Sam Sparro - Sam Sparro

There has been a paucity of exciting male pop stars of late, and it’s with interest that we’ve watched Sam Sparro’s ascendence.

There has been a paucity of exciting male pop stars of late, and it’s with interest that we’ve watched Sam Sparro’s ascendence. Can he fill a hole in our musical hearts?

He couldn’t have made a better start than with ‘Black & Gold’, though actually his second single, this is the reason our attention was caught in the first place. The slightly extended album version is still resoundingly fabulous, the central electronics of the song combining majestically with Sparro’s evocative vocals. There is a sadness and a dark tenderness to the song which makes it beguiling and demonstrates a depth of feeling.

’21st Century Life’ announces Sparro’s taste for funkier electropop and it’s clear that Prince has been a major influence. The verses are tight and bass-driven, and make up for the chorus which is a touch generic, but Sparro lets loose vocally, giving the song a nice edge. We wouldn’t be surprised if this were a future single.

The heart of the album is a collection of songs that are all competent and enthusiastic, but a little derivative. ‘Sick’ is Sparro’s take on Eighties electronic pop, the efforts of Yazoo and Pet Shop Boys are on display, and the chorus even ventures towards Erasure territory. It’s slightly weak lyrically too, ‘it’s a sick, sick world and I’ll be your medicine’ is rather clichéd and lacking in imagination. ‘Cottonmouth’ is a run-of-the-mill pop song, very much of a template seen on this debut, and while very ‘up’ is also very forgettable. The same can be said of ‘Hot Mess’, ‘Pocket’ and ‘Cling Wrap’. There are no risks taken, no bold but simple hooks, nothing elemental that touches the core of the listener. This is the promise that ‘Black & Gold’ offers, and that we suspect Sparro can deliver more of.

Thank goodness, then, for ‘Waiting For Time’. This is a considered and beautiful track, an achingly romantic melody, with Sparro’s voice vulnerable but powerful nonetheless. This, at least, provides evidence of versatility and willingness to go in different directions. ‘Cut Me Loose’ is another high point, a heady party track, with energy and sass. It’s a more daring number, and slightly Scissor Sisters-esque too.

The essential question here is whether Sam Sparro has done enough on this debut album. There’s a sense that musically it’s too comfortable, and at times there’s a superficiality to his lyrics. Also, where’s the ‘hey, check me out!’ attitude? Where’s the fire and the passion to prove himself? We like to see a little arrogance from our good-looking male pop stars, and certainly Sparro has the credibility and chart success to demonstrate a bit of this. There is potential aplenty, and Sparro’s tastes for combining soul, electronica and pop can work stupendously well. At other times, however, it descends in to sub-Prince funk.

Nevertheless, Sparro has made an auspicious beginning and isn’t it refreshing to see a young pop star be so unashamedly candid about his sexuality.

Tags: Sam Sparro, Reviews, Album Reviews

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