Ten long years on from his Fame Academy triumph, Tottenham-born RnB singer Lemar offers us his 5th album, Invincible. Lemar has achieved greater success than most of his fellow talent show winners, having shifted over two million records and having released a Greatest Hits album in 2010. Despite commercial success, Lemar has a point to prove with this album – it is his first record released independently, having left his old label Sony.
Without straying too far away from the soulful pop Lemar is most known for, the album crosses an array of musical genres, be it funk on Keep On Luvin’ or simple ballads such as Beautiful. Despite this diversity, one cannot help but think that the album’s production sounds dated, making it sound grossly over-produced and not musically suited to Lemar’s soulful tones. This is especially apparent on the opener, The First Time, a record which starts with a breathy, euphoric house-inspired piano loop, reminiscent of the one used on Saturday Night by Whigfield. Unfortunately, the exciting start to this song is later ruined by the of introduction stadium-ready drums cutting in at around the 40 second mark. It is on tracks like these that you question Lemar’s choice of producer.
Despite the many disappointments here, there are a few examples on the album where the production shines. One of these rare and beautiful moments comes on the lead single and title track, Invincible. It starts like a Snow Patrol track, with melancholy guitars and sweeping xylophones, and then it escalates into a soaring pop song capable of uplifting any crowd. It is not a big surprise that it was used by Sky Sports to cover some of their Olympic adverts.
The record falls flat lyrically in some places, for instance on Hurricane, when Lemar uses recycled lines such as “You turn me inside out, I’m like putty in your hand”, which sound like they may have graced Radio 1 at least 40 times in the last fortnight. However, Lemar was never known for his lyrical prowess but more so his vocal one. One wouldn’t compare this man to Bob Dylan in a hurry.
After claiming to have written over one 150 songs for this album, you wouldn’t think there would still be songs in this small collection which disappoint. Sadly, there are several, including the forgettable Into The Night Sky, featuring the Britain’s got Talent finalist Ryan O’Slaughnessy, who chips in with a waxy-sounding cameo. The feeble Can’t Let Go helps to ensure that Invincible won’t be in top LPs of the year lists any time soon.
With the album’s overall sound not seeming to build upon his previous effort The Reason, departing from Sony may not have actually done Lemar any musical favours. You would think that with the freedom of not being on a major label he would be able to step slightly out of his comfort zone whilst also delivering a quality product.
Although the title track comes close, none of the material here lives up to previous singles such as If There’s Any Justice and It’s Not That Easy and the album tracks lack the soulful production that best suit Lemar’s voice. Unfortunately for listeners, this record is not quite as Invincible as its title implies.