Image Credit: Polydor Records
This may have just become my favourite album of the year. Tyneside musician Sam Fender’s debut album comes after several successful singles, a phenomenal EP in the form of Dead Boys, and the amazing achievement of winning the critics choice award at the Brits. After watching Sam Fender perform to his home crowd at Tynemouth Castle in July, it became even clearer to me that this guy was something special and that the debut album was going to be just that too. The culmination of all these things meant I hadn’t ever been more excited to hear an artists debut album. With this being said you can start to understand my excitement when, through the magic of student journalism, I somehow managed to get a listen before official release on Friday.
Sam Fender’s music feels truly special to me. The beats are powerful, his voice is brilliant, and the sound he has created for himself is truly unique. I think what really sets Sam apart is the beauty and the profoundness of the guy’s lyrics. Singing with a strong awareness of mental health, inequality, and a relatable tiredness of the current state of the world, Sam’s lyrics are not only delivered incredibly well but often carry with them intense meaning and messages to consider. ‘Dead boys’ in particular is hauntingly beautiful. Although the power in which it was delivered and the atmosphere it created in Tynemouth Castle this summer was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, ‘Dead Boys’ somehow still has this impact wherever or however you’re listening to it. The other already released singles that appear on this album have already achieved great success too. ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ has been a hit all summer, recently released ‘The Borders’ has proven hugely popular, and ‘Will We Talk’ has seen similar success. Slightly older songs ‘Play God’, ‘That Sound’, and ‘Leave Fast’ also get their deserved places in the album.
I had thought that we’d also see songs such as ‘Spice’, ‘Greasy Spoon’, ‘Millennial’ and, ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ appearing on the album, assuming it would be a collection of Sam’s work to date. Despite initially disappointed with the fact they are left off, it appears the new songs that replace them are even better. ‘White privilege’ may in fact be my favourite song of the year. I’m not entirely sure how I typically feel about songwriters getting overly political in their songs, yet Sam Fender certainly pulls it off. Managing to make ‘White privilege’ in particular so incredibly politically relevant without it feeling forced, Sam delivers a song that covers everything from Brexit, the echo-chamber media, celebrity and the patriarchy. Nothing in music, or any other art form, has been able to resonate so much with my own level of political confusion and irritation. The message is only bettered by the fact it’s delivered once again with such vocal and musical talent.
Other new tracks, ‘Saturday’, ‘You’re not the Only One’, ‘Two People’, ‘Call me Lover’, and ‘Use (live from London)’ also live up to the incredibly high standard that Sam Fender has set himself. All remain completely unique to each other yet remain consistent with Sam’s now established sound. As a result of this, the tracks all work so well together as an album despite being written at completely different times in the artist’s life.
This unique sound is different to anything I’ve ever really listened to and I think that’s why Sam Fender has seen such success. Similarities will potentially be drawn to Bruce Springsteen and I would agree that ‘You’re Not The Only One’ has a distinct modern Bruce Springsteen feel to it; I can’t really explain why without getting you to listen to Bruce’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ immediately after the former. However, there is something separate to the fact that Sam has covered Bruce on several occasions that connects the two musicians. Sam and Bruce both share a love of guitar and reflect the struggles of the times their writing in their lyrics. I grew up with Bruce Springsteen playing and he’s certainly close to my family’s hearts (our dog is literally called Bruce), but there’s something about Sam’s lyrics that puts him ahead for me. That’s not to say I’m going to be renaming my dog Sam anytime soon, but I think because the 23 year old’s lyrics speak so poetically for this generation and for this period in time, his music speaks to me on a different level to anyone else’s ever has. Outside or rap at least, I don’t think a musician has been able to deliver such powerful and poetic lyrics on the top stage.
For decades people and critics will be talking about this album and I’ll be telling them that I somehow got to listen to it before it’s release for even longer than that. I’ll therefore finish this review with some advice, pre-order and get ready to be blown away this Friday.