X Factor runner-up reveals a self-assured debut
Fraser McAlpine 2010
Anyone who enjoys a chipper ditty, a milkman-friendly whistle-along of a song, will find a lot to like in this album. Olly is a very confident fellow, with a winning smile and a spring in his step, and this is spread thickly across his debut like marzipan on a wedding cake.
There’s been a certain amount of discussion about his vocal similarities with one Will Young, but Olly is a much more carefree presence on record than his fellow – and far more serious – graduate of the school of reality TV pop stars. Plus he’s got a hat, which he wears all the time. Does Will Young wear a hat all the time? He does not.
And the overriding impression is of a man who has loved and lost but, y’know, it’s all good, and he’s ready to love again whenever you are. Yes there are stalker overtones to second single Thinking of Me, in which Olly basically takes the credit for his ex-girlfriend’s taste in... well, everything, and he happily criticises her new boyfriend too. And yes, he does like to overstate the case – witness the bombastic A Million More Years – but nothing is going to wipe that cocky grin from his face for long.
It’s not really his fault either. Ska and reggae are among the most joyous musical forms known to humankind. Add a bit of soulful pop/rock here or music hall strut there (I Blame Hollywood) and you’ve got an album that, for the first half at least, is very sure of itself indeed.
Even the relatively downbeat second half betrays little sense of doubt. It takes a certain amount of self-regard to insist that the person you have your eye on either admits that they love you or lets you get on with your life, and that’s pretty much what Ask Me to Stay demands.
Heart on My Sleeve is close to being vulnerable, but it’s followed very quickly by Hold On, a Bugsy Malone-sampling heel-clicker about being strong in the face of adversity. After that, it’s basically back to the grinning and the high kicks.