Craig David - Following My Intuition (2016)

Craig David
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Craig David - Following My Intuition

The recording career of Craig David has been full of highs and lows since 1997, when he debuted as an uncredited guest vocalist on an obscure UK garage record. With an appeasing tone and unique knack for intricate phrasing of soulfully poppy melodies, the Southampton native broke out in a big way around the world in 2000 with his first LP, Born to Do It. Tracks ranging from the clubby “Fill Me In” to the midtempo R&B of “7 Days” and the rock-tinged “Walking Away” quickly cemented his status as an apt singer-songwriter with a clear grasp of his abilities as a purveyor of youth-friendly songs and performances bearing an edge of sophistication beyond his teenaged years of experience.

Craig David - Following My Intuition

The recording career of Craig David has been full of highs and lows since 1997, when he debuted as an uncredited guest vocalist on an obscure UK garage record. With an appeasing tone and unique knack for intricate phrasing of soulfully poppy melodies, the Southampton native broke out in a big way around the world in 2000 with his first LP, Born to Do It. Tracks ranging from the clubby “Fill Me In” to the midtempo R&B of “7 Days” and the rock-tinged “Walking Away” quickly cemented his status as an apt singer-songwriter with a clear grasp of his abilities as a purveyor of youth-friendly songs and performances bearing an edge of sophistication beyond his teenaged years of experience.

While David kept the momentum going for the better part of a decade throughout Europe and Asia, the initial American success he found seemed to slip from grasp, even as he delivered consistently merited material on sets such as 2005’s The Story Goes… and 2007’s Trust Me. An attempt to redefine his musical direction on 2010’s Signed Sealed Delivered (a collection of mostly Motown covers) fared poorly even in the UK, and the time elapsed since then has seen him relocate to the States and focus on a second career as a DJ. But a number of guest appearances and collaborations on various dance-oriented singles eventually led to a new deal with Sony Music UK’s new joint venture, Insanity, and independent media company SpeakerBox.

The resulting Following My Intuition is a notable, if not incredible, CD of 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition) which span contemporary R&B, pop, and dance sounds. David is in solid vocal form throughout, though he isn’t given the chance to flex his skills as much as in the past. As a co-writer on all of the tracks—working with over 20 collaborators—he has managed to keep his signature sound intact, yet there is a certain freshness missing at times. Given his long absence from the mainstream, he has been tasked with creating a sound both reminiscent of his early hits and relevant to modern times. What this translates to is, in most cases, of firm melodic merit. While the production is sonically impressive, however, it might prove a bit disappointing to longtime fans expecting a certain eclecticism found on his previous albums.

Highlights of Following My Intuition include “When the Bassline Drops,” a joint effort with rapper Big Narstie which harkens fondly back to 1999’s “Re-Rewind,” the Artful Dodger Track which thrust David into the UK spotlight. Adding a bit of grit with a slightly more minimalist vibe, “Bassline” was the initial spark to David’s solo return late last year, when it reached the top 10 of Britain’s singles chart. On a softer note, the cogitative “All We Needed” is a simple but affecting ballad which stands out as one of the set’s most vulnerable and meaningful moments. “So lay me down in the water and let me drown, don’t let my feet touch the ground,” he sings in a delicate tenor performance befitting the understated, piano-geared arrangement. More uptempo, and nicely forging urban-contemporary beats with pop guitar work, the modestly anthemic “Louder Than Words” finds David in an ideal performance element as he combines his rhyme-styled vocal nuances (during the verses) with a traditional melodic treatment (via the chorus) seamlessly. Furthermore, the lyrically nostalgic “What If” in fact channels the feeling of several gems from Born to Do It with production that brings to mind his work with Mark Hill on his biggest hits. Daydreams of yesteryear aside, the melody’s structure coupled with the layered harmonies is pure and unaffected.

The deluxe edition holds additional noteworthy moments. “No Holding Back,” a recent single with Dutch DJ Hardwell, smoothly assimilates an R&B sensibility into a deep house-inspired EDM track. Once again, David’s stamp of rhythmically full phrases balanced with memorable hooks makes the cut more than your average dance floor number. Also, “Here with Me” is a summery club swinger with across-the-board appeal.

There are several occasions on Following My Intuition when David and his producers fall a little short. “16,” a redux of “Fill Me In” set to Jack U’s recent dance hit “Where Are U Now,” comes off as formulaic and unnecessary (though he proves he hasn’t lost his rapping skills). Meanwhile, the reductive wording and predictable production of “Like a Fan” is below standard for an artist of his caliber.

As for the remainder of the CD, the songs are skillfully composed and ably produced. Much of it has the potential to resonate with longtime listeners and also draw in a new fan base. The only weak link is that David does seem to be “holding back” (pun intended) vocally at times to be on the safe side of commercial appeal. Given that this is his first high-profile release in over half a decade, perhaps it’s wise for him to err on the side of caution once in awhile in order to increase the likelihood of a shorter gap between this album and his next. All and all, though, he’s done a commendable job of crafting a consistent set that ties together some of the many things he does well as a writer and artist. Let’s just hope he finds the freedom to branch outside of the box some more next time. Recommended.

by Justin Kantor
Connect with Justin on Twitter.

 
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