Where to fit Leon Jean Marie into the current music scene? He’s a good example of how fragmented it all is at the moment, with a noticeable shift away from standard bands and pop groups, and towards genre-defying solo artists.
This debut album is impressive. Confident, assured and produced to an inch of its life by the likes of Mark Ronson and Bloodshy, it outgrows Mika and kicks sand in the face of David Jordan. While there’s nothing dazzlingly original here, it retains charm and is packed full of edible audible pop songs that should draw him a wide fanbase.
The first half of the album is the stronger half. East End Blues sounds like Erasure‘s old hit The Circus, but done to ska. It’s a fair representation of Jean Marie’s musical ethics – as long as it’s got a melody, he doesn’t seem to mind the style in which it comes. Vocally he’s good, with a warm, deep voice. He doesn’t challenge himself too much, and it all makes for pleasant listening.
As the album progresses, it does at times feels a bit contrived. It’s as if he thought ‘hmm, now the album needs a blues song’ (Gotta Have It) ‘and now it should have something funky’ (Trusted You) ‘and then let’s throw in something totally off the wall’ (Scratch). And while he’s kind of right, and all of these styles do add up to a diverse result, he’s a bit of a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Where he really comes into his own is with the ballads. If this was Robbie Williams‘s breakthrough album, You Must Know would be his Angels. In a musical world where hit singles can no longer be predicted with certainty, it deserves a big push because people will love it. Piled high with romantic imagery and unpredictable breakbeats, if he needs a hit, this is it. Further in, Beg is similarly memorable, again marrying a delicate melody with more breakbeats, but this time building and building until you can’t resist any longer.
And still, there’s more. Bring It On borrows heavily from the Steve Miller Band‘s Abracadabra to fairly good effect. Stay Right Here finds him struggling halfway between Beck and Prince. It’s almost too much to take in. Undoubtedly, he should’ve left out a couple of tracks (perhaps the forgettable opener Fair, and the frankly dreadful Jumping Off The Block) and if you want an album with a particular musical style, you can find better out there. But if you want an easy-to-listen to pop album that isn’t really any style in particular, but has a bit of this and a bit of that, you could do a lot worse than picking this one up.