Truth be told, when the headlines broke that James Bay was back, I was a bit worried. All the articles mentioned that he ditched the hat before they mentioned the music, did that mean the music was bad? So bad that it wasn’t even worth mentioning? However, it would appear the tabloids love a good headline and the music is fact all there, thank the Lord.
Bay’s first album was straight forward, cookie cutter soft rock. It was perfect. Heartfelt, radio friendly and dripping with potential. In spite of critical and commercial acclaim, Bay has opted to move away from his acoustic guitar for album two. He instead takes an electric guitar and sings tales of debauchery.
Looking at what ‘Electric Light’ means for the artist it’s clear that he’s looking to explore far more risky routes. From the offing, single ‘Wild Love’ is braver than anything Bay has attempted before. Heavy synths and bold RnB grooves branch farther than any thought he was capable of. The lyrics are confident. They go to places The Chaos and The Calm wouldn’t have had the capacity to go to.
There’s a lot to admire on Electric Light, namely ‘Pink Lemonade’. The song seems to merge Bowie and The Strokes, taking that early 2000s indie and layering it with Bowie-esque quirks. The bridge is sensational, lyrics about laying in bed drinking pink lemonade whilst a single guitar strums under it.
The only real critique of this album is that at times it branches out so far that it simply doesn’t feel cohesive. Songs like ‘Wild Love’ and ‘Pink Lemonade’ feel like they don’t quite belong together, even less so right next to each other on the track listing. There’s a lot of direct influences on Electric Light and Roxy Music, The Strokes and Frank Ocean don’t necessarily belong together.
‘Fade Out’ is a clear homage to Frank Ocean and his seminal album Blonde. Despite not being a single, this track has potential as one of the best pop songs of the year. The lyrics are a far reach from previous hits such as ‘Let It Go’, detailing his disgruntled navigation of being someone’s booty call. The track is sexy, indulgent, one can picture James Bay performing it with the same swagger as Bruno Mars.
Electric Light has proven James Bay to be a credible artist and that he has a career set to last decades not years. Who knows what this chapter of his career will bring? James Bay’s sophomore album Electric Light is available here.