The young singer successfully banishes memories of his X Factor experience.
Nick Levine 2012-08-15
Aiden Grimshaw wants to be judged on his music, not for his past. Watch the video for Is This Love and you probably won't spot the singer; Grimshaw only appears for a split-second. Avoiding your own video is a trick George Michael used in the early 90s, when he wanted to distance himself from Wham! and I Want Your Sex. Grimshaw has a grislier skeleton in his closet: he finished a lowly ninth on The X Factor in 2010, behind a Brazilian novelty singer called Wagner.
When talent show contestants set out to prove their credibility, the results can be unpleasant – observe Matt Cardle's career to date. But in Grimshaw's case, it feels justified, because he's made a very decent debut album. Misty Eye is definitely a collection of pop songs, but these are relatively adventurous and interesting pop songs by current standards. Most of them are catchy, too: Is This Love stalled at number 35, but deserved better.
That single, a soaring blend of electro-pop and drum'n'bass, has relatives on the album, but it doesn't set the template. Elsewhere, Misty Eye mixes folkier moments like the lovely Poacher's Timing with soulful electronica clearly inspired by Moby. It also has some house-style piano parts that probably weren't inspired by D:Ream, but bring to mind the Things Can Only Get Better hit-makers anyway.
The album hangs together better than this suggests, partly because the production is consistently slick, but also because of Grimshaw. Vocally, he can switch between quivering intimacy and a belting falsetto, but his intensity never waivers. He's also brave enough to cover a Sia song called Breathe Me whose chorus goes "I am small, I am needy". That's a lot of vulnerability coming from a 20-year-old lad.
By the album's halfway mark, he's successfully banished memories of The X Factor, but the last two tracks seal the deal. Nothing at All is a rousing trip-hop number with a showstopping vocal hook, and Curtain Call sounds like a power ballad written by Moby. Saving your two best songs till the end – is that called "back-loading"? It's certainly a sequencing choice Simon Cowell would never allow.