A credible collection of electronic RnB owing a debt to a more-grown-up Justin.
Nick Levine 2012-07-26
Girls love him, even though he can't need to shave more than twice a week. And he got his break by posting cover versions on YouTube. But still, British pop upstart Conor Maynard really hates being compared to Justin Bieber.
Listening to his debut album, it's clear Maynard has a point. This is a credible collection of electronic RnB tracks that owes a greater debt to another, more grown-up Justin: the one pop lost to Hollywood. It's derivative, but in the best possible way; Maynard's songs do a good job of incorporating current dance and urban trends into some very catchy pop tunes.
Actually, Contrast has class too: there are a couple of contributions from Pharrell Williams, while Frank Ocean co-writes a track called Pictures that has a very Frank Ocean sentiment: "We didn't make love, we celebrated its invention." Best of all, there's only one generic club banger, and it's a reasonably cheese-free affair.
The artists Maynard used to cover from his Brighton bedroom remain an influence on him: Contrast has moments that recall Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher, while his producers are particularly fond of the dancehall drum sounds used on recent Rihanna hits. But it's clearly Timberlake who's the touchstone; his presence is felt every time Maynard breaks into falsetto. Meanwhile, a song called Glass Girl is essentially an attempt to rewrite JT's Cry Me a River for the dubstep generation. Like most of the album, it works.
Maynard does enough here to seem like his own man (albeit a man who'd need ID to order a shandy). Like any 19-year-old, he's obsessed with those "girls, girls, girls" that he sings about on his debut single, Can't Say No. And like any 19-year-old, he's slightly less smooth with the ladies than George Clooney. One song contains a request to "peel my banana" that has nothing to do with getting his five a day.
But he's charming with it – because as slick as his music is, Maynard can still be a gauche British lad. The second verse of Another One is a case of point: would either Justin try rhyming "nada" and "Prada" with, erm, "Lada"? Would they even know what one is?