James Arthur

Back from the Edge

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After a highly publicized fall from grace in the U.K., James Arthur made his comeback with Back from the Edge. In the years that followed a series of controversies that led to a split with his label, Syco, the 2012 X-Factor winner receded from the public eye to re-center and battle some personal demons: namely, his struggles with mental health issues and addiction. Acknowledging that drama is crucial in digesting his sophomore effort, which focuses on his personal redemption, recovery, and healing. Through this lens, Edge is a heartfelt triumph for Arthur and his faithful fans. The Bond-esque title track makes his declaration clear: he's back from the edge and "back from the dead." From there, Arthur charges forth on his mission to show that he's changed and reborn like that proverbial firebird (there's even a track explicitly titled "Phoenix"). He has a powerful voice -- like Ray Lamontagne and James Bay filtered through Sam Smith -- and a passionate spirit that helps elevate the album above a middling standard. Much of Edge is enjoyable, insofar as it's a competently produced, richly soulful execution of similar sounds one might have already heard. He mines the styles of such contemporaries as Ed Sheeran ("Say You Won't Let Go"), Matt Cardle ("Can I Be Him"), the Script ("Safe Inside"), Sam Smith ("Let Me Love the Lonely"), and OneRepublic ("I Am"), but his lyrics keep Edge firmly in Arthur's court. Standout track "Train Wreck" is the best example, a desperate cry for help that bleeds through pleas that he's "not ready to die, not yet." It's Arthur at his lowest and most vulnerable. Closing track "Finally" pushes into similar territory, a searingly honest confessional that utilizes regret and parental pride to tug at the heartstrings. Back from the Edge swells with hope and optimism, a healing dose of catharsis for Arthur on his road to recovery.

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