FROM James Blunt to Ed Sheeran and every warbling milksop in between, the last decade of British pop has been blighted by an endless procession of Nice Young Men peddling sensitive ballads custom-made for Radio 2. James Bay is the latest poster-boy for this yawning trend.
With his photogenic cheekbones and troubadour trilby, he almost comes across as a parody of a major label MOR singer-songwriter. He’s only 24, but still that’s no excuse for being earnestly in thrall to the anodyne arena rock of Snow Patrol and Coldplay. The songs from his début album Chaos and the Calm are the sort of thing you can imagine Richard Madeley humming as he vacuums his car seats.
Granted, his voice is pleasant. Of course it is. Everything about Bay is pleasant to a fault. His “bluesier” moments sound like the White Stripes given a slick LA makeover. The rest sound like harmony-drenched Fleetwood Mac rejects. If his aim is to provide generically uplifting fodder for American TV teen dramas, then mission accomplished.
There’s an art to crafting genuinely affecting, radio-friendly pop-rock. As evinced by the likes of If You Ever Want To Be In Love and the admittedly catchy Best Fake Smile, Bay has learned all the basic tricks. He just hasn’t injected any of his own personality into the formula.
Still, tonight’s crowd loved him. His tour has sold out. He’ll probably be huge, at least for a while. World, he’s all yours.
Seen on 14.04.15