Credibility, credibility, credibility. It’s Matt Cardle‘s favourite word at the moment, and one that finds me going into Letters, his much-hyped debut album, with a cynical attitude.
What gives anyone the right to deem one genre of music “credible” over another? Particularly when the sound you’re so obviously criticising is the one most closely linked with the TV show that’s allowed you to make music at all? From the second he won last year’s X Factor and lashed out against the previous year’s cover of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’ – as if readers of Q and NME were rushing out in droves to buy his glossy cover of Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many Of Horror’ – I’ve struggled to endear myself to Matt as a person, lovely as I’m sure he is “in real life”, and he had a hell of a lot of work to do if he was going to win me round with this LP.
And, unsurprisingly, Letters is not the “DROP EVERYTHING, THIS MUSIC IS VERGING ON THE DIVINE” record it’s been heralded as by its team of co-writers and by Cardle himself in their desperate campaign to market it as “not-would-you-would-expect-from-an-X-Factor-winner”. But then, if I’m honestly putting my opinions of Matt to one side and judging it on the music alone, I have to give credit where credit’s due and admit that the record does have its moments.
The keyword is “pleasant”. No, it doesn’t redefine popular song as we know it, but nor does it crash and burn either. Opener ‘Starlight’ is far and away the best track on the set, and why it wasn’t released as a single over the unremarkable ‘Run For Your Life’ is a mystery. Highlights elsewhere include the soulful ‘All For Nothing’, the alt-rocky toe-tappableness (?) of ‘Pull Me Under’, and the soaring chorus of ‘Reflections’.
The rest will vary between ‘dull’ and ‘lovely’ depending on your tastes, but it’ll take a strong argument to convince anyone that it’s anything particularly special. But if this Heart FM brand of guitar pop (if “pop” isn’t too offensive a word in Matt’s book) is your kind of thing, definitely invest in the Deluxe Edition – ‘For You’ is, I must admit, beautiful; and the four average album tracks given an acoustic make-under are vastly improved by losing all the histrionics and getting stripped down to a bare guitar/piano/what have you.
Maybe that’s where Matt should head next. Once he’s learned to shut up about how he had to sacrifice his self-respect, dignity, pride etc etc on The X Factor and just let his music speak for itself, a calmer, more acoustic sound would definitely suit him more. The rest of it flits between good and beige. Again, the keyword is “pleasant”.