfer Dude (Jack Johnson) and The Curly Headed Sensitive Acoustic Man (Stephen Fretwell).
So what does Mr Powter bring to the party to make him stand out from the crowd? Well, he’s got a hugely commercial sound which has already paid dividends in the enormous commercial success of the single Bad Day. He’s also got a big name at the production desk in the shape of Mitchell Froom, who’s worked with Crowded House and Elvis Costello.
Yet there’s something ever so irritating about Mr Powter – be it the constant beanie hat that’s seemingly welded onto his head (covering an Edge-style bald patch maybe?), the cutesy little ‘DP’ logo on the album cover or, worst of all, the sheer mind-numbingly formulaic approach his music takes.
It’s almost as if someone’s taken a look at the biggest selling artists in recent years and decided to create a huge musical hybrid, on the basis that it’s bound to sell records. So, we get a touch of the Coldplay or Keane sad piano chords here, a Scissor Sister-style dance sheen there, or a Maroon 5-ish radio friendly soft rock hit every now and again.
It obviously works though – Bad Day is becoming nearly as ubiquitous as James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful at the time of writing. To be fair, it’s a very catchy song, and once that chorus gets into your head it’s difficult to escape. But again, there’s a level of cynicism involved that leaves a nasty taste. Yes, we all have bad days, and I dare say we all “need a blue sky holiday”. But we don’t need our own little song to make us feel better when we have one of those bad days.
However, there are some decent tracks hiding away here – Jimmy Gets High is quite a nice ballad, with some poignant lyrics about a former friend of Powter’s who sounds like he’s overdone it on the drugs. Song 6 is an impressive opener, even if the introduction does sound like an old Take That song, and the catchy Free Loop will probably be another big hit for him.
But after a while, it grates badly on the nerves. Powter’s voice prove irritating beyond the call of duty. Suspect is ruined by a ludicrously high-pitched growl that sounds like Macy Gray on helium while other tracks, such as Lie To Me, just leave you wondering just how tight Powter’s underwear is. It’s frustrating, because when he does tone down the vocal theatrics, such as the aforementioned Jimmy Gets High, he sounds just fine.
Daniel Powter’s debut album will no doubt be a big success, and good luck to him. It’s just a shame that Warner Bros have thrown so much money at something so bland and insipid when there are some far more deserving candidates out there.