Does the world need another troubadour like JP Cooper? Ed Sheeran has the solo thing wrapped in tasteless cling film. And James Bay has the hat thing – if nothing else – pretty much covered. So where does that leave Raised Under Grey Skies?
Well, the short version is that it sounds like the sort of debut album you’d find from someone who’d applied (and maybe even won) The X Factor. The fact that JP Cooper rose to fame on a collaboration with Jonas Blue is certainly telling, as that’s about the sort of commercial depth you can expect on this record.
JP Cooper’s debut, objectively, isn’t awful… but it certainly makes a good go of making it appear so. Of course, given the money behind it you can see every A&R decision dripping from the big-budget production, from the limp backing chorus on the title track (also featuring one of the weakest vocal runs this year) to, of course, his big hit September Song which feels even worse here than it did on any streaming service.
He tries, bless him. But JP Cooper is scuppered by so many factors: the vending-machine emotion, the pristine sheen of every piano lick and every bad decision of production (Good Friend has a nice vibe buried six feet deep under the arrangement), and his own writing. “I’ve got all this love gathering dust in my house,” he sings on All This Love. Or “You’re my passport home, without you close I can’t go on,” which makes an appearance on Passport Home. It’s baffling, overwrought, and ultimately quite irritating as we begin to feel we’re being hit over the head with enforced sentiment.
Good things? Well, unsurprisingly, they only come when JP Cooper tones it down. The Only Reason is one boon in all this racket, while Change manages to hold our interest with its playful tone. But this is unabashed Christmas lead-up effluent, so broad and faux-warm that it’ll probably comfort masses like an electric heater. For the rest of us? Just another me-too troubadour to avoid.