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Once Again a single by James Blake

Scottish author and former music journalist David Keenan describes writing about music as an almost evangelical endeavour, spreading the word about things he is passionate about. His preference was to write positively about music, rather than negatively. I largely agree with that principle which makes part of this review all the more difficult to write.

James Blake is a young artist currently studying at the University of York. He is right at the very start of his career and that is important to remember here. Once Again is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of a single but that’s ok. In fact, it is a single that is almost schizophrenic in nature in the classic sense; it is a song with a split personality. We can forgive youth anything! David Bowie recorded some garbage pop nonsense under his actual name David Jones, before going on to become one of the best artists of all time. The Sex Pistols were a cheap rockabilly band and were going nowhere before they were transformed by Malcolm McLaren. An early self-released single does not define a career.

There’s a lot to like about Once Again. The chorus is a catchy little number. ‘Can you teach me how to love, once again once again once again na na na’ has a real ear-worm quality to it. When the sax floats into the mix and carries the chorus along you can’t help but tap your feet. There’s a summer evening good time vibe contained within the chorus and it’s infectious. The bridge leading into the chorus is well constructed, just the right length and builds perfectly without being too eager or overshadowing the chorus itself. The production is good and the mix is tidy enough. The beat is smooth and just right for this type of suburban summer indie-pop song. Once Again has a groove that smells of a good time. It isn’t earth shattering or ground-breaking and it isn’t intended to be. It’s a song written and produced to make people feel good, to be catchy and possibly to get people dancing or at the very least nodding along.

Where Once Again falls down somewhat is the way the verses are delivered; this is where the split personality is to be located. The verses themselves aren’t the best but they’re ok. Lyrically they are middle of the road and inoffensive – a person living in the city suffering the usual angst young people suffer and looking to find a girl to have a good time with. But the rap delivery just doesn’t work. Rap that isn’t part of an actual hip hop track is always risky. Some artists have done it well – Plan B for example managed combine rap with neo-soul vocals in an incredibly successful manner. Just Jack just about managed to make rap work with his indie style though he seemed to disappear as quickly as he arrived on the scene. The Beastie Boys were almost like a genre in their own right.

James Blake has produced a melodic sax infused track with a catchy chorus and good bassline. The rapped verses in this mix feel unauthentic, a little bit shallow and the artist lacks the bite to really pull it off. It’s clear from this single that James Blake is a talented artist and a capable writer. On future efforts if he is set on writing verses for rap, perhaps collaborations with other artists appearing on the verses might be the way to go.

Once Again is a song that certainly shows potential and highlights the strengths of James Blake as an artist, as well as some weaknesses but despite those weaknesses there is still a track here that will get some people excited. The single is released 7th May 2021.

Review written by Bobby Gant @Bobby_gant on Twitter

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