Firstly, a hearty welcome back one and all! I’ve missed you all. I may or may not divulge in another forthcoming blog why there has been a silence of nigh on three months since my last post – real life mostly to place the blame on there. Secondly, Olly Murs is back (I know so, having met him again at his album signing in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush tonight – picture below. True gent as always). And with just seven weeks left of 2016, he has just released what may very well be the best pop album of the year.
It says a lot that of the classes of 2008 – 12 of “The X Factor” – read as the show’s peak years – only he, Little Mix and (a newly resurgent) James Arthur are still standing and making music. This, his fifth album in a thus far 7 year career also says a lot. The follow up to 2014’s chart topping “Never Been Better” thus already has a lot going for it.
It’s also a marked change in direction for the patron saint of cheeky chappy. Much has happened between now and his last album – some of which have been covered on here. We first got the hint last year that things were moving in a more mature direction music wise, when he released the brilliant “Kiss Me” as a new track from a repacked version of “Never Been Better”, a catchy but funky, slightly more moody dancefloor number which sounded fresh out of the late 80s and onto the 21st century airwaves.
Last year also saw him part ways with his long term girlfriend of three years, an experience which he has channelled into the lyrics and to the overall vibe of “24 HRS”. The results thus make for some of the most bold and adventurous sounds Murs has committed to record thus far.
Lead single and summer smash “You Don’t Know Love“, with its soaring chorus and electro tinged backing, sets up the tone of the album, beginning as it does right at the crux of a break up, which can be a painful experience however amicable it may be, but which vocally, Olly conveys perfectly. This theme carries on into “Years & Years”, a trip-hop laden demi-ballad wistfully mourning the passing of good times with a former flame.
Acoustic based jam “Grow Up“, the album’s current single, explores the more scathing side of a breakup as well, whilst maintaining the roguish charm of his earlier hits such as on the chorus line: “You’re so vain that I already know / That when you hear this on the radio / You’re gonna turn it up, turn it up, turn it up / Cause it’s all about you”. “Love You More” (not a JLS cover, sadly) and the oddly hypnotic title track with its Aqualung style sound also cover this theme further. Slightly sarcastic bitterness set to icy cold synths suits him down to a tee. Who’d thunk it?
Anyone fearing the album is missing his all important cheek though, need not worry, as there’s plenty of that abound – this time, taking on a racier, sexier direction. “Private”, his collaboration with wonderfully talented singer songwriter MNEK, is a straight up banger about keeping PDAs behind closed doors, whilst “Read My Mind” and “Unpredictable” glide charmingly and effortlessly along on a cool R&B vibe – both could be future singles.
For me, “Back Around” is one of the big standouts. It strikes a fine balance between the unique, uplifting sound that has got Olly to where he is now, but looks forward with this new sound of his as well, combining acoustic guitar with sharp dancefloor hooks in a manner many have attempted in recent months but few have convincingly pulled off. He is among that few.
With a career that has continued to defy expectations, and some of his strongest vocal and writing turns to date, “24 HRS” is a smart, honest but thoroughly enjoyable album. And there’s much to suggest here that Olly is onto potentially the biggest success of his career to date with this release. All the more praise to him for it!
STREAM THESE: “Back Around”, “Years & Years”, “Private”
“24 HRS” is out today via RCA/Sony. Olly is back on the road for a new arena tour in the UK and Ireland next March – tickets and dates available at www.ollymurs.com/live.