Review of Chaos and the Calm by James Bay
For anybody that uses the Brits as a barometer for quality or taste making, James Bay is a big deal. James Bay not to be confused with floppy-haired, middle aged, buffoon James May of Top Gear has many fans. None less than the likes of Taylor Swift , Zane Lowe and Kodaline. Swift publicly praised Bay’s track Let It Go (the track he won Critics Choice for at this years Brits).
So all is well for James Bay. The critics love him. Top music tastemakers love him. Credible musicians love him. Oh and Taylor Swift also loves him. So the release of his new album Chaos and Calm couldn’t come at a better time.
Well commercially the sentiment on timing is spot on. Bay should take advantage of the momentum being generated around him at present and in turn release his pivotal piece of work. Does Chaos and the Calm do that. Well in my eyes, sadly not.
Listen the guy can play the guitar. He is no Jimi Hendrix or Prince but he does have skills. He writes and sings his own material so for that, he should be applauded. Sadly though his album feels a little bit rushed, like he took a cookie cutter approach and rehashed old ideas. As the album suggests he does cover ups and downs, he does attempt to exploit opposite ends of the spectrum, however, the gusto and passion that the title suggests is somewhat lacking.
There is no doubt the album will sell, so if its released as purely a commercial exercise I think James Bay’s team has nailed it. Its safe, its harmless and is easy to listen to. However given the title and the expectations built up around James Bay, I expected more.
The whole format seems to have been done. The biggest culprit is Collide. The track seems to be an attempt to replicate Justin Timberlake or touch upon a guitar version of what Pharrell has done. Sadly it falls way short of either icon.
The light at the end of the tunnel though is, you can still feel James Bay’s talent crying to come out. Sadly it feels as if some record label executive somewhere decided to throw a big blanket over it for now. The tracks will sound better live as James Bay will be able to play around with the composition. On that basis, I wouldn’t waste your money on the album but wait until you can see James Bay really shine. Go see him perform when he gets near you.