John Newman

Tribute

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Singer, songwriter, and producer John Newman broke through with lead vocals on two 2012 U.K. hits by Rudimental. He presented himself as a soul-inspired shouter wise beyond his years. The following May, he released his debut solo single, "Love Me Again" -- cathartic, bulky, modern soul outfitted with the works, including a racing breakbeat, a furiously played piano riff, darting and beaming horns, singing strings, a screaming chorus, and even a little wriggling guitar that recalled the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On." In the U.K., it went to number one and went platinum, and the follow-up single, the slightly less forceful "Cheating," peaked at number nine. The ensuing album, Tribute, would presumably offer those hits and more of Newman's all-out, ear-splitting breakup songs. Does it ever. If Newman didn't have his voice, used almost exclusively for in-the-red confrontations and testimonies, the outlet for his grief might be something equally extreme, like skimboarding, street luge, or some form of demolition work. As one line in "Runnin'" goes, "I'm a hurricane that ain't stoppin'." While, at just short of 50 minutes, Tribute is concise by the early-2010s standard, its unflagging succession of belters is both impressive and fatiguing, delivered with a supreme level of grieving conviction and hefty productions seemingly designed for the sake of filling stadiums and megachurches. In small doses, Newman's work here provides quite an impassioned jolt, but as the songs continue to chug and careen, it begins to sound more like a bludgeoning, or an elaborate, combative response to being asked to tone it down a little.

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