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Lewis Capaldi plays it safe in uninspired 2nd album

Lewis Capaldi plays it safe in uninspired 2nd album

Lewis Capaldi plays it safe in uninspired 2nd album
June 04
13:00 2023

“Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent,” Lewis Capaldi’s 2019 studio album debut, set up near-immediate commercial success for the artist. The Scottish singer soon saw peaks on the European charts, received rounds of critical praise and reached over 10 million sales worldwide. The artist’s first mainstream project also continues to appear in the Billboard Top 200 since its release.

Capaldi’s second release has seen similar success, but not by mere accident. “Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent,” released on May 12, pursues near-identical themes and styles as its predecessor — all but guaranteeing the artist another chart-topping shot.

While Capaldi’s public persona outside of his songwriting — namely that on social media — is knowingly unserious, he has become widely known as a sincere, heartfelt lyricist. “Broken By Desire”’s fail-safe format reveals a more formulaic, less authentic approach from the seemingly earnest songwriter.

Opening track “Forget Me” initially draws listeners in with another dejected tale of love, loss and loss backed by an upbeat pop track. It’s full of Capaldi’s familiar melancholy but wrapped in a pleasant composition reminiscent of other industry-pleasing summer singles.

The following number, “Wish You The Best,” brings the return of Capaldi’s recognizable crooner sound. Heavy, hearty piano accompanies his rich vocals as he laments over a past failed relationship and his related regrets.

Its chorus, “I wanna say, ‘I miss the green in your eyes’ / And when I said we could be friends, guess I lied / I wanna say, ‘I wish that you never left’ / Oh, but instead, I only wish you the best” brings some of the hard-packing lyrical punches fans have long awaited throughout the artist’s four-year hiatus. Similar to his longtime hit “Somebody You Loved,” Capaldi crafts a sense of familiar, relatable longing that attracted his fan base in the first place.

While the first two tracks promise a critically compelling album, the following 10 songs are less than lackluster. It starts to get old by minute 7 of the release.

“Pointless,” the album’s lead single (which has already received a remix and two acoustic versions since January), is a cautiously penned track that dares to leave the creative confines of the “top pop hits” box. Soft piano guides an artificially authentic love track, reminiscent of pre-done hits of the past. Think Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” meets One Direction’s “Little Things.”

Similarly, following songs like “Haven’t You Ever Been In Love Before?,” “Love The Hell Out Of You” and “Any Kind of Life” clearly only try to emulate the successful composition of “Somebody You Loved.” With each new tune, Capaldi’s raspy, grief-stricken belts progressively become less impressive, but rather more repetitive.

That being said, the album’s monotony doesn’t entirely fall on Capaldi’s singing style. If you have a certain vocal strength, you should by all means use it. However, the tiresome pattern in which he decides to place and reveal such powerful vocal placements once again follows the “Somebody You Loved” formula, which continuously fails to show Capaldi’s growth as an artist.

Worldwide success off of a first-time commercial release can be intimidating. Such industry pressures have recently been placed on multitudes of present-day pop stars — from Shawn Mendes to Olivia Rodrigo. However, one would assume the four years between Capaldi’s releases would grant him plenty of time and space to adjust and expand to a newer artistic plane.

Rather than dive deeper into creative waters, Capaldi decides to stay in the shallow end of his musical talents. If anything, “Broken By Desire” stands as a dull B-side to “Divinely Uninspired.”

In Capaldi’s defense, it’s understandable why the pop star would want to play it safe. Listeners of the past have been fairly fickle with emerging artists undergoing an evolution — one unexpected, outside-of-the-box move can move you off of the charts for good. It can be argued that a sense of musical familiarity is a good move for newer songsters. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

However, too many current chart-toppers stand as even stronger arguments as to why genre-bending and stylistic changes help further one’s growth and reach. Artists like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus have all seen success in rebranding their sound and image with each new release. Rather than falling on their face, such leaps have landed them in far more fortunate positions.

Technically speaking, Capaldi isn’t unsuccessful by any means. He’s recently outsold several dates on his 2023 tour and scored the biggest opening week of his career so far with “Broken by Desire.” The artist has mastered the long–coveted earworm formula many in the industry try to master.

Capaldi clearly has his own set of musical talents, and such credit should be given where it’s due. Still, it’s always disappointing to see those with potential fail to even attempt to reach new heights. While “Broken by Desire” is at the very least a commercial success in its own right, it may lead fans and critics to question if Capaldi will ever be willing to take an artistic risk, or if he’ll forever remain attached to his foolproof approach.

Samantha’s final rating: 2.5/5

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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