Collins is a competent pop-soul vocalist – but he’s also a terribly corny one.
Nick Levine 2012
Unless Little Mix shock us with a techno-pop take on Icky Thump, Marcus Collins will surely become the first and last X Factor star to launch an album with a White Stripes cover. His version of Seven Nation Army is perhaps less notable for what he's done to it – after all, French crooner Ben l'Oncle Soul had already reworked the rocky original into a slick soul tune – than for what he's left out. Unlike Jack White, Marcus Collins isn't going to Wichita. He isn't making the sweat drip out of every pore. And he certainly isn't bleeding right before the Lord.
Telling? Yes, because the 23-year-old's debut album is essentially soul music without the blood and sweat. He may look as though he's raided Bruno Mars' wardrobe, but here Collins comes off like a lightweight Cee Lo Green. However, his glossy retro-pop songs often recall less trendy artists. Don't Surrender is so desperate to rewrite Gabrielle's Give Me a Little More Time that it actually features the line "Give me a little more time". That's Just Life sounds like a dodgy Eternal album track. Feel Like I Feel is a sexless George Michael/Jamiroquai hybrid – not an image to linger on.
It's not just the music that's derivative; there's scarcely an original lyrical idea on this "mostly self-penned" record. Collins and his collaborators, who include X Factor mentor Gary Barlow, are especially prone to slipping into the mixed metaphor trap. "I washed you right out of my hair now baby / It's time to check out of here," Collins trills on It's Time. Is he singing about hotel shampoo?
To be fair, this good-humoured Liverpudlian is a perfectly competent pop-soul vocalist. But he's also a corny one – too fervent of falsetto, a bit showbiz of ad-lib. That's a reminder of his talent show origins, as is his Butlins cover of Jackie Wilson's Higher and Higher and a tension-free take on Janelle Monáe's Tightrope. Last year Cher Lloyd showed that an X Factor star could make a genuinely entertaining pop album. Then Rebecca Ferguson proved that a singer discovered on primetime telly can fashion a classy one. This record is neither. Little Mix, it's over to you.