He became one of last year’s breakout stars on the scene in the United Kingdom with one of the top 20 selling singles of 2012: quite the introduction to the industry from someone who was planning on being a mechanic after his schooling. Meet 23-year-old John Newman, a singer I hope is going to make 2013 shake, rattle and soul with his first release as a solo artist. It’s only a matter of time before he makes the United States fall in “love” with him.
Newman was born in the small town of Settle in the country of North Yorkshire in England and was largely into house music through his early teens, though he soon developed an affection for his mother’s record collection full of R&B music of the 70’s and 80’s. He also found a liking for singer-songwriters like Ben Harper and Damien Rice, so, he learned the guitar and built a small studio in his home in 2005. He went to the College Of Music in Leeds, then moved to London where he played live and was eventually signed by Island Records last year. It was also in 2012 that he got his big break singing on a number-one record.
Newman was approached by the British electronic quartet Rudimental to appear on two of their songs from their album released a few weeks ago, Home. They both became singles from the effort. The first, “Feel The Love”, a dubstep number with a jazzy twist, easily claimed the #1 spot on the Singles Chart in the United Kingdom for a week in May of last year. It also did well in Australia, Belgium and Netherlands. It was never released in the United States. This also occurred with the followup single, “Not Giving In”, which also featured a vocal from Alex Clare. That only rose to #14, but it did feature similar jazz and dubstep elements. Newman could’ve chosen to gone that route with his new solo deal, but he’s decided to go in a more traditional direction, and it serves him well.
With a full-length album in the pipeline and a couple of dates scheduled in July for performances in the United Kingdom, Island Records is releasing the first single from the effort, a song called “Love Me Again”. It gets a U.K. release on July 1. “Love” is one of the songs that represents a huge musical melting pot that doesn’t particularly represent one particular era or style. His voice has the grit and soul of the south in the 60’s, like James Brown or Alex Chilton of The Box Tops. The strings that come in at the end of the chorus are easily late 70’s disco, very much reminiscent of the 1979 hit for Gloria Gaynor, the classic “I Will Survive”. The keys give off an early 90’s house vibe, similar to “How To Dance” by the Bingoboys and Princessa (1991) or “What Is Love?” by Haddaway (1993). Then, there’s the drum, which I attribute to a more modern approach; listen to the 2011 single by Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks, “Heart Skips A Beat” and you’ll recognize the percussion line.
Now, while this setup is perfect for the United Kingdom and will likely propel his single to the top of the charts, it’s more of a puzzle for our fragmented format system here in the United States. It could be serviced to the AAA format, but it might be seen as too commercial-sounding, especially with the really polished strings part. It could go to the Hot AC format, but again, it might be seen as too edgy because of the much-layered sound of it. Then, there’s the CHR format, who would probably pass on it for sounding too dated. There in lies the problem. I may not be picky when it comes to these kinds of songs, but certainly, a lot of people would skip right over it. However, it’s his most accessible single to date when it comes to worldwide potential. I loved it from the first listen. We’ll see if a U.S. release actually comes to fruition, because we’re definitely missing out on a good thing.
He has the style in his button down and jacket and he has the sound with his seamless ability to roll through the decades without missing a beat. With a video approaching 500,000 hits on YouTube and 125,000 streams on his SoundCloud account, Newman didn’t have to wait too long for the public to love him again. It’s all right there in front of him.
Are you already fan of Newman’s collaborations with Rudimental and looking forward to his solo material? Are you just discovering him for the first time? Let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.